or, Carl Sagan rides again, and again…
Prometheus Unbound raises questions about the atheist spirituality of Symphony of Science‘s star-scientist-studded videos (pun only slightly intended — they are mostly men, yes, but drumming on djembes (!), and it’s well worth waiting to see Jane Goodall tell us about the “wuzzy” line between humans and the rest of nature in the video below, starting at about the 2’30” point).
Spirituality is, of course, in the eye, ear, and body of its beholder. What makes this spiritual is the way it mobilizes music, movement, and poetry in the service of spreading a message, in this case the gospel of science. The use of pitch-shifting and pitch-correction software to “musicalize” the spoken voices of scientists is analogous to the intended poeticization and spiritualization of science. Science in practice is, of course, dry, slow, laborious, and boring. But the results of science can be exciting. This parallels the natural process science itself describes: from the painstakingly slow and boring life of atoms, molecules, things responding to other things, what has built up over time is the world we know. Or, as Darwin famously put it:
“from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed [by the Creator*] into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.” (On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, 1859)
[*”by the Creator” was added in the 1860 edition, but even the Creator-less verb form of “having been breathed” suggests there is a breather and something been breathed into, i.e. an active force and a passive recipient.]
“We are, each of us, a multitude.” Yes, we are Walt Whitman, and Deleuze and Guattari, and Jane Goodall with her chimps, and even Carl Sagan (whose demon haunted world was a little less than poetically charitable with things he disagreed with; but policing its borders is part of what keeps science intact as an enterprise).
It’s all very nice to melodize these science rappers, but where’s the rap version of these videos? Why not hiphopricize these science guys?
I suppose they take a tiny step in this direction with Sagan’s glitchy intro here: