Friday June 09, 2017

June 9, 2017 Full Episode Tanscript

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The Current Transcript for June 9, 2017

Host: Jan Wong


Listen to the full episode


[Music: Theme]


The mandate she’s got is lost conservative seats, lost votes, lost support and lost confidence. I would have thought that's enough to go actually.

JAN WONG: Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn’s assessment of British Prime Minister Theresa May's political gamble that went so terribly wrong. With the conservative government now thrashing about in minority waters, the CBC's Margaret Evans is standing by to tell us what happened. That's first, then it could be poetry or prose or a sweeping manifesto. Why killers put their thoughts on paper? And what we can learn from their words?


If a shooter attacks a school where he is not enrolled the writing and the offender's own background indicates that there is some disordered sadistic sexual motive for doing this often targeting children.

JW: In half an hour, we'll talk to the authors of the new book Murder in Plain English about using the writings of killers to predict future murders, and then think about all those textbooks will have to revise.


Now this discovery, these photos from Morocco is much earlier, more than 300000 years old.

JW: The discovery of fossils in Northern Africa shakes up our understanding of human origins. It turns out we're a lot older than we thought. In an hour we'll talk about this new piece of the puzzle and how much it can tell us about where we come from. I'm Jan Wong. This is the Friday edition of The Current.

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Conservatives hang on to minority in U.K. election

Guest: Margaret Evans


[Sound: Clock strikes]

What we are saying is The Conservatives are the largest party. Nope, they don't have an overall majority at this stage.

Let’s say some result.

Let's go to some.

The first result we get..

The ballot boxes all being run in right now..

That's the exit poll is incredibly wrong. But The Prime Minister has failed to achieve our principal objective.

Total uncertainty.

It is looking terrible for Theresa May at the moment.

Senior Tories do not now expect to have an overall majority.

Senior Jeremy Corbyn..

Jeremy Corbyn arriving at his county in Islington..

Smiling like a Cheshire cat..

Dawn has broken over Westminster and crawled on for the Tory party.

JW: Some sounds from the BBC's coverage of yesterday's U.K. election. A shaky UK conservative leader Theresa May tried to put a positive spin, early this morning on what was a stunning blow though not an outright loss.


At this time more than anything else this country needs a period of stability and if as the indications have shown us this is correct that the Conservative Party has won the most seats and probably the most votes. Then it will be incumbent on us to ensure that we have that period of stability and that is exactly what we will do.

JW: When Theresa May call the snap election in April she was widely expected to win a landslide. Her conservative party was leading by 20 points in the polls last night she clung on to a minority of seats. To walk us through the results, we are joined by Margaret Evans the CBC's Europe correspondent. She's in London. Hello Margaret.


JW: So what happened to Teresa Mayes expected landslide?

MARGARET EVANS: Well you know the polls have been wrong before but this really has been quite a dramatic fall as you say. You know she called it because she was quite confident she was going to win. People were comparing it to you know potentially the same kind of mandate first given when Margaret Thatcher was elected. And over the course of the campaign that just whittled away. I mean people give lots of different explanations. Some people say election campaigns really don't make a difference in these kinds of votes. But I think in this case most pundits would agree that she really did have a bad bad campaign. She was kind of untested in a way because she you know she came up within an internal leadership struggle in the Conservative Party and out on the doorsteps. She really didn't connect and there were a couple of big issues kind of policy things that the conservatives announced that did not go down well and then she backtracked. One of them in particular was it was about means testing for the elderly and how they would be able to access home care in the future. And that really backtracked not only did people get worried about what it meant for their future, but then they saw her flip flopping on top of the fact that she'd said you'd never call a snap election and she had done and so this sort of notion of strong stable leadership that she was campaigning on was out the window. So I think the campaign was really not successful.

JW: So what happens now with the UK parliament? Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party has said they'll back the conservatives. Together they'll have a very slim majority. Will that be the stability Theresa May is talking about:

MARGARET EVANS: Probably unlikely, and what we're still hearing now from the Democratic Unionist Party is that it's premature to talk about a deal. I mean there's no doubt that's what she's going to try to do. It'll just get her over the edge. But what it means is that she'll have a much rougher ride in parliament because she won't have the bigger mandate that she said she was calling the election to get especially as they go into these negotiations. But she's going to have a lot of trouble within her own cabinet because the conservative party I mean it was ever thus. They are divided about Britain's relationship with the European Union and those internal divisions you know kind of caused this referendum in the first place. David Cameron calling the referendum saying it was going to deal with it once and for all. And there's all this fighting going on about whether they wanted a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit and Theresa May has been very hard. And so inside the conservative party they'll be going: Is that why we lost the election? Well they didn't lose it, they won it but it feels like they lost it. Is that why we did it? Because you know people are also talking about this.. They call it the revenge of the Romaine voters, in the constituencies where people were very strong remain supporters. They really turned to the Labor Party in all of this even though Jeremy Corbyn was kind of ambiguous about the whole issue.

JW: We'll talk about Jeremy Corbyn in a minute but you say it's a victory that feels like a loss. So are people in her own party calling for her head.

MARGARET EVANS: Yeah for sure. I mean we've seen a couple of MPS actually out publicly saying that. Others are saying you know we have to have a period of stability. But they've got the sword of Damocles hanging over their head because exit talks are supposed to begin in nine days so what do you do. You know she's going in you know as a minority government maybe she'll cobble this coalition together. It's a very very fragmented and difficult time. They can't have a leadership in the next contest in the next nine days. So it's still a little unclear what they're going to do. But I mean she's obviously going to try. She's made this speech as you said about stability. So if she can get it together I guess that she'll proceed. But I guess we have to wait and see.

JW: Well let's talk about Jeremy Corbyn. He was facing calls to step down from his own MPs before the election, and now he seems to have done better than expected. So what's happening with him?

MARGARET EVANS: Well, you know he's always done better than expected on some levels. His supporters would say he's been vindicated they've been vindicated, because he was elected Labor leader by bringing in a lot of outside voters a lot of youth, who kind of liken him to Sanders. His campaign has always been very positive. They say they want to try to do politics in a different way.

JW: He offered free tuition just like Bernie Sanders right?

MARGARET EVANS: That's right. And I mean he's very strong on issues like social care, health care, the traditional kind of labor things that people talked about in the past. He got back some of the core labor supporters that Labor lost in sort of the days of Tony Blair. You know 20 years ago. He is a divisive character they either love him or hate him but a lot of people respect him because they he's sort of absent of the spin.

JW: So can I ask about the terrorist attacks what impact did these attacks have on the campaign.

