Post Date: 04/15/2002

Preachin’ the science gospel

Ain't Gonna Be No Judgment Day, Dr. Stephen Baird and the Opossums of Truth, Scientific Gospel Productions. Solana Beach, Calif

Reviewed by Hal Wingard

Freedom of religion, which we Americans take as an inalienable right, does not for most of us include freedom to be free of religion, to base answers to life's eternal questions on only reality and ordinarily experience.

Beyond this, to poke fun publicly at cherished religious tenets or practices is pretty much a no-no in our society. Anyone who does so is likely to face consternation, criticism and even ostracism.

Yet, such a person is Dr. Stephen Baird, professor of pathology at the UCSD School of Medicine. Baird is a bard of extraordinary talent. On a compact disc titled Ain't Gonna Be No Judgment Day, he sings 17 songs. beginning will, “Prayer in the Public Schools and ending with the song bearing the disc's title. He is backed by a group that calls itself the Opossums of Truth.

Listeners who are iconoclasts will smile; believers may be uneasy, even angry at the irreverence. Here's the chorus and a stanza from the discs opening song, “Prayer”:

It's time to get down and pray, get carried away.
Let the Supreme Court look the other way.
There is no better way so start the day
Than to get right down and pray.
Protestants stand as Catholics all kneel.
Jews stand and sway to music they must feel.
Baptists ignore the hubbub and the fuss.
They say to themselves, “God hears only us.

Although the Hebrew language is mentioned in "Prayer" and oy vey appears in another song, the collection has no content that can be called Jewish. On the other hand, it challenges specific concepts that are fundamental to Judaism and to other religions. For example, here is a stanza and the chorus from "Randomness is Good Enough for Me":

Since our universe began, some folks see a godly plan.
Guiding all creation on its course,
Other folks of different mind look for evidence and find
Random evolution is our source.
Randomness is good enough for me. If there's no design, it means I'm free.
You can pray and go to heaven,
I'm gonna try to roll a Seven.
Randomness is good enough for me.

Several of the songs are merely informative, such as "Water" and "The Great Colorado" But most are odes in praise of Darwin and the concepts of random selection. Some are downright sarcastic and biting. The chorus and a verse from "The Virgin of Spumoni" are unsubtle and cutting:

Some kid dropped his ice cream cone one boiling summer day.
And as he watched it melting down, he heard somebody say
Holy Mary, I can see, in red and white and brown
The Virgin of Spumoni on the sidewalk in our town.
Someone reaches out and touches, then he throws away his crutches.
We saw him in USA Today
But he's relapsed now. It's tragic. Yes, we've lost the Virgin's magic,
Since somebody s dog licked her away.

Other songs are less vitriolic and are downright funny. "The Naked Ape" tells the story of ancient man's transition from being warm and fuzzy, with a delightful chorus:

When did we get naked?
Were there commensurate gains?
Did our new interest in fig leaves help us develop large brains?
When our hairlines receded, what else did our genomes do?
When did we get naked and has it been good for you?

Baird composed each of the songs himself, both lyrics and music. The melodies are always easy to sing, often reminding the listener of other commonly known tunes. In the song "Water," the melody is the same as the melody to a popular song called, as one would guess, "Water," ("All day I face the barren waste without a taste of water, cool, clear, water").

However, it is the message that is important in each of the 17 tracks.

As might be expected of a pathologist, Baird can wield the scalpel of sarcasm to cut deeply into the tenets of believers. But most of his songs are more like sermons, preaching Darwinism to the Darwinians. It is not likely that he will convert any believers in the basics of religion. Yet the lyrics are clever, the themes are pertinent, if irreverent, and the choice of words is often charming.

Darwinians, as well as believers in Creation who have a sense of humor. can have a thoroughly good time listening to Ain't Gonna Be No Judgment Day.

The CD is available from Scientific Gospel Productions 255 South Rios Ave., Solana Beach, CA 92075; (858) 481-0765; www.sciendficgospel.com


Baird, a frequent lecturer on Jewish medical ethics, and his wife Carol Davidson Baird, a past president of the San Diego Jewish Genealogical Society, were instrumental in researching and creating Congregation Beth Am's gate memorializing the perished Czech Jewish community of Roudnice.
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