Hymn to evolution sung by an innocent child

Evolution Made Us All from Ben Hillman on Vimeo.

Boing Boing fave Richard Dawkins points us to Ben Hillman's lovely hymn about evolution that should be taught in all schools. Sung by the angelic Beatrice Athene. Video link


  1. That’s…a little creepy.

    Unless I’m misinterpreting that sentence, suggesting the hymn be taught in school is even creepier.

    1. Mainly it was the video that was creepy, although some of the references could be changed to make it more kid-friendly.

      Honestly, though, this is better than the dreck that’s taught in school, much of which is equally creepy.

  2. Delightful! Magnificent! Accurate! ..well the DNA goes the wrong way at the end, but that bites many a graphic artist (it coils to the right)

    Monty Python’s (audio) version:

  3. With a little bit of editing, this would be a great kid’s song.

    My kids liked it, but didn’t get the bin Laden joke and so on, and none of us like the line that stated we’re going to hell.

  4. This is indeed creepy. The notion that children should be singing paeans to evolution (or any scientific principle) is absurd – it seems like something that would happen in North Korea or China (or old Mother Russia), not here.

    Oh, and not to be a stick in the mud, but evolution didn’t make spiral galaxies.

    1. The notion that children should be singing paeans to evolution (or any scientific principle) is absurd…

      As a homeschooler, I can tell you that song is an incredibly useful tool in teaching. That’s how all of my kids learned their days of the week, months of the year, letters, shapes, and so on.

      Also, aside from rote memorization, music is useful in teaching concepts as well. For instance, see pretty much everything on the Science Is Real album by They Might Be Giants. They have songs about the table of elements, the human body, and so on.

      1. Here here on teaching with song. To this day, the only molecule I remember other than some of the simplest (eg. water) is for sulfuric acid, and I remember it because of the rhyme:

        Little Lucy in the lab,
        lies dead upon the floor.
        For what she thought was H2O,
        was H2SO4.

        And to the excessively defensive religious zealots who post here – lighten up! Keep the fairy tail fears to yourselves.

  5. On further thought, not only is the video/song creepy, this post in general is very creepy.

    First, you call this a “hymn”? You realize that term is generally used to describe songs of religious praise, right?

    Second, an “innocent child”? As opposed to a . . . guilty or malevolent child?

    And third, again, the idea that this should “taught in all schools”? Ah yes, along with the Chant to Newton and the Psalm of Schroedinger.

    Seriously, this post just oozes ickiness.

    1. Whoa there! Little children are regularly taught ‘religious hymns’ about some baby born in a manger, surrounded by angels, kings and a virgin mother and it’s not considered creepy.

      What’s the big problem with children singing about something REAL once in a while? It’s not indoctrination any more than buying them some stegosaurus toy they like or a chemistry set. Lighten up!

    1. Yes. I was looking forward to this thinking it was a great, informative song and maybe a learning tool for my own students. I don’t think scientists need to justify facts via political means. Secular humanists should simply fight enforcement of oppression but not really turn science into a political movement. It certainly is not and shouldn’t be. It’s higher than that.

      1. I don’t think scientists need to justify facts via political means.

        Unfortunately, most scientists (and scientifically-minded people) agree with you, which is why I live in a state where people really believe that evolution = we came from chimps, so why are there still chimps? and that climate = weather, so haha, it’s disproved by snow!


        1. that climate = weather, so haha, it’s disproved by snow!

          Have to admit, I really hate it when that happens.

    1. Why so serious? A while back we had a post claiming that atheists were concerned about the “targeted indoctrination of the young, poor, and uneducated.” Now this! “It made Mother Theresa!” This is beyond satire.

      1. Um, maybe I took this post (and song) somewhat excessively at face value. Forget last comment!(slinking off..)

      2. Agreed. I feel like this is getting a bit tiresome.

        It’s all a battle for minds, right? A showdown for the memes. Richard has lost patience with the nutters and is shoving science in their face like a fork. I feel a little queasy about my beliefs being associated with this man; I believe in evolution but Richard doesn’t speak for me.