MARGARET EVANS: Well I mean that's something that I think probably most analysts would say should have sent people concerned about security more traditionally into the hands of the conservatives, who in the past have a tougher line about how you deal with Theresa May.

JW: But Theresa May was the one who cut more than 20000 jobs among the police.

MARGARET EVANS: Well that's what I was just about to say was that that traditionally that's where people would have gone and she played up for instance . Theresa May accused Corbyn of being soft on shoot to kill policies for the police and she talked about you know they do they have enough powers in their hands. She was threatening to her saying that she would have no problem in cutting some of Britain's human rights legislation too. But it clearly didn't resonate because she has been responsible as home secretary for all of these cuts in the police force, quite drastic cuts in numbers.

JW: Right. So she was trying to call for more security when she was the one who had weaken the security so she had a no win situation I guess.

MARGARET EVANS: Right. Well I mean it just gave people the excuse to call her a hypocrite.

JW: So let's talk about Brexit. That that was the reason I think that the snap election was called. So was Brecht's it discussed during the campaign?

MARGARET EVANS: Hardly at all. That was one of the most surprising things about it. And I mean the Labor Party would say well it just shows you the arrogance of Theresa May. You can't call an election a national election on one issue and said it's clear they want to talk about things like you know social care et cetera. The Conservatives did try to bring it back to Brexit because she pulls very well in terms of public opinion about who would be best to negotiate a stronger deal for Britain in the days ahead. But you know they didn't bring it back there in time, and it just got sidetracked by all these other issues including foxhunting. That was another well right. They said that they wanted to reinstate foxhunting and some of the people that I talked to some of the research companies who kind of do the polling and things said voters kept bringing this up time and time again, and that sort of reinforced the old fashioned notion of the conservatives as a kind of a you know class party.

JW: So quickly just last question. How do these election results affect Britain's dealings with the rest of the world Canada, The US?

MARGARET EVANS: Again in the same way they'll have to kind of negotiate their way ahead with the European Union. They'll have to do the same with the rest of the world. I think that part of the uncertainty in the election for some voters was they felt that Theresa May was out of step with the rest of the world because for instance you saw you know the French and the Germans and the Italians signing a joint declaration aimed at Donald Trump saying you know you can't renegotiate the Paris climate change accord. Theresa May declined to sign that and she was seen as being kind of a little bit too supportive in some quarters of the Trump administration because she wanted to negotiate a British trade {unintelligible].

JW: Right, okay. It's great talking to you Margaret. Thank you.

MARGARET EVANS: Thank you very much for having me.

JW: Margaret Evans is the CBC's Europe correspondent. She was in London. We have an update to our conversation about the U.K. election. British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that she will form a government. She will work with a Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party. She made the announcement after leaving Buckingham Palace after a meeting with the queen.


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'Strong case for obstruction of justice' against Trump: historian Allan Lichtman

Guest: Allan Lichtman

JW: You're listening to the Friday edition of The Current. I'm Jan Wong. From the election in Britain we turn to the United States where former FBI Director James Comey testified in a much anticipated congressional hearing yesterday. In his testimony Comey explained why he started taking notes immediately after his first private meeting with then president elect Donald Trump.


Circumstances, first I was alone with the president of the United States or the President Elect soon to be president. The subject matter I was talking about matters that touch on the FBI's core responsibility and that relate to the President Elect personally and in the nature of the person. I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting. And so I thought it really important to document that combination of things I never experienced before. But it led me to believe I got to write it down and got to write it down in a very detailed way.

JW: It's those details that have political watchers across the world weighing in on the impact of Comey’s words. My guest is one of them. Allan Lichtman is a distinguished professor of history at the American University in Washington, D.C. and the author of the book The Case for Impeachment. He joins me this morning from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hello.

ALLAN LICHTMAN: Good morning.

JW: From what you heard yesterday did James Comey provide enough evidence to open an investigation into the impeachment of President Trump?

ALLAN LICHTMAN: I think there is no question that the world and of course The United States needs an impeachment inquiry. Of course we have other investigations going on in Congress and we now have a special counsel. But during Watergate Richard Nixon scandal we also had a Senate investigation a special prosecutor and a impeachment inquiry by the Judiciary Committee of The U.S. House of Representatives, which has the sole constitutional authority for impeachment and an impeachment inquiry is different from a special counsel investigation, because a special counsel looks into criminal activity and impeachment inquiry looks into abuses of presidential power. And I believe when you put together the Comey testimony with other incidents of this president you have at least a strong case for obstruction of justice as you had against Bill Clinton. You not only have the Comey testimony, you have the president's firing Comey himself, you had his team lying about the reasons for firing Comey. And then you finally had The President admitting yes I had rushed on my mind when I fired Comey. He then had the thinly veiled threat that Comey better keep his mouth shut after the firing.

JW: I want you to listen to what James Comey said about Russia's involvement in last year's American election.


There should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active measurer’s campaign driven from the top of their government. There is no fuzz on that. It is a high confidence judgment of the entire intelligence community. It's not a close call. That happened that's about as unfake as you can possibly get. And he's very very serious which is why it's so refreshing to see a bipartisan focus on that because this is about America not about a particular party.

JW: No fuzz on that, unfake. What impact will those words have on the various investigations into the Russian connection to the election?

ALLAN LICHTMAN: I think they will have an enormous impact. You know as I pointed up, Bill Clinton was impeached on a matter that involved a private consensual affair. Here as Mr. Comey emphasizes, we are talking about the future of American democracy. We are talking about our national security that makes every investigation so urgent. James Clapper the former American Intelligence chief well-respected said this is more serious even than the Watergate scandal under Richard Nixon, the most serious scandal to date in the history of the United States.

JW: Right. This is not Monica Lewinsky, right? This is the Russians interfering in the election.

ALLAN LICHTMAN: That's right. This is not a presidential dalliance. This is a matter of the integrity of our democracy and the security of our country and probably the only person smiling right now is Vladimir Putin.

JW: Now after Mr. Comey was done yesterday we heard from the president's lawyer Marc Kasowitz. It's a personal lawyer; Mr. Kasowitz called Mr. Comey a ‘leaker’. Is it possible that James Comey is in any legal trouble for leaking the documents of his conversation, his notes, his memorandum.

ALLAN LICHTMAN: Absolutely not. Look I'm not a lawyer but I am an historian and the president's lawyer was wrong. Those are not privileged conversations. The president very explicitly did not claim executive privilege, and the president himself has talked about those conversations in his commentary which is typically a waiver of executive privilege. And they're certainly not classified information. They don't reveal secrets of the government. And look this whole leak thing is an enormous diversion. I understand if you're leaking explicitly classified information, that's an issue. But the truth is every president and particularly Richard Nixon has always whaled about leaks. The truth is the administration would totally control the narrative without leaks The Watergate scandal may never have been unraveled after all it was an FBI official Mark Felt who was Deep Throat.

