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Podcast of Ideas - World Cup special, episode 2

Adam Rawcliffe is joined by David Bowden and Geoff Kidder to look back on the first week of World Cup 2018. Has it been a success so far? Which teams have made a good impression - and which of the big teams need to be worried? How have England done so far and what has been the mood in the country as we enjoy wall-to-wall football?


Podcast of Ideas - World Cup Special, episode 1

Adam Rawcliffe is joined by Geoff Kidder and Rob Lyons to discuss the fallout from the sacking of Spain’s manager, their picks for who might win the tournament, the arguments over Russia hosting the World Cup and whether England can defy expectations and do well.


How fear works - Professor Frank Furedi in conversation with Claire Fox

To mark the publication of his new book, ‘How Fear Works: Culture of Fear for the 21st Century’, we present this interview, conducted in May 2018 for Claire Fox’s Love Sport Radio show, Fox News Friday.


The international abortion wars

On the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 Abortion Act, a panel of pro-choice campaigners from around the world discussed what is at stake in the battle for abortion rights. In many countries, the trend towards extending abortion rights seems to have been reversed. What does it mean to argue for a woman’s right to choose today? Is it right to think of abortion as ‘just like any other medical procedure’, or do wider moral issues arise? Is opposition to abortion rights the same the world over?...


Are science and medicine threatened by borders?

Scientists and doctors have emerged as among the most vociferous critics of Brexit and Trump. The March for Science expressed the concerns of many researchers and clinicians on both sides of the Atlantic about the future of funding and about the movement of researchers and students across national borders. Many were also alarmed at the apparent lack of respect for expertise and evidence in public policy. But whose responsibility should it be to fund scientific research? How can science and...


Religious freedom: a critical right or a license to discriminate?

A lecture delivered at Living Freedom 2018, an Academy of Ideas residential school in London on 5-7 April 2018. Tensions are growing around how and whether religion should be accommodated in public life. In the era of Trump, religious conservatives in America have made it easier for hospitals, doctors and employers to object to providing birth control, abortions and transgender care on the grounds of conscience. Detractors say this is discrimination under the guise of religious freedom....


Medical dilemmas: who decides?

With the case of Alfie Evans in the news, this Battle of Ideas debate is very pertinent. ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION The tragic case of Charlie Gard, a baby with a terminal congenital illness whose parents refused to accept the decision of medical staff to withdraw life support, highlighted the problems that may arise when there is a breakdown of trust between doctors and parents. The old adage that ‘doctor knows best’ is being challenged not just by patients, but from within the medical...


The liberated mind in action: from the Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution

A lecture from Living Freedom 2018, the Academy of Ideas residential school for 18- to 25-year-olds interested in exploring the historical ideas and contemporary debates related to freedom, which took place on 5-7 April 2018 at the Council on International Educational Exchange in central London. It has been claimed that the Industrial Revolution was the biggest turning point in human history. It was the moment when the creative potential of society was left free to flourish, leading to...


Genetics, genomics and society - determinism vs free will

A lecture from Living Freedom 2018, the Academy of Ideas residential school for 18- to 25-year-olds interested in exploring the historical ideas and contemporary debates related to freedom, which took place on 5-7 April 2018 at the Council on International Educational Exchange in central London. Our genes have, for better and for worse, been a central preoccupation in science, medicine and politics for more than a century. How has our understanding of genes changed during that time? Why...


Xi’s China: new global power?

Only 35 years ago a predominantly peasant economy, China has become the largest trading nation in the world. It is also remarkable that China has relinquished its status as environmental pariah to become a critic of the US president’s rejection of the Paris climate accords. Only recently a communist outsider, China is now a capitalist powerbroker, most notably in dealing with the challenge of North Korea. Can there be a peaceful adjustment of the West’s global domination to accommodate the...


Silicon Valley: from heroes to zeroes?

