Cover image of Think Again – a Big Think Podcast
(535)

Rank #26 in Books category

Arts
Society & Culture
Books

Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Updated 1 day ago

Rank #26 in Books category

Arts
Society & Culture
Books
Read more

We surprise some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. With host Jason Gots and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Mary-Louise Parker, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, Bill Nye, George Takei, Maria Popova, and many more . . .You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. So each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you've probably heard of with hand-picked gems from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. The conversation could go anywhere. SINCE 2008, BIG THINK has captured on video the best ideas of the world’s leading thinkers and doers in every field, renowned experts including neurologist Oliver Sacks, physicist Stephen Hawking, behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, authors Margaret Atwood and Marylinne Robinson, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, painter Chuck Close, and philosopher Daniel Dennett.

Read more

We surprise some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. With host Jason Gots and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Mary-Louise Parker, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, Bill Nye, George Takei, Maria Popova, and many more . . .You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. So each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you've probably heard of with hand-picked gems from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. The conversation could go anywhere. SINCE 2008, BIG THINK has captured on video the best ideas of the world’s leading thinkers and doers in every field, renowned experts including neurologist Oliver Sacks, physicist Stephen Hawking, behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, authors Margaret Atwood and Marylinne Robinson, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, painter Chuck Close, and philosopher Daniel Dennett.

iTunes Ratings

535 Ratings
Average Ratings
363
132
15
11
14

Profoundly beautiful show.

By peter dodo - Nov 13 2019
Read more
A treat every time, deep interviews with some incredible guests Thank you !!

Fantastic

By clint wolf - Jun 10 2019
Read more
A terrific podcast. Very interesting guests and topics. Thanks.

iTunes Ratings

535 Ratings
Average Ratings
363
132
15
11
14

Profoundly beautiful show.

By peter dodo - Nov 13 2019
Read more
A treat every time, deep interviews with some incredible guests Thank you !!

Fantastic

By clint wolf - Jun 10 2019
Read more
A terrific podcast. Very interesting guests and topics. Thanks.

Listen to:

Cover image of Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Think Again – a Big Think Podcast

Updated 1 day ago

Read more

We surprise some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. With host Jason Gots and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Mary-Louise Parker, Richard Dawkins, Margaret Atwood, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Saul Williams, Henry Rollins, Bill Nye, George Takei, Maria Popova, and many more . . .You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?Some of the best conversations happen when we're pushed outside of our comfort zones. So each week on Think Again, we surprise smart people you've probably heard of with hand-picked gems from Big Think's interview archives on every imaginable subject. The conversation could go anywhere. SINCE 2008, BIG THINK has captured on video the best ideas of the world’s leading thinkers and doers in every field, renowned experts including neurologist Oliver Sacks, physicist Stephen Hawking, behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman, authors Margaret Atwood and Marylinne Robinson, entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, painter Chuck Close, and philosopher Daniel Dennett.

25. Sam Harris (Neuroscientist) – Uncomfortable Conversations

Podcast cover
Read more

What are the limits of tolerance? Can people with fundamentally different world views coexist peacefully? Is faith incompatible with reason? In the wake of the recent Paris attacks, these questions are more pressing than ever.

In this week's episode philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris delves deep into all of the above with host Jason Gots, through the lenses of Islamic extremism, the telepathic powers of fiction, and what would happen to your identity if you could be replicated down to the atom.

Sam's latest book, Islam and the Future of Tolerance, is a dialogue with Maajid Nawaz, a former Islamic extremist now working for tolerance within and for the Muslim world.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Dec 05 2015

43mins

Play

2. Henry Rollins (Artist) – Monogamy/Sexual Opportunism

Podcast cover
Read more

Is monogamy ridiculous? Does this change with age? What do we really want out of love and sex?

In this week's episode of Big Think's Think Again podcast, we're joined by legendary hardcore musician and spoken word artist Henry Rollins.

This clip from columnist Dan Savage launches Henry and host Jason Gots on an intense, personal conversation about love, big cities, and whether the two are incompatible.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jun 27 2015

19mins

Play

218. Bill Bryson (writer) – the most extraordinary machine

Podcast cover
Read more

Do you have a body? I do, but I was mostly unaware of this fact until somewhere in my mid-30s, when my life strategy of living like a bourbon-loving brain-in-a-vat became increasingly untenable. Since then, I’ve come to understand something that might have been obvious to you all along. The body’s not just a convenient support system for coming up with clever things to say—it’s how we experience the world. It’s most of what we mean by living.

And for all its marvelous autonomy, it’s also wonderfully, bafflingly complex. My guest today is the author Bill Bryson. In his new book THE BODY: A GUIDE FOR OCCUPANTS, he has been kind enough to demystify it for us to the extent that that’s possible, and to help us revel in its mystery everywhere else. Bill is the beloved author of A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING and A WALK IN THE WOODS, and I’m delighted to have him on the show. 

Surprise conversation starters in this episode: 

Excerpted from Think Again episode #215 with Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Nov 02 2019

52mins

Play

61. Alison Gopnik (Developmental Psychologist) – Artificial Intelligence/Natural Stupidity

Podcast cover
Read more

Alison Gopnik is an internationally recognized expert in children’s learning and development. A professor of psychology and affiliate professor of philosophy at UC Berkeley, and the author of many books including the The Philosophical Baby. Her new book The Gardener and the Carpenter is a response to the fact that “parenting” has become a verb, a powerful middle class trend, a lucrative self-help industry, and sometimes a kind of bloodsport. Meanwhile developmental science paints a very different picture of how children grow and learn, and what it means to be a good parent. As Gopnik puts it, “It’s easy to say ‘just chill,’ but the advice is, basically, just chill!”  

On this week's episode of Think Again–a Big Think Podcast, Alison Gopnik and host Jason Gots discuss play, artificial intelligence, and the trouble with "parenting" as a verb. 