JW: As a journalist. I think leaks are very important to the operation of democracy. I want to know whether you think President Trent regrets firing James Comey.

ALLAN LICHTMAN: I'm not going to psychoanalyze President Trump. I'm sure he regrets talking about firing James Comey in the context of the Russia investigation because that only burnishes the case for obstruction of justice. And as I said you can't look at the Comey testimony in isolation. You've got to look at all of these other acts by the president and his administration. Which are [unintelligible] as well.

JW: Well, Speaking of looking at events in isolation how as a historian yourself, how do you think future historians will look back on yesterday's events and put them in the overall context of the Trump administration?

ALLAN LICHTMAN: Well it's hard to say because we don't know the denouement of this drama yet but if this does lead to a house impeachment inquiry which ultimately does lead to impeachment then this will be considered one of the great turning points in history just as during the Watergate scandal the revelation that; Wow Richard Nixon is taped all the White House conversations was the critical turning point in that investigation.

JW: And so what do you think is going to happen next?

ALLAN LICHTMAN: Well I think the big question is whether or not the House Judiciary Committee is going to open an impeachment inquiry and as we know of course the president's own party controls the House. There doesn't seem to be any inclination at this point to open an impeachment inquiry. But that could change if Republicans in the Congress believe the president is bringing down their party and more pointedly threatening their re-election in 2018. Every House Republican is up there. And you know Congress is like Wall Street that operates on fear and greed. And if Republicans in the house become fearful enough, we could have the opening up of the impeachment. By the way as you say you know as a journalist leaks are essential otherwise those in power control the narrative. And we haven't seen the last week.

JW: Thank you so much for talking to us this morning.

ALLAN LICHTMAN: Oh my great pleasure.

JW: Bye Bye


JW: Allan Lichtman is a distinguished professor of history at the American University in Washington D.C. He's the author of The Case for Impeachment. We reached him in Cambridge Massachusetts.

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JW: The CBC News is next, then literary criminology.


It is planned. It has a script to it and often the script is written out in advance.

JW: The Son of Sam the Zodiac killer and even the Columbine attackers they all wrote down their darkest thoughts. A new book looks at their stories and the hidden meanings behind the writings of killers. I'm Jan Wong and you're listening to the Friday edition of The Current

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View into minds of killers? Look at their writing, say professors

Guests: Michael Arntfield, Marcel Danesi

JW: Hello, I'm Jan Wong and you're listening to the Friday edition of The Current.

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JW: Still to come. They didn't fit the narrative and now we know why. Fossils found in Morocco suggest we're one hundred thousand years older than we thought. And now scientists are resetting the clock on homo sapiens debut. But first killers put their thoughts on paper and what we can learn from their words.

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JW: We're about to begin a discussion of murder as seen through the prose and poetry of killers some of the material is disturbing and may not be suitable for younger listeners. Last week the former Ontario nurse Elizabeth Wetlaufer pleaded guilty to murdering eight elderly people who were under her care. She had also written poetry that reflected her desire to kill.


She watches some life drain from the notch in his neck vein.

As it soothingly pools it smothers her pain.

Sweet stilettos so sharp, craves another cut.

Obeying a call, she moves to his gut.

JW: That's a reading of a poem by Elizabeth Wetlaufer from CBC's The Fifth Estate. In writing that poem, she joins a long list of killers who put their ideas about murder into the written word, and those writings form the basis of a new book. It's titled Murder in Plain English from Manifestos to Means: Looking at Murder through the Words of Killers. I'm joined now by the authors of that book Michael Arntfield is a former police officer in London Ontario and is now an associate professor of literary criminology and forensic writing at Western University. He joins us from London Ontario. And Marcel Danesi is a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto. He is here in Toronto. Hello to you both.

Guests: Hello. Good morning. Morning

JW: Michael, Elizabeth Wetlalufer appears in your book. What did that poem we just heard say about her, other than that she's a bad poet?

MICHAEL ARNTFIELD: We steered clear of actually trying to critique the work of killers in the book. We focus specifically on some recurring patterns that we saw regardless of the genre or whether it's short stories or poetry or you know hacked attempts at either of those. And we see again this recurring fantasy and obsession with death that in many cases prefigures the actual crimes. And we don't have a precise timeline on Wetlaufer’s poetry, but we know that these poems were created at roughly the same time or concomitant with the crimes. And this is consistent across various types of killers and that includes serial murders and mass murders or are mass shooters, which again is an increasingly topical area. And we're seeing this more and more there where these people are gravitating to online forums, interesting that what Wetlaufer was proactively publishing this at the same time. She was also warning people we've since learned through that confessional tape that she was planning to do this.

JW: Well we'll get back to the Web in a minute. Marcel Denasi, you say that the serial killer is ‘a morbid dramatist who loves to enact his own performances’. How does Elizabeth Wetlaufer fit into that description?

MARCEL DANESI: One of the most interesting things for me in approaching the topic of murder as opposed to killing for survival which every species does, is that it is part of human performance. A murder, unless it's of course you know it's provoked emotionally on the spot. It is planned. It has a script to it. And as Michael just said often this script is written out in advance. And there are instances throughout let's call it literary criminology where they actually write a script and then act upon it and carry out murders. So Wetlaufer seems to me to be consistent with that. Now, her script was not dramatic it was poetic. But poetry, if you go back to the ancient world where murders were first documented, starting with Cain and Abel, there was always a poetic element in it. It seems that the rhetorical structure of words somehow conveys the force and power of the feeling that eventually leads to murder. So I see this in the Wetlaufer poem.

JW: There have been a lot of killers who have taunted authorities and the press with their writings. One of the earliest and most famous one that you mentioned in your book was Jack the Ripper. And we have some tape.


I was cutting Deroboss when I gave you the tip. You'll hear about [unintelligible] Jackie's word tomorrow double [unintelligible] this time. Number one squealed a bit couldn't finish straight off, had no time to get the ears for the police.

JW: That was from a 2011 documentary on Jack the Ripper that aired on Channel 5 in the UK. Michael Arntfield, tell us about those letters.

