Tuesday February 14, 2017

February 14, 2017 full episode transcript

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The Current Transcript for February 14, 2017

Host: Laura Lynch


Listen to the full episode


[Music: Theme]


Harassment and abuse, even if it’s verbal, even if it’s online, and even if it’s directed at a political opponent, is poison.

LAURA LYNCH: The words aimed at Alberta MLA Sandra Jansen, were filled with words of hate and threats of violence. Now it seems the province’s premier Rachel Notley is enduring a spike in threats and online abuse, some so serious police are involved. This morning we’re taking a look at why women politicians seem to be facing so much more vitriol these days, and what, if anything, can provide an antidote to the poison in the air. After that..


If you base medicine on science, you kill people. If you base the design of planes on science, they fly. If you base the design of rockets on science, they reach the moon. It works.

LL: Richard Dawkins may think it’s all that simple, but it seems there’s another dimension to science in our modern world. It’s the politics of science. And in the United States, some of those who normally toil away quietly in their labs peering through microscopes or analyzing test results say it’s time to take a stand. Ditch the lab coat, grab a protest, and march to demand that governments stop playing politics with their research. And then, because it’s Valentine’s Day.


RYAN O’NEAL: Jenny, I’m sorry.

ALI MACGRAW: [crying] No, love means never having to say you’re sorry.

LL: That’s love, according to Jenny. From the epic weepie, Love Story. But really, what is love? Magic? Chemistry? A sweet mystery? Today we speak with a philosophy professor, who has probed the question deeply, and believes it’s time we start looking for answers. I’m Laura Lynch, sitting in for Anna Maria Tremonti, and this is The Current.

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Female politicians speak out about sexist, violent cyberbullying

Guests: Nancy Peckford, Cathy Bennett, Nahanni Fontaine


Dead meat. Sandra should stay in the kitchen where she belongs. Fly with the crows and get shot.

LAURA LYNCH: That is Alberta MLA Sandra Jansen, speaking in the provincial legislature back in November about the series of violent, hate filled, and misogynistic comments she had received online. Jansen isn't the first female politician to speak out about the rise in vitriolic cyber bullying they face on the job. But she is part of a growing chorus of Canadian women in public office who are coming forward to shine a light on the personally threatening and degrading email, Twitter, or Facebook messages they face on a daily basis, something their male counterparts simply do not to the same degree. Now, yesterday it was revealed that Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has been subjected to more threats than her recent predecessors, and that there continues to be an escalation of security concerns when it comes to her safety. Last month, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was asked about online threats she has received.


KATHLEEN WYNNE: I think it discourages people from even entering politics. And if I'm a woman, why? Why would I do that? Why would I expose myself to that kind of personal attack? I don't read them all. [chuckles] Because it's just too toxic. But I read enough of them to know that it's not who we are as Ontarians.

LL: Now, my next three guests are all too aware of the abuse and threats that female politicians face. Cathy Bennett is Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Status of Women. And she is in St John's. Nahanni Fontaine is the NDP MLA for St John’s, Manitoba. And she's in Winnipeg. And Nancy Peckford is the Executive Director of Equal Voice. That's an organization dedicated to electing more women to political office in Canada. She is in Ottawa. Welcome to you all.

NAHANNI FONTAINE: Meegwetch, thank you.

CATHY BENNETT: Good morning.

NANCY PECKFORD: Good morning.

LL: Now, I want to ask you all about your reaction to the fact that Premier Notley has been subject to more threats of harm than any other Albertan premier since 2003. Nancy Peckford, what do you read into that?

NANCY PECKFORD: Well, certainly it's part of a growing phenomena that we've seen now for several years. And as the intro to your show and your guests, who are with me today can underscore, it is something that is extremely real for elected women across parties, no matter what part of the country you are in, or in what capacity you're serving. Increasingly, women are having to face very real, often online, but not exclusively, cyber bullying. And it's really hate filled misogyny, in many many cases that really underscores a lack of comfort and an intolerance for the role that women are increasingly assuming in public life.

LL: Nahanni Fontaine, what's your reaction?

NAHANNI FONTAINE: Well, I mean, I think that we have to understand that the reality is that the political sphere in which we are all situated and work within was firmly established by and for men, and in the preserve of patriarchy. So really any disruption to that oftentimes elicits an immediate response, which can often be very negative and vitriolic. So am I surprised? No. Am I shocked? No, not so much. Am I outraged that a woman who has dedicated her life to public service for Albertans is subject to this? Absolutely. As a woman and as a female politician, I'm outraged that a woman, a premier, has to endure such vitriolic hate. It's unacceptable.

LL: And Cathy Bennett, you actually sit in cabinet, so you are around a cabinet table. How surprised are you to hear about this treatment of Rachel Notley?

CATHY BENNETT: I would say that I'm not surprised, I'm saddened, I'm frustrated and I'm worried about what will be if we don't figure out a way to address this cyber bullying. That women's voices will be continued to be diminished at cabinet tables and leadership tables like Premier Notley sits at.

LL: Let's talk about your own experience. You came forward in December with your own experience of body shaming, death threats, and other online bullying. What made you decide to speak out?

CATHY BENNETT: I had been experiencing a significant increase in online through Facebook, Twitter and even email messages. But it happened over the summer last year, it sort of had died down a little bit in September. And then one morning, late October, out of nowhere I got a message. And I thought, you know, if a message can come in and so disrupt how I'm feeling about doing the work, I can't imagine that there are other women who are not experiencing it. And certainly having heard, you know, what Ms. Jansen had said, and what many other women, you know, the former prime minister for Australia, and you know, we see continuing, you know, women coming out all over the world speaking about this. I thought you know what, I think it really would be the right thing to do for me personally to speak out. What I hadn’t anticipated was the volume of response I got positively, but also some of the negative things that I received.

LL: OK. Before we go any further, I know this might not be easy, but just so the audience understands what female politicians like you deal with. Can you describe some of the messages to us?

CATHY BENNETT: Sure. I receive messages that, you know, individuals who say I should kill myself. Language that would have been very offensive. A lot of swear words, sexual innuendo, sexual threats, threats of sexual violence, and that I think is the biggest difference between what female politicians and male politicians get. I think all of us who are elected understand that social media platforms, electronic communications are mediums that our constituents want to get in touch with us. And they have every right and we should empower them to have those conversations about the differences in policy. But for women, when those comments cross the line to include, you know, sexual innuendo and threats and, you know, things that you'd only say to a woman, really I think that's where it makes things very very difficult for women in leadership. And I think that's one of the reasons why we're challenged significantly more than our male counterparts.

