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Mixed Mental Arts

As kids, we're like little sponges blindly copying culture from the people around us. The cultures into which we were all born evolved to fit very old agricultural environments. Each contains timeless wisdom about human affairs but none of them is ideally suited to navigating the ever-changing environment in which we find ourselves.The goal of Mixed Mental Arts is to steal the best cultural software from everywhere and apply the core principle of Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do "Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own." Welcome to the dojo! We're excited to learn from you.

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Ep 300 - How To Set The Right Goals, Man : Jordan B. Peterson Enters The Dojo

In our 300th episode, Bryan Callen talks with Jordan Peterson about his self authoring program, the Wilfred Laurier scandal, political polarization, how to set the right goals, sex, and individualism. Check out the High Def Video Version of this episode on our YouTube Channel. Search "Mixed Mental Arts" on YouTube, man! Follow us and stuff.

1hr 30mins

31 Dec 2017

Rank #1

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Ep220 - Mixed Mental Arts: Jordan B. Peterson

When Canada began passing laws that limited what Professor Peterson could say in the name of political correctness, he felt compelled to speak out. And so, in three YouTube videos, he laid out his case for why he would not be complying with the law…in the most reasonable and Canadian way possible. Professor Peterson is a practicing and research psychologist at the University of Toronto and like countless other campuses the University of Toronto has become a place full of people who are going full Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. In fact, a tiny fraction of individuals have decided that there aren't just two gender identities or even three but up to seventy...and they all have different pronouns they want to be addressed by. The reality is that any policy or set of behaviors comes at a cost. Competing goods must be weighed against each other. Words are tools for communication and having seventy sets of pronouns makes communication clumsy. What's more important? Protecting the weak is great but setting off a witch hunt that potentially takes psychologists like Jordan B. Peterson out of working with patients does potentially greater harm. Which is more important? In practice though, the behavior on college campuses is just as listener @TWestGate put it the ouroboros. It is the snake eating its own tail. What is the final result of an academic culture that believes in human reason and is massively atomistic? It's a culture so obsessed with individuality that any weird thought that wanders across a person's brain has to be treated seriously, especially when the person is claiming historical oppression. The sad truth is that Social Justice Warriors aren't bad students. They're great students who have just taken academia's cultural biases to the end of the line. Everyone is now a special snowflake and any claim you make about yourself has to be treated seriously. In the end though, there is further insanity coming such as otherkin. These are humans who believe they're not humans. Instead, they believe they are vampires or werewolves or fairies or wolf-dog hybrids. These even more special individuals want their unique identity recognized too!!! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the snake is eating its own tail. At a certain point though, it just becomes too much. People like Jordan B Peterson can't put up with it anymore. As Bryan points out, alumni are refusing to donate. And, increasingly, people are wondering why anyone would pay $120,000 and spend four years to be surrounded by thinking that is, frankly, garbage.

1hr 14mins

1 Nov 2016

Rank #2

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Ep120 - Asa Akira

Bryan sits down with pornstar and author of "Insatiable: Porn - A Love Story," Asa Akira. She's been in the porn industry for several years and and has been cleaning house at the Adult Video Awards (AVN) for the past 3 years. Plus, she's already in the works with her second book. Follow her on Twitter, twitter.com/AsaAkira.

1hr 3mins

24 Apr 2014

Rank #3

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Ep206 - Our Final Invention? with Nick Bostrum


7 May 2016

Rank #4

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Ep90 - Michael Callen

Back by popular demand, Bryan sits down with his dad, Michael Callen. They talk about a variety of different things, from professional schooling and the changes they are encountering, as well as the differences regarding traditional schooling verses online. Be sure to Rate and Comment on iTunes.


