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Debating physics at the Institute of Art and Ideas festival at Hay-en-Wye in 2023

Are humans really the ‘Centre of the Universe’?

2023 took me to the Welsh borders and the Institute of Art and Ideas festival on this vexed question.

You can see what happened here.

I had been tasked to debate issues around the philosophy of science with two physics professors. My points particularly drew on my research for my book Paradigm Shift, and concerned the way scientists always THINK they are on the verge of complete certainty about everything - and then tear up the old theory to start again. This is actually a good strategy but bizarrely, scientists always deny doing it. As they can be seen doing again at the festival here.

Another media foray was with Lorenza and Jascha as part of the Florianfilm entitled ‘The Wikipedia Promise’ (2021). This is a kind of drama documentary, the drama consisting in seeing how Wikipedia morphs between being ‘the fount of all knowledge’ in Jimmy Wales immortal phrase – and something really rather sinister.

I was delighted to be one of the sources interviewed for the film, and to have one of my concerns about Wikipedia, that is it a kind of 'fast information' raising the same issues as ‘fast food’, notably being indigestible and made of dog ingredient. beautifully reconstructed into a visual!

The film does not take sides, but rather points at issues and suggests we should take Wikipedia seriously – but cautiously. Or to use the fast food analogy, we should avoid consuming too much of it.

I'll post a link to the film when I have a public one.

VEGANUARY: What if the world went Vegan? (2020)

Philosophy has its adherents but let’s be frank, it makes for pretty poor visuals. Not so with food debates! And indeed, my book on food politics, I Think Therefore I Eat, led to interest from podcasters, radio and TRT whose Roundtable series is a discussion program with an edge. Broadcast out of London and presented by the canny David Foster, it says it is about bringing people to the table, listening to every opinion, and analysing every point of view, while ranging from ‘fierce debate’ to ‘reflective thinking’.

What I liked about the show, was the way David had essentially created a narrative for the debate beforehand, into which our contributions fitted. This made the exchanges much more coherent while still leaving room for spontaneity. Indeed, if I struggled in the atypical role of defender of farming here, (after for many years having advocated Pythagorean ideals of nature's bounty) the preparation stage allowed me to feed in several of my favorite food themes, notably:

  • The big change in the way we eat is towards more and more highly processed foods. These are designed in laboratories, made in factories from cheap plant-based ingredients, packaged attractively and designed to last forever. 
  • There's a big and important difference between what a few people do as individuals and what happens if very large numbers of people do.
  • Big brands are not interested in public health. What is going on is entirely driven by the profit margin.
Anyway, enough preamble, please check out the show! And apologies in advance for my swivelling!

And here is the video Turner and I prepared for I Think Therefore I Eat, with help from the anti-sugar folks!

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