LL: Nahanni Fontaine, what kind of personal attacks have you received?

NAHANNI FONTAINE: Oh geez. Well, I mean, for me it actually started on the campaign trail. So I think it's important for listeners to know that I only recently got elected in April, this past April. And it did start on the campaign trail, where actually in some candidate forums felt very unsafe. And then in my first session, my constituency assistant received a phone call from an individual, you know, who wanted her to know or wanted her to tell me to watch what I say in the house. And then it was, you know, a series of, you know, messages and emails and Twitter. And I think the most interesting one that I got was this past session where I presented a private member's resolution on the abortion pill, which just elicited so much negativity and attempts at trying to silence that voice and that issue in the house. And so one of them that I got, and I warn everybody it's very explicit language. It was a private message, and it was “I'm going to give your mom a postnatal abortion you stupid cunt. You're just another ignorant woman who supports murder. You stupid whore.” And, you know, from very early on I chose to actually be very public with it, because I think that as women politicians, we actually have a responsibility to face this so that everybody knows what we're kind of going through. So that for other young women, that they don't have to kind of go through this anymore when they choose, as is their right, to enter the political sphere. So I've put this out, I don't put all of it out, because you'd be constantly posting every single day. But, you know, it is constant. And again, I think that it is a very conscious attempt to silence and regulate what women can say and what women can do as female politicians.

LL: Nancy Peckford, I'm wondering, some people might say to female politicians who are getting this kind of abuse, yes, listen, this is the world of politics, you just need a thick skin. What do you say to that?

NANCY PECKFORD: Yeah, certainly I know that that is, you know, some of the reason I think that women before, you know, my two panelists this morning have hesitated. Because nobody, and certainly the countless women we have spoken to across the country who are facing this kind of misogyny, nobody wants to be called self-serving or nobody wants to paint themselves as a victim. And I can tell you I think the reality is what motivates women to get involved in elected life is not so that they can come out and speak about the kind of vitriol and hate filled misogyny that they have to encounter on almost a daily basis. So I think it's really important that we understand that the intensity, and the really gendered nature of the kind of feedback that elected women is getting is egregious and it's really unacceptable. And if we are to just accept it as the price that women pay, must pay for being in elected life then I think we’re letting ourselves down, and we’re letting the public down. So it's really important that we turn the tide on this. And what's so incredible about, you know, hearing people like Nahanni and Minister Bennett, and so many other women come forward and speak about this, is we are shining a light on it. And it's no longer a private matter that individual elected women have to personally contend with and try to cope with. This public conversation enables us to really think strategically about ways to shut this down. And to also call on Canadians writ large to themselves express the fact that it isn’t acceptable. And I think there are some things that we can do as the public and as organizations, supporting women in elected office. And that is calling upon social media companies to be more accountable for, you know, some of their users who are using platforms to disseminate this hate and misogyny. And we also need male elected politicians, as I’ve seen in both Newfoundland and Manitoba, and across the country, to stand with their female colleagues and show solidarity.

LL: Now, Cathy Bennett, you've heard some prescriptions from Nancy there on how to fix these things. This just isn't happening in Canada, Hillary Clinton faced the same kind of vitriol during her bid to become US president. So Cathy Bennett, how do you tackle something so widespread?

CATHY BENNETT: Well, I think Nancy makes a really good point, in that, you know, we have, I think, as elected officials, male and female, a responsibility to add volume to the issue so that we can create a place that women will feel very comfortable in offering themselves to public service. And part of doing that is making sure that companies that operate the social media platforms understand and progress their community guidelines, for example, in ways that, you know, address some of the things that happen that would be totally unacceptable to happen in a town hall, but for some reason they're OK to happen in a social media forum. I think, you know, broadly as Canadians, we need to understand that relationships are managed very differently in social media, and we have to raise the expectation of what is acceptable and continue to talk about the things that are not acceptable. Because we had a roundtable in Newfoundland yesterday, talking about cyber violence against young people. And one of the things that really struck home to me is that while, you know, before politics I may have intuitively understood as a parent what my child may be going through if they are bullied. Now that I've experienced this, I have a whole different appreciation for it. And if you think about a young person going through some of the things that we've gone through and discussed here today, and these messages get into their bedrooms at, you know, 8:00, 9:00, midnight, 1:00, we have to figure out a way to change social media to allow it to empower people to offer their opinion but not allow it to influence people's ability to stand up and say what is their right and their destiny to say.

LL: I'm curious to know whether any social media organizations or companies were in touch with you after what you came forward with?

CATHY BENNETT: No, no there wasn't. And, you know, it's interesting that I think that the global conversation that's happening around this is certainly, I would expect there's lots of conversations going on in the boardrooms of social media companies. But I do think that we need, as elected officials, again, male and female, because I don't think this is a one gender voice issue. I think we need to ensure that those companies hear what's happening, and hear how this behaviour escalates, and can escalate not only for politicians, as you referred to earlier with Premier Notley, but it can also escalate for so many hundreds of thousands of young girls and women who find themselves in a social media platform, that the rules are very different than what would be happening in mainstream relationships.

LL: Nahanni Fontaine, I'm wondering do you think political parties have a role in speaking out against these kinds of attacks?

NAHANNI FONTAINE: Absolutely. And I would say that, you know, political parties have to be very courageous in denouncing these types of, you know, attacks and misogyny. And that, you know, our male colleagues have to also take a stand. And I did a member statement in my first session in respect of all of this. And one of the things that I had noted in my member's statement was that, you know, my male colleagues need to also be very vocal on this publicly within social media to be able to stand in solidarity with their sister colleagues, and say that, you know, it's absolutely unacceptable that members of this house, regardless of what your gender is, you know, are subject to these daily misogynistic attacks.

LL: Are you hearing that from your male colleagues? Are they speaking up?

NAHANNI FONTAINE: You know, probably not as much as I would like. And perhaps, you know, I think that for some, this is maybe just a new narrative and maybe some are not entirely sure how they can support their sister colleagues. And I would like to see more action on that. And, you know, perhaps I'm going to be politically incorrect, but I think a really good example is what we saw in Alberta when, you know, a whole, you know, people were chanting lock her up, and here was an individual who didn't speak up and say that that was wrong. You know, I think that--

LL: You're speaking there of Chris Alexander, who was a former Conservative cabinet minister who defended himself saying he was trying to do something about it.