2 Jan 2014

Rank #5

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Ep158 - Barb Oakley

Barb Oakley may be a Professor of Engineering now but all through high school she was a self-professed math hater. She got a D in geometry…twice. She far preferred to follow her passions for literature and languages than waste her time doing something that seemed worthless. After joining the army, learning fluent Russian and getting a degree in it, she was assigned to work as a communications officer and found herself suddenly surrounded by engineers. She realized that unless she made a serious course correction her opportunities in life were going to be severely limited. So, she decided to follow her non-passion and master mathematics. In her latest book, A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Mathematics (even if you flunked Algebra), Barb (as she insists we all call her) lays out the simple techniques that she, top teachers and students have used and that you can use too to master mathematics…or anything. What makes Barb’s latest book so interesting is how it fits in with her previous books. While this book heavily explores the individual’s power to determine what their brains become, previous books like Evil Genes and Pathological Altruism explore the parts of human nature that are hard-wired within us. In this interview, we further explore the relation of Nature + Nurture and how ideological agendas can distort the fearless investigation of the science. All of Barb’s books are available on Amazon. We’ll be reading them all and bringing her back on the show. (Huge thanks to David Sloan Wilson for recommending her.) In other news, Barb is starting a Learning How to Learn MOOC this Friday (aka tomorrow) on Coursera. You can find it here: https://www.coursera.org/course/learning. It looks awesome. Just like Barb. Here are the links to the studies Barb mentioned in the show: McCord, Joan. "A Thirty-Year Follow-up of Treatment Effects." American Psychologist 33, no. 3 (1978): 284. And here’s the link to the study on the virtually non-existent replication of research in education: Matthew Makel, Jonathan Plucker, “Facts Are More Important Than Novelty: Replication in the Education Sciences,” Educational Researcher, August 14, 2014. DOI: 10.3102/0013189X14545513 There’s also a very nice popular article discussion of Makel and Plucker’s study from Inside Higher Ed: “Failure to Replicate,” by Charlie Tyson

1hr 1min

2 Oct 2014

Rank #6

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Ep194 - Peter Turchin: Transforming History Into Science

Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, Hari Seldon figures out how to create a mathematical model that can predict the future. Well, Wired magazine has described today's guest as a 'real-life Hari Seldon." Peter Turchin began his career as a biologist but is currently at the forefront of a field called cliodynamics which uses the past as a data set to develop mathematical models that can predict how societies behave. In his latest book Ultrasociety: How 10,000 Years of War Made Humans the Greatest Cooperators on Earth, Turchin examines how the forces of history have driven humans to forge the cultural tools that make the truly massive societies we see today possible. Besides providing a bold new view of history, Ultrasociety provides an excellent lens through which to understand human history informed by everything from evolutionary science to economics and anthropology. Guest Links Website: http://peterturchin.com/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/Peter_Turchin Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peter.turchin Guest Promo Product 1: http://www.amazon.com/Ultrasociety-Years-Humans-Greatest-Cooperators-ebook/dp/B0185P69LU/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8 Product 2: http://www.amazon.com/War-Peace-Rise-Fall-Empires/dp/0452288193/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448079035&sr=8-1&keywords=war+and+peace+and+war Product 3: http://www.amazon.com/Secular-Cycles-Peter-Turchin/dp/0691136963/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1448079049&sr=8-1&keywords=secular+cycles


21 Nov 2015

Rank #7

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Ep137 - Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck had a simple question she wanted answered: why did some people take failure so personally while others seemed to thrive on it? Beginning her work with students, she realized that the key difference was in how students thought about their intelligence. Some students thought their intelligence was an in-born quality. They believed that no matter how much they practiced they could only take their intelligence so far. For these students, failures were devastating because they said something about the student’s basic ability. Since failure was such an unpleasant experience they avoided challenges that might lead to failure. Their mindset (which Professor Dweck refers to as “fixed) affected every one of their choices in school. On the other hand, students with what Professor Dweck calls a growth mindset did not view mistakes as a set to their basic value. They could fail, learn and get better. The result was that they sought out challenges and continued to grow.In the last few decades, Professor Dweck’s research has been taken to fields far beyond education and the power of a growth mindset in business, in relationships and in parenting. Of course, the idea of a growth mindset runs counter to many of America’s prevailing notions about ability. While people with fixed mindsets pay lip service to the idea that practice makes perfect, their actions reveal a very different story. We have all grown up in what Professor Dweck calls “The Age of IQ” in which it is believed that people have fixed abilities. In this interview, reveals that her life’s work is to undo the mischief caused by one man and to restore the growth mindset that is the foundation of the success of American or any other society. Be sure to rate and comment in iTunes. Also, you can find the show on Stitcher.