Surprise "conversation starter" interview clips in this episode:Ryan HolidaySteven Pinker, and Sonia Arrison

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 27 2016

46mins

Play

150. David Sedaris (humorist) – Sir David of the Spotless Roadways

Podcast cover
Read more

Life is full of horrible things. I dare you to deny it. Things like death, sickness, and alcoholism. And did I mention death, which lies in wait for us all? But if you talk about these things at dinner parties, or at work, or to someone you have just met in line at the grocery store, you risk being branded a negative person. In some circles, such as the state of California,  negativity is like leprosy. It can really mess up your social life.

This does not seem to trouble my guest today, who has spent much of his life turning horrible, true stories into festive comedy. like many people, I first heard David Sedaris’ unmistakable voice on public radio in the late 90s. My sister and I took a couple of his audio books on a road trip across America in her red Saturn with a bumper sticker on the back that read “Humanity is Trying”. Having Sedaris along as company somehow made the endless miles of Stuckeys’ and strip malls, and the weeping people at Elvis‘s grave side in Graceland a little less alien and terrifying. In his latest book, Calypso, David is doing his thing better than ever. It’s about what’s on his mind these days, from decluttering the English countryside, to feeding a surgically removed lump of fat to a snapping turtle, to a sister’s suicide.

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode:

Martin Amis on the “etiquette” of good writing

Lucy Cooke on the extraordinary genitalia of female spotted hyenas

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jun 02 2018

1hr 1min

Play

112. Richard Dawkins (biologist) – Red in Tooth and Claw

Podcast cover
Read more

In this episode, which Dawkins described as “one of the best interviews I have ever had,” the eminent ethologist and host Jason Gots talk about whether pescatarianism makes any sense, where morality should come from (since, as Hume says, "you can't get an 'ought' from an 'is'), the greatness of Christopher Hitchens, and the evils of nationalism.

About the guest: Today’s guest is internationally best-selling author, speaker, and passionate advocate for reason and science as against superstition Richard Dawkins. From 1995 to 2008 Richard Dawkins was the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University.  Among his many books are The Selfish Gene, the God Delusion, and his two-part autobiography: An Appetite for Wonder and A Brief Candle in the Dark. His latest is a collection of essays, stories, and speeches called Science in the Soul, spanning many decades and the major themes of Richard’s work.

About Think Again: Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 19 2017

57mins

Play

56. Jonathon Keats (Experimental Philosopher) – The Trickster/Castles in the Sky

Podcast cover
Read more

"Experimental philosopher" and science writer Jonathon Keats, who famously created pornography for plants and sold real estate in the alternate dimensions proposed by string theory, believes that we "need to ascend to the meta level" to find creative ways of reopening closed conversations. His new book You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future, explores the myth and the relevance of a self-mythologizing sometime genius, sometime crackpot whose vast imagination holds some keys to solving the massive problems we now face as a species. 

On this week's episode of Think Again–a Big Think Podcast, Jonathon and host Jason Gots discuss social taboos, Fuller's legacy, the "mediated" nature of contemporary life, the power of comedy in society, and so much more. 

Surprise discussion clips in this episode: Jim Gaffigan on political correctness in comedyDan Savage on sex education, and Mary Roach on diharrhea in the armed forces

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jul 23 2016

51mins

Play

63. Eric Kandel (Nobel Laureate neuroscientist) - The Eye of the Beholder

Podcast cover
Read more

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives. 

On this week's episode: Professor Eric Kandel of Columbia University and host Jason Gotsdiscuss abstract art, memory, identity, and the nature of evil. When he was 9 years old, Eric Kandel listened on a short-wave radio his brother had made as Hitler marched into Kandel's hometown of Vienna, Austria. The next day, a non-Jewish classmate told him "Kandel, I'm never to speak to you again." In the year 2000, He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for pioneering work on understanding how memory is stored in the brain by studying a particular type of sea snail with a relatively simple nervous system. In his recent books, he’s been pioneering in a different way––trying to bridge the gap between the “two cultures” of the sciences and the humanities. His current book Reductionism in Art and Brain Science continues this essential work by looking at the ways both modern art and science “reduce” complex phenomena down to their component parts to achieve new insights and effects.

Surprise "conversation starter" interview clips in this episode:Janna LevinSusan DavidGeorge Musser

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 10 2016

41mins

Play

177. Joseph Goldstein (Buddhist teacher) – Lighten Up: mindfulness, enlightenment, and everyday life

Podcast cover
Read more

Love, money, health, great sex, peace of mind—however you define it, happiness in this world is impermanent and unreliable. But we’re all invested in the illusion that we’re just one career move or one Amazon purchase away from permanent bliss.

To quote Darth Vader: Search your feelings—you know it to be true. Life is sometimes exhilarating and sometimes devastating, but it’s always, always in flux.

This is the first noble truth of Buddhism. That everything in this life is unreliable and unsatisfactory. Maybe it doesn’t sound to you like the beginning of a message of hope, but that’s exactly what it is. A couple millennia ago the Indian prince Siddhartha Gautama, better known as Buddha, offered anyone who would listen a system of training the mind to free it from the suffering that comes from clinging to impermanent things, like how many followers you have on Instagram.

My guest today is Joseph Goldstein. He’s one of the most influential Buddhist teachers and writers of the past half-century. In 1975, Along with Sharon Salzberg and Jack Kornfield, he co-founded the Insight Meditation Society in Barre Massachusetts. Since then, he has done immeasurable good worldwide with his books, dharma talks, and meditation retreats.  Four decades ago he started a journey he’s still on today, helping westerners—very much including myself—benefit from the Buddha’s ancient insights and techniques.

Joseph’s latest book, MINDFULNESS: a practical guide to awakening, is his magnum opus: the distilled wisdom of four decades of teaching and practice. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jan 12 2019

1hr 13mins

Play

144. Antonio Damasio (neuroscientist & philosopher) – Where is My Mind?

Podcast cover
Read more

Why can’t we all just get along? 