NAHANNI FONTAINE: Yeah. And I mean--

NANCY PECKFORD: I think it is really a point that we underscore that women are still serving in elected life overwhelmingly as minority players in terms of their representation. So, you know, Minister Bennett in Newfoundland, Nahanni in Manitoba. Federally, women are only 26 per cent of elected office, and on average across the country, we're looking at 25 per cent on average. We have legislatures in this country that have nine and ten per cent women. And the highest percentage is 37 per cent women. So nearly every women serving in elected office in this country is in an institution that is male dominated and has been subject to male norms. And I don't think that our male colleagues have necessarily gotten their heads around what does it mean to be serving in elected life as a women, where you are constantly part of a systemic minority, and that’s structural, that’s over time, it’s, right? It’s what Nahanni was referring to. These are centuries-old institutions that in fact, were created before women even had the right to vote. So, really, I think that we have to do a whole rethink on what does it mean to serve these institutions?

LL: In that sense then, Cathy Bennett, how hopeful do you feel for the next generation of female politicians or aspiring female politicians?

CATHY BENNETT: I feel very hopeful, because I see so many brave women around the world who are calling out and are speaking about what is really an attempt to quiet their voices. I mean, that ultimately, that's what cyber bullying is about, you know, lowering the volume. And I think the more we can amplify our voices and policies, and the more we can address the cyber bullying for what it is, which is really to discount our voices in the political environment. I think that we can encourage young women, just as we said earlier, to be confident that they'll be supported in, you know, their choice to serve. You know, one thing I want to be clear, what we experience is nowhere near what, you know, happens in very violent situations in people's private homes, I mean, physical violence is very different from what we experience. And, you know, people have a right to disagree with us as politicians, absolutely.

LL: Nahanni Fontaine, we've got about 30 seconds left. Last word to you. Are you hopeful about the next generation?

NAHANNI FONTAINE: Absolutely. You know, just a couple of weeks ago I participated in a panel with a variety of different women that, you know, former politicians and current politicians for Equal Voice. And got the opportunity to meet some of the delegates that will be heading to Ottawa next month. Yeah, daughters of the vote. They are extraordinary young women. And, you know, one of my messages has been that, you know, it is your absolute right to participate in the political sphere and do not let anyone dictate, you know, what you choose to do, how you choose to do it. And I really do believe that in one of the positive outcomes of all of this dissemination of what public women in public spheres are going through, is that young women are saying, you know what, no we're not going to put up with that.

LL: We'll have to leave it there. My thanks to all three of you.




LL: Cathy Bennett is Newfoundland and Labrador’s Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Status of Women. Nahanni Fontaine is the NDP MLA for St. John’s, Manitoba. And Nancy Peckford is the Executive Director of Equal Voice. That's an organization dedicated to electing more women to political office in Canada. The CBC News is next. Then we try to solve the mystery of love with a Canadian philosophy professor who's written the book on what love is and what it could be. I'm Laura Lynch and you're listening to The Current.

[Music: Extro]

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It's possible to be in love with two people, says philosopher

Guests: Carrie Jenkins

LAURA LYNCH: Hello, I'm Laura Lynch and you're listening to The Current.

[Music: Theme]

LL: Still to come, a new experiment by scientists who plan on laying down their test tubes and picking up protest signs. But first, this is what love's got to do with it.


[Music: piano]

KIM KATRIN MILAN: For me, when I think about the romantic love that I share with my partner, I think about it as being something that's really grounded in a lot of courage and a lot of intention, and a deep desire to love for the long haul, to be committed to being with each other through changes and growth. And I think really connected to a sense of responsibility to each other, to try to give more of that and give more love into the world, because we need it right now so much.

[Music: piano]

LARA RAE: My definition of romance love really falls into the literature tradition, melancholy and sadness, something that's very elusive. That sense of holding a metaphysical vision of your beloved in your head that never really can be captured in reality, and if it can actually transmit and be found in another person, you know, you’re very very lucky. Which is a long winded way of saying that I'm just, I'm terribly lonely, [chuckles] and can't find a boyfriend.

[Music: piano]

JENNIFER ROBSON: Romantic love is when someone has seen you at your worst. Maybe you've done something that's absolutely indefensible, but they still have faith in you, in your essential worth and your goodness. And the thing is it's easy to receive that kind of love and it's a lot harder to give.

[Music: piano]

LL: Oh love, what art thou? It's an eternal question that has vexed playwrights, poets, philosophers, and scientists. So in honour of Valentine's Day, we asked some prominent Canadians for their take. You just heard from Kim Katrin Milan, Executive Director of The People Project, an arts and leadership organization for queer and trans youth. From Lara Rae, artistic director of the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, who has also in the past hosted this show. And from Jennifer Robson, bestselling author of romantic historical fiction. But for a more philosophical take on amore, a we turn to Carrie Jenkins. She's a University of British Columbia Philosophy Professor, and the author of What Love Is and What it Could Be. She joins us from Portland, Oregon. Hello.


LL: So you heard that, what do you think of those definitions of romantic love?

CARRIE JENKINS: Well, so much in those little clips stood out to me. And I want to pull out just a few words that I noticed. I noticed the words intention and I noticed sadness, melancholy, but then I noticed something about, ultimately about honesty, right? About openness and trust and faith in the goodness of another person. And I think all of those are really important themes in understanding any kind of love actually, not just understanding romantic love. But the sense of love itself requiring openness, requiring honesty, requiring trust, that openness meaning that one is liable to be hurt, one is vulnerable, and the sadness and the melancholy that can come with that. But also the kinds of growth that can be achieved by entering into this process with awareness and with intention. I mean, a lot of what I am thinking about in my work has to do with that intentionality, that awareness.

LL: The other thing about this though, and you mentioned, this is just this range of words that you pick up on that are sometimes seemingly disparate and it seems to suggest that love is hard to define. Why is that?

CARRIE JENKINS: Love is messy. Romantic love is extremely messy. And I shy away from trying to give a definition. Anything that I would call a definition is going to misrepresent the phenomenon, because that’s too tidy. I’ll sometimes talk about having a theory rather than a definition.

LL: [chuckles] OK, what is your own romantic situation? Let’s try to define that.

CARRIE JENKINS: So I'm married and I have a boyfriend so I'm polyamorous. I'm non-monogamous. And these are both long term relationships and I'm finding as I think about love more from a philosophical perspective, that my personal life and my professional life as a philosopher, are informing each other and shaping each other in some very interesting ways.

LL: OK. How did how did your own situation get you thinking about the meaning of love?

CARRIE JENKINS: You know, it was actually partly prompted by people telling me if you're in love with two people then that's not real. That's not real love. If you really were in love, you wouldn't have eyes for anyone else, it would be like this was the only person who existed for you. And that, you know, that didn't feel true to my experience, so I started thinking well, what is it that they're talking about? What are they describing? That got me down the path of thinking about the way that socially, we police and prescribe certain normative models for romantic love.