        I went through a period of atheism when I was a young man (sigh) but my views have softened since then as experience has taught me to be wary of absolute certainty. When I encounter zealots of any stripe, I feel uneasy.

        Then again, maybe I should relax. Time will tell the story of religion and science, the selfish memes that have taken us as a substrate on which to evolve.

        1. I think the only meme that appears to be victorious here is the one that says Dawkins is some kind of ogre who commits terrible crimes against the religious. Dawkins is never anything but calm, measured and rational, even in the face of those who choose to go Godwin in the first sentence of the debate. At worst he is guilty of a bit of gentle condenscension against the religious who keep to themselves. However, because he doesn’t back away from exposing the dangers in fundamentalism, he is called strident and rude. The fact that even atheists like yourself seem to think he’s not helping is a measure of how the fundamentalists have one this particular battle.

          Dawkins doesn’t force you to read his books, watch his documentaries or even read his blog posts here. He wasn’t even responsible for posting this video link – he just passed it on. I don’t know how this is “shoving science in their face like a fork”. I, however, have to live daily with religion being forced upon me and with the consequence of that bigotted belief impacting on myself and my friends through unjust laws.

          Like yourself, I have also been on a journey, from religion to atheism to accommodationism and back to “strident” atheism. I’ve tried being nice to extremists and turning the other cheek. It only works in their favour because they’re not held back by such niceties, regardless of what their prophet of choice tells them to do. Nope, it’s time to fight back.

          1. I believe in resisting them whenever we can. But the moment we decide to fight them, we have already lost.

    2. It sure isn’t intended to be taken very seriously — rhyming “veal” and “eel” is too much fun. And following Mother Theresa with the lamprey eel?

      It’s intended to push lots of people’s buttons. Hence the references to veal, and hell, and the fact that the microorganisms aren’t “cute bacteria” but clearly eukaryotes.

      But it is a hymn: “All things bright and beautiful” is a (very very famous) English hymn, with “The lord god made them all” in place of the line about evolution.

      If Richard Dawkins recommended teaching it in schools, he did it for the lulz.

  6. I’m surprised that no-one else has pointed out the irony of an essentially anti-religious song being sung by what is described as an “angelic” singer. Angelic as in “like an angel”? Angels being biblical creatures? Hello?

  7. I laughed at least 6 times during that song.

    “Innocent child”, meaning a sweet little girl voice, possibly? That’s how I took it anyway.

    How about we change the last line to “about evolution, WHICH should be taught in all schools.”?


    Is it OK if I think the song is funny?

  8. I find it odd that anyone would feel threatened by a parody of a religious hymn, obviously intended as a joke.

    Perhaps there are atheists out there teaching their children to hate the religious, but this is not evidence of such a thing.

    If anyone were to actually teach this to their kid (in a spirit of good humor, naturally), that wouldn’t constitute indoctrination, since evolution is not a doctrine but a scientific theory based on evidence. There’s nothing wrong with teaching it to children since (a) it’s factual and (b) there’s nothing harmful about it.

    And please don’t jump to the conclusion that I think it’s wrong to teach religion to children or to teach them hymns. It’s wrong to teach intolerance, of any stripe, though.

  9. Oh Noes ! Teh Evil Strident Atheists are trying to indoctrinate our kids with THE TRUTH ! Won’t someone think of the children ?

  10. Pathetic. And I’m not talking about the song. I’m talking about Boingboing disrespecting it’s loyal followers. There are lot’s of nerdy, intelligent and humble people that follow Jesus, and they certainly don’t look anything like the caricatures you’re “drawing”.

    1. Yeah, agreed.

      This is just kinda odd and lame. Whatever it’s trying to achieve, it’s failing badly.