And conversely, why do we sometimes get along so well, building cathedrals, inventing Democracy, symphonies, and stuff that that? 

According to my guest today, the answer is as old as life itself. In the behaviors of the most ancient forms of bacteria, single-celled organisms without a nucleus, we can see the seeds of civilization as we know it, for better and for worse. They form collectives. They go to war. The key is homeostasis—the imperative of all life to avoid harm and seek to flourish.

I’m delighted to be speaking today with neuroscientist and philosopher Antonio Damasio. He heads the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California and is the author of DESCARTES’ ERROR and the new book THE STRANGE ORDER OF THINGS: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures.

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode

Max Tegmark on consciousness

Maya Szalavitz on addiction

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Apr 21 2018

1hr 3mins

Play

72. Slavoj Žižek (Philosopher) - Against Tolerance

Podcast cover
Read more

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. The Think Again podcast takes us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives.

Slavoj Žižek is a Hegelian philosopher,  Lacanian psychoanalist, and political activist. He’s the international director of the Birbeck Institute for the Humanities, and Global Distinguished Professor of German at New York University. His newest book is Refugees, Terror, and Other Troubles with the Neighbors: Against the Double Blackmail.

In this spirited, wide-ranging discussion, the voluble Žižek talks about why he hates being called the "Elvis of philosophy," argues against liberal notions of tolerance, and promises to arrange for Jason to get cigarettes and whiskey in the gulag when the revolution comes.

Surprise conversation starter interview clips in this episode: Daniel Bergner on Women and Monogamy and Scott Barry Kaufman on Standardized Testing

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Nov 12 2016

53mins

Play

198. Barbara Tversky (cognitive psychologist) – World makes mind

Podcast cover
Read more

You’re a body in the world. From the moment you’re born, from that very first gasp of air, you’re taking in sensations, trying to get a handle on things and the relationships between them. There’s a lot of things to get a handle on. Too many. So your brain needs to simplify. It makes boxes for objects, maps them onto grids to track their motion. Through this process, the physical world enters your mind. It makes your mind. And that’s where things start to get really interesting.

My guest today is cognitive psychologist Barbara Tversky. Her new book MIND IN MOTION: How Action Shapes Thought, upends everything most of us think we know about thinking. Tversky’s first law of cognition is that there are no benefits without costs. We simplify the physical world—reduce it to lines and boxes. We build abstract thought—everything from Shakespeare to string theory to how to design a pair of sneakers—on top of that same flawed foundation. And that explains all of our superpowers and all of our blind spots.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Philosopher Alva Noe on the puzzle of perception

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jun 08 2019

1hr 3mins

Play

50. Ethan Hawke (Actor, Author) – The High, Hard Road/Ghosts of the Apache Wars

Podcast cover
Read more

“Whenever we start seeing people as other, we just get lost. There were so many decent cowboys trying to do the right thing. And so many decent First Nation people trying to do the right thing. And there were so many liars, and cheaters, and people trying to get ahead. So many people with short term goals screwing everything up.” 

After his breakout roles in Dead Poets Society and Reality Bites, actor, director, and author Ethan Hawke has followed his own path as an artist, starting a theater company, writing two novels, acting in decade-spanning film productions directed by Richard Linklater including, most recently the amazing Boyhood. He’s just published his first graphic novel, which he wrote with artist Greg Ruth. It’s called  INDEH: A Story of the Apache Wars, and its tells a complex and very human story of relations between the Apaches and the white Americans who ultimately took over their lands. 

On this week's episode of Think Again - a Big Think Podcast, Ethan Hawke and host Jason Gots discuss fatherhood, perpetual warfare, and the daily struggle between light and dark within every person. It's a raw, intense, sometimes laugh-out-loud conversation that spans continents and decades in under an hour. 

Surprise discussion clips in this episode: Sam Harris on spirituality, Steven Kotler on Steroids (not literally ON them), and Jerry Kaplan on robot wars. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jun 11 2016

50mins

Play

122. David Eagleman (neuroscientist) – Your Creative Brain

Podcast cover
Read more

Jason Gots: It’s 150,000 years ago. You’re a Homo sapiens, hanging out in a really cozy clearing protected from behind by a cliff wall. It’s a great spot. Temperate, isolated, pretty safe. Lots of good fruits and tubers nearby. Should you just hang out here forever? Well…you could…but something’s nagging at that medial frontal cortex of yours. There’s a hill in the distance. What’s beyond it? Something different, maybe! Something new and shiny! Maybe today you’ll just take a quick look. 

My guest today is neuroscientist David Eagleman. In The Runaway Species, How Human Creativity Remakes the World, David and his co-author Anthony Brandt explore that ancient tension between mastery and curiosity - the known and the unknown. And how the human imagination exploits it to make new things. 

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode

Isaac Lidsky on how going blind showed one man the light, Michael Slaby on a 30-hour work week

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Oct 28 2017

46mins

Play

39. Maria Popova (Writer, Editor of Brain Pickings) – The Absurdity of Not Writing Poems

Podcast cover
Read more

"I’m always pulled toward anything that helps me figure out how to live a meaningful and substantive life." – Maria Popova

What does real friendship look like? How can something written a thousand years ago help us to navigate our lives in the 21st century? 

On this week's Think Again, host Jason Gots speaks with Maria Popova, the creator, writer, and editor of Brain Pickings, a labor of love that  has grown into a massive web media presence -- a blog, newsletter, twitter feed and more that shares timeless wisdom from authors past and present about how to live a meaningful life. 

