UCSD Scientist lays gospel down to beat
By Shawn M. Underwood
If your belief system is based in natural science, or you don't take your religion too seriously, you may just get a kick - and a lesson - out of the new Scientific Gospel CD called "Ain't Gonna Be No Judgment Day."
The collection of destined-to-be classic hits, such as "The Naked Ape and "The Virgin of Spumoni," showcase the lyrical talents of University of California at San Diego (UCSD) Pathology professor Stephen Baird, backed up by the Opossums of Truth band. It also demonstrates that scientists can have a sense of humor.
"The basic idea is that reality can be just as much fun as mythology," Baird said. "Science has a lot of interesting phenomena that we've discovered - we're just singing songs about that in much the same way that gospel songs sing their story...we just decided there was enough in science to make it fun."
In the process, the Opossums of Truth poke their collective finger in the eye of political correctness, taking to task school prayer, religious imagery, racism and alien life.
"Prayer in the Public Schools" hypothesizes what children of each religion would do given the opportunity, including agnostics and atheists. Highlighting the differences in the varying belief systems, the song notes that some children might think God is listening only to them.
Another track, "The Virgin of Spumoni," pokes fun at a Texas town's belief that a vision of the Virgin Mary came to them. In the song, the vision is created by spilled ice cream on the sidewalk, which suffers an ignoble fate at the hands of another one of God's creatures. "We lost our virgin's magic," the song laments, "when a dog licked her away."
But the 17 songs are not all about religion, nor - according to Baird - are they meant to offend. They are meant to be enjoyed by his target audience: scientists and rationalists. Although, he admits, he has received two vastly different types of feedback.
"From scientists and rationalists, they think it's fun," he said. "There are some fundamentalist Christians who are deeply offended."
However, that reaction was not completey unexpected.
"I'm not surprised," Baird said. "I'm glad that the scientists and rationalists found it amusing...because that's what I was trying to do."
The lyrics of the songs may incite more than just the religious right, as they attack the concept of racism, and ask the question: "Are we alone?"
In "We're 99.9% the Same," the lesson is that our genetic makeup shows that skin color and geographical differences are miniscule compared to our similarities. "We're just 2 percent from chimps," the song notes. "Close to monkeys is OK, but to Jesse Helms? Oy vey!"
It goes on to demonstrate that celebrity and perceived greatness still do not separate us, with a chorus highlighting those similarities. "John Wayne and Pee Wee Herman are the same," the song says. "Yo Yo Ma and Eminem are just the same...Jerry Falwell and Bin Laden are the same."
Aside from just being funny, the CD is a natural science lesson put to a bluegrass beat. Strumming guitars help tell the story of evolution, and ask the listener if it's possible there are life forms on other planets in other solar systems. "Are they watching 'I Love Lucy' 44 light years away?" asks the ballad "Do You Think We're Alone?"
It also highlights the randomness of evolution, noting that "We Might Have Been Dinosaurs" if not for an errant astroid 65 million years ago. Speaking of evolution, one song, "I Have Seen Evolution With My Own Two Eyes," pokes fun at the Kansas Board of Education for their stance against teaching the subject in schools.
For complete lyrics, or a copy of the CD, log onto www.scientificgospel.com. Promotional events and concert information are also posted on the Web site.
A "Spring Into Scientific Gospel" concert will be held this Sunday, April 28 in the Dove Library's Ruby Schulman Auditorium, 1775 Dove Lane in Carlsbad. The show starts at 3 p.m. "Adjunct' Opossum Given Harrison will join the band for the show. Tickets range from $8 to $10.
Until then, take solace in the title track - that there "Aint' Gonna Be No Judgment Day."