With the assistance of science journalist Olson (Mapping Human History: Discovering the Past Through Our Genes, 2002, etc.), Bad Religion leader Graffin presents a memoir of a life lived “at the intersection of evolutionary biology and punk rock.”
In 1980, at age 15, Graffin co-founded the seminal punk band and also became fascinated with the writings and ideas of evolution. Bad Religion still plays and records, and the author is an evolutionary biologist with a doctorate in zoology from Cornell University. For Graffin, the appeal of both worlds was that, at their best, they challenged authority, dogma and given truths and opened up space for the anarchic process of creativity. As a naturalist, the author states that “the physical universe is the universe”—there is nothing more. But that is more than enough for him, as having a role in the unfolding adventure of life on earth—which includes both tragedy and death—sustains him. Life, he writes, is not simply an inexorable process of natural selection, in which the fittest survive and procreate, but an anarchic creative collision of biology and environment, chance and circumstance. Graffin and Olson explain this view of evolution in clear, accessible language. While avoiding easy analogies with evolution, a large part of the book is devoted to the evolution of Bad Religion, as its art and career careened in unpredictable directions. Along the way, Graffin provides a wonderful depiction of the early L.A. punk scene, a detailed account of his adventures doing field work in the remote Amazon region of Bolivia and an honest appraisal of his failure to successfully balance science, music and family. In the end, writes the author, it is the human trait of empathy—not religion or any other authority—that allows us to recognize our common humanity and to accept the uniqueness of each individual.
Humble, challenging and inspiring.