Rank #1: Episode 59: Tumors All the Way Down (With Sam Harris)
Bestselling author and friend of the podcast Sam Harris joins Tamler and Dave for a marathon podcast. (Seriously, pack two pairs of astronaut diapers for this one). We talk about the costs and benefits of religion, dropping acid in India, and the illusory nature of (a certain kind of) free will. Then we go at it on blame, moral responsibility, hatred, guilt, retribution, and vengeance. Sam thinks these are antiquated responses based on a belief in spooky metaphysics, Tamler thinks they are important components of human morality, and Dave just wants everyone to get along and be reasonable (like that nice Kant fellow).
Time markers (roughly)
0:00-47:00 Intro and costs and benefits of religion
47:00-77:30 Drugs, the self, free will
77:30-- Blame, guilt, vengeance, moral responsibility, desert.
- Sam Harris [samharris.org]
- Waking Up: A guide to spirituality without religion by Sam Harris [amazon.com affiliate link]
- Daniel Dennett reviews "Free Will" by Sam Harris [naturalism.org]
- Sam Harris responds to Dennett's Review of "Free Will" [samharris.org]
Special Guest: Sam Harris.
Dec 16 2014
Rank #2: Episode 63: Stalemates and Closets (with Sam Harris)
Sam Harris gets back in the VBW ring for another round on moral responsibility, ethical theories, and the grounds for our obligations to other people. Are we at a genuine stalemate when it comes to blame and desert? Is Tamler a closet consequentialist? Is Sam a closet pluralist? Why is Dave such a big Wagner fan? Plus, Twitter shaming: what is it good for? Settle in, get comfortable, pour yourself a drink, you’re in for the long haul on this one.
- How One Stupid Tweet Blew Up Justine Sacco's Life [nytimes.co]
- The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris [samharris.org]
- Value Pluralism [plato.stanford.edu]
- Bill Burr vs. Philly [youtube.com]
Special Guest: Sam Harris.
Feb 28 2015
Rank #3: Episode 3: "We believe in nothing!" (Cultural diversity, relativism, and moral truth)
Tamler and Dave discuss recent work in philosophy and psychology about the differences in moral values and practices across cultures. We talk about the implications of moral diversity: does it mean that we cannot criticize that practices of other cultures? How should we regard moral disagreement? Are there objective “truths” in ethics? Somehow we need to play clips from The Big Lebowski and Pulp Fiction in order to resolve these questions.
Sep 08 2012
Rank #4: Episode 138: Memory, Pain, and Relationships (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Award-winning screenwriter and medieval philosophy scholar Yoel Inbar joins us for a deep dive on the Charlie Kaufman/Michel GondREY masterpiece Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. When relationships go bad is it better to believe they never happened? What is the nature of memory, how is it constructed, and is it possible to zap them out existence with an Apple IIe? Will Tamler have a more optimistic take on the ending of the movie than David? (Hint: yes)
Also--only two more weeks to preorder Why Honor Matters and get your free bonus episode! Upload your receipt here
Special Guest: Yoel Inbar.
Apr 24 2018
Rank #5: Episode 75: A Golden Shower of Guests
Dave and Tamler celebrate their 75th episode by welcoming six BFFs of the podcast and asking them to share the biggest thing they've changed their minds about in their professional careers. You'll hear Dan Ariely on our moral duty to take science into the real world, Laurie Santos on the the role of neuroscience in explaining psychological findings, Yoel Inbar on what it means to do good science as a psychologist, Eric Schwitzgebel on his metaphysical epiphany about materialism, Nina Strohminger on breaking-up with priming research, and Sam Harris on Artificial Intelligence and its perils, and his recently changed views about vegetarianism. (Sadly, we had a technical glitch with the audio when we recorded our most-frequent guest Paul Bloom, but we'll bring him on again soon.) Plus we play some hilarious mash-ups, raps, and voicemails sent in from listeners.
Links to info about our Guests
Listener-Created Music in this Episode
Special Guests: Dan Ariely, Eric Schwitzgebel, Laurie Santos, Nina Strohminger, Sam Harris, and Yoel Inbar.
Oct 06 2015
Rank #6: Episode 26: Evolution and Sexual Perversion (with Jesse Bering)
Psychologist and author Jesse Bering joins us to talk about evolutionary psychology and his forthcoming book Perv. In the relatively uncontroversial part of the episode, we ask if homophobia is an adaptation and if women have evolved rape defenses. After that, sex with animals, sex with bookshelves, foot fetishes, amputee fetishes, falling down the stairs fetishes... I don't know, just listen. Or maybe don't.
