Professor Robert Dudley of UC-Berkeley and the "Drunken Monkey Hypothesis"

Jul 21, 2014

On this edition of ST, we speak by phone with Robert Dudley, who's a Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Prof. Dudley tells us about his interesting "drunken monkey hypothesis," which (per its Wikipedia entry) "proposes that human attraction to ethanol may have a genetic basis due to the high dependence of the primate ancestor of Homo sapiens on fruit as a food source. Ethanol naturally occurs in ripe and overripe fruit and consequently early primates developed a genetically based attraction to the substance...." Prof. Dudley has a new book out on this pioneering idea -- it's called "The Drunken Monkey: Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol" (University of California Press) -- and he discusses the book with us today. This "persuasive and engaging" (Library Journal) work employs an evolutionary interpretation to explain the persistence of alcohol in human experience -- for better and for worse -- and thereby points out, for example, that the process of fermentation is actually (and tellingly) as old as agriculture itself. "The Drunken Monkey" also explores the broader implications of this fascinating new hypothesis while also presenting an interdisciplinary approach to both the medical and social impacts of alcoholism through the ages.