    2. Frode Bo: I think you should think of BoingBoing as a blog written by individuals and not an organization with followers. No matter how many pageviews you’ve given them, they can’t really disrespect you by posting anything (excluding a link to a malicious computer virus or fraudulent credit card theft scheme or something). I’ve read this webpage for a long time, and I happen to be a vegetarian. If some contributor were to post something along the lines of “Vegetarians are evil” in a totally serious way I might be annoyed, even offended, but I wouldn’t feel as though they owed me anything other than that, or that my readership should ensure that they hold my views. I really think you should quit “loyally following” and start critically reading. Not to say you shouldn’t comment if you disagree, or explain why you think something is wrong or wrong-headed, but that you shouldn’t expect that by reading a certain blog, no matter how often or thoughtfully, should prohibit that blog from insulting you or your views.

      And, even if you’re right, and it is disrespectful, I don’t really see how that makes it pathetic.

      Just my two cents.

      1. Thanks for a good thru-thought answer. That post was a gut reaction. Perhaps pathetic is the wrong word. I don’t mind critique or even ridicule, and I don’t expect BoingBoing or any other blog to write stuff I agree with all the time. It is sad though, when someone you’ve come to respect and admire over time (namely BB) promotes the kind of religious hatred Dawkins preach.

  11. It’s Saturday. Cut loose and lighten up. If you don’t you won’t have anything to to repent for tomorrow.

  12. Big mistake. A jingle would be fine, but a hymn puts evolution in the same camp as religious beliefs. Evolution is supposed to be a scientific concept.

  13. Irrationality is ripe for mocking. This illusion that the cloak of faith Is beyond reproach is dangerous and wrong. Respect is earned. Squids rule. Hip hip moray!

  14. they certainly don’t look anything like the caricatures you’re “drawing”

    What am I missing here? Racking my brain trying to figure out how this insults Christians. Is an Anglican hymn from Victorian times so sacred that any parody is beyond the pale? Perhaps it’s too facetious to say that evolution endowed us with the capacity to tell others they are going to Hell? Or is simply stating that evolution happens somehow offensive?

  15. It would have helped if the original post hadn’t read like a straight-faced endorsement. I didn’t think it was at all obvious that it was intended as a joke.

  16. Everybody should just stick with Here Comes Science from They Might Be Giants and we’ll be OK. Here’s the one on evolution in case you missed it. And don’t forget Meet the Elements, which remains the gold standard for educational music videos. Watching it is practically a religious experience! It’s that good! :D

  17. Meh. It could have been fun and witty. Instead it took some unnecessarily cheap swipes that is just going to irritate and offend people. Oh wells.

  18. I am a Christian who believes in evolution and thought the video was quite funny… the really offensive stuff is in the comments. A few commentators ask us religious types to lighten up… but thats tough when in the same post you describe Jesus as ‘some baby born in a manger’ (post 14), my beliefs as harmful and non factual (implied in post 21), bigotted, extremist and dangerous (post 35).

    I guess I have 2 follow-on comments to make.

    Firstly, I think BoingBoing contributers can sometimes be guilty of setting up a false dichotomy i.e. religion vs science. I just don’t see them as a threat to each other… now you might respond as Dawkins does with numerous examples. The problem with these examples is that they usually (and unfairly) by compare the best of science with the worst expressions of Christianity.

    Second comment… ahhh… to be honest I have run out of steam… I am an Anglican Vicar and have to preach at 7:30 am tomorrow morning… my second comment was going to be something along the lines of how people really dislike Christian for being intolerant/bigoted etc, and how that dislike is intolerant and bigoted… I was going to try to say that in much cleverer way though… but like I said… got to get my jesus on in a few hours, so its bed time.

    1. Aaron, while the comment number is out, since I’m the only one who mentioned the words “extremist” and “bigotted” I’ll assume you’re talking about me.

      Honestly, if you’re an Anglican vicar who was not offended by the video, you’re not anyone I would describe as bigotted or extremist. I was merely making the point that people talk about scientists putting their science in ones face (with a fork, no less) while it’s the religious influence on the laws that really get in people’s faces. Right now, I am prevented from watching certain films, playing certain games and reading certain books, because religious people influence the lawmakers. More significantly, friends of mine who are not heterosexual are denied the same rights as myself because of laws which derive from a narrow religious viewpoint. As a teacher of science, I am sometimes prevented from doing my job (teaching science) because of the narrow religious views of the parents of the students I teach. All of these are examples of how religion gets in my face and affects my day to day life, and all of these are impacts created by people who would be described as religious moderates.

