Spinal Tap and Science on BBC Radio

This is just a couple of notices about a few items on the radio next week that people might find interesting.

Firstly, 80s rockers Spinal Tap are on BBC Radio 2 at 10.00 pm Saturday night, 20th June 2009, on the programme Back from the Dead: the Retu of 187 ap. The real-life documentary-maker, writer, and failed drummer, Peter Curran, is interviewing the three mock Rock legends, David St. Hubbins (Michael McKean), Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) about the launch of their new album, Back from the Dead, which really is being launched, and the accompanying tour. The BBC Radio Times for next week also includes a piece of mock, Rock journalist interviews with them. The mock rockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap is one of the classic rock films, so the programme this Saturday could be fun.

Also, next week from Monday to Friday on BBC 3 at 11.00 pm, there’s a series on great scientific experiments, The Essay: Strange Encounters. Tuesday’s programme is on the great solar storm of 1859, which produced spectacular displays of aurora and knocked out the emerging telegraph service all over the world. Wednesday’s programme is on Peyton Rous’ experiments that demonstrated that cancer can be caused by viruses. Thursday is about the discovery of radio waves by Heinrich Hertz. Friday is on the great ‘flu pandemic of 1918. The first programme, on Monday, is particularly interesting as it’s on the search for spontaneously generated life in 17th century Tuscany.

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2 Responses to “Spinal Tap and Science on BBC Radio”

  1. Michael Says:

    Hi — first want to congratulate you on your writing, it’s fantastic.

    Second, I’m trying to find sources on “non-religion” in hunter-gatherer societies, mostly some kind of statistics on societies with a clear rejection of the idea of an afterlife, or the clear rejection of “God” or “gods”. Virtually all the literature I find focuses on the religious *beliefs*, and not on lack of belief. I was wondering if you could point me to any sources? I’d send this request via e-mail instead of a comment, except I can’t find any contact information on this blog. Thanks!

  2. beastrabban Says:

    Hi Michael, thanks for your request. I’m afraid I haven’t come across any statistics on any societies that don’t believe in gods or have no concept of an afterlife. I suspect that there probably aren’t any, though I certainly do not know for sure. The various schemes of 19th century anthropologists and writers, such as Sir James Frazer, in which humanity progressed from animism or belief in fetishes or magic, through religion, to modern science has now been rejected, as people at all stages of society have elements of all of them in their belief systems. Furthermore, Frazer himself could only provide one society – of Australian aboriginals – that was based on magic, rather than religion, while later anthropologists noted that rather than having very primitive religious concepts, some of the primitive societies they studied, such as the Hunter-Gatherers, had religious concepts as sophisticated as those of modern, technological society.

    There is also considerable debate about the origin of religion and its relationship to the development of modern human consciousness. For example, in The Mind in the Cave on the relationship between cave art and human consciousness, the two archaeologists who wrote it consider that modern human consciousness arose with the development of cave art in the palaeolithic. The cave paintings were done as part of shamanic rituals, performed in trance states, in which the cave walls were believed to form a permeable barrier between the normal world and the world of the gods and spirits. They believe that previously there had been various barriers in the human brain and consciousness between the various components of the human mind, so that, say, motor skills and dexterity in working stone was not connected to skills in language. This was the case with the Neanderthals, whom they consider to have had a kind of intelligence, but who were unable to access their dreams and so were not creative and had no concept of gods or an afterlife. In anatomically modern humans – Homo Sapiens Sapiens – these mental barriers broke down, and the result was that humans developed creativity, symbolic culture and religion. Other archaeologists, such as Mike Parker Pearson, in his book, The Archaeology of Death , consider that one of the earliest archaeological signs of the development of religion and the ideas of an afterlife are the decorated skulls from Jericho, which appeared in the 9th century BC. Other archaeologists consider that the Neanderthals may also have had a notion of the afterlife following the discovery in Israel of the burial of a very elderly man, with arthritis and a withered arm, covered in flowers and, if I remember correctly, covered in red ochre. So, it would seem that religion, or religious beliefs of some kind, have been around at since the palaeolithic.

    Furthermore, archaeologists have revised their opinion that there were some groups that didn’t have any religious ideas or particular rituals, or that their religious beliefs were somehow more primitive than other groups. Those groups that did give that impression, such as women, had strong cultural taboos against telling their religious secrets to outsiders, and so the real depth of their religious beliefs may only now be recognised at last.

    That said, the great Anglo-Polish anthropologist, Boleslaw Malinowski, considered that primitive peoples were no more religious than modern, western society, and that one could also find atheists and sceptics amongst tribal cultures like the Trobriand Islanders. I’ve got a feeling he discusses this in his book Magic, Science and Religion and other Essays , which is about the nature of tribal religion and magic.

    I hope this helps you in researches.
    Best wishes,

    Beast Rabban

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