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Canned, Capernoited, Capsized, Carousing, Clobbered, Coopere

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17238.  Wed Apr 06, 2005 10:08 am Reply with quote

I know this doesn’t explicitly answer your question, Jenny, but QI nonetheless:

Can you blame your genes for your actions? In 1992, Californian lawyer John Baker did just that. Affected by alcoholism, he began to drink heavily when his business ended up in debt. He embezzled money from a client’s account, and when caught, he initially pleaded guilty to the crime. But his legal advisor suggested he changed his plea, because John Baker’s father - of North American Indian descent - was also an alcoholic. There is a high incidence of alcoholism in Native American communities, which some researchers have suggested may be due to an increased genetic risk. To their joint surprise, the defence worked

17239.  Wed Apr 06, 2005 10:28 am Reply with quote

For further reading:

17247.  Wed Apr 06, 2005 12:02 pm Reply with quote

Yes, the same is true of Native Americans - some are missing a gene that stops them drinking. That same page mentions them:
The quest for genes that influence alcohol abuse follows two paths. One goal is to locate genes that predispose a person to alcoholism. The other is to identify genes that help to prevent this from happening. Li and his coworkers have made important advances in this latter category. "We have identified two genes that protect against heavy drinking, and these are particularly prevalent among Asians," Li says. "We have shown that Native Americans, who have a high rate of alcoholism, do not have these protective genes.

17259.  Thu Apr 07, 2005 6:19 am Reply with quote

“In 1840, Robert Warner, a Quaker, applied for a life insurance policy and was told that as an abstainer he would have to pay an extra premium.”
S: “Man walks into a pub: a sociable history of beer” by Pete Brown (Macmillan, 2003).

17304.  Fri Apr 08, 2005 4:43 am Reply with quote

The role of beer - proper British bitter, that is - in winning World War Two should never be underestimated. (All quotations are from “Man walks into a pub: a sociable history of beer” by Pete Brown, Macmillan, 2003).
When British troops invaded Europe after D-Day, they obviously needed a pint, and were unable to stomach the local lagers, “blissfully unaware that their children would be throwing the stuff down their necks with abandon in thirty years time.” Canned beer was available in all theatres, but “D-Day was a special occasion” so “On the very day of the invasion itself, Spitfires flew into France with barrels of beer strapped under their wings.” The spare long-range fuel tanks were converted to carry the beer, because many of the flights were unauthorized. “To fool the admin guys, when they were filling out the report of what they were carrying, they would refer to their cargo as ’XXX Depth Charge’.”
“One brewer shipped over 2,000 barrels of beer into Normandy in June 1944. Each one carried a label which read, ’A gift to our fighting forces from Mitchells and Butlers Limited, Birmingham. Best of luck. If this cask is returned we will refill it and send it back to you. Replace cork.’ Almost scarily, in the midst of the fury and desperation of the landings, this promise was so compelling that the barrels were somehow returned.”
When Churchill heard that troops in India were down to three bottles a month, he demanded something be done. A Royal Navy ship was turned into a floating brewery, “complete with mash tuns, coppers, the lot. It would distil seawater and brew in the middle of the ocean. It was christened Davy Jones’ brewery, and represented such a remarkable feat of ingenuity that we should probably overlook the fact that it took so long to get right that it didn't actually start brewing beer until several months after the war had ended.”

17342.  Sat Apr 09, 2005 7:09 am Reply with quote

In 1972, in the pre-CAMRA days, at the height of keg bitters, the Consumers’ Association surveyed the leading brands and discovered that “several of the biggest British beer brands were so weak they could have been sold legally in America during prohibition.”
S: “Man walks into a pub: a sociable history of beer” by Pete Brown (Macmillan, 2003).

17363.  Sun Apr 10, 2005 7:58 am Reply with quote

Gray, ref this:
I've seen some theories that suggest that the gene mutation isn't common among westerners (who can drink their oriental business associates under the table), because of the history of brewing in the west as a way to disinfect water

I haven't read the links yet, but if the suggestion you're referring to is that westerners have evolved differently from others over the past 2000 years or so, can that be right? And, if so, is there any other instance of a culturally-conditioned trait altering our genetic make-up over so short a timescale?

17367.  Sun Apr 10, 2005 8:58 am Reply with quote

I think brewing is more than 2000 years old, isn't it? Plenty of room for evolution in that time scale.

17370.  Sun Apr 10, 2005 9:37 am Reply with quote

If you say so. But my understanding was that modern Homo sapiens sapiens is indistinguishable from his ancestors of 10,000 or more years ago. The assertion being offered is that, to the contrary, the drinking of beer instead of water made people so much more likely to survive into adulthood as to distort the genetic make-up of an entire race. I think I'd like some further and better particulars, as the lawyers say, before I accept that.