LL: And that's been done down the years, hasn't it? I mean, there was a time when homosexual love was not considered real love or not acceptable love.

CARRIE JENKINS: Exactly. And so we only have to look back a little way in time to notice how the script for a romantic relationship is changing. In the generation before that, we could think about the move towards the inclusion of interracial love as a real and legitimate phenomenon. And so, you know, we can either look through time or we can look across different places. Either way, we'll see that there are big variations in how we create that normative social script.

LL: But you argue that we need to define love.

CARRIE JENKINS: I argue that we need to understand it better than I think a lot of people currently do. And here I'm pushing back on something called that I call the romantic mystique. And this is a deliberate callback to the idea of a feminine mystique. So, you know, Betty Friedan was defending this idea in the 1960s, sort of second wave feminist idea, that women have been classified or categorized as mysterious and incomprehensible and very close to nature. And that's part of what’s special and valuable about women or about femininity. I think the same thing is happening currently with romantic love. It's seen as very mysterious, incomprehensible, close to nature maybe, and that's supposed to be part of what's valuable, what's magical about it. And in both cases, so Friedan was challenging the feminine mystique, because it prevents any sort of criticism of the status quo. It's just a way of promoting this sort of disempowering ideology, it promotes acquiescence and ultimately ignorance of, you know, what it is to be a woman. I think the same is true now for romantic love. The romantic mystique is also a disempowering ideology that promotes ignorance of the real phenomenon and promotes acquiescence in the status quo.

LL: Let's bring in some more definitions now of love. These are ones from Jeremy Charles who is the chef at Raymonds restaurant in St. John's, Newfoundland, recently voted one of Canada's most romantic restaurants. And Heather Ogden, who is a principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada.


[Music: piano]

JEREMY CHARLES: There’s so many different ways to look at love romantically. It's an intense constant feeling that you have for someone. You know, I have a deep love for cooking and fly fishing but obviously I have a much deeper love for my wife and my children.

[Music: orchestral strings]

HEATHER OGDEN: The way Guillaume and I are able to share our lives and our passions, and support each other is a true testament of our love. To be able to trust each other and dance together and be parents together. My heart still like flutters around him and all those little romantic things. But then after, you know, having a marriage and having a family together, there's almost a deeper connection and it’s hard to put into words, but I’m lucky.

[Music: piano]

LL: Now, Carrie Jenkins, you heard ballerina Heather Ogden there talking about that fluttery feeling she gets around her husband, who is a fellow National Ballet of Canada principal dancer Guillaume Coté. How much is love about biological effects like that one and how much of it is social?

CARRIE JENKINS: Well, I think understanding that it is both is really important. So, you know, we are human animals. We are a biological phenomenon, a naturally occurring species. We have a physical chemical makeup. And so when we are experiencing love, I think it's really important to understand what that means for us biologically. So we need to get a grip on the science of love as it were. I try to look at this in the first part of my book. And so we need to understand yeah, what are those fluttery feelings coming from? Why does love sometimes feel like an addiction? Some studies are revealing that it chemically resembles addictions, if you look at the neurophysiological responses of someone who’s for instance, just broken up with a partner. It can look very like the brain chemistry of someone who is a cocaine addict experiencing cravings. So we can understand a lot about that phenomenon and why it feels the way it does by understanding the biology. And I think this is actually a really good way too of pushing back on the romantic mystique. The idea that love is incomprehensible and cannot be understood in any way. But the risk is if we turn only to biology, we are going to miss a big part of the picture, which is the social construct of romantic love. And so that's the part where things like that normative policing comes from. The idea that if you have two partners you've done something wrong. The idea that if you have no partner you've done something wrong. There's all of that sort of normative stuff comes from, I think, the social side. You don't get that from biology. And you can see this because the normative social side is always changing, whereas biology doesn't change that quickly.

LL: OK. But even within biology and what you looked at, you do have some concerns about the constructions around science, particularly when it comes to gender?

CARRIE JENKINS: Absolutely. So one of the risks is if you don't understand that both biology and society are playing a role, you might mistake some of the things that are really coming out of the social construct side of things for a biological or natural reality. And I think gender is a huge part of this. In fact, I think that gender and romantic love are both to some extent, socially constructed together. And you can see this in the fact that there is a very different role defined for a woman or a feminine participant in the romantic love script.

LL: Yeah.

CARRIE JENKINS: This sort of what you might think of as a classic rom com.

LL: Because you looked at some of the work by a biological anthropologist named Helen Fisher and saw some revealing things within her work. Tell me about that.

CARRIE JENKINS: Yeah. So one of her main ideas is that as a species we've evolved, romantic love, which she thinks is a fundamental human drive, something like hunger or thirst, and she thinks it evolved because our hominid ancestors, when they became bipedal, so they started to walk on two legs rather than four, the females had to carry their babies in their arms, rather than putting them on their back. And so this made the females quite needy and helpless and they depended on a male provider. So she sees romantic love, that kind of bonding, pair bonding, as evolution's solution to that problem of female neediness. So when I read that story, I see a lot of potential for the norms of our current social structures to be influencing that as an account of the biological origins of love.

LL: Right. Pigeonholing women as needy and victims and saying that there can only be a man and a woman in a loving relationship, that sort of thing?

CARRIE JENKINS: Exactly. So the heteronormativity of that picture. It sounds, I'm using scare quotes here, it sounds very natural to us, but that might be because this is what we've been led to expect. I mean, if you prevent women from working outside of the home or owning property for hundreds of years, then it can seem natural to think of them as needy and dependent on a male provider. But evolution, I say evolution is unlikely to provide sledgehammer solutions to a problem that’s very readily solvable by many other means. So of course it's hard to raise children and cooperation is very beneficial for that. But, you know, we invented the baby sling. In fact, some research suggests it was invented before the point at which Helen Fisher thinks romantic love was evolving. So, you know, it can't be as simple as women had to carry, they had their hands full of babies and so they needed a male provider. It can't be that simple.

LL: OK. Let's go from way back then to the present day. From a social standpoint, what do you say is love's primary role in this day and age?

