Presentation Review: Revenge of the Somatic

LeonardRev. Dr. Leonard M. Hummel
Professor of Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Care
Gettysburg Seminary
Gettysburg, PA 17325

GayleWoloschakGayle E. Woloschak,
Northwestern University School of Medicine, Chicago IL;
Zygon Center for Religion and Science,
Lutheran School of Theology Chicago, IL;

“Revenge of the Somatic: Gangster Rap from Cancer Cell’s Perspective”

Baba Brinkman


His Wikipedia site begins this way: “Dirk Murray “Baba” Brinkman, Jr. (born October 22, 1978) is a Canadian rapper and playwright best known for recordings and performances that combine hip hop music with literature, theatre, and science.”

This entry lists Brinkman’s copious contributions, including the following: “In 2015, Brinkman was commissioned by Arizona State University and Dr. Randolph Nesse to write and produce an album entitled ‘The Rap Guide to Medicine’, which communicates themes from evolutionary medicine. Dr. Nesse said of the finished project: ‘This is amazing. I won’t need to teach my course, I’ll just have students listen to the album!’ The album includes songs about Mendelian disease, parasitology, somatic evolution in cancer, mismatch theory, and senescence.”  (Ibid.).  Here, we wish to note that Dr. Nesse is the esteemed co-author of the article, “Evolutionary Foundations for Cancer Biology” in our previous post.

As a part of Brinkman’s “Rap Guide to Medicine” may be found his work, “Revenge of the Somatic.”  We here add a link to a later performance of that entire “Guide,” with this cancer piece beginning at 20:30 . However, we have posted above an earlier, stand-alone performance by Brinkman of this same work that, while lacking the production perks of his later performances, does convey the raw, edgy nature of Brinkman’s insight into the ways in which cancer’s evolutionary development is a kind of “revenge” of single cell all alone in a multi-cellular world.

Brinkman’s cancer-science is dead-on.  Cancers do “pimp the system like credit-card fraud”—as exemplified by the production of the protein MUC-16 by most ovarian cancers.  Just as the placenta within a pregnant woman express this protein to ward off an immune system bent on destroying the developing fetus, so do ovarian cancers “employ” this very same protein to fend off destruction by the woman’s body in which they, too, are developing (Xinran Xiang, Mingqian Feng, Mildred Felder, Joseph P. Connor, Yan-gao Man, Manish S. Patankar, Mitchell Ho: A Novel Immunoadhesin Targeting MUC16 with Potential for Cancer Therapy J Cancer 2011; 2:280-291.)   Nor is it far-fetched to imagine cancers, were they conscious of themselves and human society, “thanking God” for “creationist doctors.”

One way to receive Brinkman’s “Revenge” performance is this way: as an affirmation of a closing claim in Nesse’s article, “The importance of an evolutionary understanding cancer is not just an academic pursuit; it has great clinical utility . . .  Evolutionary theory and methods have led to critical advances that promise to improve how we understand and treat cancer” Aktipis A, Nesse R. Evolutionary foundations for cancer biology. Evolutionary Applications, 6 (1):159, 2013.


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