Special Guest: Jesse Bering.
Jul 08 2013
Rank #7: Episode 24: The Perils of Empathy (with Paul Bloom)
Paul Bloom joins us in the second segment for a lively discussion about the value of empathy as a guide our moral decisions. And in our first scoop, we talk about Paul's new book (coming in November) Just Babies: The Origin of Good and Evil , racist babies, and how 80s sitcoms changed the world. In the first segment, Dave and Tamler face the music and try to respond to a listener's criticisms of their episode on slurs and offensiveness (Episode 22) .
- The Baby in the Well: The Case Against Empathy by Paul Bloom [newyorker.com]
- Descartes' Baby by Paul Bloom [amazon.com]
- Jesse Prinz "Is empathy necessary for morality" [subcortex.com]
- Pizarro, Bloom, and Detweiler-Bedell on the empathy, disgust, and the moral circle [peezer.net]
- Pre-order Just babies: The origins of good and evil by Paul Bloom [amazon.com]
- Louis CK: My Life is Really Evil.
Special Guest: Paul Bloom.
Jun 10 2013
Rank #8: Episode 160: Everything is Meaningless: The Book of Ecclesiastes
David and Tamler dive into the book of Ecclesiastes, an absurdist classic that is somehow also a book of the Bible. Is everything meaningless, vain, and a chasing after the wind? Are humans just the same as animals? Are wise people no better off than fools? Will God judge us after we die, rewarding the good people and punishing the shit-heels? What if there is no afterlife and this is all we get? How should we deal with our pointless, unjust existence? Plus we return to our opening-segment bible— Aeon—and talk about an argument for replacing jealousy with...wait for it…compersion.
Mar 19 2019
Rank #9: Episode 122: Nothing but a "G" Thing (Intelligence Pt. 1)
David and Tamler do their best to talk frankly about intelligence and IQ research. (It's our Patreon listener-selected topic! We probably would never have chosen this one on our own...). Is intelligence a meaningful, definable concept? Can we reliably test for it? How much of the variability in IQ across individuals is due to heritable factors? Are people with higher IQ happier, wealthier, or healthier than people with lower IQ? And why is this topic so controversial anyhow? Plus in the intro segment Tamler and David discuss why you probably don't need fMRI to know what your dog wants, and why cognitive neuroscience seems to confuse otherwise intelligent folks. (Note: This is Part 1 of our discussion on intelligence. In Part 2 will delve into the slightly more controversial topics of IQ, race, and gender).
- What Does Your Dog Really Want? - Scientific American Blog Network
- A Very Bad Wizard: Morality behind the curtain by Tamler Sommers [amazon.com affiliate link] — David does the links, so it's him telling you to support Tamler and buy his book!
- The Simpsons - Crayon in Homer's brain - YouTube
- Ritchie, S. (2015). Intelligence: All that matters. Hodder & Stoughton. [amazon.com affiliate link] — Stuart Ritchie's very well-written primer on intelligence. Accessible to a wide audience, but with all the nuance you'd expect from a clear-thinking academic. It's also a very quick read.
- Stuart Ritchie (@StuartJRitchie) | Twitter
- Stuart Ritchie | The University of Edinburgh
Aug 29 2017
Rank #10: Episode 165: Life With No Head (With Sam Harris)
Sam Harris returns to the podcast to talk about meditation and his new Waking Up meditation app. What are the goals of mindfulness practice - stress reduction and greater focus, or something much deeper? Can it cure David's existential dread? Tamler's fear of his daughter going away to college? Can sustained practice erode the illusion of self? Is that even something we'd want to do? What if it diminishes our attachment to people we love? And what is the self anyway? Is Sam a defender of panpsychism? So many questions... Plus, the ethics of creating talking elephants by curing them of their autism through bonding and possibly mounting. (Seriously.)
- Rossler, O. E., Theis, C., Heiter, J., Fleischer, W., & Student, A. (2015). Is it ethical to heal a young white elephant from his physiological autism?. Progress in biophysics and molecular biology, 119(3), 539-543.