CARRIE JENKINS: So biologically speaking, I think that there is a suite of mechanisms that we have evolved to promote cooperation in various different configurations. And that does include the traditional sort of normative, monogamous, hetero pairing, but it also includes lots of other models that can also be very intense and very passionate and forms of, biologically speaking forms of love. The same phenomenon. That's all on the biological side. On the social side, we have this normative script that really tries to channel everybody into basically a nuclear family structure. So two parents and we're gradually moving towards the idea that they could be of either gender, but still two parents, plus one or more of their biological children in a household, as a unit, right? In the social structure. And so socially, we see a lot of policing of anything that diverges from that mold. And this is where I talk about the kind of pushback that I experience as a polyamorous person. And I sort of put that into dialogue with the kind of pushback that people who are single by choice experience. And I say it's like we're being steered down a bowling alley right? Towards one goal. And on the one hand we've got this you can't have too many partners, and on the other hand you can't have none at all. And they're like the twin gutters that keep us all moving down the same alley towards the same pens.

LL: But you do see this evolving, don't you? You're not suggesting this is static?

CARRIE JENKINS: That's right. So it's been changing. And I think it will continue to change. The question is what direction are we going to move in? And part of the reason for writing a book like this is to try to promote awareness of the fact that we collectively have a lot of control over where this story takes us. So we can decide to accept and promote more representations of different models of love and accept many different stories as romantic, rather than continually recycling just one script.

LL: Do you feel accepted? Do you feel safe?

CARRIE JENKINS: It's a complicated question. I experience a lot of very sometimes frightening negative feedback for being openly poly. So for example, just the other day I went to a YouTube video that I had posted years ago, because I was told someone left a new comment on there. This is the video where I'm just talking about being a philosopher. And why I love being a philosopher. And underneath it was a series of comments by the same person that included things like, you know, go choke yourself Carrie you are a disgusting animal and various other kinds of quite violent and abusive messaging. And so this kind of thing has now become normal for me. This is the sort of thing I get, quite often I get emails telling me to go seek psychiatric treatment or that I'm going to die from various sexually transmitted infections and so on. On the other hand, I am in a very privileged position, in the sense that I am accepted by my family, I am able to keep my job, which I don't know if that's true of every other polyamorous person. I live in a relatively safe and liberal part of the world. And so I'm more able than a lot of people would be to speak up openly about living in a relationship configuration that is radical by current standards.

LL: Let's go back then to a few more definitions of love. This time we're going to hear from Khalil Jessa, who is the founder of Salaam Swipe, a Muslim dating app. And Jully Black, a Juno award winning R&B singer.


[Music: orchestral strings]

KHALIL JESSA: A lot of Persian poets, so the poets like Saadi, Rumi and Hafez all talk about love as a sort of devotion. And so in my mind, romantic love is really just complete and utter devotion to someone else. It's giving yourself unconditionally to the other person. And it's like that level of devotion that I think romantic love speaks to.

JULLY BLACK: When we get into the notion of romantic love versus friendly love, family love. Really, that's where we create the separation in our minds, but in our heart is one well where love lives. Society has created this romantic love, which created conditions. Conditions meaning you need to love me this way. Conditions meaning you are my man, you're my husband, you're my wife now, and therefore you must be like this. [chuckles] It’s good and time for us to have a universal law of love, where you don't have to be in a romantic relationship to love me in that way. Intimacy is another level, another layer, but love, love needs to be generalized.

[Music: orchestral strings]

LL: Carrie Jenkins, what do you think? Especially of what Jully Black had to say there?

CARRIE JENKINS: So I'm really interested in this idea of love that can be completely unconditional. I see there's a lot of beauty, there's a lot of romantic appeal in that. At the same time, there's a certain element of risk involved, and I don't now just mean the risk of opening oneself up to sadness or melancholy, I'm talking about the risk of opening oneself up to abusive partners, abusive relationships. And some of the elements of the current scripting for a romantic relationship, particularly the idea that it should be absolutely forever and it should be absolutely unconditional or potentially supporting and contributing to situations in which partners and especially women, end up trapped in abusive situations partly by this idealized notion that they have to love unconditionally, even if they're being abused, that their love has to be permanent and forever, even if what they're getting is absolutely nothing like what they thought they were signing up for.

LL: You use this phrase or this word, which I’m going to try to pronounce correctly. Amatonormativity. [chuckles]


LL: What is that and how does it come into play?

CARRIE JENKINS: So amatonormativity, this is a word that was coined by another philosopher called Elizabeth Brake, and she is looking at the ways in which we are normatively constrained to be in romantic relationships. So this idea that we should be with a romantic partner, and a life that doesn't have that is somehow inferior, is somehow lacking. And also that we should prioritize that romantic relationship above all other kinds of love, any other kinds of bonds and friendships that we might have in our lives. So amatonormativity, it's a sort of shorthand for all of those things. What Elizabeth Brake argues, and I agree with her, is that this is an unfair privileging of one kind of love and one kind of life over everything else. And the fact that there are people who live very full and satisfying lives that don't include a romantic relationship or don't include a romantic relationship of the traditional, and I'm doing my scare quotes here, kind. It doesn't mean that those people are failing somehow. It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong. It doesn't mean that there's anything we need to correct about those lives or those people.

LL: So we've been talking about love on this very lofty level, philosophical and normatives. How should we be examining romantic love in our everyday lives?

CARRIE JENKINS: Well, I mean, the main thing is to be examining it. So I'm not really here to tell anyone what they should think. I'm really, my message is just to think about it from a perspective that is bringing in the thought about society providing these constraints. A perspective that is aware of what the biology is telling us. So it's about gathering as much information as possible and then applying that oneself. I can't tell anybody else what to think, I can only invite them to think.

LL: And at the end of all the research, how are you celebrating Valentine's Day?

CARRIE JENKINS: I'm actually, it's my busiest time of the year these days. It's an occupational hazard if you work on love.

LL: [chuckles]

CARRIE JENKINS: So I'm going to be giving a talk in Seattle at the town hall, 7:30 in the evening.

LL: But wait a second, where's the romantic part? [laughs]

CARRIE JENKINS: [laughs] Hopefully I'll be able to celebrate that part later.

LL: Alright, Carrie Jenkins, thank you so much. Who knew there was still so much to talk about when we talk about love.

CARRIE JENKINS: Thanks very much.

LL: Carrie Jenkins is the author of What Love Is and What It Could Be. She's also a Canada Research Chair and Professor of Philosophy at the University of British Columbia. She was in Portland, Oregon. And now we would love to hear your thoughts on this. How would you define love? Does the way we see love in Canada in 2017 work for you or would you like to see it change? Tell us your love story. On Facebook, search for CBC The Current. Tweet us @TheCurrentCBC or me @LauraLynchCBC, or email us through our website. Go to cbc.ca/thecurrent and click on the contact link. And while you're there, check out pictures, links, and download the podcast. It is all at cbc.ca/thecurrent.

