From wild potato chichi (a South American beer) in 13,000 BC to pepper berry wine in 600 AD to alcopops in the 1990s, alcohol in one form or another has permeated human life through the ages.

And, far from a luxury product, archaeologists and scientists now believe that it has, in fact, been essential to the development of civilisation – indeed the very reason we came down from the trees in the first place (rotting, and therefore fermenting, fruit on the forest floor was easier to digest).

It's an idea explained in depth in the always excellent National Geographic last month (February), which looks at "Our 9,000-year love affair with alcohol." I urge you all to hunt down a copy right this minute and spend a diverting 15 minutes with the feature, before raising a glass of something alcoholic to its writer, Andrew Curry.

The reason I bring it up on these pages is that when Curry writes, "Alcoholic beverages...were invented independently many different times, likely on every continent save Antarctica."

Or when he says, "beer, wine and other fermented beverages were, at least until the rise of modern sanitation, often healthier to drink than water."

Or that, "As if to prove the desire for alcohol knows no bounds, the nomads of Central Asia make up for the lack of fruit and grain on their steppes by fermenting horse milk," he has distilled an incoherent (and ill researched and badly developed) theory of my own: that alcohol is an integral part of civilisation and not, as some would have it, a dangerous drug that threatens society.

Clearly there are issues, for a few, around alcohol abuse and this needs to be addressed and those suffering treated with kindness and compassion.

To the neo-prohibitionists, however, who want alcohol taxed ever higher, priced out of reach, regulated to within an inch of its life or, indeed, banned entirely, I say no, because, as Curry rather more beautifully puts it:

"Alcohol...has been a prime mover of human culture from the beginning, fuelling the development of arts, language, and religion."

If that's wet your whistle for some debate on the subject, take a look at why drinking a little is better than total abstinence.