Maria reads the poem Possibilities by Nobel Laureate Wislawa Szymborska, which, along with three surprise interview clips with William ShatnerHoward Gardner, and Jon Kabat-Zinn sparks a far-ranging and revealing conversation on friendship, modern anxiety, and so much more. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Mar 26 2016

39mins

Play

4. Bill Nye (Science Guy) – Geek Chic/TMI/Future Money

Podcast cover
Read more

Was Einstein a fashion genius? Why is Malcolm Gladwell unimpressed by search engines? What will money look like in 500 years?

In this week's episode of Big Think's Think Again podcast, host Jason Gots is joined by beloved actor/educator Bill Nye, host of the "Tuesdays With Bill" series on Big Think.

Big Think interview clips from Simon DoonanMalcolm Gladwell, and Kabir Sehgal launch Bill and host Jason Gots on a spirited discussion that spans continents and centuries.

And Bill Nye commits, on record, to wearing a matching bow tie and kilt.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jul 11 2015

32mins

Play

10. Mark Epstein (Buddhist Psychotherapist) – Nature/Nurture/Neither

Podcast cover
Read more

Will nanobots someday deposit Shakespeare directly into our brains? If we paid politicians tons of money would they do a better job? Does epigenetics solve the nature/nurture debate?

In this week's episode of Big Think's Think Again podcast, host Jason Gots is joined by Mark Epstein, Buddhist-influenced psychiatrist and author of Thoughts Without a Thinker and The Trauma of Everyday Life. Interview clips from Stephen DubnerKayt Sukel, and Nicholas Negroponte launch a probing discussion of education, free will, and a contemporary twist in the "nature/nurture" debate.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 22 2015

31mins

Play

100. Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysicist) – The Only "-ist" I Am

Podcast cover
Read more

Since 2008, Big Think has been sharing big ideas from creative and curious minds. Since 2015, the Think Again podcast has been taking us out of our comfort zone, surprising our guests and Jason Gots, your host, with unexpected conversation starters from Big Think’s interview archives. 100 episodes in, like the universe itself, the show continues to expand and accelerate at speeds that boggle the imagination.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson is an astrophysicist and the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the spiritual heir to Carl Sagan in getting us all worked up about the Cosmos. He’s been appointed to special NASA commissions, hosted multiple TV specials and podcasts, and written many excellent books, the latest of which is Astrophysics for People in A Hurry – a succinct, wryly funny book that’s surprisingly informative for its size - it has the informational density of a black hole.

In This, Our 100th Episode: Can Neil tell the entire history of the universe in 30 seconds? When is it possible to move faster than the speed of light? Why is "dark matter" a terrible name for dark matter? And what does Neil's esteemed colleague Lawrence Krauss have in common with a pit bull?

Surprise conversation starter interview clips:

Lawrence Krauss on Optimism, Dean Buonomano on "Presentism" and "Eternalism"

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

May 27 2017

47mins

Play

130. Mark Epstein, MD (Buddhist psychiatrist) – I, Me, Mine

Podcast cover
Read more

All through the day… I, me mine, I me mine, I me mine…

That George Harrison song on the Beatles’ last album pretty much sums it up. They recorded it in 1970, and 47 years later, our egos seem to be running just as rampant as ever. While the unchecked ego might be popular at parties, it can get us into all kinds of trouble. This is not breaking news. Over 2000 years ago an Indian prince sat under a tree and thought about the problem of self. His insights and solutions became what we now call Buddhism. And a century ago in Vienna, Sigmund Freud came at the same issue from a somewhat different angle, giving us psychotherapy.

Our guest today, Mark Epstein, MD, is a psychotherapist and author who combines both approaches to help his patients and readers live with their demanding egos. His new book is Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself.

Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode:

Drew Ramsey on diet and depression, Manoush Zomorodi on the wandering mind

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jan 13 2018

57mins

Play

53. Sean Wilentz (Historian) – The Culture Strikes Back

Podcast cover
Read more

The stakes are extraordinarily high in this election. We’re at a crossroads. I think the current politics are a continuation of the fight we’ve been having since the ‘60s.The expansion of an African-American middle class, the changes in family norms, in gender and sexual norms . . .Lots of people felt threatened by that. Lots of people resisted that. 

But the war is only going to be settled now.  – Sean Wilentz

Sean Wilentz is a Princeton professor and the Bancroft-Prize-Winning Author of The Rise of American Democracy. He’s also a major music historian and the author of Bob Dylan in America, and the official historian of Bob Dylan’s website. His new book The Politicians and the Egalitarians: The Hidden History of American Politics argues that there are two keys to understanding American politics––the theme of party politics and outsider resistance to it, and the theme of economic and social egalitarianism. He argues that all positive change in American political history has happened within the system of party politics. 

On this week's episode of Think Again - a Big Think Podcast, Wilentz and host Jason Gots discuss identity politics, human life on Mars, and the culture war that began when the counterculture "won" the battle in the late '60s, and which Wilentz argues is reaching a final cataclysm with the election of 2016. 

Surprise discussion clips in this episode: Comedian Lewis Black on political correctnessBill Nye on colonizing Mars

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jul 02 2016

38mins

Play

223. Karen Armstrong (theologian) – the art of getting outside of yourself

Podcast cover
Read more

I’ve spent more of my life than most people I know immersed by choice in what my guest today would call “scripture”. I was never much of a Roman Catholic, in spite of being dragged weekly to church until I was about 13 and could no longer be dragged, and, in my boredom, sometimes believing I saw the statue of Jesus moving on the cross. But in late adulthood, the need for spiritual meaning gripped me tight and wouldn’t let go. It led first into Judaism and Jerusalem, and then, for the past couple decades, mostly to Buddhist study and practice.

But I’m as troubled as all the Enlightenment thinkers I know by scripture-thumping orthodoxy and intolerance of any kind. Troubled watching my wife Demet’s country, Turkey, split between retrograde, homophobic and misogynistic Islamism on the one hand and intractable secular nationalism on the other. Moses and I don’t have much in common, but like him, I get tongue-tied talking about these things. Religious, or spiritual, or scriptural ideas and practices can be so essential and become so problematic at the same time. 

