The Past, Present, and Future of Violence

“In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to historian Norman Davies, “[T]he spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized.” Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world. This change in sensibilities is just one example of perhaps the most important and most underappreciated trend in the human saga: Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species’ time on earth.” Written in 2007 by Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, this still holds true.

In the podcast Steven Pinker presents evidence that violence has decreased over time because our peaceable motives have overridden our violent ones, and that media induced illusions fool us into thinking that violence is on the rise.

Origin Stories – The Leakey Foundation


Why DNA Is Not Destiny

One of the things in life we currently can’t change is our DNA. Yet technological progress shows an exciting promise for significant alterations that would eradicate some of the genetic diseases and enhance certain traits in the genome before birth. In addition, modern research indicates that there is no single “cancer”, “IQ” or “infidelity” gene or that DNA would control our destiny contrary to popular beliefs. University of British Columbia psychology professor Steven Heine joins us to discuss his book “DNA is not Destiny: The Remarkable, Completely Misunderstood Relationship Between You and Your Genes” (W.W. Norton and Co.).

KERA’s Think

Digging up the World Bank’s Best Kept Secret

Due to a project funded by the World Bank to boost the local economy, Honduran military violently evicted local peasants to make way for a palm oil plantation. Their land had been stolen, and a local priest had been murdered.
Sasha Chavkin investigated the World Bank for months, and he is telling a story of how the World Bank has become complicit in violently displacing people from their lands in order to make way for development projects all over the world.

The Breakthrough – ProPublica

What the Ancient Greeks and Romans Thought About Manliness

If you were to ask a man living in 1920 what “manliness” meant, he’d probably give you roughly the same answer as a Greek or Roman man living 2,000 years ago. In ancient Greece, Achilles and Odysseus were held up as models of manhood.  Furthermore, Athenian philosophers tried to tame Bronze Age manliness by making self-control an important element of being a man. Romans also borrowed elements of Greek manliness to shape their own culture of manhood. The virtue of self-control pops up in definitions of manliness not just in the West, but also in the Eastern cultures like Japan and China.

The Art of Manliness

Craft Work – ‘Dirty’ Work

Laurie Taylor talks to Richard Ocejo, Associate Professor of Sociology at City University of New York and author of a study which explores the renaissance of bartending, distilling, barbering, and butchering, traditionally low status manual labour jobs which are being re-created as upscale careers by middle class, well educated young men. How does this complicate our notions of upward and downward mobility?

Expertise also provided by Professor Phil Hubbard from Kings College London and Professor Ruth Simpson from Brunel Business School.

Thinking Allowed – BBC Radio 4

Venezuela on the Brink of Collapse?

How has the oil rich Venezuela managed to fail as a state? Inflation is running at more than 700 per cent, food is scarce and more than 90 people have been killed by the security forces. David Aaronovitch questions the role former president Hugo Chavez and president Maduro played in compounding the crisis and investigates what might lie ahead.
Expertise provided by Dany Bahar from The Brookings Institution, Andrea Murta from Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center of the Atlantic Council and Miguel Tinker-Salas from Pomona College, California.

The Briefing Room

What Are You Waiting For?

Would you stand in line for 45 minutes, in the hot sun, for a slice of pizza? That’s common in a place like Di Fara, a famous old-school pizzeria in Brooklyn run basically by one man — Dom DeMarco — for over 50 years.
Is it possible that we secretly enjoy waiting in line? And might it even be good for us? Apparently, once we wait for something, we value it more than if it was effortless, than if we never had to wait, argues Ayelet Fishbach, professor of behavioral science and marketing at the Booth School of Business at The University of Chicago, contrary to the economist’s notion that lines are inefficient and undesirable.

Freakonomics Radio