      Now tell me – is a polite Englishman telling people that they are being silly for believing in God really that intrusive to Christians ? Is someone feeling sorry for someone who lives without rationality any more condescending than someone feeling sorry for people who live without faith ?

      Religions who prevent one type of people from enjoying the freedoms of others are bigotted. Religions who believe that they should be able to extend their moral code to people who don’t follow their creed are extremist. Religions who can’t stand for their children to hear about facts based on evidence are narrow-minded. Unless you fall into any of these categories (and no Anglicans I know do), I wasn’t referring to you.

      1. re: “Is someone feeling sorry for someone who lives without rationality any more condescending than someone feeling sorry for people who live without faith ? ”

        When you put it like that, it is. Unless your statement doesn’t mean believing in god makes one irrational, then you are feeling sorry for something that doesn’t exist. And if you are saying people who believe in god are irrational, then yeah, that is condescending and offensive. (Yes, some of them are irrational, just as there are irrational atheists, but you didn’t preface it with that.)

        And I am not sure if you live in the UK or Australia, and I am sure people objecting to the moral content had something to do with it, but banning games and movies is just another example of the nanny state that has been so pervasive through your government for decades now.

        1. Well I make no claims about the rationality or lack thereof by religious people. I was just making the point that when dealing with religious folk who keep to themselves, the worst Dawkins does is behave in a condescending manner by pitying those who choose to follow beliefs not supported by evidence. I find this just as offensive as Christians who feel sorry for me because I live without God. However thanks for jumpign to conclusiosn about how I feel towarded the religious and really providing a great example of the main point that seems to come up through the comments on this thread – that the religious really are hypersensitive to any form of criticism and see offense even where none is intended.

          This was a video which didn’t mention God at all. It didn’t attack religion, it merely provided the scientific take on things. Within minutes of it being posted it was being compared to indoctrination in communist countries. Atheists are regularly Godwinned and demonised by the religious. We are discriminated against by the religious and by governments acting on their behalf. However when we present an alternative viewpoint, all of a sudden we are attacking the religious.

          For God’s sake people get ome perspective.

          1. re: “However thanks for jumpign to conclusiosn about how I feel towarded the religious”

            You may notice I used words like “unless” and “if”. If you read your sentence I think you could easily see it could be taken either way. At the same time I agreed there are some irrational people and to pity them would be akin to the pity for a ‘doomed’ soul.

            re: “Australia FWIW, and congratulations also for falling for another great religious lie – that people’s lives are more greatly impacted than secular censorship than religious. ”

            I confess I knew a minimal amount about censor ship in Australia. But as you pointed out, it takes ‘secular’ forces to get the actual job done. If this was an absolute wrong, they wouldn’t vote for it. But they can spin it ‘for the children’ and act like they are defending the defenseless.

            And as I prefaced it, your censorship may be entirely due to religious movements. The fact that the ‘nanny’ state has taken over means people are used to having things taken away from them.

            In the US porn is probably the #1 target for religious censorship. But music, movies, and video games are often attacked by the liberals as well. For example Tipper Gore and her brilliant idea for advisory labels on albums (so you know which ones to get). A lot of the attacks on violent video games are by people doing it ‘for the children’, as they try to package their restrictions as a moral right for use to want.

          2. Apologies for jumping to conclusions about you jumping to conclusions.

            “I confess I knew a minimal amount about censor ship in Australia. But as you pointed out, it takes ‘secular’ forces to get the actual job done.”

            I may be splitting hairs here but I fail to see how a secular force which acts on behalf of the religious can still be considered to be a secular force. The Spanish Inquisition is regarded as a religious thing, even though it was implemented and enforced by the government.