- Scientists Predict A Talking Elephant, Szilamandee - Neuroskeptic
- The Social Exchange Podcast | David Pizarro - Correcting Bias, Heuristics, and Decision-Making
- Break music: ▶ Lazarus Lives by peez
- Waking Up with Sam Harris (app)
- Sam Harris | Home of the Making Sense Podcast
- On Having No Head: Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious: Douglas E. Harding: 9781878019196: Amazon.com: Books
Jun 04 2019
Rank #11: Episode 120: Clap Your Hand for Robert Wright
Special guest Robert Wright joins the podcast to discuss his latest book "Why Buddhism is True." What is the Buddhist conception of not-self?
When we become aware that the boundaries between us and the world are fluid, what is the “we” that arrives at this insight? Can daily meditation make you less of a dick? How does evolutionary psychology bear on these questions? Plus, Dave horrifies Tamler with his new hipster habit.
Special Guest: Robert Wright.
Jul 25 2017
Rank #12: Episode 113: Pascal, Probability, and Pitchforks
David and Tamler break down what may be the best argument that it's rational to believe in God: Pascal's Wager. (No, we're not just trolling our Sam Harris listeners.) Does the expected value of believing in God outweigh the probability that you're wrong? How does belief work--can you just turn it on and off? What if you believe in the wrong God? This leads to a wide-ranging discussion on decision theory, instrumental rationality, artificial intelligence, transformative experiences, and whether David should drop acid. Your brain AND your future self will love this episode!
- 2017 BP MS 150: Mr. Tamler Sommers - National MS Society
- Prose&Cons - YouTube
- Why people are so bad at thinking about the future.
- On Intertemporal Selfishness: How the Perceived Instability of Identity Underlies Impatient Consumption | Journal of Consumer Research | Oxford Academic
- "Homer's Soul" by Paul Bloom and David Pizarro
- Pascal's Wager - Wikipedia
- Pascal's mugging - Wikipedia
- Transformative Experience by L.A. Paul, in conversation with Paul Bloom.
- "Transformative Experience: by L. A. Paul [amazon.com affiliate link]
Apr 18 2017
Rank #13: Episode 126: The Absurd
Is life meaningless? Are humans just glorified dung beetles, pushing around our piles of poop with no greater purpose? What would it take for life to actually be meaningful? In this episode, Tamler and David discuss Thomas Nagel’s essay on the sense of meaninglessness and absurdity that can so easily creep into human existence (with a special emphasis on the work of Camus and the philosophy of Rick and Morty). But first we tackle even more important questions about the human condition such as, why is it easier to detect the size of a hole with your tongue than with your little finger? And which moral "dilemmas" are actually moral no-brainers? (In the process, we even solve the problem of free speech on campus. You’re welcome.)
- The Extent of Skin Bending Rather Than Action Possibilities Explains Why Holes Feel Larger With the Tongue Than With the Finger. - PubMed - NCBI
- Pure joy: a colorblind man sees color for the first time
- Dan Harmon Reveals the Meaning of Life in RICK AND MORTY | Nerdist
- Microcosmos - Dung beetle rolls ball and gets stuck. - YouTube
- Nagel, T. (1971). The absurd. The Journal of Philosophy, 68(20), 716-727.
- Camus, A. (1955). The myth of Sisyphus, and other essays. Vintage.
Oct 24 2017
Rank #14: Episode 121: The Beauty of Illusion - David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive"
Guest Yoel Inbar joins David and Tamler to break down David Lynch’s dreamy masterpiece Mulholland Drive. (FULL SPOILERS – watch before you listen!) What’s real and what’s illusion? What happens when our illusions unravel? How do expectations affect our experience? How can artists use our expectations to manipulate our emotions? Come for the questions, stay for the answers – or at least for more questions.
Special Guest: Yoel Inbar.
Aug 15 2017
Rank #15: Episode 162: Parents Just Don't Understand (with Paul Bloom)
As parents we like to think we have an impact on our children - their future, their happiness, the kinds of people they turn out to be. But
are we deluded? Dave and Tamler are joined by empathy's kryponite, the great Paul Bloom, to talk about Judith Rich Harris's view that parents matter a lot less than you might think (while genes and peer groups matter a lot more than you might think) .
Plus, what the connection between art and morality? Should we support "cancel culture"? Is it wrong to play Michael Jackson's P.Y.T. (spell it out) on the radio? What about the Jackson 5? And what about art that is itself immoral? You're not gonna believe this but Louis CK gets mentioned.
