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Play now 55 mins


55 minutes
First broadcast:
Saturday 18 December 2010

Pioneering biologist, Victoria Braithwaite, explains how she found clear-cut evidence in fish that they have the neural wiring which transmits a painful stimulus from their skin to the brain and proof that their behaviour is affected by pain. So if fish feel pain, what implications does this have for the way we farm and catch them?

Sociologist Sami Zubaida wants us to discard the blanket term “Islamic” to reveal a more accurate vision of Middle Eastern societies, where capitalism and the mostly secular institutions have been instrumental in the development of modernity.

And from philosopher Donald Favareau we find out how biology, linguistics and philosophy can interact to help overcome biology’s ‘blind spot’ and better define the essential processes of the living world, particularly as regards biological signs, signalling, messaging and codes.

Illustration by Emily Kasriel: The meaning and significance of pain felt by a hibernating Islamic fish.


4 items
  • Victoria Braithwaite

    Victoria Braithwaite

    Professor of Fisheries and Biology at Penn State University, Victoria Braithwaite, has spent many years investigating an issue that is surprisingly little studied - do fish feel pain?

    Braithwaite: Do Fish Feel Pain?
  • Sami Zubaida

    Sami Zubaida

    Baghdad-born Emeritus Professor of Politics and Sociology at University of London, Sami Zubaida, argues that key social structures and institutions in Middle Eastern countries are now essentially secular and yet we continue to see them through the prism of the religious propaganda.

    Zubaida - Beyond Islam
  • Dr. Donald Favareau

    Dr. Donald Favareau

    Dr. Donald Favareau from Singapore University introduces us to biosemiotics, a new collaborative scientific project which asks probing questions about sign processes which are critical to all animal life. Biosemiotics also argues that, from a purely naturalistic and scientific standpoint, the world of living creatures is actually permeated with “meaning”, as opposed to the reductionist view that life is essentially “meaningless.”

    Favareau - Essential Readings in Biosemiotics


    This week’s 60 second idea is from biosemiotician Donald Favareau, who suggests that a mandatory annual six-month hibernation is just what this species needs to solve a multitude of ecological, personal and societal issues. Moreover, because people tend not to been politically offended by anything while they are asleep, complete social harmony and agreement will reign supreme…providing, of course, that no one wakes up prematurely.


    In Next Week’s Programme: a festive edition of the Forum which looks at the the Roman precursor to Christmas with classicist Mary Beard, Egyptian Christianity with Egyptologist Robert Tignor, and the pleasures of Levantine ports with historian Philip Mansel.



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