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The Forum
30 Jan
Listen to the programme

A conceptual meeting point for this week's three ideas, by Emily Kasriel
The Forum, the BBC World Service programme which boldly crosses boundaries: scientific, creative and geographic, presented by Bridget Kendall.


American physicist Robert L. Park is perhaps best known for his critical commentaries and books on what he sees as bogus science. In this edition of The Forum he expresses his consternation that so many people still look to lore and superstition for explanations at a time when science and technology are revolutionizing our understanding of the world.

Historian Joachim Radkau searches patient records from over a century ago to shed light on hidden forces shaping German history. Neurasthenia is a medical condition which you don't hear so much about these days but a hundred years or so ago, in Europe and America, it was very much in vogue. Radkau's work has shown that at about 1910 neurasthenia was the most widespread diagnosis in Germany and that this epidemic had serious consequences in the era after the First World War and during the rise of Nazism.

Baroness Haleh Afshar, Professor of Politics and Women's Studies at York University, challenges Western society to rethink its prejudices when it comes to women and aging. She calls for a radical redesign of retirement policies and explores the paradox that although people are living longer, in Western society at least, older women do not seem to be benefitting from it.

Listen to the 60 Second Idea To Change The World

To find out more visit BBC News online: ban all beauty products...

Each week one guest presents an idea to enhance the world. This week Iranian-born professor Haleh Afshar argues that all beauty products should be banned. Not only because they are expensive and a waste of time but also because they perpetuate the myth that women must remain looking youthful and pretty as a flower for the whole of their lives. Please, let's celebrate wrinkles earned though long experience as a badge of honour!

Are you convinced by this week's 60 second idea and do you have any thoughts on the programme? Let us know us what you think by using the contact form below.

Your comments...The physicist on today's 'Forum' programme appears to be saying that we can only really know what is concluded from observation and measurement. My question is did he arrive at this position by using only observation and measurement?
Trinidad and Tobago

The more you know, the more you know you don't know. I now know that I know everything that is knowable, because I know that I know nothing; for I know that nothing is all that is knowable.

I think it's very dangerous to consider banning beauty products. It's an extreme form of retaliation against problems of vanity when in fact the products are created for femininity. Such a view could lead to a semantic-ising of femininity in society at the detriment of our views of gender and human development. Women and Men have always wanted to look good and to remove this is a disregard for humanity and our growth. I agree people can be overly occupied with image but this destroys all image.
Huddersfield, UK

I don't know where you get your guests but I don't think they come from planet Earth. Life is MUCH better for most women in the West these days. I'm fit, active strong and busy at my career. At my age (53) my mother was an old lady, who spent her evenings knitting. I'm at the gym or out with friends. Get some real life guests!
Brit in the USA

Note for Haleh Afshar: she talked about older women feeling 'unwanted' I think, and lonely. Is she familiar with work of Swedish Anna Wahlgren, who blames Swedish society for only valuing paid work. So whatever your problem, find a professional to solve it, including child care and care for old people. She sees this as a great cause for depression, and a waste of knowledge and talent. People are made useless.
Haarlem, Netherlands

A very engaging forum this week!

I have a challenge to Robert L. Park. Unless Bob can prove scientifically that:
(1) we can be certain of things that are scientifically verified; and
(2) we cannot be certain of things that are not scientifically verified, I remain skeptical of his thesis!


Robert Parks spoke of things which, in these times of global warming, terrorism and financial stress need to be discussed often and well. His effort was probably well matched to the show format but to my mind he left out the most crucial elements. I could suggest how to do better but not in 500 characters.
Reading, UK

Thanks for being a top programme on the BBC World Service - great guests. However, I must state that Robert Park is onto a loser. He both misunderstands what Superstitions mean [his definition is far too broad and meaningless] and the Church and Science have been trying for 2000 years to get rid of superstition and failed. The basic reason they fail is because superstitions are the core of the human survival. Without superstition humans would not be here.

I listened this morning when the Iranian lady told in 60 seconds about her idea to make a better world by eliminating beauty products.
Women use beauty products to appeal to men and so until men become more intellectual and spiritual and less carnal, this will continue. There is no doubt that if a man sees a woman with nicely painted finger nails and toe nails, he looks at them and then he looks at the face. When he sees lusciously painted lips and eyes with eye shadow and kohl, he becomes interested. Maybe after that he will become interested in what she has to say. But men are attracted by looks first of all.

Loved today's Forum but felt that too little time was given to the Iranian professor, whose ideas were given too little time and that you handed the mike over to the two men for their responses rather too quickly. By the way, how about a Forum on ads that glamorise women/pornography/international Law as it pertains to women. Thanks for your wonderful programme.

This man who is talking about ESP or superstitions. I wrote a biography on my life as a have been stuck with this problem all my life. I have just put on my facebook that 4 years ago I decided to sell my house because something told me to get out of the UK . I told many what would happen to the world 15 yeas ago to the year. And its all come true. So why? I get back up evidence from strange things that happen. I do not turn my back on it. I question it to find out why.
Kotakinabalu, Malaysia.

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