CBC Radio’s “How to Think About Science”

One of the things I miss most about living in the U.S. is not being able to listen to CBC radio very easily. Oh sure, I can stream it using the computer, but it’s not the same. I can’t listen while I’m walking, for example. Now that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate NPR. There is some fantastic programing on that network and their web site support (i.e. being able to listen to clips) is first rate. It’s hard to beat This American Life for compelling stories, and On the Media is indispensable to me.


That said, I still listen to CBC radio podcasts when I get the chance. And there is one in particular that I want to highlight here. It’s a set of 24 one-hour episodes under the banner “How to Think About Science,” a series broadcast on Ideas, which is a show that carefully considers a wide range of serious intellectual topics. It’s difficult to sum up this expansive series on science and technology studies, so here is the intro text:

If science is neither cookery, nor angelic virtuosity, then what is it? Modern societies have tended to take science for granted as a way of knowing, ordering and controlling the world. Everything was subject to science, but science itself largely escaped scrutiny. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years. Historians, sociologists, philosophers and sometimes scientists themselves have begun to ask fundamental questions about how the institution of science is structured and how it knows what it knows. David Cayley talks to some of the leading lights of this new field of study.

What does this have to do with environmental communication you ask? Well, it’s a bit indirect, but essentially, the series looks at many facets of how science is perceived, used, and abused, including in environmental affairs. And frequently in the series we are led to questions of how scientific knowledge, theories and data are communicated. For example, the episode with Richard Lewontin features extensive discussion of the role of metaphor in science. The episode with David Abram focuses on his work on how we communicate about our sensual experiences of the natural world. All in all, it’s well worth a listen for anyone interested in the role of science and technology in our lives.

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About Mark S. Meisner

Executive Director of the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA). I also research, teach, write about, and speak on environmental and sustainability communication, media, culture, and policy. Facts are usually facts, but opinions and sense of humour are always my own.
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