TVOL’s team of editors, most of whom are professional evolutionists, strongly believe that evolution needs a new storyteller—more precisely, a new generation of storytellers. For too long, the predominant image of evolution in the public consciousness has been shaped by the often used adage, “Man is a wolf to man.” The scientific evidence, however, suggests that a diversity of behaviors we encounter, from compassion and empathy to selfishness and sociopathy, can all be understood from an evolutionary perspective. We need to tell this and many other untold stories of evolution—in a way that not only changes the public narrative, but also influences how evolution is taught in schools and how it can be used to inform policy-making.
In pursuit of our mission, TVOL is always on the lookout for excellent representations of evolution in the arts, and we’ve found one in Baba Brinkman’s new off-Broadway show, Ingenious Nature. Baba is a rapper/actor who has an incredible gift for communicating evolutionary science to the general public using the art of rap. Adding to the uniqueness of the show is Jamie Simmonds, a London based turn-tablist DJ who mixes multiple genres of music with intoxicating rap beats. As an onstage duo, Jamie and Baba are perfectly synchronized, a rare species of artistic symbionts. Baba has found a way to integrate a roller coaster story of online dating and finding love in NYC with foundational studies in human behavioral ecology, evolutionary psychology, genetics and neuroscience. He humorously and wittily provokes his audience into confronting the science behind conservatism, male violence and aggression, sex differences, free will and other big topics.
Full disclaimer: I teamed up with Baba on the show, both as a researcher and also to design an interactive audience poll for an improvised “freestyle” rap segment of the performance.
I was inspired by Baba’s humility in portraying science as a provisional process: not as a monolithic collection of facts, but as an ongoing process of constructive disagreement that gradually converts hypotheses into durable knowledge that can inform our daily lives. Taking evolution and the scientific process seriously, Ingenious Nature has been peer reviewed (via phone voicemail) by professional evolutionists such as Rob Brooks, David Buss, Olivia Judson, David Sloan Wilson, Jonathan Haidt, Martin Daly, Sarah Hrdy, and Steven Pinker (Check them out below). This is one of the most creative ways I can think of to communicate the importance of evolutionary science.
Help support the next generation of evolution story tellers such as Baba by spreading the word of Ingenious Nature via your social networks.
Listen: Baba’s Peer-Review Panel
Watch: Baba Brinkman’s TEDx Talk about the Rap Guide to Evolution