My guest today is Karen Armstrong. On these subjects, she doesn’t get tongue-tied. She’s one of the clearest and most nuanced thinkers I know of on god, religion, and scripture. Author of THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE and THE CASE FOR GOD, recipient of the TED Prize, and a co-creator of the interfaith Charter for Compassion. Her new book is called THE LOST ART OF SCRIPTURE and I’m so happy it brings her to Think Again. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Dec 07 2019

51mins

Play

222. Deborah Levy (writer) – it's those thoughts that are slightly awkward that need an airing

Podcast cover
Read more

While reading Deborah Levy’s novel THE MAN WHO SAW EVERYTHING and her recent “working autobiography” THE COST OF LIVING I often found myself pausing and kind of sinking into a passage I’d just read. Going back and rereading it not because my attention had wandered nor exactly to unpack an idea but because I felt the need to experience it over again. To have it happen to me. 

Levy started her career writing plays that have been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company and broadcast by the BBC. She is the author of multiple novels, several of which have been Man Booker Prize finalists, the short story collection Black Vodka, and two of the aforementioned “working autobiographies”. 

The two books of hers I’ve read are packed with ideas, but like great theater, they treat ideas as verbs. They’re thought in action. In a sense they defy you to talk about them. But let's try to, anyway.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Nov 30 2019

44mins

Play

221. Yancey Strickler (Kickstarter co-founder) – you, me, us: now and in the future

Podcast cover
Read more

The phrase “common sense” can be misleading. The way we use it in casual conversation, it means something like “that which is obvious to any sensible person, of course”. It’s like what philosopher Daniel Dennett says about the word “surely”. Surely we can all agree that it’s just an innocent word, right? Surely I’m not manipulating you by starting this sentence with a positive conclusion? Common sense, in fact, is just what it sounds like: the commonly agreed upon sense of how things are at any given time. But as social primates, we too easily mistake consensus for truth. 

My guest today is Yancey Strickler, cofounder of Kickstarter—the company that made “crowdfunding” a common sense idea. That’s a very big deal when you consider that when Kickstarter was getting, uh, kickstarted, that idea made very little sense to anybody at all. Having people chip in to launch something they’ll never own? Ludicrous! Contrary to human nature as explained by Adam Smith! 

Having helped transform how creative work is financed, Yancey’s moved on from Kickstarter. His new book: This Could Be Our Future: a Manifesto for a More Generous World is after bigger game—a kind of values reset that moves us away from a narrow, unsustainable, inhumane obsession with profit at all costs. He calls it “bento values” because it’s a box with four compartments: Me and us, now and in the future. Maybe it’s not common sense today, but surely it could be. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Nov 23 2019

1hr 1min

Play

220. Elif Shafak (writer) – the cemetery of the companionless

Podcast cover
Read more

“Maybe the opposite of goodness is not evil. Maybe the opposite of goodness is, in fact, numbness.” 

There are so many questions we never ask. So many assumptions we make every second of every day because our minds and our lives are sealed off from one another, accessible only through time, patience, and the slow work of trust—all of which are often in short supply while we’re running around trying to stick to schedules. And there are some questions we don’t ask for other reasons—because the answers might tell us more than we want to know about ourselves. 

I’m so very happy to be here today for the second time on this show with British-Turkish author, speaker, and educator Elif Shafak. In her latest novel, as in all of her work, she asks some of these forgotten questions and, maybe more important, signposts the infinity of doorways we walk past without noticing. The book, 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World, was one of six on the shortlist for this year’s Booker Prize. Like any human life, that of its heroine Leila is strange, beautiful, and important. And all too easily tossed aside. 

Surprise conversation starters in this episode: 

Ibram X Kendi on the dangerous idea of the dangerous black neighborhood, and anger and analysis in social justice movements, from our conversation on Think Again

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Nov 16 2019

59mins

Play

219. Reginald Dwayne Betts (poet) – nothing to resurrect after prison

Podcast cover
Read more

Some experiences change you so completely that you’re left with a choice: either spend your life running from them or spend your life turning them over in memory, trying to find new ways in, through, and out the other side. The power of the impulse to explain or somehow articulate these experiences is inversely proportionate to other people’s ability to understand them. They’re everything all at once. It seems to me that my guest today has made that second choice, the hard choice not to run away. Or maybe it’s a choice you have to keep making over and over again. His name is Reginald Dwayne Betts. He’s 39 years old—an accomplished poet and essayist and a graduate of Yale Law School. But he spent most of his teenage years and young adulthood in prison and over a year in solitary confinement, experiences neither society, nor memory, nor his fellow feeling for the more than 2 million people behind bars in the United States, the vast majority of them black men and boys, has let him forget. Dwayne’s beautiful and necessary new book of poems is called FELON, and I’m honored to have him with me here today to talk about it.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Nov 09 2019

1hr 3mins

Play

218. Bill Bryson (writer) – the most extraordinary machine

Podcast cover
Read more

Do you have a body? I do, but I was mostly unaware of this fact until somewhere in my mid-30s, when my life strategy of living like a bourbon-loving brain-in-a-vat became increasingly untenable. Since then, I’ve come to understand something that might have been obvious to you all along. The body’s not just a convenient support system for coming up with clever things to say—it’s how we experience the world. It’s most of what we mean by living.

And for all its marvelous autonomy, it’s also wonderfully, bafflingly complex. My guest today is the author Bill Bryson. In his new book THE BODY: A GUIDE FOR OCCUPANTS, he has been kind enough to demystify it for us to the extent that that’s possible, and to help us revel in its mystery everywhere else. Bill is the beloved author of A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING and A WALK IN THE WOODS, and I’m delighted to have him on the show. 

