Accepting refugees isn't a gift — it's a human right: Michael Ignatieff

In a time of growing authoritarianism and a decline in democratic institutions, it is a greater challenge to accept that despite the language of “us and them,” we have obligations to strangers both inside and outside our borders. Michael Ignatieff talks to Nahlah Ayed about citizenship, moral values, and what we still owe each other.

Imagining the World: Darwin and the idea of evolution

Darwin's ideas about evolution shifted the way we think about the place of humans in the world: we're not so special, we just have a bigger brain and opposable thumbs. What else can we learn from Darwin in this late stage of civilisation? A discussion from the 2019 Stratford Festival with culture critic Adam Gopnik, evolutionary biologist Maydianne Andrade and science journalist Ivan Semeniuk.

The saxophone and the spirit: The sax's forgotten spiritual roots

The shiny, handsome and undeniably cool saxophone has been a staple of jazz music and popular culture for nearly a century. But some music historians say that what’s often been overlooked are its deep roots in spiritual beliefs and religious ritual.

Ireland is an invented nation: Declan Kiberd

A people get a sense of who they are through their artists, primarily the writers and poets who, through words and stories, reflect images that are somehow familiar. Irish scholar Declan Kiberd has written about this making of identity for Ireland — with the added layer that much of Irish identity has a colonialist residue.

What we owe: Revisiting Margaret Atwood's 'Payback'

Margaret Atwood is revered for novels that seem to predict dark societal shifts, from reproductive controls, to prisons for profit. It’s no different with her nonfiction. This episode revisits her influential 2008 Massey Lectures, Payback.

After 2 decades of peace, the threat of an Irish Brexit border is stirring up old fears

The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have been divided by a largely invisible border since 1998. But Brexit has sparked anxiety that the border could once again become very visible — and a cause of conflict and violence. Ideas host Nahlah Ayed went there to hear what people are saying.

IDEAS schedule for August 2020

Highlights: the saxophone's forgotten spiritual roots (Aug 3); how the 2008 financial crisis led to political populism (Aug 7); how the global elite’s efforts to 'change the world' became part of the problem (Aug 10); exploring the social history of spinsters (Aug 26) and John Milton's Satan as a political rebel (Aug 31).

The Relativity Revolution: Albert Einstein and the making of the modern world

In 1905, when Albert Einstein worked as a patent office clerk, he published a series of academic papers that revolutionized physics and our thinking about space and time, mass and energy. His ideas were a great leap forward. Panellists at the Stratford Festival discuss how Einstein revolutionized how we live our lives today.

'We continue to be feared': Kamal Al-Solaylee on why being brown matters to everyone

In a compelling conversation, acclaimed journalist and author Kamal Al-Solaylee discusses all things brown, from the psychology of the colour, to why he says, it’s always 'a bridesmaid, never the bride,' in the constructed hierarchy of human skin tone. 

Think reading means you're smart? Think again

We tend to think that reading is a sign of intelligence, that we’re improved by it. But are our assumptions well-founded? Not really, according to an array of literary front-runners including Fran Lebowitz and Nick Hornby. Writer Barbara Nichol explores the assumptions we have about reading, readers and books in a three-part IDEAS series.

'Shouldn't there be a law against that?': Facing our fear of genetic innovation

Professor Bartha Knoppers is the 2019 recipient of the Henry G. Friesen International Prize for excellence in health research. Once a scholar of surrealist poetry, she has now become a world-renowned voice and a prolific researcher in the field of medical ethics.

Escape options narrowing for world caught in 'progress trap': Ronald Wright

In his 2004 CBC Massey Lectures, Ronald Wright warned us a “progress trap” was closing around our technologically-advanced, but dangerously self-destructive, civilization. Wright tells IDEAS now he’s unsure as to whether there is any wiggle room left.

The peace walls of Belfast: Do they still help keep the peace?

More than 20 years after the Good Friday peace agreement was signed, the so-called peace walls remain in Northern Ireland. Host Nahlah Ayed heads to Belfast to find out if the walls are helping or hindering community reconciliation between Catholic and Protestant, Republican and Unionist. This is the first episode in our series, Walking the Border: Walls That Divide Us.

Wishful dreaming: Freud and the discovery of our inner life

Sigmund Freud had many radical ideas about our inner life and how mental illness and trauma might be treated. Perhaps his most radical idea was that the patient should be listened to. This episode features a panel discussion at the Stratford Festival about the current state of Freud's legacy on self-knowledge.

Education without liberal arts is a threat to humanity, argues UBC president

UBC president Santa J. Ono is a renowned biologist and award-winning professor but he says the liberal arts courses he took as an undergraduate gave him the wisdom he needed to flourish. He's concerned that the liberal arts are no longer held in high enough esteem in our society.

Imprisoned Turkish journalist writes memoir on bits of paper and has it smuggled out

Lawyers and supporters of celebrated Turkish novelist and journalist Ahmet Altan are calling for his immediate release from prison, where he remains on false charges. The call is made more urgent, they say, as COVID-19 sweeps through the facility.

Deepfaked speeches and contested facts: how today's historians manage to do their job

Deepfakes. Political bias. Contested facts. How can historians possibly nail the truth in our polarized times? A panel of top historians — all of them Cundill History Prize finalists and winners — explain why the challenge is formidable, yet nothing new.

Climate change science goes back decades ⁠— and so does climate change skepticism, says historian

Climate change denialism has been around for years. And it's still here, even after four decades of scientific consensus that humans are causing the climate crisis. But why? Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes explains in a public talk how denying climate change came to be a personal and political belief.

Should we aim for mediocrity?

Sick of aiming for excellence and feeling miserable when you fall short? You’re not alone. Explore the upsides of imperfection, lowered expectations and outright failure with philosopher Daniel Milo, writer Avram Alpert, School of Life teacher Sarah Stein Lubrano and Zahra Dhanani, who has adopted the “good enough” life.

'In my great and unmatched wisdom': Donald Trump's new world order

As disruptors go, Donald Trump is the world's most powerful one right now — disrupting everything from national politics, to social issues, to international relations. How far will his disruptions go, and what will remain once he's gone? IDEAS convened a panel at the Stratford Festival to discuss the Trump era and its aftermath.

A continent of stories: Slaying the dragons of hate with words

Deborah Ahenkora has long believed there's a "book famine" throughout Africa. The most acute shortage is in books written by Africans for Africans — especially children's books in which African children can see themselves reflected. So she decided to rewrite that history to ensure African stories are both told and read.

James Baldwin: a 'poet-prophet' in good times and in bad

In 1965, the writer, poet and civil rights activist James Baldwin was invited to Cambridge University for a debate on whether the American dream is "at the expense of the American Negro." He made a devastating argument and won. And his historic words echo to this day.

2020 Massey Lectures: Renowned tech expert Ronald J. Deibert to explore disturbing impact of social media

Citizen Lab director Ronald J. Deibert will deliver this year's Massey Lectures, arguing that the internet, especially social media, has an increasingly toxic influence in every aspect of life.

Top diplomat Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein takes us inside the backrooms of global diplomacy

In Part 2 of The Unconventional Diplomat, former UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein continues a fascinating tour through the backrooms of global diplomacy. He explains why he refused to go on bended “knee in supplication” before the UN Security Council and shares his advice on how to be a good citizen.

Former UN Human Rights Chief says we must be bolder in calling out world leaders

In a well-known 2016 speech in diplomatic circles, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called out powerful world leaders. But he laments a “fearfulness” currently within the UN. IDEAS producer Mary Lynk sits down for a rare feature interview to reveal the story behind the moment when breaking conventional rules was imperative.