Saints and Scientists

Presented by
Rabindra (Robby) Ratan, PhD, Michigan State University (MI)

I wrote a rap song about the intersection of science and faith -- as an added verse to “When the Saints Go Marching In” -- which I first performed with a street band at the March for Science in Lansing, MI.  In a nutshell, the song argues that science requires faith, just like religion, and that the facts of science are often revised/updated, so dogma (in any direction) is dangerous. I'm not sure exactly what to do with the song ... add a beat? update the lyrics? make a music video? move on with my life to other projects? Also, I am curious about how people respond to the song. Are both sides of the philosophical divide slightly offended ... as intended?  This would be a useful venue for feedback on all these matters. Thanks for your consideration.

Rick Heineman

I think I understand your points about science being about change. And I agree! I enjoyed this song.

Right now, your song seems like it has two ideas.
1) There's a contrast or comparison between religion and science. But exactly what's being said here seems ill-defined. They share faith, perhaps...but what is faith? I feel like you need to talk about what faith means to you - because there's a lot of ways people define faith in their lives, and I think the faith you mean only matches up with some of these.
2) Faith in science is faith in a process, not faith in pieces of information. Your song makes this point pretty well to a scientist I think, but might need a little more translation to be clear to a layperson. You might need to think about who your audience is.

These ideas do connect, but right now I feel like that connection is not completely explored.

Thanks for the song!

Fri, 09/22/2017 - 16:14 Permalink

Hi Robby -- It was fun to see these live performances (nicely spliced, I thought) along with your explanation of what you were shooting for. As a scientist, I did not feel offended at all ... so maybe you didn't quite achieve your goal?  :-)  To me, the song sounded mostly like a defense of science, with the point that paradigms can shift seeming like a pretty small concession. If you wanted, you could go further and note that scientists can cut corners to try to achieve tenure/fame/etc., that many studies turn out not to be reproducible, that funding of scientific research is based not just on scientific merit but also on political considerations, etc. That might further emphasize your point (currently not that prominent) that unquestioning faith in science is problematic too.  Finally, nice rapping skills! (Or should that be "mad rapping skillz"?) I tend to rap in a regular meter with tidy end rhymes, as if I'm reciting a Robert Frost poem; you sound much more like a legit contemporary artist! P.S. To maximize musicality, I would favor periodically interrupting the rapping with the musical hook of the "Saints" chorus or whatever.

Sat, 09/23/2017 - 23:41 Permalink
Lynda Blodgett

I very much like your honest discussion after your performance, asking for feedback. I like your identification with a paradigm shift in science. My question is what if not everyone is willing to hear a shift that challenges their current or most comfortable view? My husband and I are listening to a book named, "I don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist." I don't agree with everything in the book, but it sure brings up a lot of questions to consider.

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 01:36 Permalink

Robby here. I just want to express a HUGE THANKS for this feedback thus far. It's very encouraging and I'm inspired to evolve the song further based on your feedback. It's funny - I get peer reviewed all the time on articles in my own field (media psychology), but something about putting my song up like this made me extra nervous. I haven't workshopped anything since my poetry classes as an undergrad 10+ years ago. I appreciate the engagement and look forward to chatting with anyone who can attend the virtual poster session on Thursday morning.

Tue, 09/26/2017 - 23:25 Permalink

I want to be involved in the production of the music video whenever we have time! I love how you express your feelings towards science. I would like to thank you for inviting us to this amazing conference. There is an abundance of attainable knowledge.

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 15:29 Permalink