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#73: 3 Crazy Theories That Might Actually Be True

#73: 3 Crazy Theories That Might Actually Be True

Welcome to Mindf*ck Monthly, a newsletter that doesn’t suck. If you’re not already getting these in your inbox each month, well what the fuck?! Sign up below now.

As a periodic reminder, two of the strongest values of this newsletter are to: a) practice the ability to consider ideas without necessarily believing in them, and b) recognize that the world is far more complex and incomprehensible than we imagine—i.e., humble ourselves a bit. 

This week, I’d like to celebrate these two values by presenting three strange, mind-blowing theories that seem absolutely crazy on the surface but might or might not actually be true. Enjoy.

1. Climate change contributes to obesity – The planet is getting warmer and people are getting fatter. These are two undeniable facts. But what if one was partially causing the other?

That’s bananas, you say. 

I said the same thing. Until I stumbled across this article talking about how it’s not just humans gaining weight. Animals are too. And not just pets, but wild animals. Chimpanzees, for example, have seen their average weight increase by around 35% per decade over the study period. Some monkeys are also significantly more likely to be obese today than they were a few decades ago. And this is despite the fact that they eat the same food and get the same exercise.

There are two theories to explain what’s going on. One is some sort of chemical exposure that we’re not aware of. The other is the role of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. 

The latter is the theory put forth by a group of Danish researchers. They found that, historically, obesity increases along with CO2 concentration in major cities. Similarly, they found that increased CO2 exposure increases weight in a number of mammals when tested in a controlled environment. They believe that higher CO2 makes the blood more acidic, which can then affect the digestive system’s ability to process nutrients. 

It’s a hare-brained theory and there are a number of flaws with it. But it also wouldn’t be the first time that pollution would be linked to our physiological and psychological well-being. 

People ask me all the time about climate change and the impending apocalypse or whatever. But even if you don’t buy into fighting climate change for global warming reasons, it’s abundantly clear that pollution fucks up human bodies and minds. It causes vast amounts of lung disease and cancer. It lowers IQ and educational attainment. In some cases, it even causes more violent crime. 

So, maybe obesity isn’t such a stretch. 

2. Evil multinational mega-corporations are responsible for world peace – Watch any cheesy Hollywood action flick from the 90s or early 2000s and the villain is likely some mega-billionaire who’s about to destroy half a nation and all the baby seals along with it because it’ll add a few more percentage points to his bottom line.

Peruse any conspiracy theory forum or YouTube channel (note: please don’t actually do this) and you’ll come across dozens of half-baked theories about how governments are secretly controlled by the Big Evil Corporation and all these people are being killed on purpose so that Bill Gates can like, add a third wing to his mansion… or something. 

(Sidenote: If I ever start another business, I’m totally going to call it “Big Evil Corporation.”) 

But what if I told you these same too-big-to-fail companies might be the best thing happening for global peace? The idea is not as crazy as you think. 

Some version of this idea was first proposed in 1995 by the economist Thomas Friedman in what he initially called “The Golden Arches Theory of Conflict.” The theory was simple: two countries with McDonald’s restaurants had, until then, never gone to war with one another and Friedman aruged that they would rarely, if ever, go to war in the future. 

His reasoning was that two countries that enjoy the fruits of globalized, American-exported schlop would never jeopardize such luxuries by opting to kill each other instead. 

Unfortunately for Friedman, it only took a few years for two ethnic groups to discover that they hated each other way more than they liked Big Macs, as the Bosnia and Serbia war quickly put an end to that theory. 

But like any good human, Friedman learned from his mistakes and updated his theory in 2005 to the new and improved “Dell Theory of Conflict.” The Dell Theory says that any two countries who share supply chains for major industries with one another would never go to war, as the economic disruption would make any conflict too costly to pursue. 

Unlike its cheap McDonald’s cousin, The Dell Theory of Conflict seems to have some legs to it. It explains why India and Pakistan keep backing down from each other, why China always says it’s going to invade Taiwan but never does, and why the US really has only seemed interested in invading countries that don’t have anything interesting to sell them. 

People rarely believe this, but we live in the most peaceful period of human history. The world has not experienced a large-scale war between two major powers in over 50 years. Wars have been declining for so long and have become so rare that foreign policy experts have come to refer to the last fifty years as “The Long Peace.” 

Last year, I wrote that a company like Apple is likely more responsible for peace between the US and China than any US president. Neither country wants to fuck with a $2 trillion dollar cash cow in both their backyards. 

We’ve more recently seen this with the pandemic. Pharmaceutical companies who were once at each other’s throats came together and shared research and manufacturing capacity because they all realized that a world in enforced lockdowns isn’t good for anybody. 

Hell, you want to get into conspiracies? Blackrock, the largest financial asset management in the world, with over $8 trillion dollars in assets, and tentacles in every industry and almost every country, has allegedly picked up the phone before and politely asked various groups and countries to knock it off and start selling to each other. And, well, I guess there’s something to that? 

Economic self-interest may be soulless. But perhaps by removing people’s group affinities and emotional biases from the equation, at scale, it does make for a better, safer world.

3. Humans invented civilization for the beer – For most of human history, people were hunters and gatherers. They roamed the savannah, picked berries, and occasionally killed something and ate it. People lived in small nomadic groups, rarely congregating with others or staying in one place for long. Food was too scarce and danger too prevalent—one must always keep moving.

Then, for some reason, about 10,000 years ago, people began to settle down into larger groups and grow food. Agriculture was born. And soon, civilization as we know it followed. 

But it’s always been a bit of a mystery how or why agriculture emerged. After all, when you plant a seed, you have to wait months for it to sprout food. Ancient humans didn’t have time to wait around in one place for months. Not to mention, harvesting something like wheat was labor-intensive and it was far more difficult to cook than some berries or a dead animal.  

So, what inspired people to settle down and spend months working a piece of land in the hopes that it would provide a reliable source of food? 

Beer. 

At least, that’s a new theory proposed by some Stanford archaeologists. It turns out that the oldest archaeological sites we’ve found contain brewing equipment. Fermentation was easy and accessible to people back then, and let’s be honest, beer is definitely a legit reason to risk hanging around the same plot of land for a few months.

You may find that hard to believe, but then again, they don’t make beer like they used to. As Brian Muraresku describes in his bestselling book The Immortality Key, beer in the ancient world was far stronger than it is today, to the point that it was often hallucinogenic. 

In fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence showing that rituals and ceremonies involving hallucinogenic beer and wine were an integral part of the ancient world. People loved to get fucked up. 

So, the next time you sit down to sip a cold beer, know that you may be holding the raison d’etre of human civilization in your hand… then burp it out. 

Until next week,
Mark