Surprise conversation starters in this episode: 

Excerpted from Think Again episode #215 with Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Nov 02 2019

52mins

Play

217. Ibram X. Kendi (author, activist) – Antiracism 101

Podcast cover
Read more

I grew up in the almost entirely white suburbs of 1980’s Bethesda, Maryland thinking of myself and my world as 100% not racist. It’s hard to notice what’s missing: for example pretty much any black or brown people anywhere I went except on vacation, in spite of the fact that we were right next to Washington DC. At some point in middle school I learned that my Jewish dad had been unwelcome at the most popular local country club, and so chosen another, less popular one that admitted Jews at the time. But this seemed like a weird anomaly, and boo hoo about not getting your first choice of country club anyway, right? 

Then, at 16, I had to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles in Anacostia, DC and was astonished to find it wasn’t the “war zone” I’d been told it was throughout the Reagan years. To see people walking calmly to the grocery store or chatting on the corner. No guns. No open air drug markets, whatever those were. Racism, gender bias, economic elitism—they’re not anomalies. They’re cultural, economic, political, psychological. But as Paul Simon—a favorite songwriter of mine who some see as the poster boy for cultural appropriation once wrote: "Well, breakdowns come and breakdowns go, so, what are you gonna do about it? That’s what I’d like to know.”

My guest today is Ibram X Kendi. he’s been working on these problems for a long time, and he’s developed some powerful ideas and methods for solving them. Ibram won the National Book award, he’s the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University in Washington DC, and he’s the author of the important new book How to be an Anti-Racist

Surprise conversation starters in this episode: 

A read excerpt from MINDF*CK: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America, by Christopher Wylie 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Oct 26 2019

47mins

Play

216. Gail Collins (NY Times columnist) – The brief social media life of Glam-ma

Podcast cover
Read more

In 1972, the year I was born, there was apparently a famous TV ad for Geritol. My guest today describes it thus:

“…a husband spoke to the camera while his wife draped herself over his shoulder, smiling like something between a model and the brainwashed resident of a creepy commune…”My wife’s incredible. She took care of the baby all day, cooked a great dinner and even went to a school meeting—and look at her!”

Her potion of eternal youth, of course, is Geritol. It’s got all the vitamins and iron she needs. This perfect woman grins silently at the camera as her husband concludes: “My wife: I think I’ll keep her.” 

Though what constitutes “getting old” for women in America has been a moving target throughout US history, it has rarely been a picnic. But our history’s also full of women who have raised hell and pushed back in a hundred different ways against the cultural and literal corsets America keeps trying to stuff them into. 

My guest today is New York Times columnist and celebrated author Gail Collins. Her new book is No Stopping Us Now: the Adventures of Older Women in American History. It’s a bumpy, often exhilarating ride through the lives of older women in America from colonial times up to the present day. And Gail’s good company as our wise, wisecracking stagecoach driver. We’re headed West, and there’s hope on the horizon.

Conversation starter clips in this episode: 

Liz Plank on masculinity, from episode 214

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Oct 19 2019

51mins

Play

215. Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie: the cognitive segregation of America

Podcast cover
Read more

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. You’ve probably heard of Cambridge Analytica. Maybe you know they’re a company that did some nefarious things involving facebook and the 2016 US presidential elections. If you’re anything like me, you don’t know the half of it. If you get through this episode without wanting to move to a remote hut in the Arctic circle, I will personally refund this hour of your life.

My guest today is Christopher Wylie, author of MindF*ck: Cambridge Analytica and the Plot to Break America. in high school, he found himself on the outside of lots of social circles. Computers and hacker culture gave him community. Identity. From there, it’s a long strange trip through progressive politics in Canada to military Psy ops in London to helping Steve Bannon and the Billionaire Robert Mercer build the most powerful psychological weapon of mass destruction in existence—one that very likely won the presidency for Donald Trump and the Brexit vote.

Chris was 24 at the time. When the scale and consequences of Cambridge Analytica got too big to ignore, he turned whistleblower—and none of our lives, his included, will ever be the same.

Conversation starter: A clip from an upcoming episode with Ibram X. Kendi

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Oct 12 2019

48mins

Play

214. Liz Plank (journalist) – men, masculinity, and the unfinished conversation

Podcast cover
Read more

In the past half century or so feminism has had its hands plenty full dealing with the abuse and inequality women suffer at the hands of horribly behaved men and the systems they build. Too full to worry much about what the hell is going on inside those men and why. And there are powerful arguments to be made for the fact that it is not women’s responsibility to help men figure out how not to be monsters.

But I’ve noticed an interesting shift in the discourse lately. In the wake of the #MeToo movement (things happen fast these days…that blew up at scale in 2017), some threads of the public conversation have turned toward what my guest today might talk about in terms of the "gender ecosystem", the ways that ideas about gender shape our identities and behavior and the fact that those behaviors impact everyone in society for better and worse. Regardless of whose responsibility it is to solve these problems, the question of where masculinity goes from here should matter to everyone.

My guest today is journalist and cultural critic Liz Plank. she was named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30, has produced and hosted multiple acclaimed digital series for Vox, and is the author of the new book FOR THE LOVE OF MEN: a  new vision of mindful masculinity.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Oct 05 2019

55mins

Play

213. Catherine Wilson (philosopher) – the Epicurean cure for what ails ya

Podcast cover
Read more

If the word ‘epicurean’ brings to mind a porcine man in a toga reclining on a velvet couch and dropping fat juicy grapes into his open mouth, one by one, you are not alone.

But this caricature, probably the descendent of some ancient propaganda by rival philosophers, tells us very little in fact about Epicureanism - the worldview of the 4th century BCE Greek philosopher Epicurus and his later disciple Lucretius, whose ideas prefigured and shaped much of the modern world.

