Are science and medicine threatened by borders?

May 18, 2018

Scientists and doctors have emerged as among the most vociferous critics of Brexit and Trump. The March for Science expressed the concerns of many researchers and clinicians on both sides of the Atlantic about the future of funding and about the movement of researchers and students across national borders. Many were also alarmed at the apparent lack of respect for expertise and evidence in public policy. But whose responsibility should it be to fund scientific research? How can science and medicine best be defended and pursued, in an uncertain world of shifting borders?

SPEAKERS

DR ELIOT FORSTER
CEO, Immunocore; chairman, MedCity

DR JOE KAPLINSKY
assistant professor, DTU Nanotech; coauthor, Energise! a future for energy innovation

DR FIONA MCEWEN
postdoctoral researcher, Queen Mary University of London

RAFAEL YÁÑEZ-MUÑOZ
professor of advanced therapy, Royal Holloway University of London

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Religious freedom: a critical right or a license to discriminate?

May 4, 2018

A lecture delivered at Living Freedom 2018, an Academy of Ideas residential school in London on 5-7 April 2018.

Tensions are growing around how and whether religion should be accommodated in public life. In the era of Trump, religious conservatives in America have made it easier for hospitals, doctors and employers to object to providing birth control, abortions and transgender care on the grounds of conscience. Detractors say this is discrimination under the guise of religious freedom. Similar debates are playing out across Europe. So how do we reconcile the right of faith communities to exercise their beliefs in a pluralistic society? Should we censor individuals that disagree with same-sex marriages? Is firing a midwife that refuses to perform abortions an act of justice or discrimination? Does the right of conscience mean that a pharmacist can deny emergency contraception or that they can provide it even if it is forbidden? Or both? Has the United States gone too far in protecting the faithful? Has Europe gone too far in neglecting them?

SPEAKER

Jon O’Brien
president, Catholics for Choice

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Medical dilemmas: who decides?

April 26, 2018

With the case of Alfie Evans in the news, this Battle of Ideas debate is very pertinent.

ORIGINAL INTRODUCTION

The tragic case of Charlie Gard, a baby with a terminal congenital illness whose parents refused to accept the decision of medical staff to withdraw life support, highlighted the problems that may arise when there is a breakdown of trust between doctors and parents. The old adage that ‘doctor knows best’ is being challenged not just by patients, but from within the medical profession itself, as paternalism gives way to shared decision-making. But can patients know enough to take responsibility for major decisions about treatment? If doctors relinquish authority, does this impose an undue burden on patients. What is the role of the courts?

SPEAKERS

DR FRANKIE ANDERSON
psychiatry trainee; co-founder, Sheffield Salon

SARAH BARCLAY
founder and director, The Medical Mediation Foundation

RAANAN GILLON
emeritus professor of medical ethics, Imperial College London; president, Institute of Medical Ethics

PROFESSOR SIR SIMON WESSELY
regius chair of psychiatry, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London; president, Royal Society of Medicine

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The liberated mind in action: from the Enlightenment to the Industrial Revolution

April 20, 2018

A lecture from Living Freedom 2018, the Academy of Ideas residential school for 18- to 25-year-olds interested in exploring the historical ideas and contemporary debates related to freedom, which took place on 5-7 April 2018 at the Council on International Educational Exchange in central London.

It has been claimed that the Industrial Revolution was the biggest turning point in human history. It was the moment when the creative potential of society was left free to flourish, leading to huge changes from life expectancy to the growth of cities, from wealth production to the establishment of democratic nation states. Yet, in today’s climate of pessimism and low expectations, the Industrial Revolution is often either seen with scepticism or as a historical accident, a result of factors such as technology or cheap raw materials from the colonies. The crucial missing link is the relationship between the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. In the former, the mind demands its freedom; in the latter, it shows what it can achieve when it is free to translate its ideas into action.

LECTURER

Dr Nikos Sotirakopoulos
lecturer in sociology and criminology, York St John 

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Genetics, genomics and society - determinism vs free will

April 13, 2018

A lecture from Living Freedom 2018, the Academy of Ideas residential school for 18- to 25-year-olds interested in exploring the historical ideas and contemporary debates related to freedom, which took place on 5-7 April 2018 at the Council on International Educational Exchange in central London.

Our genes have, for better and for worse, been a central preoccupation in science, medicine and politics for more than a century. How has our understanding of genes changed during that time? Why are we moving increasingly from talking about ‘genetics’ to talking about ‘genomics’ (and ‘epigenetics’ and ‘epigenomics’)? What, if anything, can our genes really tell us - individually and collectively - about where we’ve come from, where we’re going to and how free we are?

LECTURER:

Sandy Starr
communications manager, Progress Educational Trust

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Xi’s China: new global power?