            I’m well aware of Tipper Stickers and have been a student of US censorship for a while now (mainly because for so long it acted as a template for our censorship practices). However, you have to admit, Tipper Gore was the exception rather than the norm. Despite media hysteria about the War on Christmas ™ and the like, censorship largely comes from the religious Right. Left leaning groups may make a lot of noise about certain topics (eg. feminists siding with Christians over porn), but outside Tipper Gore, I’ve never seen a documented case in democratic countries of censorship based on left wing loopiness. Plus, the Tipper stickers would never have gotten out of the starting blocks without a conservative government backed by the Religious Right. These were the Reagan and Bush years, remember.

            Censorship of stuff I like is really the least of the problems that religious interference causes. When religious considerations prevent people from accessing the same rights with their partners due to their sexuality, when they prevent them from having children through IVF or adopting or fostering children, when they prevent women from making decisions about their bodies and the medical treatment they deserve, when they determine the direction that medical research takes, or when they make decisions about how we spend billions of dollars on invading other countries – that’s when the religious influence on public life has its most heinous effects. But of course this is never held up as an example of the Nanny State – these are called decent family values, because if you disagree with them, you’re obviously not from a decent family.

            I’ve got no problem with some moral guidance or regulation, even from the state. I’d just prefer that decisions about it were made on the basis of evidence of good or harm, rather than the opinions of a society of Bronze Age Middle Eastern herdsmen.

          3. The Spanish Inquisition is regarded as a religious thing, even though it was implemented and enforced by the government.

            Which was so unexpected.

        2. “And I am not sure if you live in the UK or Australia, and I am sure people objecting to the moral content had something to do with it, but banning games and movies is just another example of the nanny state that has been so pervasive through your government for decades now.”

          Australia FWIW, and congratulations also for falling for another great religious lie – that people’s lives are more greatly impacted than secular censorship than religious. The video (and film and book) censorship that goes on in this country occurs as a direct result of religious interference, despite the fact that we have a supposedly left wing government. Labor in this country bows to pressure from Catholic elements within and extremist fundamentalist lobbies without. They do the latter becauyse of a misguided belief that if they pander to the evangelicals, they might get a vote out of them. Nanny state it may be, but that nanny goes to church.

    2. my beliefs as harmful and non factual (implied in post 21)

      If I say evolution is factual and not harmful, that does not imply that Christianity is untrue and harmful. That does not logically follow. Many people believe both in Christianity and in evolution in any case.

      I really tried to avoid this kind of misunderstanding with my last paragraph.

      Is it possible you’re looking too hard for ways to get offended?

  19. And why exactly are religion and science supposedly at odds? religious and scientific extremists maybe, but the extremes on both sides are always morns or attention junkies.

    This is so pathetic. Say something “antireligion” so everybody can jeer and boo the religious, or say something “scientific” so the religious can all jeer and boo.

    These shallow efforts to polarize are the stuff of over zealous sports fans, and boy, no shortage of pavlovian sheep have responded as conditioned.

    I am extremely religious, and I love science with a passion. I see no conflict between the two.

  20. [shifts weight uncomfortably]

    As an anthropologist, this makes me uncomfortable. Even the most fundamental scientific paradigms indefinitely remain open to rejection, especially paradigms based on deductive reasoning and lax inductive reasoning/testing. Thus, the thought of indoctrinating children to believe otherwise “scientific” theories BY HAVING THEM SING UNQUESTIONING HYMNS makes my head hurt. It makes the scientific community look every bit as dogmatic as the most fundamentalist religious communities. Of course, this whole video is probably just a joke, and I’m just overreacting. So I’ll shut up now.

    As an artist, though, rock on!
    Very creative graphics.
    Really liked the retooled vintage motif.

    — Ashkuff

    1. Even the most fundamental scientific paradigms indefinitely remain open to rejection

      Including those of anthropology. ;-)

  21. About 30 seconds into it shows a picture of a galaxy in the universe. I read a lot of Darwin’s theories…. He never mentioned anything about the galaxies, stars, planets, moons. So, my question is, Are they trying to dietize evolution? Evolution, the creator of the universe?

    I think there’s a couple other things further up the chain,
    math, physics…..

