|Interview - Internet
|mediaite.com (United States)
What do punk rock, evolution, and Christine O’Donnell have in common? One answer might be Greg Graffin. If you are a Bad Religion fan, or a student of Professor Graffin’s perhaps this won’t come as a total surprise, but for everyone else here’s some (pretty fascinating) background.
Graffin started his unusual career trajectory as the leader of the 70′s punk rock band Bad Religion, which he co-founded at the age of 15. However, perhaps less widely known is the fact he went on to earn a master’s degree in geology from UCLA, and later received his Ph.D. from Cornell University. Currently Graffin teaches a class in evolution at UCLA and he’s also co-authored a new book with Steve Olson called Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God. I told you it was unusual.
The book, which hit stands last week, is described as “equal parts memoir and manifesto” combining Graffin’s “experiences in punk culture and the academic world” at the same time exploring the “deep connection between art, religion, and science.” Not surprisingly it’s been turning heads. Graffin stopped by Morning Joe last week to talk about Anarchy Evolution and ended up reflecting on Bill O’Reilly‘s sharp words with Bill Maher over the origins of the universe as described by Christine O’Donnell, as well as discussing (ish) with Peggy Noonan her views of how science relates to God. You can watch the MJ clip below.
“Unfortunately, science cannot be reduced to short catchy phrases. And if this is all that the general public can comprehend, it’s no wonder that we spend so much of our time in the interminable debate about belief in God, or lack thereof.”
Intrigued? Mediaite caught up with Graffin, who is just starting his national book tour, to find out exactly what evolution and punk rock have in common, and how he feels about the current state of political discourse in the country regarding science, and how it appears to recently have devolved to talk of mice with human brains and very monkey-ish monkeys.
Punk rock and evolution seem, at first glance, to be worlds apart. Did similar things draw you to both?
I definitely was attracted to similar things in punk and science. They both depend on a healthy dose of skepticism. My science teachers always encouraged their classes to “go out and discover something” because all scientific endeavors depend on observation and experimentation. Through such pursuits anyone can find something new to science, and if it’s truly novel, the entire edifice of science might have to be restructured. In this way, science is a constant challenge to authority, and no scientist swells with too much hubris because she knows that anyone might come along with some new verifiable data that can cause a revolution. The thread of culture that runs through the entire history of punk is also a dedication to challenging the authoritarian. So, in this way i see a connection, and i feel comfortable in both circles.
There has been a lot of talk about evolution in the news of late, particularly in light of Christine O’donnell’s remarks on mice with human brains, etc. Is it frustrating to hear the political conversation on science, and the science of evolution get distilled down to silly soundbites?
When I was on MSNBC last week [video below], I was challenged to explain the origin of the earth in 5 seconds. Now the host said it partly sarcastically, but they would definitely prefer a five second answer over a conversation that might take longer but systematically lays out the evidence. There is very little patience for science it seems and this greatly hobbles the ability of the even best story tellers to explain basic natural phenomena.
You are an atheist. What is your response to a political season that is revolving around whether President Obama attends church, and who is building mosque where?
Politics, sadly, is also about sound bites. As if the voter has no tolerance for didactic exposition. Unfortunately, science cannot be reduced to short catchy phrases. And if this is all that the general public can comprehend, it’s no wonder that we spend so much of our time in the interminable debate about belief in God, or lack thereof.
- Glynnis MacNicol
German transcript updated
English transcript added
English transcript added
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