21 Jul 2014

Rank #8

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Ep 280 - Outsmart Your Instincts: How Cognitive Biases Can Get In The Way Of Innovation With Adam Hansen

Adam Hansen is an #ideasex professional. At Ideas To Go, an innovation consultancy to the biggest companies in the world, Adam helps teams innovate. His great passion is to let everyone know that innovation isn’t some magical thing that only some people can do. It’s something humans are born doing. We love to play and experiment but most of us get that creativity trained out of us. In his book, Outsmart Your Instincts, Adam teaches people the cognitive biases that can get in the way of innovation. We’re incredibly lucky to have Adam as a member of the Mixed Mental Arts community and to be able to help give him a platform to help teach the world how to rediscover the confidence to innovate. #ideasex is the Brown Belt of the Mixed Mental Arts Belt System and we could ask for no better brown belt master than Adam Hansen.

1hr 26mins

25 Oct 2017

Rank #9

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Ep174 - Stephen Kotkin

When Professor Stephen Kotkin set out to write a biography of Stalin, he faced a series of challenges. Perhaps first and foremost, people already thought they knew who Stalin was. The world’s view of Stalin has been shaped by opponents like Trotsky and the West. The result is that we interpret the atrocities of Stalin’s rule as the actions of a monster. The far more disturbing possibility laid out by Professor Kotkin is that far from being a cardboard cutout Hollywood valid, Stalin was a fully fleshed out human being…who truly believed in the cause of Communism.Professor Stephen Kotkin is the John P. Birkelund Professor in History and International Affairs. His biography of Stalin will appear in three parts. The first part Stalin: Paradoxes of Power is available on Amazon now.


27 Nov 2014

Rank #10

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Ep235 - The Art of Charm: Really Mean It

Recently, I appeared on Chris Ryan's Tangentially Speaking podcast and afterwards had a conversation with Euan Grant in the Mixed Mental Arts Facebook Group. Euan said something really interesting: "Have started listening to Hunter Maats on Tangentially Speaking and like the thought of podcast hosts being on the MMA pod, those that have interviewed many experts, what have they 'the common person' learnt? Like when Hunter does a review show with Bryan." I liked Euan's idea a lot and, fortunately, I had an interview already scheduled with Jordan Harbinger of the Art of Charm podcast. And so, off we went. It turns out that although on the surface our podcasts seem very different there are a lot of common threads there. Jordan started his podcast to answer his own questions. I highjacked Bryan's podcast and turned it into a show where we could both talk to our intellectual crushes. And, inevitably, in doing hundreds or in the case of the Art of Charm probably close to a thousand episodes, we've learned a lot that has caused us to evolve far beyond what we originally started doing. Both podcasts have come to focus heavily on why humans behave the way they do. While the internet is full of articles promising that this "one weird trick" will teach you to be charming, Jordan offers a more sobering and realistic reality. If you want to win friends and influence people, a firm handshake won't do it. Why? Because the human brain evolved to spot bullshit. Social intelligence is humanity's superpower and much of that is devoted to figuring out who is trying to manipulate us, cheat us or otherwise dupe us. The real art of charm is to mean it. It's the result of countless hours of work on yourself. As Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time." In the end, the human brain's hinky meter is amazing at spotting when something is off...even if sometimes as Jordan and Hunter discuss you sometimes foolishly override it. In the last episode, Bryan and I talked about how the key to surviving and thriving in the Information Age is to put the white belt on. Although I couldn't have anticipated it, this interview with Jordan ended up being the perfect follow up because it debunks the very notion of shortcuts. There are more and less effective ways to learn but there is no circumventing the work on yourself and on the challenge in front of you. Putting the white belt on every day is the first vital step to really entering on the path to mastery in any area. And that's where Jordan's skills become especially useful as we build more Mixed Mental Arts dojos. Jordan knows how to run a successful, profitable podcast. What happens when those skills are combined with the knowledge we've picked up about cultural evolution to make an even better Mixed Mental Arts? Well, I'd like to find out. Mixed Mental Arts belongs to no one. It's an ever evolving approach. The more heads we put together the better this will all get. Euan's suggestion was a brilliant one. Can we unite the podcast clans?

