Thursday June 01, 2017

The Philosopher's Walk with Frédéric Bouchard

Why humans are not superior species. (Video recording by Jesse Curell) 2:22

Listen to Full Episode 53:57

Frédéric Bouchard is philosopher of science and biology at l'Université de Montréal, and the perfect companion for a walk through the Jean Talon Market. His research focuses on the theoretical foundations of evolutionary biology and ecology as well as on the relationship between science and society. The result is a fascinating discussion about mushrooms, unpasteurized goat cheese and honey bees, and how they can make you think about humankind's place in the universe in a whole different way.**This episode originally aired September 23, 2016.


For centuries, we thought we humans were unique, and that we towered over non-human animals because of our ability to speak, or make fire, or whatever.

But Professor Bouchard is out to disrupt that triumphalist thinking: "If you look at broccoli, or if you look at cauliflower, or if you look at the ginger, or whatever, you're looking around and you really try to understand what makes them unique, you realize that each species is unique. And that helps us understand that human beings are not superior to other species. We're not that special -- we're just different."   

"I'm interested in understanding what is a human being?  That's one thing that this market helps you do but also once we figure that out, understand that we're not above other species. But we are part of nature and we are as varied as all of the things you see here."


In ancient Athens, philosophers like Aristotle discussed their theories about the origins and complexities of the world as they walked the city streets and markets with their students. Following their lead, producer David Gutnick accompanied Frédéric Bouchard on a visit to Montreal's Jean Talon Market. As they looked at heaping piles of tomatoes, tables piled with mushrooms and coolers full of squid, they discussed questions that fascinate Bouchard: what exactly is an individual? Does consciousness or intelligence make a species more successful? What can termites and fungus and quaking aspen teach us about ourselves?

Professor Bouchard is the co-editor of From Groups to Individuals - Evolution and Emerging Individuality. 


Web Extra | Watch Frédéric Bouchard's TEDx Talk: Why do we think we're so much better than other species?


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