The History of Knowledge

A trip through the centuries to see how human knowledge is reflected through music.

by Brian Dunning

Filed under Alternative Medicine, Conspiracies, Paranormal

Skeptoid #250
March 22, 2011
Podcast transcript | Listen | Subscribe

Today we're going to take a look at how knowledge of our world has evolved throughout human history. In every culture, in every century, people have strived to better understand the universe. Often this has resulted in great leaps forward, especially since the development of the scientific method; just as often, it's take us onto tangents driven more by superstition than by study.

One aspect of culture that reflects the state of human knowledge is music. Today, popular songs reflect the way we perceive our world; not only our understanding of its fundamental nature, but also the way we interact with each other as people. This has been the case in prior centuries as well, from the frontier days back through the Renaissance, all the way back to the very beginnings of music — tens of thousands of years ago, when the first hunters and gatherers congregated into groups on the savannah, seeking safety in numbers, laboring to comprehend this big, bright new world...

Download just the song for your MP3 player (no titles or intro, just the music)

The History of Knowledge

Music by Peter Zachos
Lyrics by Brian Dunning and Peter Zachos
Produced and Mixed at ClickClack Studios

Vocals: Brian Dunning, Peter Zachos, and The Skeptettes


CavemanWhat's that big thing in the sky
Watching over us?
It must know things that we don't know;
We give it all our trust!

I have no food, our caves our bare
Life sucks, we all agree
I guess that big thing in the sky
Is freaking mad at me!

So let's build a fire, and kill a goat,
and burn some virgins too!
And then good luck will come to us,
Our sun will see us through!


GregorianWe look to the stars for the health of our body
The constellation will tell us when we will die
When Venus is in Orion, my pancreas is vigorous and robust
The patterns of the stars correspond to the health of our organs
Videtur scorpiones, cancris, taurorum disciplina medici omnes
Apparently, crabs and scorpions and bulls all have medical training.


RenaissanceOuch! Ohh! My head it hurts like sin.
Your humours must be balanced, so let's blister your fair skin
My hands and feet are tingling and my bowels run like the Rhein.
We recommend some leeches to suck evil from your spine.

You may have cholera, grippe or pox, our diagnosis is vague.
With henbane, hemlock, sage and toad we'll rid you of this plague.

And if you die while in our care, our theories won't renew.
Our treatments work, and this we swear:
These cures will see you through.


OperaSiegfried: Hark, the angel of death!
Death: Thy body is broken, thou must come with me.
Siegfried: Nay! Behold, the Ring of Power! While I wear it, I cannot die.
Death: Ach! Thou hast cheated me!
Brünnhilde: My love! Thy Ring of Power hath summoned me. I can't resist its allure.
Siegfried: Whilst I wear this ring, I command the love of all women.
Death: Take it off, let me see it.
Siegfried: Nein!
Death: Ja!
Siegfried: Nein!
Death: Ja!
Siegfried: Nein, nein, nein.
Brünnhilde: Keep it on!
Siegfried: Never more will I want for women....
Ohh, when my hair is blown asunder and my breath smells like poo,
This Ring of Power will see me through!


AmericanaThe bones of all our children, they lie scattered o'er the plains.
Of our oxen and our horses, all that's left are dry remains.
We seek the buried water, and we'll sip a saving drink.
We'll use a stick to find it, 'cause it saves us having to think.

I hold one stick in my left hand, and the other in my right.
And I trust in holy Providence to guide them to the light.
Where water flows, the wise old sticks will point the way.
We'll dig and drink the water, and we'll save our wagon train.

When the water's running dry and your thirst is overdue,
This dowsing stick will see us through!


SeanceI'd not seen Grandma for seven years
Until her rapping, tapping, it hit my ears
Holding hands in the dark, we found my old matriarch
Now my dead granny's talkin' to me.

We told all the spirits to make a sound,
Or give us a sign that they're still around
And though she's over the hill, it still gives me a thrill
That my dead granny's talkin' to me.

When Granny passed we were so saddened;
It felt like living in hell.
Now she's sharing all her recipes
And telling us Grandpa's doing well.

When your loved ones leave, you say toodle-oo
Cause death's a reality you can't undo
Though it may seem like a lot of hullabaloo
The seance will see us through!


AndrewsSisters: Streamlined Chevrolets and coffee pots,
Nothing says America like havin' lots,
Automated kitchens and a washing machine
Bing: They help my little lady get it done on the spot.

Sisters: Shiny silver planes and Lucky Strikes
Catalogs to show us what's down the pike
Television, radios, a life of ease
Bing: And lots of new cosmetics keep her ladylike.

Sisters: Magnavox and Philco and a Zenith, too!
Gramophones and records are the new breakthrough!
Penicillin saves us and polio's gone.
Ladies get some nylons and you can't go wrong.
Pepsodent and Autolite and Campbell's stew
Bing: Cuz the latest thing will see us through.
Sisters: Unless you're black.


