Empiricists’ Night Out: The Rap Guide to Religion


In a world riven by religious conflict and warfare, we have seen rivers of ink spilled on the topic of faith. Scientists, journalists, clergy, and others have spoken on the roots of religion and its value (or threat) to society. But there is one group from whom we have not heard enough: the rappers.

Thankfully, into this breach has run the Canadian hip-hop artist, skeptic, and science aficionado Baba Brinkman. Mr. Brinkman first made waves on the science scene with 2009’s Rap Guide to Evolution, a hip-hop infused paean to the genius of Charles Darwin. That show, with raps dedicated to topics such as DNA, sexual selection, and creationism, was inspired by such thinkers such as Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson and garnered the title of the “first-ever peer reviewed rap.”

Now, after subsequent efforts covering human nature and business, Baba Brinkman has returned with the Rap Guide to Religion, a live show currently being performed at the SoHo Playhouse in New York City. After meeting Mr. Brinkman at a recent Empiricist League meeting, a small group of League members ventured out on a cold Black Friday to see the fruit of the cross-pollination of hip-hop and science.

Taking up where the Rap Guide to Evolution left off, the Rap Guide to Religion uses rap music as a tool to inform the audience about the evolutionary roots of religion. From the Darwinian perspective, of course, all biological attributes exist because they are adaptive (i.e., those traits that helped our ancestors survive were passed on, while those that didn’t died out.) Inspired by such works as Ana Norenzayan’s Big Gods and David Sloan Wilson’s Darwin’s Cathedral, the Rap Guide to Religion brings this same mode of thought to understanding religion: Where did it come from? How did it help our ancestors survive? And, perhaps most importantly, why, in a world where science has slowly but surely eroded the domain of religion, does it continue to thrive despite some of its obvious defects?

But this is no dry academic lecture — it’s a hip-hop show. With intricate rhymes, solid beats, and no small dose of good humor, Mr. Brinkman takes on all comers and cleverly explains the evolutionary basis for religion. He also takes time out to skewer celebrities who thank God in their award speeches, and to reference rapper Rick Ross as a modern exemplar of the evolutionary drive for sex and prestige.

So, if you love hip-hop and science (and who in their right mind doesn’t?), the Empiricist League strongly endorses Baba Brinkman’s Rap Guide to Religion.

Tickets: http://www.bababrinkman.com/religion/

Music: http://music.bababrinkman.com/album/religion-evolves

(Contributed by Empiricist League official historian, David “Lefty” Leibowitz)

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