  22. The child may be innocent (a curiously religious freight, considering context), but the message is overbearing, confrontational, polemic street theater. I’m as Darwinian as they come, but casting evolving public awareness of a darned good idea as “cooler than you’ll ever hope to be” is fatuous. Everyone has a right to spew, of course, and I must say some of you clowns do juxtapose prettily. Two stars out of five.

  23. Dawkins is really almost anything but gentle and calm towards religous folk. An earlier post on this blog by him called for hiring discrimination based on religious beliefs. And to cite a source most on this cite haven’t seen, in Ben Stein’s Expelled (not to giving ID credence, but just stating that I’ve seen it), Ben Stein trolls him into losing his composure twice, although he does end on a rather well-spoken note.

    1. An earlier post on this blog by [Dawkins] called for hiring discrimination based on religious beliefs.

      I participated in that discussion, and I felt that he was struggling with conflicting ideas on that subject. He explicitly disclaimed the discrimination you’ve ascribed to him, but he has some beliefs about competency and intelligence that are incompatible with that disclaimer, and so he’s attempting to find an honest intellectual reconciliation.

      Obviously that’s just my interpretation, but I think it’s more accurate than yours since it does not rely on the assumption that Dr. Dawkins is a liar and complete mountebank.

      I do not think Dr. Dawkins has yet found a resolution to his conflicting ideas, but I hope he does.

      Ben Stein could probably make nearly anyone sound like an anti-semitic lunatic, just by being himself. He’s a very exasperating person with a tenuous grasp on reality.

    2. At the moment it is perfectly acceptable for religious organisations to discriminate against those without faith. A church or religious school can quite legally discriminate against an atheist if such a person, despite their knowledge of faith, tries out for a job as a priest or a teacher.

      I think this is a good thing. A person in these positions must have a little more than content knowledge, and someone who is hostile to the position itself should not hold it.

      However, why shouldn’t scientific institutions be afforded the same freedoms to discriminate against someone who has demonstrated that they do not have a grasp on the scientific process (speaking at a conference and misrepresenting a scientific theory) and are actively hostile to it? Oh sorry, that’s right. Only the religious are given this freedom.

  24. Wow, Hillman (and I through extension of his tone) seem to have upset some people of science, some people of faith, and some people who simultaneously hold both views. I’m glad some commenters thought this juxtaposition of a famous children’s hymn with scientific lingo and political button-pushing was not to be taken especially seriously. The negative responses put me in mind of Swift: “Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” Or, in the words of Darwin, “YHBT.”

  25. It’s like the late great D.F.Wallace said: everybody worships something. So go ahead and worship your ideology, ye science devotees, but how about this: instead of piggybacking on creativity and inspiration of the religious folk you ridicule, come up with your own songs.

  26. I would never have thought people took the Sunday School song “All Things Bright And Beautiful” so seriously.

    Well, feel free to get offended at a mild, slightly humorous parody posted on the internet. Hopefully after you’ve been in Heaven for a few thousand years you’ll see it as rather trivial.

  27. I don’t know why so many people call it “creepy”. Just because it juxtaposes two sorts of ideas that are usually kept far apart? Thought it was a clever piece myself, though the “hell” part seemed out of place.

  28. The video teaches nothing except that we live in a society where you can get positive feedback for blatantly mocking a person’s faith. All the stuff in the video is true is a way but how does that make it clever to mock someone’s faith? I don’t get it, this video was put together by a bitter person who got mistreated at church. Not a “wonderful thing” but a spiteful thing.

    Also, evolution didn’t MAKE anything, it is a process wherein things are created through by other forces. That’s like saying books teach us things, no, we are taught things through books by the person that wrote them. Learn grammar first, then study advanced biology and genetics.


  29. S’funny how a song that’s pro-evolution throws out references to: turning calves to veal, Che Guevara, Osama Bin Laden, and “we’re all going to hell.” It’s a cute little ditty, but just what was the point of it, exactly?

  30. Evolution did not make the lamprey, that thing was created through nightmares punching a hole in reality.

  31. Ha, evolution for dummies…..now to forward this onto Conor Lenihan [URL=http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2010/0913/breaking61.html]Context[/URL]

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