[Music: Beyoncé]

LL: And that of course is Beyoncé with Love Drought from her album Lemonade. Well coming up in our next half hour, how social media helped kill off respect for expertise and the politics of nonpartisanship in scientists labs and beyond. I'm Laura Lynch, and you're listening to The Current.

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Scientists plan march on Washington in defence of facts

Guests: Valorie Aquino, Alex Berezow, Tom Nichols

LAURA LYNCH: Hello, I'm Laura Lynch and this is The Current. If you're not with him, you're against him. That's how US President Donald Trump and his administration seem to talk about those who disagree with him, from judges to journalists. President Trump's Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has gone so far as to call the media an opposition party. And some scientists feel they're being treated the same way. They say politicians have engaged in quote, “the mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policy makers permission to reject overwhelming evidence,” end quote. And they say Donald Trump is only the latest politician to misrepresent science for political purposes. So, much like women did the day after President Trump's inauguration, those scientists are going to march. The organizers of the March for Science have set a date, April the 22nd, which is Earth Day. Valorie Aquino is a co-chair of the March for Science. She is also a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the University of New Mexico. We reached her in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Valorie Aquino, hello.

VALORIE AQUINO: Hello. Thank you for having me on the show.

LL: Why did you decide to get involved in organizing this March for Science?

VALORIE AQUINO: Well I think that there is no mistake that the first week of the new administration here had caused a lot of concerns among the science community and science supporters with their actions and threats to do further damage to scientific interests and the science community. And then I also had profound concerns with anti-science and anti-intellectual narratives. I find an alarming trend to de-legitimize, ignore, or outright reject scientific expertise and empirical evidence.

LL: Now, the march is on Washington. So what is the message you're trying to get across?

VALORIE AQUINO: Well, so the march is on Washington, but since we started it actually exploded. There was so much support, our message resonated globally. We now have 170 cities all over the world that are participating in solidarity, with more requests coming in. But our message is that we're championing good science and application, that's our bottom line. We believe science is vital to the prosperity of democracy. And this relationship between science and democracy, we see it being under threat right now. And it's frightening and it has potential damage for all global citizens.

LL: You say science and democracy. You could also say science and politics couldn't you?

VALORIE AQUINO: Oh yeah, absolutely. I don't think that science is divorced from politics. I think that's an illusion. Science might be apolitical in theory, but the doing of science, the application of science to policy lies squarely in the social realm.

LL: In what ways have you seen your own areas of specialty mistreated in political discussions?

VALORIE AQUINO: Well, so my own research investigates human societies and past climate change. So basically, I conduct original archaeological research, as well as geochemistry research. So that in looking at the ancient Maya as a case study, I look at hundreds and millennia of data to get a deep time perspective on the interactions between paleo climate change and political systems. So I see a lot of articulation between the work that I do and how I want to apply that to our present and future of all people on Earth. And with the fact that climate data was getting scrubbed from the internet, the threat of America pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Those are all very real threats to not just my research, but again, to everybody.

LL: Now, again, just back to the question of politics. Is the march directed specifically at Donald Trump or is a message directed at him?

VALORIE AQUINO: Well, Trump's actions undoubtedly caused a lot of panic. But I can’t say that it's just Trump that's the problem. We want to hold anybody accountable and hold their feet to the fire if they are misusing or abusing or maligning science.

LL: And have you seen that done by other politicians?

VALORIE AQUINO: Sure. Yeah, on both sides of the aisle. Absolutely. But of course, there is a priority of threat here, and that would be the the new administration's actions and threats.

LL: What about the concern though, that you actually might be hurting your own cause by taking up this march, that you're further making the case that science is in fact a partisan issue?

VALORIE AQUINO: Well, OK, so we have this amazing tool of science that we've long used to innovate, to discover, and most importantly to reduce inherent human biases in our decision making. So when people say that this is politicizing science, I just want to turn that question on its head. I feel that partisanship has injected itself into science for so long now that you can't even say certain topics without being pigeonholed immediately and not being listened to, despite having expertise in that area. And that's what's harming science.

LL: How comfortable are scientists in doing this kind of action and making this kind of very public statement?

VALORIE AQUINO: Well, we received enormous support, which was heartening, within just the first few days of beginning this effort. And so the first day that it started, and this is all social media, maybe we had a couple of dozen people on the first day. And then the next day there were tens of thousands. By the time I went to bed on the second night, it was over 100,000 and then 500,000 the next day. So it's just, it has exploded with support and a lot of the participants that I see are scientists and definitely involved in the science community, whether through science education, science communicators, science journalists. But yes, you make a good point, traditionally scientists are loathe to stick their necks out publicly on political viewpoints.

LL: So what does that suggest about the kind of reaction you're getting now? If they had been so retiring and would rather stay in their labs than go out onto the streets?

VALORIE AQUINO: Well I think now they realize that we're not going to get a seat at the table. And so staying silent is no longer a luxury they can afford. We can't continue to simply fight in the confines of our labs and offices and expect change to happen.

LL: So you want change. What do you hope will come out of the march?

VALORIE AQUINO: I hope that there's more appreciation for empirical evidence. Again, for holding our political leaders to the fire when they malign and insult or reject science and scientific expertise. When there are harmful policies being proposed that negatively impact the scientific enterprise and scientific integrity.

LL: That's a lot to ask for out of a single march.

VALORIE AQUINO: Oh well, so that's the thing, is that yeah, the viral quality of this has been focused on the march as an isolated event but we really have a long term vision with this. This is, the march is a small component, it's one small step. We see this as a marathon, as a relay race, and a bucket brigade.

LL: OK. Tell me about the longer term then, what do you do?

VALORIE AQUINO: So we would like, well, if this is successful, which I hope it is, and if it has a lot of support then we're going to continue with it as an organization that emphasizes dismantling the barriers between insular scientific enclaves and the public with which they serve. And so that means our approach, that we feel the best way to do this, is to improve scientific literacy and curiosity, improve communications between scientists and the public. And a big emphasis on science education. Really, the march on DC is going to emphasize the rally, it's going to culminate in this rally at the National Mall. Where already that day we're going to implement teach-in tents. And so we're going to bring in a diverse discipline of scientists that are going to come and talk about their research and how it translates to everyday people's lives and why that's important to them. We're going to have different kind of themes for the teach-in tents. And we're going to have a week of action that involves tying in our activities with the People's Climate March the next weekend.

LL: We will be watching Valorie Aquino. Thank you.

VALORIE AQUINO: Thank you so much.

LL: Valorie Aquino is a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, and a co-chair of the March for Science. And she was in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One scientist who says he will not be attending the March for Science is Alex Berezow. He's a Senior Fellow of Biomedical Science for the American Council on Science and Health and a science writer. He's with us from Seattle, Washington. Hello.

