Was there ever a time of equality in human society?

Origin stories have always helped humans gain a moral compass. Locked in a tight embrace, the Maori deities Rangi and Papa are separated by their enveloped children, creating the distant father sky and nurturing Mother Earth, bringing light to the world. Mayan gods fashion man from maize after destroying earlier clay and wood versions, who are seen to have no soul. Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Life but illicitly also from the Tree of Knowledge. One of the more touted modern human origin stories, ostensibly based on evolutionary science, speaks of a natural inequality between violent and promiscuous men and caring and faithful women. Having evolved to

Our need to get drunk in company may be innate

It was once a favourite theory of optimistic drunkards that a suitably ‘moderate’ level of alcohol consumption provided covert health benefits. The mechanism was always a little obscure. But it was a fairly sure thing that reds — or was it all booze? — by virtue of some enzyme or vitamin or whatever, and judiciously drunk in something between homeopathic and industrial quantities, protected against heart attack — or was it ischaemic stroke… or memory loss? This, at any rate, was the glass-half-full defence of moderate drinking. Then a paper published in the Lancet in 2018 pulled the rug out from underneath the moderate drinker (not something, needless to say,

How Neanderthal are you?

My brother recently decided to get a DNA test. He discovered that our family were all descended from a mix of the usual British suspects — a bit of Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Celt — and were predisposed to standard diseases and health risks. But there was one surprise. My siblings and I had double the normal amount of Neanderthal in our genes. Reactions were mixed. My girlfriend declared she had suspected something of the sort for some time. My mother announced that it must come from my father’s side of the family. And it took us a while to digest. It’s now well established that all humans have a small