SB doctor sings praises of 'scientific gospel'
By Pam Kragen:
Ever since the 1980's, Solana Beach pathologist Stephen Baird has been using music to get his messages across - be it in the classroom, the convention hall or on the concert stage.
Now Baird will bring his musical liturgy of "scientific gospel" to the people, with a CD release party in Carlsbad and a concert in Solana Beach. But just what is scientific gospel?
"It's the combination of scientific lyrics and humor set to gospel and bluegrass/country music," said Carol Baird, wife of the musical raconteur and promoter for his new CD, "Ain't Gonna Be No Judgment Day."
Stephen Baird's story-songs poke fun at fundamentalist targets such as creationism, Jerry Falwell, Osama bin Laden and prayer in schools. Baird's heroes are scientists such as Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel and UC San Diego chemistry professor emeritus Stanley Miller. The new CD includes tracks such a(s)"The Naked Ape," "Do You Think We're Alone?" and "I Have Seen Evolution With My Own Two Eyes."
Carol Baird, former medical researcher, said that her husband "has a cause he's fighting for and it's modernity." Much like singer/satirist Mark Russell, Stephen Baird "loves the juxtaposition of the ridiculous and the real," she said.
"He thinks it's funny. It's like watching 'Hee-Haw' and having Pavarotti come out to sing in the cornfield," she said.
Since joining the faculty at UC San Diego in 1976, Stephen Baird has won numerous state teaching awards for his colorful teaching style. In the classroom, he uses music to help his pathology students remember technical terms, such a using familiar Christmas songs for each of the interleukins.
Then in 1994, he read an article in the journal Science by Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education in Berkeley.
She wrote that the reason that creationists had the ear of the general public, rather than the evolutionists, is because "scientists present evidence but creationists go after the heart and soul. In the words of Tom Lehrer, they have all the good songs."
Scott ended the article by asking anybody with an evolution-themed song to contact her, so Baird got out his guitar and started writing.
Four years later, Baird met Nick Binkley, a North County banker and singer/songwriter, at the home of Nobel Prize-winning Francis Crick, and Binkley was intrigued by Baird's music. Together they produced Baird's first CD, "Hallelujah! Evolution," in 1999 and it has garnered a small but loyal following.
Although Baird's schedule is full - teaching at UCSD School of Medicine and serving as chief of pathology at the Veterans Administration Medical Center - he has found time to perform at several concerts, including at the Palomar Unitarian Universalist Church in Vista, the Center for the Study of Evolution and Origins of Life at UCLA, North Coast Repertory Theater in Solana Beach and the Bravo! San Diego arts event last fall.
Obviously, Baird's music appeals to a select audience, so marketing his albums has been a challenge. Carol Baird decided to use her marketing skills (she's president of the North San Diego County Genealogical Society) and devoted herself full time to helping her husband with his latest CD, "Ain't Gonna Be No Judgment Day," produced by Del Mar-based jazz guitarist Peter Sprague.
Although the lyrics on the new CD are especially humorous to those in the scientific field, Carol Baird said that the 8-year-old son of a local surgeon has already memorized the entire disc (whether he understands the words or not).
The lay public can understand what's he's singing about, but it can also be appreciated on an entirely different level by scientists," she said.
The CD will be introduced at an hourlong party in Carlsbad on Saturday, and then a follow-up concert will be presented at the North Coast Rep on Tuesday, which is Charles Darwin's birthday. Baird will be accompanied by his band, the Opossums of Truth, which includes the Bairds' son, Daniel, a software engineer, and Ron Jackson, from Buffalo Brothers Guitar store in Carlsbad.