Dec 22, 2021
A pharmacologist and a philosopher walk into a bar. This is not the start of a joke—it’s the start of our 2021 finale and our first ever theme episode. The idea with these theme episodes is that we have not one but two guests, from different fields, coming together to discuss a topic of mutual interest.
Our theme for this first one—in the spirit of the holiday season—is intoxication and our guests are Dr. Oné Pagán and Dr. Edward Slingerland. Oné is a Professor of Biology at West Chester University and our pharmacologist in residence for this episode. He just published Drunk flies and stoned dolphins: A trip through the world of animal intoxication. Ted is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia and our resident philosopher. He is the author of the recent book Drunk: How we sipped, danced, and stumbled our way into civilization.
We range over a lot of ground in this conversation. We talk about alcohol as a kind of pharmacological “hand grenade”—whereas other substances are more like “scalpels”. We touch on catnip, cannabis, psychedelic fungi, and poison toads. We discuss Asian flushing genes and what they might suggest about the functions of alcohol. We talk about self-medication in the animal kingdom and in Neanderthals. We size up the "drunken monkey”, "stoned ape”, and "beer before bread" hypotheses. And though we mostly keep things light and festive here, we also do delve into the dark side of intoxication—which may have gotten that much darker with the advent of distilled liquor.
Whether you're a tippler or a teetotaler, I’m guessing you’ll find this to be a heady conversation. Did you really think I was going to make it to the end of this intro without a single intoxication-related pun? You know me better.
Alright friends—be well, be merry, and be safe this holiday season. We’ll be back in mid-January after a not so long winter’s nap. Now on to my conversation with Dr. Oné Pagán and Ted Slingerland. Cheers!
A transcript of this episode is now available.
Notes and links
4:00 – The “write drunk, edit sober” idea is sometimes (mis)attributed to Ernest Hemingway.
13:00 – The idea of alcohol as pharmacological “hand grenade” is a metaphor due to Steven Braun.
19:30 – An article in Science about “why cats are crazy for catnip.”
21:20 – A recent article in The Conversation about Asian flushing genes.
26:00 – Thomas Hunt Morgan, who won the Nobel Prize in 1933, pioneered the use of drosophila as an animal model.
28:20 – An article on the inebriometer (with an accompanying illustration).
41:00 – The idea of psychedelics as introducing “mutagens” into culture comes from How to Change Your Mind, by Michael Pollan.
53:00 – The original report in Science on the “flower burial” in Shanidar cave.
56:20 – The Laussel Venus appears to be drinking (alcohol?) from a horn.
59:20 – An article describing the tragic case of Tusko the elephant.
1:03:50 – One example of practices that moderate alcohol’s dangerous effect is the Greek symposium.
1:08:00 – A brief history of distillation, which is a relatively recent invention.
1:11:00 – Planaria are widely used as an animal model for understanding nicotine, among other intoxicating substances.
Dr. Slingerland recommends the following books:
Buzz, by Steven Braun
Drink, by Iain Gately
A Short History of Drunkenness, by Mark Forsyth
Dr. Pagán recommends the following book:
Intoxication, by Ronald Siegel
Many Minds is a project of the Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (DISI) (https://disi.org), which is made possible by a generous grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation to UCLA. It is hosted and produced by Kensy Cooperrider, with help from assistant producer Cecilia Padilla. Creative support is provided by DISI Directors Erica Cartmill and Jacob Foster. Our artwork is by Ben Oldroyd (https://www.mayhilldesigns.co.uk/). Our transcripts are created by Sarah Dopierala (https://sarahdopierala.wordpress.com/).
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