Darwin Rocks

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Lectures, symposia, essays and articles are not my idea of a birthday party, but that’s how institutions around the world are celebrating Charles Darwin’s big 2-0-0. In my opinion, you can’t have a party without drink and dance, and luckily Darwin is a muse for scientists and entertainers alike. Performers from plenty of genres have converted his theories of natural selection into song lyrics—a slightly easier task than rapping about chemical analysis—sorry Robert Boyle.

Just ask Baba Brinkman, who delivered an insightful “Rap Guide to Evolution” at the Evolving Words workshop in Hinxton, England, earlier this month. (More on Brinkman at Science magazine’s Origins blog.)

A lot can be said in a rap, especially when using success in hip-hop as a metaphor for natural selection. Brinkman’s goal here is to educate. Darwin also shows up in pop songs like American rock group R.E.M.’s Man on the Moon.”

Other performers veer away from being completely educational or philosophical. Instead, they see Darwin’s life as great fun. Take Richard Milner, the singing Darwinian scholar, who grew up admiring Charles Darwin as well as prominent scientist and author Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002). This New York Times video profile of Milner is one of the best.

The artists mentioned here are just a few notables who have used Darwin as their muse. For more examples of what’s on Darwin’s iPod, check out Cells in Culture or the U.K. Mirror's Science Blog.

--Joseph Caputo

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