MICHAEL ARNTFIELD: So I could go on and on about the Ripper letters. So there's a few areas where this intersects with our book. Number one is the style of the writing. Number two is the content of the writing, and number three is the actual investigation. So and this has been met with some controversy but it is absolutely defensible. First of all the Ripper as he's known now in the mythology of the Ripper, focuses on five specific victims in the late 1888. And those victims are really thought to be limited to the killer because of these, there's actually four letters not three Ripper letters. These are four letters that are out of the thousands received by the Central News Agency and Scotland Yard were deemed somewhat credible and for whatever reason and this by no coincidence that three of them were published largely at the behest of a single newspaper reporter. But the reality is the murders carried on and there was a total of 13 murders that went on into the early 1890s and really the letters are important because they begin a period where there is an expectation of performance where there's an expectation that serial killers will initiate a correspondence with the police and with the press and fanned the flames of the paranoia and the fear that they're creating. But in reality, these letters were really hoaxes they were forgeries concocted by one or more people. I mean there were thousands of hoax letters and these letters are no different. The reality is when you look procedurally the letters also don't align with what happened to the victims. There is not an organized element o these crimes that would suggest that this is something that the killer would do. And we explain that in greater detail in the book but more importantly some of the earlier victims that again aren't included as part of this canonical five that the letters are attributed to report. Not one but two offenders attacking them and this is consistent with the later victims as well.

JW: Marcel Danesi, what does this tell you, that thousands of people are writing in that it is a journalist allegedly cooked them up to sell newspapers, what does this tell you about murder in the written word?

MARCEL DANESI: Well I'm a man my colleague is an investigator I'm an anthropologist. What interests me about the case of Jack the Ripper is that it is the mythology that it has created. There must have been serial killers before Jack the Ripper. But there's no writing on them and there's absolutely no killer that writes in that style. So I think Michael is correct. Let's create a new figure as shadow figure in fact the images of Jack the Ripper in movies and in writing. In the end this dovetails with the the rise of Pulp Fiction and detective novels and stories of that kind becomes an obsession in society. We're afraid of serial killers or someone lurking in the dark. In fact you see Jack the Ripper dressed in dark with a dark top hat and so on. That's what's fascinating about it that the borderline between fact and fiction when it comes to this phenomenon horrific phenomenon of murder, intentional killing is very, is very blurry Indeed and that's why I think that we are obsessed by murders of all kinds. Real and fictional

JW: Michael aren't field not all killers leave poems or fiction. Some write lengthy manifestos like Ted Kaczynski the Unabomber or Anders Breivik murdered 77 people in Norway. So those writings are different they're not telling a narrative but are they valuable in analyzing a killer.

MICHAEL ARNTFIELD: Absolutely. So what distinguishes those types of killers from… So we look at a wide range of murders in the book and that includes Again both serial murders and mass murders and we go into some very accessible explanations with respect to the difference between them and then there's subsets of even serial murders. So Ted Kaczynski I mean it was described and labeled rightly as a terrorist but it was also by definition a serial killer. And there's four recognized motivations for serial murder. And one of them is the missionary murder and this is someone who is mission oriented and wanting to achieve some ideological purpose through an act of murder. And we see in cases this aligned also with many mass murders and I mean we could go on about this and it's connection to the terrorist issues.

JW: Kaczynski sent letters to scientists is that right.

MICHAEL ARNTFIELD: He sent his bombs letter a letter to write to computer science professors to computer store owners and what have you. And this was all to essentially have society turn back the clock on industrialization. He saw computers and automation as a threat to civil liberties but also to the planet and to what it meant to be human so we had a very firm ideology that he was pursuing an agenda that he was pursuing. There was no question he was highly intelligent. I mean he was a former Berkeley statistician and mathematician. And what he then wrote was a manifesto titled industrial Society and its Future and that he blackmailed the Washington Post and The New York Times of the two as the two newspapers of record in the U.S. to publish or he would carry on his bombings.

JW: And they did publish it.

MICHAEL ARNTFIELD: And he acquiesced and they published.

JW: But there was a valuable outcome wasn't there?

MICHAEL ARNTFIELD: There was ,and this is really where we talk about the investigative value of some of these is the style of writing. His is the idiosyncrasies, with respect to his punctuation and his prose was recognized in a couple of allusions to other pieces of writing, were recognized by his own brother who dimed them out to the FBI and it wasn't too long after that they caught him.

JW: Right. OK. I want you to listen to another tape. In 1977 New York was transfixed and panicked by a serial killer named David Berkowitz better known by his nom de plume, Son of Sam. His confession was portrayed in the 1985 movie out of the darkness.


Sam would tell me things [unintelligible]. He was a hard master. He make me go out of my .. I didn't want to go, he ordered me to drive around drive and drive and drive around and listen for the voice when I heard I heard him say that's it. That's the one I want to kiss pretty, I want her blood.

He was a thirsty lad Samuel

JW: Michael Armfield, remind us of what David Berkowitz wrote in those letters to the press.

MICHAEL ARNTFIELD: While they compared to again someone like him. I just finished talking about it. I mean Berkowitz's letters were essentially mad ramblings similar to the recording that we just heard. I mean he claimed and whether this was genuine whether this was a proactive attempt to later try to plead insanity or whether it's an example of what we call in criminology neutralization or appealing to a higher power he claimed that essentially his neighbor's dog was channeling some demonic you know omnipotent force who was compelling him to go around and ambush young couples in their cars and shoot them at close range with a 44 caliber revolver. I mean none of this makes sense and actually this is a landmark case in terms of distinguishing criminal insanity from or being not criminally responsible by mental defect versus, again a what we would call a cold blooded murder so. Planned in advance premeditated and appealing to some in many cases a fantasy preoccupation. And the courts rightfully said no. you are not mentally ill. This is a fabrication this is part of your performance and unfortunately a lot of courts have and we could go on about this but recently in a lot of courts have got it wrong in terms of assessing. I think a killer's true mindset.

JW: Can you give a couple of examples?

MARCEL DANESI: Where I've got it. Yeah. I have problems quite frankly with the most recent verdict in Calgary involving the series of murders at the house party whereby again this is for a whole other show we could do on this in terms of how in Canada the rule that we use for establishing mental fitness and we see historically and I don't want to get back into the details of the case and go diverge too much of course but we see in many cases where there is a genuine state of acute psychosis or where an offender is suffering from a major mental disorder. They don't try to escape. They don't hide. They don't avoid the police after because they're thinking in a completely different altered state. So the idea of being caught, the idea that the state takes control and places you into custody. I mean those are things that people who planned their crimes and attempt to evade capture considered are not people who are insane in the U.S.. I think they tend to be a little bit more judicious in saying you know, were you actually hearing these voices or is this part of some other scheme? And these spontaneous utterances made by Berkowitz when he was arrested when they caught him, and they caught him in a large part through a parking ticket. It was actually quite ingenious investigation and the statements he said to the police I mean he knew he was expecting them. At that point there was no mention of Sam. There was only mention of you know he figured that the jig was up and they were on to him right.

