The Sunny Skeptic: CD Review – Here Comes Science
By Crystal Dervetski
They Might Be Giants (TMBG) just released their newest addition to their already amazing catalog of children’s albums. But before you relegate this one to the kids, it’s really important that you take a listen. John Flansburgh and John Linnell have once again achieved new musical heights, and have created a children’s CD that is wonderful for adults to listen to as well. Moments in the CD will make young and old absolutely giddy with delight.
TMBG tackle a wide variety of scientific topics, from waves and rainbows, to the universe, to the way the human body functions. They’re even kind enough to reprise their cult hit, “Why Does The Sun Shine?” (a late 1950s children song written by Tom Glazer). They follow up the catchy tune with an update that explains “Why Does the Sun Really Shine,” in which they discuss the most recent theories of the sun being plasma, and not necessarily a gas. You’ll want to hear this one if you’ve ever wondered if the line “that thesis has been rendered invalid…” can be sung in a sexy, hip way. (It can.)
“Meet the Elements” and “I Am A Paleontologist” introduce children to chemistry and paleontology, respectively. Hearing TMBG bassist Danny Weinkauf is a real treat; he has a great singing voice and sense of humor. You’ll surely smile when he discusses the evolution of species and how interesting it is to study the fossils of various creatures.
Probably the songs that atheists will find the most fun to listen to are “Science is Real”, “Put It To the Test,” and “My Brother the Ape.” There has been some controversy regarding the song “Science is Real” amongst people of faith. The portion of the tune they most object to is the following:
“Now I like those stories about angels, unicorns and elves / Yeah I like those stories as much as anybody else / But when I’m seeking knowledge either simple or abstract /, the facts are with science. The facts are with science.”
It seems that certain religious groups object to their precious angels being lumped in with unicorns and elves. Of course, most freethinkers will relish this moment and listen to the song over and over just because of this line alone. But if the people complaining would even take the time to listen to the rest of the album that they may find “My Brother the Ape” and “Put It To the Test” to be much more offensive to them.
In “My Brother the Ape”, TMBG have written a song about the interconnectedness of life from the point of view of a man writing a letter to his sister. He has just attended a family reunion, and was surprised who he found in attendance. He somewhat resents the fact that he is compared to the apes, and tells her that he doesn’t think he looks like them in any way. Then he states this brilliant observation:
“But I’ll admit that I look more like a chimp than I look like my cousin the shrimp /Or my distant kin the lichens or the snowy egret or the moss. / And I find it hard to recognize some relatives of ours / like the rotifer, the sycamore, iguanas and sea stars…”
Lastly, in my favorite song of all, TMBG encourage young people to “Put It To the Test.” I don’t know what could be more ‘dangerous’ for children than to tell them they should learn to think for themselves and to try to find the answers to questions or problems they encounter in their lives. Although the video that TMBG presented for the song highlights the scientific method and shows experiments on plants, weight, and other more concrete subjects, I can’t help but view most of the lyrics with an atheistic perspective. Here is a sampling of what I find are the most excellent lyrics from this song:
“If somebody says they figured it out and they’re leaving any room for doubt come up with a test / Are you sure that that thing is true, or did someone just tell it to you?”“If you want to know if it’s the truth, then, my friend, you are going to need proof- Come up with a test / Don’t believe it ’cause they say it’s so. / If it’s not true, you have a right to know.”“A fact is just a fantasy unless it can be checked…”
So, with the holiday season just around the corner, you probably have some seasonal gift giving to do. Consider this CD your best bet for children young and old. I’m thinking of buying as many copies I can afford and giving them out with my usual anonymous seasonal giving… And don’t forget all of your kin, including the other Great Apes.