The CBC radio (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) has been airing a multi-part series called, “How to think about science”. After a couple episodes I quickly found the title of the series deceiving. It should have been called, “Ways some people think about science”. It’s also available as a podcast for those interested: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/features/science/index.html
“Ideas”, the show the series is aired on, has been, in my experience, a nearly flawless example of general interest journalism. While it has had light inclinations to, what I would call, fuzzy or hippy-like ideas, I have always felt that it hasn’t much infringed on its greater objectivity. Now it has.
It is all critique and no balance. While it upsets me to hear science caricatured in this way, what worries me most is people listening to show will think about science after the series is over. After all, it’s a show geared toward ideas and not all listeners will be familiar with science as it is known to those at all familiar with it. At the end of each episode, “That’s a great critique of what you think is science, but I don’t even recognize the science I know in there.” I feel like all those religious folks who, after reading Dawkins or Hitchens, cry, “Straw man! Straw man!”
The most recent episode portrayed Rupert Sheldrake and his morphic resonance idea as an innocent victim of the foul-tempered behemoth of orthodox science. Come on.
I’d really like to get other people’s reactions to this.
Hmm. I’ve had “CBC Radio: The Best of Ideas” in my podcast routine for some time now. I just listened to the latest, an interesting interview with architect Moshe Safdie. I’ve thought highly of the show. This science series seems to be a different podcast from the same show. I’ll add it to my list and give it a listen.
Yeah. Ideas is a quality podcast but their treatment of science in this series is horrendous. That’s not to say there isn’t some valid criticism in it but to call a series “How to think about science” and the only scientists you have on are James LoveLock and Rupert Sheldrake. Of course, I really enjoy the philosophy of science but the series is missing many valid counterarguments to the ones they’re presenting. I guess to put it succinctly, the series is unbalanced, misleading, and mischaracterizes science.
I’ve listened to the first podcast. It sounds like mostly pseudo-intellectual BS to me.
It is funny how at the end he talks about this proliferation of experts. Now we need experts to tell us what to think about science.
He says there are two views of science and they are both wrong. The 2nd view is that science is common sense taken to a more rigorous level. That is pretty much my view but I also tend to think of science as separate from the scientists. Science is the body of knowledge about how reality works and that body of knowledge is increased by people we call scientists. But those scientists are still human beings with egos and ambitions and flaws like other human beings. And all of the scientists are not equally good. Just because someone got a degree doesn’t mean they can have an original thought.
So it sounds to me like these science historins need to create controversies to create jobs for themselves.
The solution is to actually teach science better to more children not tell people how to think about science.
Teach the science and let them figure out how to think about it for themselves.
That it Mriana. My concern is that people with no science background listen to this and develop an anti-science bias. It’s normally a good, honest podcast and it’s presented really well. CBC radio is the NPR or BBC radio of Canada. You don’t expect to find that kind of crud there. I’m just frustrated and wanted to share this unfortunate incident.
Jerbreck, it sounds as if you should send the CBC a letter complaining about that series and listing your criticisms. Address it to the Director of Programming, and possibly send a copy to whoever is the chief executive. They only need to get a few letters for them to shift their focus.
Hey, hold on, folks! There are ten parts to this series, and from what I’ve read above it looks like most of those who are criticizing it haven’t listened to more than a couple of episodes. You really can’t complain about a lack of balance on that basis.
I have heard only bits and pieces of the series over the past few weeks (I’m a big fan of the program but I’ve been busy), but I just downloaded and listened to the first two episodes. What I’ve heard so far has been well worth my time. I’ve learned that curiosity was a sin in the Middle Ages and has only recently been elevated to a virtue. I’ve heard science presented not as organized skepticism (as I had thought), but rather as organized trust and consensus (which I think was argued quite persuasively). The second episode also discussed several paradigms which defined science in earlier centuries, much of which went right past me but that’s more my fault than the program’s.
And yes, I heard some of the Sheldrake episode, which I did not find persuasive at all, but so what? The point of the Ideas program, unlike most of what is broadcast nowadays, is to offer ideas (hence the name) for the listener’s consideration, not any predefined Truth to be swallowed whole. If you disagree with what is said (as I have on many occasions), good for you—the program got you thinking, and that’s what it’s for.
I have the nine available episodes on my MP3 player, and will download the tenth when it becomes available. I look forward to hearing them all, and I know I’ll enjoy them whether I agree with them or not. Budget cuts notwithstanding, CBC’s Ideas program is still the best thing on radio—or TV too, for that matter. (I do miss Lister Sinclair, though. )
Yeah, I’m a big fan of Ideas too, and I would still regard it as the best thing on radio (with Tapestry coming a close second).