ElvisDon't you dare break my heart
Don't you make me go outta my head
Cuz I will only love my baby
As long as you're not a red!

Don't you dare do me wrong
Don't you get me in a twist
Cuz I will only love my baby
If you ain't no communist

Don't come to me with no socialist ruse
Just gimme little more o' that red, white and blue!
American freedom will always see us through!


Flower PowerBelieve in you; All the power's not outside, but in your mind.
Conceive of you; All the mystic powers out there that you'll find.
You don't need them, you don't need me,
You don't need him, you don't need she

Believe in you; Transcendent spirits, that is what will always be true
Conceive of you; Imagine anything and it will come to you
You don't need anyone to spin you
That the power is not within you
It's you, it's you, just you.


It's me, it's me, it's just me!
It's me me me, only me!
It's me, it's me, everything is me,
It's me me me, it's all me!
And money.

Tip Skeptoid $2/mo $5/mo $10/mo One time


GrungeThe day the towers fell, I knew they'd never tell
Our innocence was gone when we knew they'd put us on
Your conscience would you sell just to buy an oil well?
Let's raise a rebel yell.

The day the towers fell, was the day we went to hell
Rumsfeld had a friend, that proves he planned our end
Why can't you just see, there was no Flight 93,
And the towers were brought down with TNT?

Don't need no more evidence, don't need no peer review,
The truth will see us through!


EnergyMy energy is keeping me in sync with all your vibes
Your energy's just what Dr. Quantum Touch prescribes
The frequencies, the energy of me and you, it jibes
Energy is what my Love Hypothesis describes.

Little girl, what you need from me?
Don't need no Scientology...
Come on over, read my aura.
Tell me what my karma reads.

Energy, energy... it's like a dream to me
Our bodies joining in an astral plane, can't explain
Energy, energy... it's a new reality
The universe is talking and we're listening!

Energy is why existence shines on different planes
Your healing touch of energy, it cleanses all my pains
Your energy's like a drink to me, like a drink of fine champagne
Denying energy, it would be simply inhumane

Acupuncture, chiropractic, magnets and naturopathic
Vibrations, reflexology, reiki and homeopathy
Every day I gotta feel your therapeutic touch
When I'm feelin' bad, I need it very much
Need your harmony to heal me,
Baby you balance my qi!

Energy, energy... it's like a dream to me
Our bodies joining in an astral plane, can't explain
Energy, energy... it's a new reality
The universe is talking and we're listening!

Brian Dunning

© 2011 Skeptoid Media Copyright information

Reference this article:
Dunning, B. "The History of Knowledge." Skeptoid Podcast. Skeptoid Media, 22 Mar 2011. Web. 8 Oct 2015. <>


10 most recent comments | Show all 129 comments

Man, you guys are too talented to be scientists. Keep up the good work.

Chris, Baltimore, MD
January 27, 2012 7:51am

Of course, some parts were a little better than others, which is to be expected in a production that is eleven minutes long, but overall a great performance. I especially like the incidental mention of racism in the last three words of the Andrews Sisters portion. It got the point across nicely. It's funny that as I listened to the Energy part, I kept thinking it needed to be more bombastic, loud, and overproduced to mimic the music of today, then realised that I was listening to this early-2011 recording with mid-2012 ears. Music has changed a lot, even in that small period of time.

Ali, MI, US
July 21, 2012 7:44pm

You. Totally. Rock.

Sara, Salt Lake City
January 25, 2013 1:06pm

Nice. I love comparing the different musical styles, and you did more than a passable job at them.

macsnafu, Tulsa, Oklahoma
January 25, 2013 4:51pm

Weird Al would be proud!

- Jack

Jack Hagerty, Livermore, CA
February 20, 2013 4:24pm

This has to be one of your finest episodes, Brian. Your apprehension of the various genres you employed were quite astute, at times exiting parody altogether and venturing into exaltation. A great introductory episode for those unfamiliar with your fine work.

Patrick Hess, Fargo, ND
April 11, 2013 6:29am

That energy song needs to be put on its own as an MP3, maybe a full music video?

Soarel Fyrex, Hobbiton, The Shire
November 4, 2013 10:49pm

Haha, awesome song!

Joe, Georgia
November 11, 2013 11:49am

Some of those song lyrics look pretty adventuresome and challenging of the status quo, not to mention the yearning for the esoteric and mystical. Brian, you are letting your cainotophobia diminish somewhat, not to mention Skeptoid's ataxophobia and phobophobia.

Steve Erdmann, St. Louis
January 21, 2015 12:18pm

Wonderful! It's just like talking (that is, listening) to my esteemed co-workers without having to deal with the cheap perfume!

Lots of wisdom in my office, in case you wondered.

Maid in Missouri, Gainesville Fl
January 27, 2015 4:23am

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