Silicon Valley used to be regarded as the global hub of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. It was the home of the world’s best technologies, new products and services. Yet today, Silicon Valley’s tech companies seem to have become the twenty-first-century equivalent of mediaeval robber barons. They are condemned for fleecing customers, evading taxes, and pocketing monopoly profits. Once associated with freedom, Silicon Valley is now condemned as the agency of global surveillance....


Was it Big Data wot won it? Political campaigning today

How could so many people be convinced to vote for Donald Trump? Why did so many Brits vote to leave the EU, despite almost unanimous advice from experts, political leaders and celebrities that we should remain? Some attribute these results to the power of Big Data, specifically to the high-tech psychological marketing techniques of a company called Cambridge Analytica. Can the manipulation of data really swing important votes? What are the implications of this approach for privacy and...


Safety first: do we live in a ‘cotton-wool society’?

Recording of the debate at Battle of Ideas 2017 ( The ‘safety first’ outlook, intending to keep us safe by imagining the worst, risks increasing our sense of existential insecurity. Always anticipating catastrophe may mean over-reacting, especially in the fields of science, health and technology. We have become the victims of scaremongering over theoretical risks – from mobile phone radiation or the latest strain of flu, even from...


Putin’s Russia: a new Cold War?

The Russian government is now routinely portrayed as a threat to the West, both on the international stage, in Ukraine and Syria, and in domestic politics, accused of interfering in elections. Russia is certainly back on the world stage and no longer prepared to accept Western-backed regime change, but to what extent does Russia represent a threat? Does Russia have legitimate interests that it is entitled to defend as much as Britain is? Is Putin simply playing a weak hand well? Does...


From Sandy Hook to Boston: guns, bombs and a changing America

After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida on 14 February 2018, the issue of gun control and the meaning of mass shootings in America has come to the fore once more. This session from Battle of Ideas 2013, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting and Boston Marathon bombing, took a step back to examine these issues in a wider context. SPEAKERS Nancy McDermott writer; advisor to Park Slope Parents, NYC’s most notorious parents’ organization Christine Rosen fellow, New America...


The corruption of political language

Recording of a debate at the Battle of Ideas festival at The Barbican on Sunday 29 October 2017. George Orwell claimed that ‘political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable’. Today, many claim that the increasing corruption of language has become detrimental to our democracy. Political labels, such as fascism and populism, right-wing and left-wing, are used promiscuously, often as insults against opponents. The rise of identity politics has given us new...


Diversity: does it matter?

Diversity is widely celebrated in contemporary society. Big employers have adopted elaborate strategies to recruit more diverse workforces. On the world stage, diversity is posited as a progressive antidote to ‘backward forces’ clinging to outdated national cultures. But has diversity become an illiberal orthodoxy? When Google engineer James Damore notoriously inquired whether diversity was an incontestable virtue, he lost his job. Do diversity policies invite a permanent war of cultures,...


Podcast of Ideas, 26 January 2018

Alastair Donald, Claire Fox and Rob Lyons discuss the fallout from the Presidents’ Club dinner, the stasis within the Conservative government and the prospects for Brexit, and the misguided ‘war on plastic’. (Apologies for some noise in parts of this recording.)


Do you trust the media?

Who can journalists trust out of the overwhelming selection of competing interests to act as reliable sources? Can anyone play the role of the ‘honest broker’? How can the public untangle dubious, pseudo-scientific advice and dodgy stats from facts and truth? How can we know whether journalism, particularly reporting on complex issues or assessing notoriously difficult ideas such as risk, is accurate? Should we accept that it is our responsibility as citizens to check the facts for...


Millennials: youthquake or snowflakes?

Listen to the debate at the Battle of Ideas 2017 at the Barbican in London. Whereas earlier generations of young people provoked outrage among their elders, millennials – those born in the late 1990s and early 2000s – seem to attract merely condescension and concern. Today’s youth have been labelled ‘Generation Snowflake’ for their declarations of emotional vulnerability and demands for protection and support. Instead of revolting, today’s students seem to be preoccupied with...