1hr 34mins

21 Mar 2017

Rank #11

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Ep148 - David Sloan Wilson

Darwin had a problem with bees. Understanding how evolution might work at the level of individuals was easy. Have an individual whose genes give them an advantage in resisting disease or avoiding predators and on average they will breed more and pass on more of their genes to the next generation. But bees and other social insects weren’t so easy. Kamikaze-like, bees will dive in and sting you, their barbs getting stuck in you and die to save the hive. Of course, when a human being sacrifices their life to save their child, that’s easy enough for evolution to explain. By sacrificing your life for your child, you are helping to ensure that your genes are passed on. But the bee that stings you at a picnic, can’t have children because those bees are sterile. In the Origin of Species, Darwin referred to sterile subgroups as the "one special difficulty, which at first appeared to me insuperable, and actually fatal to my theory.” Nowadays, evolutionary biologists have no problem providing an explanation for this behavior. In fact, the problem is that they have two competing explanations with explanations not just for bees but for how evolution makes sense of religion. Biologists like Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne argue that the bee gives its life because by defending the hive it is helping to pass on the genes of its closely related hive mates. They deny that natural selection can operate at the level of groups and so large human social organizations (like religion) have no function. Biologists like EO Wilson and today’s guest David Sloan Wilson argue that selection can happen not only at the level of individuals but also at the level of groups. If that’s the case, then our groupishness (including religion) are useful. As you can imagine, the idea that religion could be on balance or even sometimes useful is something that people like Dawkins take issue with. The consequences of this rift are beautifully summed up in Jon Haidt’s Righteous Mind: "To Dennett and Dawkins, religions are sets of memes that have undergone Darwinian selection. Like biological traits, religions are heritable, they mutate, and there is selection among these mutations. The selection occurs not on the basis of the benefits religions confer upon individuals or groups but on the basis of their ability to survive and reproduce themselves. Some religions are better than others at hijacking the human mind, burrowing in deeply, and then getting themselves transmitted to the next generation of host minds. Dennett opens Breaking the Spell with the story of a tiny parasite that commandeers the brains of ants, causing them to climb to the tops of blades of grass, where they can more easily be eaten by grazing animals. The behavior is suicide for the ant, but it’s adaptive for the parasite, which requires the digestive system of a ruminant to reproduce itself. Dennett proposes that religions survive because , like those parasites, they make their hosts do things that are bad for themselves (e.g., suicide bombing) but good for the parasite (e.g., Islam). Dawkins similarly describes religions as viruses. Just as a cold virus makes its host sneeze to spread itself, successful religions make their hosts expend precious resources to spread the “infection.” These analogies have clear implications for social change. If religion is a virus or a parasite that exploits a set of cognitive by-products for its benefit, not ours, then we ought to rid ourselves of it. Scientists , humanists, and the small number of others who have escaped infection and are still able to reason must work together to break the spell, lift the delusion, and bring about the end of faith.” To be clear, Professor Wilson is not saying that religion is here to stay. He is saying that our tendency towards groupishness (including religion) is an outcome of evolution and that in thinking about religion we have to recognize that. Once you understand that perspective, you begin to see how science and religion can finally start talking to each other. Professor Wilson is president of the Evolution Institute (http://evolution-institute.org ) and SUNY Distinguished Professor at Binghamton University. His books include Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society, Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way we Think About Our Lives, and The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time. His next book, titled Does Altruism Exist? will be published in 2015 by Yale University Press. The Books Professor Wilson mentioned were Complexity and the art of public policy by David Colander and Roland Kupers, Give and Take by Adam Grant and Evil Genes by Barbara Oakley.


28 Aug 2014

Rank #12

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Ep 251 - Navigating the #Jobocalypse with Jon Aguilar: What Kind of Smith Are You?

