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The Answers Project

Philosophy Podcasts

Stephen Cole and Mhairi Beveridge couldn't be further apart in age or attitude. But every week, with the help of a few expert guests, they'll close the generation gap and investigate some of society's biggest questions. The Answers Project from CGTN Europe.


United Kingdom


Stephen Cole and Mhairi Beveridge couldn't be further apart in age or attitude. But every week, with the help of a few expert guests, they'll close the generation gap and investigate some of society's biggest questions. The Answers Project from CGTN Europe.




S02E04: Can you measure intelligence?

Some researchers have suggested that intelligence is a single, general ability. Others believe that intelligence encompasses a range of aptitudes, skills and talents. Is it a philosophical question, a neurological question, or both? If you can pinpoint what intelligence is, can you then measure it? It’s certainly controversial and the question of measuring intelligence has quite a dark underbelly, with IQ tests used by regimes such as Nazi Germany as a justification for sterilisation or eugenics. We asked the experts: Mike Rennie, the secretary of the Defence and Security Psychology section of the British Psychological Society, tells us the history of military IQ testing, how it became important in recruitment in the World War II and why it has been almost discarded today. Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at the University of Florida, tells us why empathy is just as important in the measure of intelligence as maths or scientific ability. Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive scientist and the founder of the Center for the Science of Human Potential, explains why lateral thinking must also be considered as a mark of intelligence. Finally, Lynn Kendall, an education analyst and psychologist who works in early learning with gifted children, believes that the intelligence of some children has been missed due to cultural backgrounds and that IQ tests can help to identify intelligence early.


S02E03: Do we need exams in schools?

In 2020 and 2021, millions of students around the world couldn't sit their exams because of COVID. The pandemic has derailed exams everywhere, the UK cancelled exams and replaced them with teacher assessments and last summer in France, high school students couldn't sit the Baccalaureate exam (the final high school exam in France) for the first time since its introduction under Napoleon in 1888 - even the protests of May 1968 didn't prevent the exams from going ahead. The pandemic really has done its best to ruin the examination process but it seems like everyone's managed one way or another so, do we really need exams? Marie Højlund Roesgaard, Associate professor of Japanese studies at the University of Copenhagen examines who the ‘we’ that wants exams is because it’s usually not the students. It seems exams are not necessarily a good indicator of what a person can do. China has recently announced a ban on written exams for younger children to take the pressure off which is being recognised as damaging to young people’s mental health. Robert Winston, professor of science, society and emeritus professor of fertility studies at Imperial College in London discusses whether teaching people to pass exams is at the expense of other important academic skills while Anthony McClaran, Vice-Chancellor of St Mary's University defends the role of an external system of examination as essential to the quality and fairness of the UK university system. Penny Van Bergen, Associate Professor in Educational Psychology in the Macquarie School of Education explains why learning things for ourselves - even when we have a world of knowledge on our phones - is an important reason to learn and assess the information that we get and understand when we are being misled.


S02E02: Can we ever beat poverty?

We've been talking about poverty for a long time, and it still hasn't been resolved. Furthermore, the last two years of pandemic have undone a lot of the previous decades’ progress on poverty alleviation. We talk to a leading expert on poverty and the pandemic – Achim Steiner, the administrator of the United Nations Development Program. We also look at the role of jobs in relation to poverty and speak to Guy Ryder, the director-general of the International Labor Organization, who estimates the impact of the pandemic on jobs and income to be around four times that of the economic crash of 2008-9. It wasn’t all bad news in 2021 for poverty alleviation – China declared that it had lifted the last Chinese people out of extreme poverty. The nation has brought over 800 million people out of extreme poverty since launching economic reforms in the 1970s – and the national benchmark used by the Chinese government is slightly higher than the $1.90 day poverty line used by the World Bank to look at poverty globally. We talk to Journalist Luo Liming, a reporter from China Radio International, who gives us his personal perspective growing up in extreme poverty in rural China and how he has seen the face of poverty transform in his lifetime.


S02E01: Should all zoos be closed?

