The Best Part Of Science
Back in the ancient days, you know, when the winds began to blow
And the clouds up in the sky began to blacken
All the folk were badly frightened; was it Neptune or Poseidon?
Were they fightin’ with a titan or a kraken?
Then the lightning would flash and a thunderclap would crash
Was is Zeus or maybe Set or Feng Po Po?
Maybe Thor or Dionysus would accept our sacrifices
But we really didn’t have a way to know
Until some people wondered whether we could understand the weather
And together, started studying the air
We began to build barometers and mercury thermometers
Hygrometers for knowledge we could share
We collected lots of data and began to find a way to
Say just what we think the weather’s gonna do
And now instead of mere mythology we’ve got meteorology…
Because the best part of science is it’s true.
Back in the ancient days when millions of people died of illnesses
Like polio, pertussis, or rubella
We imagined horrid horsemen who would gallop on their course and
Make a corpse out of a lady or a fella
We could try to help our odds, sacrificing to the gods
Making ointments out of rhino horn and poo
And a lot of people thought that it was working; it was not
But we didn’t have a method yet for testing what was true.
But today, if you get ill with a fever or a chill
Modern doctors make a careful diagnosis
And instead of making guesses we’ve got rigorous processes
For prevention, predication and prognosis
While with modern sanitation and effective vaccinations
We have saved entire nations from their graves
And now instead of mere mythology we’ve got microbiology…
Because the best part of science is it saves.
So when you come across a fossil of a creature that’s colossal
Or you see a star that’s moving in the sky
Don’t assume that it’s a fairy or a dragon mean and scary
You can understand what’s happening if you try
Because a myth’s an allegory but you know it’s just a story
So enjoy it for the way it makes you feel
Ah, but when you start to wonder why the lightning and the thunder…
The best part of science, my favorite part of science,
The greatest part of science is it’s real… whether you believe in it or not.
This song came out of a discussion with a classroom of third graders in one of my on-site songwriting residencies. The kids had been reading ancient myths as part of their introduction to different genres of fiction, and a very clever girl observed that to the people who originally told those stories these myths were not fiction, but the best explanation people could come up with for the world around them. We discussed how myth and science both come from our basic need to understand how the world around us came to be and to gain some sense of agency within it. The main difference, of course, is that science includes a mechanism for testing to find what actually works and what does not.
Here are some academic standards from the Common Core addressed by this song.
CC.RL.3.2. Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.
CC.RI.3.3. Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
CC.RL.4.9. Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
CC.RI.4.3. Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
CC.RI.5.3. Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.
CC.RF.5.3. Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words. (Comment on this... the names of gods and humans in ancient myths are a great way to introduce kids to the idea that English phonics are heavily influenced by a word's language of origin. This is why the kids at the National Spelling Bee often ask for language of origin before trying to spell a big word!)
Chords: C, G, G7, C7, F, A, D
This song won an Audience Favorite award at the 2018 Ohio Valley Filk Festival.