There’s a fairly famous quote that’s often attributed to the character Cliff Clavin on Cheers, even if it never was on the show. It’s called the Buffalo Theory and it goes like this:
Well you see, Norm, it’s like this… A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo and when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive drinking of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers.
While that’s a crackpot theory, I came across another one that’s just as interesting but more based in science (and created by a real person). It’s was theorized by Pat McGovern, an archaeological chemist from U-Penn and Sam Calagione’s co-conspirator in many of Dogfish Head’s ancient brews. It comes from an article in the New York Times about ancient medicine.
McGovern postulates that we may be genetically predisposed to enjoy a drink because of natural selection. You see, throughout human existence diseases like cholera and other little nasty buggers laid in wait in the water supply. Drinking water was dangerous.
But drinking beer wasn’t, as the boiling and fermentation required to make beer killed many of the nasties living in the water. Beer was safer than water, and those who imbibed may have had an advantage. From the Times article:
“It’s possible that people who drank fermented beverages tended to live longer and reproduce more” than did their teetotaling peers, Dr. McGovern said, “which may partly explain why people have a proclivity to drink alcohol.”
So there you have it. The cool kids lived and the nerds died, and that’s why this website exists and you’re reading it. And we’re all cool, because we’re alive.