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!