The Answers Project, where The Agenda’s Stephen Cole and Mhairi Beveridge ask the best brains on the planet to shed light on some of the most pressing ethical, scientific, geopolitical and philosophical quandaries. In this, the first episode in the second series, we ask ‘Should all zoos be closed?’ There are various establishments that could be seen as zoos, not just caging animals but also aquariums, sanctuaries, safari parks and even animal rehabilitation centers. An establishment is usually referred to as a zoo if it is an area where animals are kept for public exhibition for education or commercial purposes, so how easy is it to set one up? We speak to Martin Zordan, CEO of The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a gorilla veterinarian in Uganda and the founder of Conservation Through Public Health, to find out what makes a good zoo and why cultivating the human bond with animals is vital for wildlife preservation. We also speak to an elephant lawyer working for the NonHuman Rights project and representing Happy, an elephant in the Bronx Zoo in New York to find out if we are close to delivering justice for animals. That’s The Answers Project ‘Should all zoos be closed?’


S01E06: Are we alone in the universe?

Despite the lack of evidence that aliens exist, it’s hard to find an astrophysicist who will tell you they believe we are alone in the universe. Enrico Fermi summed up this sentiment in the 1950s when he simply asked: where is everybody? In this episode of The Answers Project Mhairi and Stephen discuss alien sightings, human evolution and the two equally terrifying possibilities: either alien life exists or we are totally alone in the universe. Featuring: Professor Didier Queloz, Professor of Astrophysics, 2019 Nobel Prize winner for Physics Dr Anders Sandberg, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford Janna Levin, Columbia University & Author of ‘How to Survive a Black Hole’ Professor Chris Impey, Astronomy Professor at Arizona University


S01E05: Why don’t we have a global currency?

One world, one currency; it's a nice idea but how realistic is it in practice? The Euro crisis proved how difficult it was to have a single currency that covers a large area containing different economies. In this episode Mhairi and Stephen discuss cryptocurrency, special drawing rights and whether a single currency could bring world peace. Featuring: [02:16] Michael Roberts, Economist [08:59] Rebecca Christie, Scholar at Bruegel Think Tank [12:35] Lord Jim O’Neill, Chairman of Council of Chatham House


S01E04: Should countries be banned from exporting waste?

The scope for malpractice in the waste industry is huge and often results in rich countries dumping their trash on poorer nations. So should countries be forced to start managing their waste domestically? And is there any real financial benefit for the nations receiving this waste? In this episode Mhairi and Stephen take on the dirty business of international waste. Featuring: [04:48] Simon Ellin, CEO of the Recycling Association [10:33] Professor Sedat Gundogdu, Member of BreakFreeFromPlastic [16:48] Andy Street, International Waste Consultant - specialising in islands [23:23] Vittoria Luda De Cortemiglia, Program Coordinator of Emerging Crimes Unit of UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute


S01E03: What is a life worth?

Whilst all human life may be priceless, the reality is that putting a price tag on a life is an important part of the job for legislators all over the world. In this episode of The Answers Project, Mhairi and Stephen unpick the messy equation of death vs money, how seatbelts changed the way we value lives and why this question has ugly roots in slavery. Featuring: [05:04] W. Kip Viscusi, Author of ‘Pricing Lives’ [10:59] Anthony G Reddie, Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture [18:10] Ioannis Evangelidis, Assistant Professor of Marketing at ESADE Barcelona [23:17] Joanna Scott, Policy Advisor for Health and Protection Insurance, Association of British Insurers [25:53] Kenneth Feinberg, Dispute Resolution Attorney


S01E02: What is the right age to start school?

In Northern Ireland, children begin primary school at the age of four - younger than anywhere else in the world. Across the water, in Finland, they start three years later. So who has got it right? Should children be allowed to determine their own futures? In this episode Stephen and Mhairi debate the benefits of homework, learning through play and what happens when you force a child to do maths. Featuring: [04:17] Wendy Ellyatt, Save Childhood Movement [10:03] Petteri Elo, Finnish education specialist [15:47] Stephen McCord, Ulster Teachers’ Union [18:57] Thomas Cornilessen, Co-author of report: ‘Benefits of starting school early’


S01E01: Will soldiers become obsolete

The wars of tomorrow will be faster, more high-tech and less human than ever before. But will robots ever fully replace soldiers on the battlefield? Stephen and Mhairi kick off the first episode of The Answers Project with ethics, logistics and the future of warfare. Featuring: [05:48] Kelvin Wong, Unmanned Systems Editor, Janes International Defence Review [09:06] Professor Noel Sharkey, Chair of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control [15:00] Joanna Bourke, Professor of History at Birbeck, University of London & Author of ‘An Intimate History of War’ [24:10] Bethan Canterbury, served in the British army for 28 years and the first female Commanding Officer in Afghanistan