April 5, 2018

Only 35 years ago a predominantly peasant economy, China has become the largest trading nation in the world. It is also remarkable that China has relinquished its status as environmental pariah to become a critic of the US president’s rejection of the Paris climate accords. Only recently a communist outsider, China is now a capitalist powerbroker, most notably in dealing with the challenge of North Korea. Can there be a peaceful adjustment of the West’s global domination to accommodate the rise of the new Eastern superpower? Is the demise of the West exaggerated? Is there a serious risk of military conflict?

JONATHAN FENBY
author, Will China Dominate the 21st Century? managing partner, TS Lombard

ALAN HUDSON
visiting professor, Shanghai Jiaotong University; director, programmes in leadership and public policy, University of Oxford

DR CHUN-YI LEE
assistant professor, The School of Politics and International Relations; director, Taiwan Studies Programme

DR LINDA YUEH
economist, broadcaster and author; adjunct professor of economics, London Business School

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Silicon Valley: from heroes to zeroes?

March 26, 2018

Silicon Valley used to be regarded as the global hub of entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. It was the home of the world’s best technologies, new products and services. Yet today, Silicon Valley’s tech companies seem to have become the twenty-first-century equivalent of mediaeval robber barons. They are condemned for fleecing customers, evading taxes, and pocketing monopoly profits. Once associated with freedom, Silicon Valley is now condemned as the agency of global surveillance. Has it gone from overhype to over-reach? Or given emerging new technologies – such as express transit systems, autonomous vehicles and biotech – is the criticism mostly unfair?

SPEAKERS

JAMIE BARTLETT
director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos; author, Radicals; presenter, BBC’s The Secrets of Silicon Valley

DANIEL BEN-AMI
journalist; author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress

ANDREW BERNSTEIN
author, The Capitalist Manifesto: the historic, economic, and philosophic case for laissez-faire; affiliate, Ayn Rand Institute

LAUREN RAZAVI
managing director, Flibl; award-winning writer and consultant

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Was it Big Data wot won it? Political campaigning today

March 18, 2018

How could so many people be convinced to vote for Donald Trump? Why did so many Brits vote to leave the EU, despite almost unanimous advice from experts, political leaders and celebrities that we should remain? Some attribute these results to the power of Big Data, specifically to the high-tech psychological marketing techniques of a company called Cambridge Analytica. Can the manipulation of data really swing important votes? What are the implications of this approach for privacy and democracy? What does the assumption that a few targeted messages can influence voters’ decisions tell us about elite attitudes towards the electorate?

SPEAKERS

JAMIE BARTLETT
director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos; author, The Dark Net and Radicals; presenter, BBC’s The Secrets of Silicon Valley

CAROLE CADWALLADR
feature writer, Observer

SIMON COOKE
member, Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing; leader of the Conservative group, Bradford City Council

TIMANDRA HARKNESS journalist, writer and broadcaster; presenter, FutureProofing; author, Big Data: does size matter?

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Safety first: do we live in a ‘cotton-wool society’?

March 9, 2018

Recording of the debate at Battle of Ideas 2017 (https://www.battleofideas.org.uk/session/safety-first/)

The ‘safety first’ outlook, intending to keep us safe by imagining the worst, risks increasing our sense of existential insecurity. Always anticipating catastrophe may mean over-reacting, especially in the fields of science, health and technology. We have become the victims of scaremongering over theoretical risks – from mobile phone radiation or the latest strain of flu, even from familiar foods such as sugar and salt.

Has safety become an aim in itself, divorced from a common-sense assessment of risk? Does the desire to eliminate all danger undermine individual freedom? Is it time to confront the dangers of our ‘safety first’ society?

SPEAKERS

Richard Angell
director, Progress

Terry Barnes
principal, Cormorant Policy Advice; fellow, Institute of Economic Affairs; former special adviser to two Australian health ministers

Professor Bill Durodié
chair of international relations, former head of department, University of Bath

Dr Clare Gerada
medical director, NHS Practitioner Health Programme; former chair, Royal College of General Practitioners

Lenore Skenazy
'America’s Worst Mom'; president, Let Grow; founder, Free-Range Kids book, blog and movement

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Putin’s Russia: a new Cold War?

March 2, 2018

The Russian government is now routinely portrayed as a threat to the West, both on the international stage, in Ukraine and Syria, and in domestic politics, accused of interfering in elections.

Russia is certainly back on the world stage and no longer prepared to accept Western-backed regime change, but to what extent does Russia represent a threat? Does Russia have legitimate interests that it is entitled to defend as much as Britain is? Is Putin simply playing a weak hand well? Does Russia loom large, not because it is relatively strong, but because Western governments themselves lack direction?

SPEAKERS

Mary Dejevsky
former foreign correspondent in Moscow, Paris and Washington; special correspondent in China; writer and broadcaster

Dr Tara McCormack
lecturer, international politics, University of Leicester

Dr Lukasz Pawlowski
managing editor & columnist, Kultura Liberalna

Sir Adam Thomson KCMG
director, European Leadership Network

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