After Bryan and I did our episode on the #Jobocalypse, someone rightly commented on the Mixed Mental Arts subreddit that this was all great but what practically do I do? Well, this episode is a practical response to that. Mixed Mental Arts is not just about identifying problems but empowering you to solve them for yourselves. Part of that is going to be teaching you how to learn, unlearn and relearn. That's something the Mixed Mental Arts community will be doing taking everything that's in The Straight-A Conspiracy and everything else we've learned in the last 200 interviews, breaking those ideas down into easy, bite-sized chunks and giving them away. The other thing we're going to be doing is introducing you to people who have made the transition into the new economy to give you a playbook on how you can do that too. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jon Aguilar. Jon Aguilar works in what may be the oldest profession. No, he's not a prostitute. He works with dry stone. It literally doesn't get much older than that. Stone on top of stone with no mortar. And yet, Jon Aguilar is thriving in the new economy. That's because he's transformed this oldest of professions by bringing to it a spirit of exploration and Motivation 3.0. Jon reads voraciously. He's constantly rethinking his craft. And he's always learning, unlearning and relearning. In the end, surviving in the new economy doesn't mean you have to become a computer coder. Far from it. In fact, you may end up doing the job you were doing in the old economy BUT you approach it in a very different spirit. You think of yourself and approach your work as a craftsman. In this episode, Jon describes how in 2007 he really started to take his craft seriously as something to be mastered and refined and the books and ideas that were useful to him in evolving his own approach up to this point. Jon is also a fount of t-shirt ideas. I'm sure the Unicorn (@madonna_matt) and Unikitty (@nicoleleepage) will run with some of them. Personally, I'm going to put in a request for "Embrace The Suck" and "What Kind of Smith Are You?" Maybe an "Ideasmith" t-shirt. I defer to them. Pretty sure that something awesome will emerge from this great improv we're all in. You can find out more of the tools Jon is using to navigate the #Jobocalypse here including resources for people looking to become or looking to connect with apprentices. Jon's Stonesmith business = www.heritageearthandstone.com Jon's Facebook = "Heritage Earth & Stone" Jon's Instagram = "jonaguilar_designworks" The Consortium of Craftsmen, Innovators & Thinkers = www.throughstonegroup.com The Consortium's Instagram + Facebook + YouTube channel (will be online by May 1st) = "Throughstone Group" [mbm_book_grid id="1287"] And if you want to buy a sweet Jobocalypse t-shirt and support Mixed Mental Arts at the SAME TIME then go here.

1hr 37mins

4 May 2017

Rank #13

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Ep161 - Michael Malice

Michael Malice is has co-written books with MMA legend Matt Hughes, comedian DL Hughley and legendary rocker Brett Michaels but we brought him on to talk about the celebrity biography of one Kim Jong Il. In Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il, Michael Malice takes you through the life of North Korea’s dictator as he would have seen it. All of the weirdness that the Western Media likes to use as comedic fodder, but that is only the reader’s way into the book: the real purpose of the book is to bring us face-to-face with the uncomfortable reality of North Korea. In this interview, Michael Malice tells us why he felt compelled the book and gives us a look not just inside the Hermit Kingdom but inside the thoughts and psychology of dictators and the people they oppress. But, as Bryan and Hunter discover, Michael also reveals that he’s one interesting dude. So interesting in fact that when Harvey Pekar, creator of the American Splendor comic book series, met Michael in 2003 they ended up talking for hours…and then Harvey realizing that Michael was one of the most creative, unusual, confusing and fascinating people Harvey had ever met…and then Harvey decided to write a book all about Michael. The result is Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story. For a list of all of Michael’s books, please visit: http://www.michaelmalice.com/books/.

1hr 5mins

14 Oct 2014

Rank #14

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Ep170 - Vanessa Tyson, Part 5

Vanessa Tyson is a Professor of Government at the Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. In this fifth episode of our series of conversations with Vanessa, Bryan is missing again. So, Hunter and Vanessa take their seditiousness one step further and mutiny…briefly. In this episode, Vanessa and Hunter discuss the narratives the political parties build and how buying into them can do us a disservice. You can follow Vanessa on twitter at @vanessactyson. Her book Twists of Fate: Multiracial Coalitions and Minority Representation in the US House will be coming out in 2015. We’ll be buying it and when it does come out, we’ll be bringing her back on to discuss that. In the meantime, stay tuned for round of Tyson.