My guest today is philosopher Catherine Wilson, author of the book How to be an Epicurean: The Ancient Art of Living Well. At a confusing cultural moment where many people are looking for a guiding framework, she’s here with a strident defense of Epicureanism as a way of life. In its pragmatic approach to embracing pleasure and minimizing pain, she sees a saner way of living in the world. And maybe enjoying a few juicy grapes while you’re at it.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Mass shootings and masculinity with Michael Kaufman, founder of the White Ribbon Campaign

Longevity with Dave Asprey of Bulletproof Coffee

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 28 2019

50mins

Play

212. Downton Abbey film director Michael Engler – the best idea in the room

Podcast cover
Read more

Like too many of us, I hated history classes throughout my school career, and only realized as an adult that there are few things more interesting to ponder than the ways people lived and thought in different times and places than my own.

After all, we’re all stuck in our own time, limited by our culture, consciousness, and whatever knowledge we may possess of what came before.

Maybe that explains part of the appeal of historical fiction like the series Downton Abbey, set in a great Edwardian country house in the early 20th century. My guest today is stage and screen Director Michael Engler. He’s the director of the new Downton Abbey feature film, and he directed episodes of Downton Abbey, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, 30 Rock and much more for TV.

Meticulously recreating one corner of Edwardian England and building original story worlds within it, Downton Abbey is part romantic comedy, part historical drama grappling with the tensions of class and society at the sunset of empire.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Comedian Pete Holmes on visualization

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 21 2019

59mins

Play

211. Etgar Keret (writer) – a tunnel dug under the prison floor

Podcast cover
Read more

“A conversation is like a tunnel dug under the prison floor that you—patiently and painstakingly—scoop out with a spoon. It has one purpose: to get you away from where you are right now.”

That is from the very, very weird tale Car Concentrate from Israeli writer Etgar Keret’s wonderful new collection of short stories called FLY ALREADY. It’s not a bad description of the situation most of Keret’s characters find themselves in—wriggling like butterflies stuck on the pins of their own minds or circumstances, trying by any means necessary to get free. It’s maybe not too much even to say that this is the human condition as Keret sees it and the reason he writes stories—to open up magical escape hatches in the midst of suffocating realities like divorce or religious hatred. His stories are strange, beautiful, funny, and poignant—somehow emotionally connected even though they’re full of people who struggle to make sense to (and of) one another. Like all great art, they defy description, so ignore everything I’ve just said and go read them…but first, stick around for a bit to see what kind of escape tunnel this conversation might turn into. 

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Michio Kaku on uploading your consciousness and traveling to other planets

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 14 2019

55mins

Play

210. one night in Istanbul, with chef Musa Dağdeviren

Podcast cover
Read more

There’s a pattern that happens with any new thing. First it’s scary, then you settle in to a rhythm, then you hit your stride, then you get too attached to things being the way they are. For a while there I thought I could only record an episode of this show sitting in a particular chair facing a particular direction. When that kind of thing happens, it’s time to shake things up. So today’s show was recorded 5000 miles away from my comfy New York studio, in my wife’s hometown of Istanbul, Turkey. We took a ferry from the European to the Asian side of the city, to the neighborhood of Kadikoy. There we met Chef Musa Dağdeviren—a one of a kind of food ethnographer who’s trying to preserve techniques and recipes from Turkey’s vast and diverse culinary history before they disappear forever. We ate at his restaurant Ciya Sofrasi and talked to him afterward in the offices of Yemek Ve Kultur (food and culture), the magazine he’s been publishing for the past 15 years. Musa is a man on an ambitious labor of love—a mission his mom gave him as a small child to investigate, understand, and pass on this knowledge. He’s totally unlike anyone I’ve ever met, and I’m happy to share this very different episode with you.

THE TURKISH COOKBOOK — Musa’s vast compendium for an English speaking audience. Comprehensive as it is, it contains less than half of the 1500+ recipes he’s collected in his travels. More to come!

A beautiful documentary on Musa’s work on Netflix’s CHEF’S TABLE, Season 2

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 07 2019

1hr 4mins

Play

209. a mixtape for 2019

Podcast cover
Read more

When I was a teenager and music was still on cassettes, a mixtape was an act of love. The selection and sequence of songs were a kind of message to the listener that left plenty of space for their own thoughts and feelings. Back in June Think Again hit its fourth year and its 200th show and it feels like the right time to take a step back and revisit some of the places the conversation has gone this past year. I’m intuitive rather than strategic about choosing guests for the show and books to read—when it works, it’s an art rather than a science. And as with any art, themes emerge and recur in different guises. In this episode, I’m putting together some of my favorite moments of 2019, strung together with minimal interruption from me. So kick back and enjoy this eclectic collection, and feel free to write me through my website jasongots.com and let me know your thoughts, feelings, and insights. Or send me a mixtape of your own!

Featuring: Joseph Goldstein, Benjamin Dreyer, Anaïs Mitchell, Martin Hägglund, Aml Ameen, Marlon James, Terry Gilliam, Jeff Israel, Eve Ensler, Tracy Edwards, Frans De Waal, Edith Hall, Lama Rod Owens, Elif Shafak, Robert MacFarlane 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 31 2019

57mins

Play

208. Antonio Damasio (biologist) – this incredibly rich machinery

Podcast cover
Read more

Quick question. Answer without thinking too hard. Ready? Where is your mind? What is your mind?

Ok, Raise your hand if you thought of your brain.

If you did, you’re in good company. For centuries, Western science, culture, and language has been obsessed with the head as the center of thought and the body as the center of feeling. This split can get hierarchical, attaching ideas like “sin” and  to the body and the emotions while putting the brain, along with rationality, up on a pedestal.