17397.  Sun Apr 10, 2005 5:40 pm Reply with quote

I'll see what I can find...

Cultural practices are inseparable from genetic transfer, of course, which explains why Asian and Native American populations are genetically different to us westerners (in this particular area).

They are also different in other areas that you can see immediately - they look different. Living in that area (a cultural move) has given them different skin colour genes.

The question is, as you say, whether or not such genetic changes can occur that fast. My guess is that they can - look how much, say, dog DNA can change in a few thousand years. Of pigeons, as Darwin found out.

17400.  Sun Apr 10, 2005 5:57 pm Reply with quote

look how much, say, dog DNA can change in a few thousand years

But, conversely, look how little cat DNA changes. Further, the climate you live in isn't what I mean by a cultural move. Living in the tropics is environmental. Going to the tropics so as to get a tan (or buying a sunbed) is cultural.

17401.  Sun Apr 10, 2005 6:27 pm Reply with quote

But living in the temperate zones must be cultural because we didn't evolve here. Our DNA changed as a result of our cultural move, and you can see it in our skin and diet.

Living in the tropics is environmental.
Not sure what you mean by this. Humans' environment is artificial - we live wherever we want: desert, ice-floe, jungle...

Cat DNA has changed enormously, but not as much as dogs, because cats aren't 'useful' to humans in the same way that dogs are. Genes change all the time - even during your lifetime - depending on what you do and how you live. They switch on and off continuously in response to the environment. This isn't quite Lamarckianism because the individual adaptations don't get passed on in the way that a genetic mutation does. But environment and culture do affect genes.

Getting a tan is, as you say, nothing to do with genetics. Or at least not the sort we're talking about here.

17402.  Sun Apr 10, 2005 7:34 pm Reply with quote

Well, let's not take too much time on this, but what I mean by the distinction between "cultural" and "environmental" influences is that the cultural ones are in a sense optional for each individual, or at least self-inflicted (in this case people choosing to drink beer and supposedly deriving an advantage which is not available to the water-drinkers). This must surely be a less powerful driver of evolution than an influence which pushes an entire population in the same direction, regardless of personal choice (which I call "environmental") - such as constant exposure to strong sunlight. What I'm questioning is the ability of optional behaviour in marginal areas of life to make a measurable difference to human genetic make-up over a timescale of a couple of thousand years.

Dogs are acknowledged to be an unusually malleable species, for reasons which are not well understood:
what accounts for breeders' runaway success? How, for example, could Louis Doberman, a German dog-pound keeper active in the late 1800s, take German pinschers, Rottweilers, Manchester terriers, and possibly pointers and, in just 35 years, create the Doberman pinscher? Such rapid change would seem to fly in the face of the Darwinian transmutation of species, a process typically thought to operate over thousands or even millions of years.

post 5383

The difference between your position and mine appears to arise because I wouldn't describe the accident of being born in a particular place as "cultural" - until modern times and as far as each individual has been concerned, it's something that just happens and you're stuck with it.

17406.  Mon Apr 11, 2005 3:29 am Reply with quote

Back to the basic subject, I've found myself addicted to programmes such as Booze Britain which purport to show the evil effects of getting utterly hammered but in truth just provide car-crash entertainment for the rest of us.

We are always being told - and shown - that boozing leads to violent conflict and bloodshed, so why is that I simply fall gently asleep when I've had a bit too much?

No, that's not strictly true; in convivial company I may talk more animatedly than usual, and perhaps (blush blush) attempt a conjuring trick - something I only ever do when oiled - but dreamland always awaits just round the corner.

If, as many experts say, alcohol just strips off the façade that we present to the world, revealing our true selves, then I have to admit to being a narcoleptic prestidigitator in real life: but I'm surprised that there are so many people out there who spend their sober hours suppressing a desire to nut complete strangers.

17408.  Mon Apr 11, 2005 3:59 am Reply with quote

I'm not surprised. The sort of people that do that are generally petty poorly treated (and therefore behaved) in society. They're really angry that life hasn't been fair - or at least not fair in their advantage. Poor parenting, little education, distorted values, poor self-image, no role models... it's a recipe for random nutting.

In brief response to Flash, your genes don't care whether you as an individual 'choose' to do what you're doing. They will change in response to any change in the environment. It doesn't matter if this is caused by 'culture' or climate change or whatever.

Disease <i>is</i> environmental, so we responded with brewing. And our genes therefore adapted to alcohol tolerance. (As far as I can research so far, that is...)

In humans, a distinction between culture and environment simply cannot be made: they are inseparable. That's what makes us us.


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