The Power of Ideas at Rideau Hall

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Eleanor Fast, Director of Policy and Programming
Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

The Federation attended the Killam Prize Symposium at Rideau Hall yesterday. The event brought together the five 2013 Killam Prize winners for a fascinating exploration of the different themes of research represented by each, and was expertly moderated by Paul Kennedy, the host of Ideas on CBC. This year’s winners are: Lorne Babiuk of the University of Alberta in the health sciences category; John McGarry of Queen’s University for social sciences; Witold Pedrycz of the University of Alberta for engineering; Richard Peltier of the University of Toronto for natural sciences; and Paul Thagard of the University of Waterloo in the humanities category.

The Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, captured the spirit of the discussion perfectly, suggesting it demonstrated the best of the "power of ideas”. The symposium demonstrated the many links between different fields, and highlighted the richness of ideas that are generated when engineering, arts, humanities, social and natural sciences are all brought to bear on a question.  We heard how computer science can contribute to examining the deepest questions of philosophy, how research into empathy might help in climate science debates, and how the biomedical science of vaccine development could potentially link to the social science of conflict resolution – that’s just to name a few!

From the social sciences winner, John McGarry, we learned about conflict resolution and the need for inclusive approaches to the issue. Bridging the divide between the humanities and the sciences, the humanities winner, Paul Thagard, discussed how computer sciences and cognitive sciences can be applied to fundamental philosophical questions such as the role of emotion and the nature of consciousness.

Listen for yourself to Ideas on CBC Radio on Friday, November 29th at 9:00 p.m. (or afterward on the Ideas website) and enjoy the Power of Ideas.

Image courtesy of Will Foster.