ALEX BEREZOW: Hi, how are you?

LL: I'm fine, thank you. Why won't you be taking part in the march?

ALEX BEREZOW: Well, for one reason, I'm on the other side of the country, so I'm not marching all the way to DC from Seattle. But I will say that the tone of the march so far sounds to be appealing to only one side of the political spectrum. I try to be very centrist. I'm a writer, I'm a science writer, and I try to not overtly take sides on issues like this. And if you look at the Twitter feed that comes from the science march Twitter feed. Science is not a liberal conspiracy. OK. That's fine. I agree with that. But that's clearly not an apolitical message. In fact, it's quite political and it's quite left leaning. And I don't think that's going to help the scientific enterprise to become more and more affiliated with the left.

LL: But you did hear Valorie Aquino say that they are decidedly nonpartisan in their approach to this and they believe that it's not about Trump, that there are other politicians who have done the same thing.

ALEX BEREZOW: Correct. But when you say it's nonpartisan or I am what you say that is partisan and then you pick one side, if you're picking the left or picking the right, well I'm going to back away from that because I don't think that's the right way science should be dealt with in society. I think we should try to be bipartisan.

LL: But so you don't believe her when she says that they are trying to stay away from choosing one side or another?

ALEX BEREZOW: Absolutely not. No.

LL: How do you feel about their assertion, Valorie Aquino and the march’s organizers, that the way we apply science is already politicized and this march recognizes that?

ALEX BEREZOW: That is true and science has been politicized for decades. If you look at Yucca Mountain for instance, that's been a political football for decades. Going all the back--

LL: [interposing] Tell us more about that.

ALEX BEREZOW: So Yucca Mountain is a storage facility in Nevada, where we want to put nuclear waste because right now the United States currently has nuclear waste scattered all over the country at various nuclear power plants. So scientists, geologists, have been looking for a safe place to store it. And Yucca Mountain is considered by most geophysicists to be the safest place to put it. And this has been a political football going all the way back to the Reagan administration. Well, President Obama officially shut it down and there was really no good scientific justification for it other then it was a political favour to Harry Reid who was senator from Nevada. So yes, politicization of science has been going on for a long time and from both sides. And, you know, when people say that well, we're taking a stand now. My question is well where were you eight years ago when the Obama administration was doing the same thing? And so that strikes me as, you know, unserious in a way.

LL: OK. But you see the problems of politicization of science on the left and on the right. So what is the answer?

ALEX BEREZOW: Well if you have the answer to then you could win a Nobel Prize.

LL: [chuckles]

ALEX BEREZOW: You know, I think that transparency in viewpoint and holding both sides to the same standard. I take the belief that you should hold your opponents and your allies to the same standard. And when you do not do that, you come across as partisan. And that's very bad for science.

LL: OK. I understand that philosophically but tell me how that that works out practically. Do you just do just say nothing as I said before, stay in your lab?

ALEX BEREZOW: No, I don't think so. But if the scientific community had started marching eight years ago, maybe I would have been more convinced about what they were trying to do. Because the Obama administration not only did that but they also withheld information from scientists during the Gulf oil spill, when there was oil coming out of the ground, you know, under the Gulf of Mexico, they were withholding information from scientists. And so if I were to be under the impression that the scientific community was interested in holding both sides accountable, both Republicans and Democrats, I'd be marching along right there with them.

LL: And I understand that but what I'm trying to get from you is then, I gather then that you don't really know what the right answer is to dealing with what you say is a long standing issue.

ALEX BEREZOW: Speak out all the time. Not just during Democratic or not just during Republican administration. Speak out during Democratic ones as well. If you're going to speak out, speak out all the time.

LL: Do you do that yourself?

ALEX BEREZOW: Yeah, I'm a writer. Of course.

LL: So what do you make of the decisions then of the Trump administration with regard to science so far?

ALEX BEREZOW: On climate change, obviously it's disheartening, right? You know, when he says that it's a hoax perpetrated by China or whatever, it's very disheartening. When he meets with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. I wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal criticizing his meeting with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who is an infamous anti-vaccine activist. So that's disheartening. Some of his other actions, appointing a medical doctorate Tom Price to run HHS, is more encouraging because--

LL: Health and human services.

ALEX BEREZOW: Correct. We haven't had a medical doctor running that, I think, for quite some time. That usually goes to a political flack. So some things have been good but some things have been very concerning.

LL: Are there issues that are personal to you in your work that you feel have been misused?

ALEX BEREZOW: Oh, absolutely. So I'm a Ph.D. microbiologist and so I love biotechnology, just love it. And anytime I see vaccines or GMOs being abused by politicians, it really gets under my skin.

LL: And how, so tell me some of those examples of how it's been misused?

ALEX BEREZOW: So, sure. The Democratic Party in California endorsed a labeling law to label GMOs. Now this was opposed by the American Medical Association, by the Triple AS, that’s the American Association for the Advancement of Science. And yet, there was very little outcry when the Democratic Party of California endorsed a policy that was rejected by America's doctors and scientists. So that gets under my skin. It gets under my skin and when I see Republicans and Democrats embracing anti-vaxxers, as Michele Bachmann did a couple of years ago, as Donald Trump is doing currently. Yeah, it gets really under my skin because GMOs I think can help feed the world and vaccines save billions of lives.

LL: Now, you’ve now stated clearly that you choose to level your protests with your pen or with your computer, I suppose.

ALEX BEREZOW: With my ten fingers, yeah, and keyboard.

LL: [laughs] Do you think that's had an impact?

ALEX BEREZOW: I hope so. You know, sometimes in the world with social media, where you read the comment section and people are calling you names. You think, [chuckles] that you're not having an impact. But I think maybe if I wasn't being called names, maybe that would be even worse. At least people are reading.

LL: OK. We will watch for your writings as we go forward. Thank you very much.

ALEX BEREZOW: Thank you.

LL: Alex Berezow is a science writer and Senior Fellow of Biomedical Science for the American Council on Science and Health. And he was in Seattle, Washington. My next guest says that a mistrust of experts goes beyond science into other fields of study. Tom Nichols is a Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island, and the author of the new book, The Death of Expertise. And we have reached Tom Nichols in Middletown, Rhode Island. Hello.

TOM NICHOLS: Good morning.

LL: The death of expertise. Can you explain what you mean by that?

