In March of 2016, a group of scientists reported a startling discovery from the forests of central Japan: syntax, the property of speech that enables it to express limitless meanings, was not unique to human languages. It had been observed in the vocal system of a bird. In her acclaimed new novel The Study of Animal Languages, published last month by Viking-Penguin and written by When We Talk About Animals co-host Lindsay Stern, a biologist named Prue conducts a similar experiment in her laboratory at a New England liberal arts college. Like the actual study, hers is touted as evidence that animals have yet another capacity we assumed made us unique. But in a speech at the heart of the book, where Prue announces her findings, she suggests that the study teaches us more about ourselves than it does about the animal in question. We speak with Lindsay about the limitations of conscience, the spiritual costs of the Anthropocene, and fiction’s capacity to explore the motives behind our search for animal minds.
Monthly Archives: March 2019
Dale has written some of the most memorable and enjoyable comedies of the last few decades, including two of the WGA’s 101 Funniest Screenplays Of All Time. From My Cousin Vinny to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to Ruthless People, Dale’s scripts poke fun at the class system, and champion the underdog against whatever ruling system is in place. These are laugh out loud comedies that aren’t afraid to be smart. Join Aaron and Dale for a wide ranging conversation about Dale’s process and career.
Yale Divinity School Professor Sarah Drummond discusses the relationship between business and religion, how business and faith leaders can successfully implement change, and reorienting the leadership of the Catholic Church.
In mountainous regions of the world, there are human societies that use whistled languages to transmit and understand a potentially unlimited number of meanings over great distances. While in graduate school, Dr. Diana Reiss began to wonder: If humans can encode great amounts of information in whistles, perhaps much more is going on with the whistles of dolphins than we once thought. Reiss
is an internationally renowned expert on dolphin intelligence and a Professor of Psychology at Hunter College in New York City. With colleagues, she was the first to demonstrate
that dolphins can recognize themselves in mirrors, a capability once thought to be unique to humans, and has taught dolphins to communicate with underwater interactive keyboards. In this episode, she describes how she got early support for her work from SETI
researchers, John Lilly’s complex role in shaping scientific and public interest in dolphins, the parallels between dolphin and human whistle languages, the importance of anecdotal experiences in science, and her advocacy work to end dolphins hunts in Japan.
In the third installment of Yale Journal of Biology & Medicine’s series on ecology and evolution, YJBM podcast hosts Neal Ravindra and Kartiga Selvaganesan interview Richard Prum. Professor Prum is the William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, a faculty member in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and affiliated with Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. He is also the author of the recent book, The Evolution of Beauty, which was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer prize. We discuss some of the concepts in that book and topics in his current research program during the episode.