JW: Right. Marcel Danesi, in in Son of Sam case he wrote it but he wrote his notes by hand, correct? Can the handwriting tell investigators anything about the killer?

MARCEL DANESI: What struck me about the writing there, they are capital letters almost block letters. They slanted to the left very right.

JW: Very neat. You show a picture of it in your book, It’s very neat.

MARCEL DANESI: Yes very nice, very neat.

JW: He would get an A for handwriting grade three.

MARCEL DANESI: Unlike what I got. I didn't teach anymore. So yeah.

JW: So what does that mean for me? BLOCK letter is what.

MARCEL DANESI: It's actually scary writing. It looks to me almost like you know the kind of writing that you would use in a trailer for a horror movie or in the titles for some of your pulp fiction novel. What strikes me about it is two things. Number one it is neat, but it is scary. I mean if you if lengthen your writing instead of you know what it’s usually what a couple of millimeters? His is a couple of centimeters and that's juts out at you it's like a scream. I mean we do it sometimes on our text messages when we write everything in capitals and ..

JW: It's screaming.

MARCEL DANESI: It's screaming at us. Now the other thing that struck me about the writing is the content. It's mythological. He refers to monsters and satanic monsters. And these are historical figures so this means that he is engaging in some let's call it confabulation. He's creating a world of his own to scare. I don't know who he is trying to scare probably the police are probably someone else. That is a very significant aspect of a lot of writing the actual handwriting itself.

JW: I want to ask Michael Arntfield about the school shooters. Why do so many of these, who commit the mass murder at their schools, write notes?

MARCEL DANESI: Well as we discuss in the book they don't just write notes. I mean these are some of actually the most detailed writings that we see among killers and that there is an experimental sort of tentative phase, where they begin documenting their perceived issues or their tormentors. And then it actually evolves into something more in keeping again with a treatise much like Kaczynski would have written or something more creative like perhaps something Wetlaufer attempted to write. So when we look back at Columbine and we look at the Virginia Tech shooting and we see that actually a number of these, there was some cross-pollination between these private writings that are later found and assignments submitted by these same students. I think it's also important to draw a distinction especially when it comes to the writing and we saw this in Newtown. So as we discuss in the book the Newtown massacre and actually the Batman Theater shooting carried out by James Holmes, too. And that was in a school but it was a mass shooting and both of these crimes were prefaced by significant writing online and private writing that we can really use as sort of a decoder ring to make sense of two very distinct mindsets and when one of those is if a shooter attacks a school where he is not enrolled. So he has no personal connection to that school. Overwhelmingly the writing and the offender's own background indicates a sexual motive. That there is some disordered sadistic sexual motive for doing this often targeting children. And then conversely if they are enrolled there we see a similar frustration indicative of what we call in the in the in the book The schitzoid personality and again we didn't coin that term but it is a lesser known and should not be confused with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. It is it's not entirely understood. But one thing that all of these shooters seem to have in common is a distant early warning anywhere from a couple of months to a couple years ahead of time, where certain behavioral indicators emerge at around the same time that they begin their writing. And as we explain the schitzoid it is not a psychopath it's not a sociopath it's also not a person who is mentally ill it is really a blind spot in the literature in terms of understanding what motivates these people and as we explain is the closest thing actually to just wickedness that you can probably quantify scientifically.

JW: So the question is. Because killers are now publishing on the web. Is there a risk of course of copycats of their becoming these role models for other wannabe School killers?

MARCEL DANESI: Copycatting theory is a little tricky and I think Michael can address that better than I can. But copying emulating heroes, dark heroes especially is becoming a bit of a trend. Just think of the movie or the show Dexter on HBO which generated a lot of copycat crimes.

JW: Oh. It did! I didn't know that.

MARCEL DANESI: And natural born killers..

JW: He is a psychopath who tries to use his psychopathy for good for good.

MARCEL DANESI: Yeah whatever that is.

JW: Whatever that means

MARCEL DANESI: But natural born killers. I mean how many people went out and just went on a rampage killing in apparent emulation of that movie. We are affected by writing. We are affected by narrative and it is so powerful that it motivates us to do that. We mentioned in the book that there are some canonical text some one of them is the catcher in their eye. Which motivate people to go out there and make things right by murder. I mean that's absolutely for me something absolutely horrific to contemplate.

JW: Well we're almost out of time so I'd like to end by asking each of you will start with Michael Armfield, is if these writings are now online what can police, what can investigators do to be pre-emptive? Because now we can see it happening in real time. So Michael Arntfield.

MICHAEL ARNTFIELD: When we talk about that towards the end of the book in that what are the investigative applications of understanding the connection between murder and writing as two distinctly human activities and without encroaching on people's right to be creative and ability to speak metaphorically and create dark worlds and share ideas and communicate freely. How can we recognize warning signs. And again this is where the book dovetails a little bit with the state of the world right now and the fact that we know that a lot of these people committing terrorist acts are online ahead of time. Most killers especially serial killers will document either ahead of time during or after their crimes or what they've done and why they've done it. And the fact that these were historically found after the fact in diaries or scraps of paper or whatever. They are published now or otherwise available in an electronic form ahead of time should really be seized upon. And I think and I mentioned this when I do talks about this if you are an educator or you are a .., and we have some examples of spouses who have stumbled across some of this stuff. If you see this, and especially if you know the person and your instincts tell you that this is scary and that it's actually perhaps a harbinger of things to come. If your instincts tell you that there is indicative of danger you're probably right. I mean humans are the only species on the planet to have in many cases socialized themselves out of their evolutionary, survival instincts and we need to listen to those more.

JW: So in other words if you see something say something.

MICHAEL ARNTFIELD: Say something, yeah. It’s the old adage, see something say something .

JW: Marcel Danesi, what's your take on this now that we have social media, people seem to be just you know blogging about everything. How can the police or investigators… There's so much volume out there I can't even read my own e-mails. How are you going to watch the world.

MARCEL DANESI: I'm not an investigator. I'm a normal citizen, but I think what Michael said can only be emphasized. And the classic case is that Ted Kaczynski his brother was the one who recognized in the writing that it was his brother and reported it to the police.

JW: Well, we all turn into paranoid eavesdroppers.

MARCEL DANESI: I hope not. I mean if you see someone driving erratically it would be a good thing to do something and take action on it not to let it go.

MARCEL DANESI: When you see something that stands out that is so averse to what you expect I think again see something say something.