1hr 5mins

13 Nov 2014

Rank #15

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Ep 314 Saving the Republic: Lawrence Lessig

Lawrence Lessig ran for President of the United States in 2016. He lost, and we got Donald Trump instead. Lessig is a Harvard Law professor whose book, "Republic Lost" outlines exactly how the swamp in Washington DC got so swampy to begin with. Go to lessig.org for more information. Don’t forget to support us on Patreon


8 Feb 2018

Rank #16

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Ep 328 - Culture Matters, From the Frozen North: Martin Totland

Martin Totland is a half-Swedish journalist and photographer from Norway. Cate Fogarty lived in Norway for three years. Under the careful moderation of Hunter ‘The Flying Dutchman’ Maats, they discuss the pros and cons of Scandinavian culture vs. the pros and cons of US culture, the Norwegian ‘Law of Jante,’ the Swedish mindset of ‘Lagom,’ the importance of dried cod in Norway’s 15th century economy, and the historical roots of the holistic, collectivist mindset often found in the frigid North. Don't forget to go to https://mixedmentalarts.online and check out the book list. Buy books through our amazon link, and use our Audible link to sign up! Go to our Patreon page, and if you've got some change, feel free to pitch in!

1hr 14mins

19 Mar 2018

Rank #17

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Ep 253 - Why Doesn't Western Medicine Turn Us On?

One of the biggest questions I get when I tell people about atomistic and holistic biases is whether this affects Western medicine. Well, yes. It actually does. And secretly behind the scenes for quite some time now, I've been familiarizing myself with a series of medical innovations that quite simply haven't diffused. Why? Because they don't fit within Western medicine's cultural biases. WHAT?!? Are you saying you know more about medicine than doctors?!? Who in the heck are you? Exactly. Even saying things like this sets off people's intuitions of authority. Medical doctors are brilliant. They're great. I'd far rather have a surgeon do surgery on me than me do surgery on me. However, doctors are also human. And all humans blindly copy culture from the people they're in awe of without them even realizing it. And so, the Romans blindly copied atomism from the Ancient Greeks whom they were in awe of. And then everyone else in the West blindly got atomistic biases from the West because they were in awe of them. The result is that baked into the very structure of medicine is an atomistic structure. You can see it in the way medical care is delivered. Medicine divides up the body into lots of tiny subspecialties. If you have back pain, you go to a back doctor and that doctor looks at that localized region. The problem is that the body is all interconnected. Very often, the problem with your back often originates with a lack of dorsiflexion in your foot. Those forces are then transmitted all the way up your legs and express as a back problem even though the real issue is the foot. How many unnecessary back surgeries are performed around the world? We just don't know. But we're committed to helping doctors create awareness of their cultural biases so that we can make sure that medicine's cultural blindspots don't cause it to miss out on simpler and less harmful opportunities for care. If I'd met Tony Molina straight out of college, I would have thought he was straight up nuts. My reaction would have been "WHAT?!? Are you saying you know more about medicine than doctors?!? Who in the heck are you?" I would have gotten #Triggered and blindly defended my culture. And I would not have been behaving scientifically. Science isn't about intuitions about human authority. It is about the evidence. And so, when I met Tony Molina more recently, I still thought he was kind of nuts, but through The Straight-A Conspiracy and The Bryan Callen Show, I'd seen the ways in which ideas didn't diffuse. And so, I spotted something. Here was a man who had done everything his culture had told him to do. He'd pored over the data. He'd learned what it all added up to. And he had confronted people with that data...only to be repeatedly dismissed because he didn't have the right credentials. Humans--including doctors it turns out--don't respond to facts. They respond to stories. They have to get WHY things work. They have to get WHY doctors don't get these things. And they have to be told a story where none of this is anyone's fault. We all blindly copied a culture from our parents. Now, it's time to reflect and evolve a better culture. It's time to ask simply "Why Doesn't Western Medicine Turn Us On?"

1hr 12mins

10 May 2017

Rank #18

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Ep. 310 Church and Science Come to the Table

Hunter sits down to the table with Sean McCoy, a person who was been inspired in part by Mixed Mental Arts to start his own podcast. They talk Christianity, Science, and how to communicate with someone who disagrees with you.

