Science Corner: When Holidays Are Complex

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Some listening suggestions for your holiday travels. Also, traffic patterns are a topic in complexity science. (Photo by jonbgem )

Traveling for Thanksgiving? Need something to listen to? Allow me to suggest some podcasts that may provide both topics to discuss around the table on Thursday and some tips on how to approach those conversations. I hope that all of you who are celebrating have the opportunity to spend the day with loved ones in a mutually supportive environment, but I appreciate not everyone may have such an opportunity. Perhaps somewhere in the conversations below you will find some encouragement for cultivating better dialogues in your context.

The first podcast is Complexity from the Santa Fe Institute, a multidisciplinary research center for complexity science. Complexity science is basically an antithesis to reductionism, focusing on multi-component heterogenous systems and the dynamics that arise from their various parts interacting. A recent episode featured economist Rajiv Sethi talking about stereotypes and the criminal justice system. There is some interesting discussion on how stereotypes can causes biases in outcomes like who gets incarcerated even if many interactions in the process are unbiased. In the middle of the conversation, Sethi also mentions more general work on disagreements, identifying their roots, and finding ways to move beyond them.

And since Thanksgiving celebrations center around food, you might enjoy this two-part conversation with Jennifer Dunne about food webs and ways in which humans have been positively integrated into a food ecosystem.

Next up is the Language of God podcast from BioLogos. Recent guests included author Jonathan Merritt and radio host Krista Tippett, both of whom discuss their work on fostering new conversations across various ideological divides.

And if you want some more science in your science & faith podcast, try this episode with Lynette Strickland about beetles, an engagingly diverse set of creatures for which Strickland has a deep enthusiasm.

Finally, the Science Social Hour podcast may be a smaller production and hasn’t had a new episode in a while (host Matthew Facciani is an emerging scholar in the midst of an academic transition), the content itself is still worthwhile. I appreciated Bo Winegard’s discussion of tribalism and how it impacts our political discourse and other sociological interactions, including a look at academic tribes.

And of course I’m going to recommend the episode with Tara Smith, an infectious disease researcher who is also active in science communication and shares some experiences and thoughts on how to navigate the challenges of presenting technical material to a sometimes skeptical public.

Other episodes of all these podcasts are available if you need more listening material or are not interested in this particular topics. And Complexity also offers episode transcripts for those who prefer to read. I hope you find something here that enriches your Thanksgiving experience.

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Andy Walsh

Andy has worn many hats in his life. He knows this is a dreadfully clichéd notion, but since it is also literally true he uses it anyway. Among his current metaphorical hats: husband of one wife, father of two elementary school students, reader of science fiction and science fact, enthusiast of contemporary symphonic music, and chief science officer. Previous metaphorical hats include: comp bio postdoc, molecular biology grad student, InterVarsity chapter president (that one came with a literal hat), music store clerk, house painter, and mosquito trapper. Among his more unique literal hats: British bobby, captain's hats (of varying levels of authenticity) of several specific vessels, a deerstalker from 221B Baker St, and a railroad engineer's cap. His monthly Science in Review is drawn from his weekly Science Corner posts -- Wednesdays, 8am (Eastern) on the Emerging Scholars Network Blog. His book Faith across the Multiverse is available from Hendrickson.

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