I’m very happy to be speaking again today with neuroscientist and philosopher Antonio Damasio, who has done more than anyone one else I know to get that brain down off its high horse and reattach it to the body. We last talked a year ago, about his book THE STRANGE ORDER OF THINGS - Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures, which has now come out in paperback. It turns everything upside down, not only re-anchoring mind in body, but finding in primitive bacteria and social insects patterns that help explain human culture. Maybe there’s more going on in the Mona Lisa than in a bacterial colony, but they also have quite a lot in common.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Frans De Waal on animal consciousness

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 24 2019

40mins

Play

207. Lisa Brennan-Jobs (writer) – on growing up without, with, and in spite of her dad

Podcast cover
Read more

The first computer I ever had was the first Apple Macintosh, back in the mid 80’s. I can still remember the sense of friendly reassurance from that smiling little icon that popped up on the screen when you turned it on—a cute, tiny computer smiling back at you. This device, it suggested, knew you. Understood you. Was someone you could trust.

Since then, we’ve come a long way, baby. The cold, black, addictive rectangle in my pocket—a gleaming window into all the hopes and terrors of the known world—is a far cry from the early, friendly promises of that smiling machine on which I could magically paint things at the touch of a button.

My guest today, in a very different way, grew up in the long shadow of that same cultural trajectory. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, was her dad. But like our relationship with the machines he helped unleash on the world, hers with him was deeply complicated. In her beautiful memoir Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs writes about his indifference, his attention, and her struggle to find herself in and outside of his shadow.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode: None, due to tight taping time. 

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 10 2019

47mins

Play

206. Jenny Odell (artist) – attention as an act of resistance

Podcast cover
Read more

When I think of my childhood home in Bethesda, Maryland, depending on what kind of mood I’m in, I think either of the mall or of the woods. Although there were some fun moments looking at the inappropriate novelty items like at Spencer Gifts, such as edible underwear, the mall in my memory is a symbol of suburban anomie and alienation. A place, as my guest today would put it, without context.

The woods, on the other hand, were endless and full of surprises. We’d follow the twisting creek, overturn rocks to find crawfish, and eat sassafras leaves. Once we made Molotov cocktails out of my mom’s nail polish and threw them into the creek with pure, anarchic joy. In the woods, I was always, utterly present—connected to every sound and attuned to the slightest movement. In the mall, I was mostly conscious of whether or not my jacket looked cool.

I’m here today with Jenny Odell. She’s an artist and educator who grew up in Silicon Valley and teaches at Stanford, the heart of the attention economy that’s colonizing more and more of the cultural woods. She’s also an avid bird watcher—or “bird noticer”, as she might put it. Her wonderful new book HOW TO DO NOTHING: RESISTING THE ATTENTION ECONOMY is something like a primer for growing the woods inside the mall. It’s about carving out space for ourselves in a world that wants to put our time and our lives to other, more utilitarian uses. 

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Edward Slingerland on the Taoist concept of Wu Wei and how it plays out in Chinese business culture

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Aug 03 2019

52mins

Play

205. Jeffrey Israel (religious studies scholar, old friend) – Private hate, public love, and everything in between

Podcast cover
Read more

A Rabbi, a Priest, and an Imam walk into a bar. No, wait. Imams don’t drink. Most rabbis don’t drink much either, come to think of it. Priests drink—at least in the movies—but mostly not in bars . . .

So maybe nobody walks into a bar? How, when, and where are we all supposed to figure out how to get along?

My guest today, who also happens to be an old, good friend of mine, has an answer, or several. He’s Jeffrey Israel—a professor of Religion at Williams College and the author of a new book Living with Hate in American Politics and Religion. He argues that pluralistic societies like the United States need two uneasy siblings: a strong political will to recognize and protect our common humanity and also “play spaces” where we can give rein to the difficult feelings- anger, resentment, even hate- that can’t be erased by politics, a Beatles song, or just by wishing them away.

In his generous and provocative book, Jeff mines Jewish-American humor from Lenny Bruce, Philip Roth, and the sitcom All in the Family for models of rough and reflective play. Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing gets a well-deserved star turn, too. And for a civics that can protect human dignity while making space for all the nastiness and alienation we have no choice but to live with, He looks to philosopher Martha Nussbaum, among others.

It’s a difficult conversation for an imperfect and imperfectable world, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. So Jeff makes a bold case and invites us all to the table —rabbi, priest, Imam, and the rest us who don’t fit into easy categories—to hash it out.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

David Epstein on “lateral thinking”

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jul 27 2019

1hr 7mins

Play

204. The Butler Sisters (filmmakers) – identity, intolerance, and change in the American heartland

Podcast cover
Read more

In spite of all the weird ways the word has been abused since the 2016 elections, I think of myself as a liberal. As a basic value, I try to be open-minded. And like many liberals, I live in a big, liberal city where I rarely meet anyone who doesn’t share my values, religious outlook, and political beliefs. As a result, like it or not, I’m in a bubble. And when I’m not being careful about it, I’m vulnerable to seeing “the Bible Belt” and the American South as one monolithic, mostly white, evangelical, anti-abortion, Christian Right-leaning mass. As some kind of living history exhibit of a past us New Yorkers have left behind.

And I know lots of people in some of the same bubbles I occupy who are quick to point to religion as the cause of horrors throughout human history. People who see reason and science as progress, religion as unequivocally retrograde, and who point to data showing that people everywhere are getting less religious as a hopeful sign that humanity might be moving in the right direction. But just as it doesn’t have a monopoly on morality, religion doesn’t have a monopoly on intolerance. And reason alone can’t give us values like love and kindness. Religion’s one of many ways that people organize their lives and like everything we make, it’s subject to both our courage and our cowardice. The best and the worst of us.

A recent Pew survey says that 63% of Americans believe in God. In Bible Belt states like Oklahoma, where that number is much higher, there are fierce political battles going on for control of the Christian narrative—pushback against fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible as aligned with conservative republican values. These battles, invisible to most of us out here on the coasts, are the subject of AMERICAN HERETICS, a powerful new documentary by my guests today, Jeanine and Catherine Butler.

Surprise conversation starters in this episode:

Michael Pollan on the history of LSD and psilocybin mushrooms in America

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Jul 20 2019

53mins

Play