JW: Okay. Thank you so much for being with us today. Michael Arntfield is an associate professor of literary criminology and forensic writing at Western University in London Ontario. Marcel Danise is a professor of anthropology at the University of Toronto. Their book is called Murder in Plain English from Manifestos to Means Looking at Murder through the Words of Killers. Now coming up in our next half hour, a new discovery challenges our understanding of human origins and rewrites the history of our species. In other words it's been a big week for science. I'm Jan Wong and you're listening to the Friday edition of The Current

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New fossil discovery changes human origin story

Guests: Shannon McPherron, Jim Cleaves

JW: Hello I'm Jan Wong and you're listening to the Friday edition of The Current. Coming up an exciting new archaeological discovery and how it fits into our quest for the origin story of humanity. But first I want to let you know what's coming up on Monday's show with Anna Maria Tremonti. You may have heard her speaking about Ali Arkady. He's the Iraqi photojournalist who set out to tell the story of Iraqi heroes fighting against ISIS. He was embedded with an elite unit. But instead of heroics he ended up documenting atrocities by these troops. He soon realized he wasn't safe. He escaped with his pictures and videos and his evidence has led to calls for investigations. Ali Arkady says he is still haunted by what he saw and that in re watching his footage he's learning more about what those troops really had planned.


I cannot stop to think about these pictures. When I get out really I thinking about a lot of image and a lot of footage. What they did in that term and also I covered a lot of things through this footage and the photos what they planned to do. That time, you know sometimes suddenly they arrest some people, suddenly they said, okay come with me. But I don't know what is the plan. A big plan for why was they arrest the people, why they kill the people, why they need to rape this people. And after that when I go through the videos it's it's very hard every time I come back to see the videos, especially now you know, everythings.

JW: That is Iraqi photo journalist Ali Arkady. Hear his conversation with Anna Maria Tremonti Monday. Also Monday, author and activist Naomi Klein will be in with a timely message. Her new book is; No is not Enough: Resisting the New Shock Politics and Winning the World we Need.


JW: I'm Jan Wong and this is the Friday edition of The Current on CBC Radio One.


Our cosmic voyage from the Big Bang to the appearance of humans, took about 15 billion years. From the beginning, we were explorers, inventors, and technicians.

JW: That's the voice of actor Morgan Freeman in the documentary: The Origins of Man, trying to answer age old questions. Where do we come from? New research out this week has us one step closer to answering that question. Archaeologists have found homosapiens fossils in Morocco that are three hundred thousand years old, which pushes back the origin of our species by more than one hundred thousand years. And this finding also suggests the cradle of civilization might not have been in East Africa after all but all of Africa. Shannon McPherron has a unique perspective on our origin story and how our quest to understand where we came from drives us into new areas of discovery and science. He's a paleolithic archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and a member of the team that made this discovery. He's in Leipzig Germany. Hello.


JW: I'm good. Before we get to the specifics of your discovery can you remind us who is homo sapiens?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: Well we're homo sapiens. So in the tree of life the primate that is us is homo sapiens. And so with this find we're finding the first example of our species.

JW: Can you tell me precisely what it is you discovered?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: Sure. Well we went back to a site that was already known for some human fossils. Jebel Irhoud in Morocco and our main goal was to try to provide a date for these fossils. And in the course of re excavating the site we also found new additional fossils. Those included a partial cranium and some portions of the face of this individual. And then also right nearby a really well preserved mandible or jawbone from another individual and then several post cranial bones of femur and some other parts of several individuals.

JW: So what was Jebal airfield like 300000 years ago? And what is it like today? The environment I'm talking about.

SHANNON MCPHERRON: Sure of course. Well today it's very dry and mostly very hot. But of course the climate over the last over the Pleistocene, over the last several million years has varied quite a bit. We know from the animal bones that we find in the site something about the climate. And those animals, that the main animal they were hunting is gazelle. But we also find zebra and some other antelopes like wildebeest and hartebeest, and that plus what we call the micro mammals the rodents we find in this site allow us to say that it was a bed wetter than it is today. And it would have been a sort of open grassland with some clumps of woods here and there. So you have to picture a sort of Savannah dry but a little bit wetter than it is today.

JW:So you found some skulls, a mandible.


JW: And I want to know if I saw one of these people on the bus today, would she look like me?I know you don't know what I look like but you know. Would she look like me?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: [Laughs] So, I will answer more generally, let me emphasize I'm a paleolithic archeologist, but this question was asked to Jean Jacque De Blair is one of the project leaders and he's a physical anthropologist. And he answered it this way that in terms of the face, the point is that they look just like us. The face falls into the range of variability of people we see today. But there would be giveaways. The brain case was shaped quite differently. It was elongated and not as high and rounded as our own brain case. And so what he suggested and what others have said about Neanderthals is if you put a hat on this individuals they would probably pass, right? You probably wouldn't look at them as somehow odd. Though, they were also a bit what we call robust. These individuals would have been big and strong in the face, a very large strong jaw.

SHANNON MCPHERRON: Do you have any idea if they would be as tall as.. taller or shorter?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: In terms of stature about the same as us today. We reach our stature before this time. Yeah.

JW: So what kind of break through does this represent going back to 300000 years as opposed to about one hundred and ninety thousand?

JW: Well there's a couple of things. I mean we know from genetic evidence that our origins are probably even still older than this. They're probably about half a million years ago somewhere in Africa. And so at some level it wasn't surprising to find something over. But it's been quite difficult. And they're not.. It's been difficult to find fossils from well dated sites. So this was really a breakthrough, to get additional material that sort of shed light on how our features came to be.

JW: I want to know how reliable is your dating but when you tell me I want you to tell me like I'm a high school student. Explain that technology to me.

SHANNON MCPHERRON: Sure. Well everyone most people are familiar with radiocarbon dating. And the problem with radiocarbon dating is it only good to about 45000 years and we're much older than that. So we use another technique called thermal luminescence dating and that's that technique is to date the last time a flint artifact was heated.

JW: But you found bones.

SHANNON MCPHERRON: We found bones but we also found stones, then we find the animal bones of the animals that they hunted and brought back to the site, butchered and consumed. But we also find the stone tools they left behind. And some of these stone tools lying in the ground were incidentally heated by fires that they had at the site. And so this thermal luminescence technique allows us to know how many years had passed since that fire or sort of zeroed the clock internal to those pieces.

JW: So what was your reaction? What did you do the moment you found out, did you jump in the air? I mean what happened?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: [Laughs] Well I'm a paleolithic archaeologist. I love excavating paleolithic sites I've excavated quite a few and..