TOM NICHOLS: Well, it's not really the death of expertise. There were always be experts. There's always going to be doctors and lawyers and engineers and teachers. It's really the death of the idea of expertise. That when you tell people I'm an expert, they sort of shrug and say well, so am I, I went to college and I googled a few things and I read a book once. And therefore my opinion is equal to yours about everything. Someone contacted me and said I have an article to add to your curriculum at the Naval War College, where I teach and whom I don't represent, I'm only speaking from my own views here. And I said well, who wrote this article he said I did. And I said do you speak any of these languages of the Middle East or do have any? And he said no, but I read a lot. I read a book every now and then, once a month.

LL: [chuckles]

TOM NICHOLS: And that's a very common response. That people say to the experts all the time and lecture them in their own field of expertise. And so the idea itself is under attack.

LL: How did this happen?

TOM NICHOLS: I attribute it in the book to several things. First, I think we have a very, least in the United States, we have a very therapeutic approach to education. It's meant to make children in K through 12, and then especially in college, feel like valued clients rather than students. We've created, I think, several generations of narcissistic, and I use this word a lot in the book, a very narcissistic people, who simply cannot endure being corrected or being told that their political equality, because in a democracy we all enjoy equality before the law or should, does not then mean a state of actual equality, which I think people have now come to believe. And that's led to a very fragile, very resentful, and very resistant to further learning kind of approach to experts that is incredibly frustrating for anybody who has any expertise in any field at all.

LL: Well, to cut right through it then, you're really saying that people aren't accepting the fact that some people are dumber than others.

TOM NICHOLS: Or that’s [chuckles] or that some people are just better than others at some things. If you say look, I know more about this subject than you do, people bristle. And it didn't used to be that way. It used to be that people understood that electricians are good at electricity, pilots are good at flying, diplomats are good at diplomacy. But now everybody is an expert in everything, because they simply cannot endure the idea that there is anything beyond their comprehension.

LL: OK. So connect all of this up for me to politics. What does it mean for politics and policy making?

TOM NICHOLS: Well, for one thing, it threatens the foundations of a republic. Because in a republic, we trust people to make decisions on our behalf. I've worked in city, state, and federal politics. I worked in a small town, I worked in a state legislature in Massachusetts and I worked in the United States Senate. There is no way that even the legislators themselves can be experts on every single issue they face and they have to rely on the advice of experts around them. And when people stop trusting that, when people argue that no one's view on anything is better than anyone else's, that really does open up the door for the anti-vaxxers and the GMO nonsense, and the climate change denial, and all of the other things that are bedeviling our ability to make policy. The other place where it really affects policy, is that I think scientists and experts are themselves making a mistake. Because it's one thing to say that they are experts in a particular field, it is another thing to say to lay people and voters, therefore you must follow my policy prescriptions. And I think this is where the disconnect between policy and experts can happen with the public. It's one thing to say for example, well the climate is changing. I think we have to accept that, we have to listen to the explanations about why it's happening. It's a different question to move from that to say and therefore here are the laws you must pass. The people of Boston or Miami might well decide to let their city sink under water.

LL: And that is their choice.

TOM NICHOLS: It might be a stupid choice and it might be a destructive choice. But in a democracy, people have the right to be wrong. And I think that's where sometimes this dialogue between policy makers, voters and experts breaks down.

LL: But experts are wrong sometimes. Isn't it useful for citizens to be critical thinkers?

TOM NICHOLS: Absolutely. And I argue in the book that they must be critical thinkers. But what we have now is not critical thinking. What we have now is a continual game of gotcha, with people out there, the voters, the lay people basically playing a game all day of seeing if they can catch experts in mistakes because then it's a rationalization for never listening to experts. Experts get a lot of things wrong. But I think the golden rule or the rule of thumb rather, is to say experts aren't always right, they're just more likely to be right than you are.

LL: But then what needs to change for the public to come to trust expert opinion again?

TOM NICHOLS: Well, I think on both sides there are a couple of steps that everybody needs to take. I think this is not advice that's going to go over well with most listeners I think. But lay people need to rediscover a new sense of humility about approaching complicated subjects. They really do have to ditch the notion that if they just sit and stare at a screen and click through a few web sites fast enough, they can be up to speed about, you know, fossil fuels or climate change or vaccines or cancer or whatever it is. Experts for their part, need to be better at engaging with the public in terms the public understands. I think that that role, part of the reason I wrote the book, was to step forward and say look, you know, academics like me, we need to step forward and be public intellectuals again and help mediate that debate between experts and voters.

LL: You're making me think about Bill Nye the Science Guy or other fairly high profile scientists who are on television shows and I think they're pretty much universally well respected and well loved. And I'm wondering if this doesn't come down to the fact that the experts need to be better communicators.

TOM NICHOLS: I am not a big fan of Bill Nye or Neil Tyson because I think when science experts become popularizers, there's a there's a backfire effect that takes place in there. Which is that it sounds like science is easy, and science is fun and easy. And they also, I would argue, that both Nye and Tyson politicize their messages at various points and again, convince people that really what the scientists are trying to do is to get you to do things that they prefer as policy. I do think they need to be better communicators. But I think that none of this will matter unless the public makes an effort to be engaged and involved beyond just leaving on the television in the background like wallpaper.

LL: OK. Given all this context, do you think that the March for Science is a good idea?

TOM NICHOLS: Well, I have mixed feelings about it, because I think it will convince a lot of Americans in particular that what, the way a lot of Americans will interpret the March for Science is scientists hate Donald Trump, because scientists are academics and academics are liberal and this is just another political demonstration. With that said, I think there is a lot of room for scientists and scholars and the knowers, as I call them, to really step forward and to say, to kind of clap back at the public and to say look, all of our opinions are not equal. There are things that are true.

LL: OK. Maybe we'll get back to you after the march is over and get your review.

TOM NICHOLS: I'd be happy to join you.

LL: Thank you very much.

TOM NICHOLS: Thanks for having me.

LL: Tom Nichols is a Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island. His new book is called The Death of Expertise. And he was in Middletown, Rhode Island. Well that is our program for today. And remember, you can always take The Current with you to go on the CBC Radio app. It lets you browse through past episodes of our show and pick what you'd like to hear. You can search for stories you missed or want to listen to again or you can listen to it live on your local CBC station right from your smartphone or tablet. It is free from the App Store or Google Play. Well, it is Valentine's Day. And earlier, I spoke with Canadian philosopher Carrie Jenkins about what love is and what it could be. There were other philosophers of love though, and that of course would include the Marx Brothers. Here from the 1932 movie Horsefeathers is Zeppo, the forgotten Marx brother singing Everyone Says I Love You. I'm Laura Lynch, thank you for listening to The Current.

[Music: Zeppo Marx]

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