I went back and selectively relistened to the series. I will revise my initial opinion to say that my criticism should be more focussed on some episodes rather than others. There are some worthwhile parts to this series mostly on science history and it’s much easier to be objective about science history because we know who “wins”. A lot of the science studies people and philosophers of science (two disciplines which, at times, I find more interesting than science itself) present rather extreme views on science (a lot of postmodern stuff) which do not represent anything I see in science and which have people who are equally vocal and willing to rebut these ideas (this would have been interesting to the general public). That said, science, like any other institution, needs to be criticized, but in general interest journalism, this should be combined with differing views or, at the very least, these people’s ideas need to be portrayed as ideas and not necessarily reality (something Ideas is normally good at and one can even observe in podcast titles such as “The ideas of Anne Golden”).
The real kickers were presenting both Lovelock and Sheldrake as poor victims of the evil science. I find it interesting that they picked one with legitimate scientific theories and one who doesn’t. It demonstrates something interesting about science in that if we are not skeptical enough about science, we will find false positives like Sheldrake whereas if we are overly skeptical we will overlook potentially viable research such as that proposed by Lovelock. Although, Lovelock’s ideas were not rejected because people were overly skeptical, more because they we’re associated (falsely) with notions of creationism.
All in all, the role of Ideas has always been to present ideas as ideas or to present balanced views of a subject. That has not happened here. The positive aspects of science have been FULLY ignored (how can you call it “how to think about science” without one positive aspect included) and I can see many people without a sufficient background in science becoming overly (and undeservedly) jaded with science. I’d like to hear the outcry if Ideas presented such an unflinchingly critical view of Christianity or conservatism.
Lastly, I don’t dislike podcasts because I disagree with them. The ones I agree with usually carry the smallest amount of new information for me and are therefore often less interesting. I dislike this series because it is not presenting a balanced picture of a subject that is so important to everyone. It is, in one word, a disservice.
Thanks for your input Ron. It really helped to ground me and put my thoughts in order.
Well, I’m still commenting on the series mostly out of ignorance because I’ve heard less than half of the available episodes, but I want to respond to some of the points you made anyway.
I’m not sure why you refer to positive and negative aspects of science. I’ve heard neither so far. Nobody has said anything about science per se being good or bad, only that certain ideas and methodologies are accepted by the scientific community and others are not. IMHO there’s no need to dwell on the former because by definition they are already well-known and broadly accepted; and I think it makes sense to focus on those on the periphery of accepted thought, because only by seeing the periphery can you see the shape of the thing as a whole.
In any case, if each episode takes a different viewpoint, and a broad spectrum of viewpoints is to be presented, than it only stands to reason that individual episodes will be unbalanced; and if the balance it tilted away from our particular views, we might expect to find at least a few episodes objectionable. That’s fair ball, IMHO. It’s like the fundamental principle of freedom of speech—that it must necessarily include speech that you hate, if it is to be meaningful at all.
It’s interesting that (if I understand you correctly) you regard Lovelock as a legitimate scientist and Sheldrake as not. I haven’t heard either episode from start to finish yet, but from what I have heard so far I was thinking of them the other way around. I look forward to comparing notes with you when I’ve heard them both.
I’m glad to have found this thread because I just finished listening to all the episodes of this series and felt exactly like many of the comments here. The Title is misleading, it’s totally a bunch of pseudoscience BS (specially the later episodes).
The first few episodes sound reasonable enough, but they get more and more anti-science toward the later ones. They ease you into it.
I would like to suggest that some posters on this thread post comments on the iTunes page to alert people before they go into it. http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=269389667
This is not the first time CBC broadcasts anti-science programs. A few month ago they had a program called “Global Warming Called Off” where “scientists” spoke about how global warming is not true and is a normal part of the earth’s climate cycle.
I’m starting to get the feeling CBC has some sort of anti-science agenda.
Nelol (or anyone if s/he’s not around anymore), can you please give me a specific example of what upsets you so much about this series? I just finished listening to the Rupert Sheldrake program (episode 9), and once again I found it interesting and worthwhile. I thought Sheldrake presented some very thought-provoking evidence to back up point of view. Call it speculation, call it pseudoscience if you want, but (as he suggests) this theories are no more bizarre than concepts such as multiple universes and quantum entanglement.
I disagree with many of the posters in this thread. I was impressed with the CBC podcast series. So many amazing shows, by many leaders in the field of philosophy of science. The David Abram show, for instance, blew my mind, and so did the Lovelock show. Sounds like they’re having a good effect rattling some cages over here in science positivism land. This is the stuff that philosophers of science are talking about. Welcome to the 20th Century guys. I think philosophers of science spent the first few decades of the discipline buying the social line about how amazing, certain, objective, etc. science is. This sort of blind science worship is incredibly dangerous and needs to be challenged. I find the word “pseudo-science” interesting when used to label something you disagree with. Let’s hear some detailed arguments if you have disagreements. Dismissal sounds like zealotry to my ears. Also, it might be a good idea to actually listen to the series before running off writing letters of disapproval and what not.