JW: Sorry, Paleolithic, by that you mean what?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: That's the stone age, right? So it's that's everything from the oldest stone tools which are older than two and a half million maybe up to 3.3 million, all the way to about 10000 years ago.

JW: Okay. So what did you do when you found out when you measured the flint and you found out it's 300000 what happened?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: Well that was a pretty exciting moment. We thought it was going to be older than previously had been envisioned but we didn't think it was going to be that old. And so that was pretty exciting.

JW: So did you do high fives in the lab? I mean I don't know What does scientists do when they go wow it's 300000?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: [Laughs] Maybe I wouldn't say high fives, but there were a lot of excited conversations and emails. And I was going to do that when we were on site and we brushed away the dirt on the top of the skull. I would like to pretend that I was cool and took this as another bone. But no it's exciting to find human remains and it's very unusual. Most sites don't have human remains. And so to find these extraordinary remains and so many of them, and then finally to be able to give them a date was of course quite exciting quite gratifying.

JW: So now to dampen your enthusiasm a little bed. There are researchers who say that it's not certain this fossil is homo sapiens. Why are you confident that it is?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: Well that's kind of a funny debate to watch unfold. The definition of what homo sapiens is. And. I would say my response would be that I think part of the thing we're struggling with is that we have this notion of what we look like today. And of course evolution is an ongoing process. And what we would argue is that these fossils clearly show features that are unique to homo sapiens. And that yes there were changes subsequent especially in the shape of the braincase but that it's clear that it was building on this foundation that we see 300000 years ago.

JW: The cradle of civilization has long been thought to be in East Africa. And you found this in North Africa in the Morocco area. So there's no single Garden of Eden is that right?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: Yes I think that's one of the more exciting aspects of this is, that it opens up the field to all of Africa and these fossils are associated with some stone tools that archaeologists call the middle stone age. And while we don't have these fossils everywhere in Africa we have the middle stone age everywhere in Africa at this time period. And we think that probably there was these two things are related that there's a dispersal of homo sapiens across Africa at this time.

JW: So are we all Africans?

SHANNON MCPHERRON: Absolutely. We've known that for some time now. It's the genetic research especially in the late 80s and early 90s has shown that that at some level we're all Africans.

JW: Thank. Thanks very much for talking to us. Shannon McPherron is a Paleolithic archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. We reached him in Leipzig Germany. That's a new piece of the puzzle. But as we search for the origins of our species the ultimate question remains how did life begin? From mythology to religion to science we have looked for answers. And my next guest says the quest has led us to discoveries that expand our understanding of life and science. Jim Cleaves is an associate professor of chemistry at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton New Jersey. He's also the co-author of A Brief History of Creation: Science and the Search for the Origin of Life. Jim Cleve's joins us from our Washington studio. Hello.

JIM CLEAVES: Hi. Good morning, Jan.

JW: So what do you think of this latest homo sapiens fossil discovery?

JIM CLEAVES: Oh it's very exciting. I think everybody is very interested in where humanity comes from and how we became what we are.

JW: Why are we so fascinated as a species by our origins? Why do we keep looking for it?

JIM CLEAVES: Well that is an interesting question. It seems to be true that almost every culture has an origin story or myth, right?

JW: Right.

JIM CLEAVES: So is there something innate about the way people view the world that forces them to have an explanation for why they're in it and how they got to be there.

JW:It's like children always ask their parents where do I come from, right?

JIM CLEAVES: That's right.

JW: And we want to know as a species where we come from. And so this fascination with our origins does it lead to scientific breakthroughs? Can you give me any examples?

JIM CLEAVES: Oh well I mean there's been a remarkable reshaping of our conception of you know how old the universe is how old the planet is how old life is how old humanity is. Over the last you know a few hundred years of scientific discovery. And the picture is getting clearer and clearer, you know in the last few decades.

JW: Well when paradigm shift about our origins stories you mention the last few hundred years. Take Charles Darwin. How does societies adapt to revolutionary new thinking?

JIM CLEAVES: Well I mean this is an interesting phenomenon in Western science that you know science really grew up in the shadow of organized religion in Europe and there was a kind of somewhat something of a tension between the two. Religion certainly provided its own explanation for human origins and the origins of the universe science started to develop a competing narrative if you will. And there was not always a happy relationship. Right?

JW: Right. I remember a few people getting burned at the stake.

JIM CLEAVES: [Laughing] For example.

JW: But can religion and science complement each other?

JIM CLEAVES: Well certainly it's a you know the question of how one views science and how one views religion. Right? I mean there are ranges of very literal types of interpretations of religion, and you know there are scientists who allow for a certain amount of uncertainty in certain phenomena in the way they are interpreted.

JW: But right now what about this latest discovery of these of these fossils in Northern Africa. What will religion do with this?

JIM CLEAVES: Well I think if you're of the type of religious interpretation that allows for you know evolution being part of the grand fabric of the universe and part of the process by which the universe creates consciousness and then us and so on. It's yet another piece of the puzzle and it fits in very nicely. And if you're the sort of person who likes their religion a little more literal it's probably just another part of the noise, right?

JW: OK so your research looks at the origin of all life on Earth not just human life. And where is the science today and understanding when life began?

JIM CLEAVES: Well we have a pretty good idea of the time window life started on Earth. A pretty good idea the age of the earth now. So somewhere between 4.5 and 3.5 billion years ago something happened on our planet that gave rise to two living things.That's a billion year window, a bit of greyness there. That's kind of..

JW: You have some wiggle room.

JIM CLEAVES: We have some wiggle room that's partly the fault of our planet being as dynamic as it is.

JW: What do you mean by that dynamic?

JIM CLEAVES: Well that the surface is constantly being sucked back down into the earth and re-emitted through volcanoes so the oldest rocks have all been pretty heavily reworked, and it's very hard to find evidence from the time period we're interested in.

JW: So that means it's pretty remarkable that the scientists have found these fossils in Northern Africa. If everything is being sucked back down and regurgitated.

JIM CLEAVES: Well in the scheme of the age of the earth this these fossils are very young compared to the age of life. And I mean it's an interesting perspective to have that really humanity appears in the last you know blink of an eye of the history of life on Earth.

JW: Darwin speculated that life began in a ‘warm little pond’. How much do we know about that first spark of life?

JIM CLEAVES: Oh gosh. Well it's a very active area of research. Probably a few hundred people are kept busy by around the world. We actually have our triennial meeting this year, and there are a number of competing theories.

JW: Can you tell us a little bit about the main ones?