1hr 26mins

29 Jan 2018

Rank #19

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Ep240 - Humanity's Long Journey Home: We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

About a month ago, Hunter was on Chris Ryan's Tangentially Speaking podcast. (It's episode 234 if you're interested.) I can't speak for Chris but I had a really great time. Some people on Twitter enjoyed the convo too. Someone even said they were happy that I'd finally found my soulmate. I was disappointed that my soulmate would be a married DUDE...but Twitter don't lie! And so, Chris and I scheduled a second conversation. Two plus hours later my faith in the wisdom of crowds is greater than it has ever been. Chris not only is my soulmate but he succeeded in bringing me to the point of tears. Legitimately, my eyes made water. Chris Ryan extracted my cultural confession from me. One of the patterns that Chris drew out in this conversation is that so much of humanity's cutting edge thinking rests on looking back to how Hunter-Gatherers lived to see what lessons we can learn from them. In short, humanity is trying to return to what it knew before. This is the nature of the Hero's Journey. A hero leaves the tribe and sets out on a quest to find something or solve some problem for the tribe. In the oldest sense, they leave the security of the village to hunt and gather to bring food back for the tribe. In so doing, they risk their lives and face trials from nature, plants and animals. Eventually, the face the ordeal that requires them to draw on all they've learned. If they succeed, they return to the village with their prize. A long time ago, humanity set out on an epic hero's journey. Something was missing from village life. What was it? That's actually a quite tough question. Life for hunter-gatherers is remarkably good. And yet, set out we did. We engaged in agriculture. We enslaved each other. We built great Empires and those Empires fought great wars. Religious and cultural movements swept across the globe. And now, with all we've achieved in our mastery over the natural world, many of us find ourselves looking back with longing to a time of strong communities and social belonging. We want to go back home. However, as Chris and I discuss in this podcast, we cannot turn back yet. For first, we must face the ordeal. What is that ordeal? The fear of our own mortality. And that, ladies and gentlemen, has been the ordeal all along. We have built great pyramids and statues. We have conquered vast Empires. We have created great works of art. And all of it has crumbled away. Shortly after the British Museum acquired a piece of a great broken statue of Ramesses II, the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote Ozymandias about the vanity of thinking that any monument to your own greatness would last. Since time immemorial, mankind has sought the elixir of life and the fountain of youth in the hopes that we would cheat death. And now, there are those among us who believe they will cheat death forever. Men like Ray Kurzweil believe that through the magic of technology we will achieve immortality. And perhaps, we will. But what is it that we want. What do we hunger for? Why as our technology rushes forward do we find ourselves looking back? Chris is fond of a quote from T.S. Eliot "We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." That is the hero's journey. And perhaps man's hero's journey is not a straight line up and up forever. Perhaps in some sense it is one great circle. Whatever great technologies and elixirs we find, perhaps it will not be enough for us to have it. The great joy of the reward that we have hunted and gathered is in returning to share it with the tribe. And that is what we have lost. We have lost community. The challenge of Mixed Mental Arts is to evolve a culture that draws on the best of all times and places. Some of those places we left a long time ago. Chris' favorite quote has a special resonance for me. Robert McNamara quotes it in the Fog of War. For all his explorations and great statistical knowledge, McNamara in the end found solace in the words of a poet who talked about returning home. And that is very much my own experience. I have now wandered widely through the science. But all of those explorations have brought me to where I started. I have had to rediscover a sense of childlike wonder, of curiosity and of a desire for the sort of community that existed 10,000 years ago before the rise of agriculture. Can we have it all? I think we can. And I'm sure as heck willing to devote my life to trying. Chris reminds me in this podcast that Robert McNamara's middle name was "Strange." Robert "Strange" McNamara. And that's fitting. Life is strange. It just gets curiouser and curiouser once you leave your culture behind. And I'm excited to see how deep the rabbit hole goes...even if when I reach the bottom I find I come back out on top. "We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - T.S. Eliot

2hr 13mins

11 Apr 2017

Rank #20