JIM CLEAVES: Sure. Well one is that life started somewhere in hydrothermal vent deep at the bottom of the ocean, and there were some sort of interactions between rocks and seawater that gave rise to complex molecules.

JW: A hydrothermal event. Is that water is like air or is that gas? What does it hydrothermal vent?

JIM CLEAVES: It's water. So it's plsces we're actually you know there's heat coming up out of the earth and seawater gets sucked in and hand reacts with this. Other models are that something more like Darwin's warm little pond you know was subjected to the light of the sun and chemicals are forced to undergo different types of reactions until you've got things like RNA genetic molecules that could pass on heritable traits.

JW: Another theory?

JIM CLEAVES: Another is that actually life was brought to the earth by meteorites or comets possibly even rocks from Mars.

JW: Right. So that's the theory that life started on other planets?

JIM CLEAVES: That's right. And it's hard to completely discount that even at this point.

JW: So which one do you think.

JIM CLEAVES: Ah well I'm an empiricist. I think we should test them all. We can go in the lab and simulate these things and see what looks the most promising.

JW: That's not an answer.

JIM CLEAVES: [Laughs] Well chemistry is it's a big.. There's an awful lot of unknowns in it. It's really a big field and we're..

JW: That is still not an answer [laughs].

JIM CLEAVES: So what do I believe. I'm a skeptic. I want to see what works.

JW: You're not going to tell me it's probably hydrothermal vents.

JIM CLEAVES: I'm not going to tell you that.

JW: OK. Recently the earth oldest fossils we think were found in northern Quebec. What did their discovery tell us about when life began?

JIM CLEAVES: Well so this this comes back to the thing we were just discussing. It's very hard to find rocks that are of the age that we're interested in and Quebec has a privileged little outcrop, there. Actually an old officemate of mine was one of the people who made the discovery. But there seemed to be some signatures some little structures and chemical traces of things that could be interpreted as life. And if those things are as old as the oldest estimates for them, they would be the oldest evidence for life on Earth.

JW: How old are they?

JIM CLEAVES: I think that the high end is 4.28 billion years and that the low end is 3.77.


JIM CLEAVES: Which would put them right on the middle kind of more on the conventional estimate.

JW: Right in the middle. That's right within your wiggle room, your million years.

JIM CLEAVES: That's right. The thing is if you find evidence presumably there was something older, too, that you just haven't found evidence for it.

JW: These little fossils are teenty teensy little things, right, can you describe them?

JIM CLEAVES: Well these particular ones they look like little tubes. I mean there are fractions of a millimeter across.

JW: The tubes?

JIM CLEAVES: Yeah they're a little mineral kind of casse as my understanding. I'm not a not a micro paleontologist. I didn't read the paper. But yeah they look very similar to the things that we are sure that bacteria did make in younger rocks. So that's the inference.

JW: OK so what's the scientific benefit of understanding when and how life began? What does it mean for a lay person a person like me? Do I care? Why?

JIM CLEAVES: Well I mean it certainly speaks to our place in the universe. You know, is there life on other planets? In our solar system? Beyond the earth? Beyond our solar system? We're discovering you know thousands and tens of thousands of planets beyond our solar system now. We really want to know how rare is life as a natural phenomenon.

JW: And if we know that we're not the only life around, what does that mean?

JIM CLEAVES: Well I mean you could interpret that to mean that there really is something about the structure of physics and chemistry that just naturally gives rise to living things which would be interesting.

JW: But I mean beyond that, beyond the science. I want to talk about the big question what does it mean If we are the only living beings in the universe?

JIM CLEAVES: We’d be very special and I think we'd have to have to accommodate that to our worldview is right.

JW: Meaning What?

JIM CLEAVES: Well I mean how do you explain the fact that we're the only living things in the universe?

JW: Do you think we are?

JIM CLEAVES: I doubt it very much. I think we're in the infancy of trying to understand this problem.

JW: So, what kind of research is going on right now to look for life on other planets?

JIM CLEAVES: Well again I'm not an astronomer [laughs].

JW: I know you keep [unintelligible] the questions. You go: I don’t do that. I don’t do windows [laughs].

JIM CLEAVES: I just want to make sure… I am a chemist not an astronomer, Jan. I just want to make sure I am not false interpreting science. But we are building the next generation of telescopes as I understand, that are going to be able to tell whether the atmospheres of planets around other stars have the signatures of life in them. And that will be a big deal and that will probably happen in the next couple of decades.

JW: Oh. Really?

JIM CLEAVES: Right. So that's an exciting, you know it's an exciting time to be alive.

JW: Is it happening much faster than it happened say in Darwin's era? Are our discoveries happening much faster?

JIM CLEAVES: I would say so. I mean partly that's just a function. There's so many people working on it. But also you know computers and our science is just a more sophisticated thing now.

JW: Well thanks so much for talking to us this morning.

JIM CLEAVES: Oh you're very welcome. Thank you for having me.

JW: Jim Cleaves is an associate professor of chemistry at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton New Jersey. He's also the co-author of A Brief History of Creation: Science and the Search for the Origin of Life. He joined us from our Washington studio. That's our program for today. Stay tuned to Radio 1 for q. Steve Earle tells Tom power what life was like as a young songwriter in Nashville, and how his latest album takes him back to his roots. And remember you can always take The Current with you on the CBC Radio app. Use it to browse through past episodes of our show and start listening in just a few seconds. You can search for stories you missed or want to hear again or listen live to your local CBC station. Right from your smartphone or tablet. It's free from the App Store or Google Play. You can also live stream all our programs on the Radio Player Canada app. As you just heard the discovery of new fossils has scientists rethinking the origin of humans. And earlier we talked about James Comey’s much anticipated testimony. Those stories reminded us of the 1960 court drama, Inherit the Wind. Based on a real life case, in 1925 two great lawyers argued the case against a science teacher accused of teaching evolution. Today our last word goes to Spencer Tracy and Fredric March. I'm Jan Wong. Thanks for listening to the Friday edition of The Current.


That first what do you think it was 24 hours long?

Michael says it was a day.

Well, there was no sun, I mean, how do know how long it was?

The Bible says it was a day.

Well, was it a normal day, a literal day, 24 hour day?

I don't know.

What do you think?

I do not think about things that I do not think about.

Do you ever think about things that you do think about? Isn’t it possible that it could have been 25 hours? No way to measure. No way to tell. Could it have been 25 hours?

It's possible.

Then you interpret that the first day as recorded in the book of Genesis could have been a day of indeterminate length. I mean to state that it is not necessarily a 24 hour day. It could have been 30 hours, could have been a week, could have been a month, could have been a year, could've been a hundred years or it could have been ten million years.

I protest.

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