Thanks to our beloved Patreon supporters for suggesting and voting for this topic!
Special Guest: Paul Bloom.
- 'Too big to cancel': can we still listen to Michael Jackson? | Music | The Guardian
- The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, Revised and Updated: Judith Rich Harris [amazon affiliate link]
- Do Parents Matter? Judith Rich Harris and child development (by Malcolm Gladwell)
- Children Don't Do Things Halfway | Edge.org
- Judith Rich Harris & Jerome Kagan: The Nature of Nurture: Parents or Peers? Slate dialogue, Oct. 28 - Nov. 21, 1998
Apr 16 2019
Rank #16: Episode 143: The Psychology of Personality
David and Tamler tackle the topic selected by their Patreon supporters - the psychology of personality. What are the different dimensions of personality that distinguish one person from another? How many dimensions are there - do the Big Five capture all of them? Do we share some of these differences with other species? Why don't personality psychologists include moral character traits? Plus - are you curious about your partner's true political commitments? No problem, just install a periscope in your toilet.
- Testing Inter-hemispheric Social Priming Theory in a Sample of Professional Politicians-A Brief Report
- https://t.co/SnozmgFgRJ"" rel="nofollow">Gary Lewis on Twitter: "I submitted a hoax manuscript to a predatory journal. The finding? Politicians from the right wipe their ass with their left hand (and vice versa) - big breakthrough! Manuscript accepted w/o review. I then haggled the OA fee down to $0 - so here it is -> https://t.co/SnozmgFgRJ"
- Break Music: Thief's Theme (peez remix)
- Personality psychology - Wikipedia
- Personality and Social Dynamics Lab | Sanjay Srivastava
- Simine Vazire
- The Black Goat – A podcast about doing science
- Big Five personality traits - Wikipedia — Myers–Briggs Type Indicator
- The Big Five Personality Traits & what they mean for your Political Views. | elephant journal
- HEXACO model of personality structure - Wikipedia
- Myers–Briggs Type Indicator - Wikipedia
Jul 10 2018
Rank #17: Episode 84: Lifting the Veil
David and Tamler talk about the perils of trying to step outside of your own perspective in ethics, science, and politics. What do Rawls' "original position" thought experiment, Pascal's Wager, and Moral Foundations Theory have in common? (Hint: it involves baking.) Plus, what movies (and other things) would serve as a litmus test when deciding on a potential life partner? What might liking or not liking a certain film, book, or TV series tell you about a person, and whether or not the relationship would work? And what sexual position is it rational to choose under the veil of ignorance? (It's a night episode...)
- Part 1: Litmus Tests
- The Bad News Bears (1976) [imdb.com]
- A Confederacy of Dunces [wikipedia.org]
- Drive [imdb.com]
- Ferris Bueller's Day Off [imdb.com]
- The Far Side [wikipedia.org]
- Frank [imdb.com]
- Hustle and Flow [imdb.com]
- Jackie Brown [imdb.com]
- Key and Peele [imdb.com]
- Miracle of Morgan's Creek [imdb.com]
- The Office (UK) [imdb.com]
- Pulp Fiction [imdb.com]
- Spaghetti Western [wikipedia.org]
- Sullivan's Travels [imdb.com]
- Spellbound [imdb.com]
- Slapshot [imdb.com]
- What We Do in the Shadows [imdb.com]
- Part 2:
Feb 23 2016
Rank #18: Episode 27: You, Your Self, and Your Brain (With Eddy Nahmias)
Our streak of very special guests continues! Philosopher Eddy Nahmias joins the podcast to us why people mistakenly think they're not morally responsible, and how his new study casts doubt on Sam Harris's "pamphlet" on free will. Eddy also describes his new project (with Toni Adleberg and Morgan Thompson) on why women leave philosophy. Plus Dave and I discuss some reasons for having children, and eat a little Partially Examined Life crow.
"Name five women in philosophy. Bet you can't." Tania Lombrozo, [npr.og]
Special Guest: Eddy Nahmias.
Jul 22 2013
Rank #19: Episode 94: Buttery Friendships
Dave and Tamler don’t agree about much, but one thing they do share is an affinity for character-based approaches to ethics. Using Tamler’s interview with Georgetown Philosopher Nancy Sherman as their guide (link to chapter included), they discuss two ancient perspectives on how to develop good character and live happy, virtuous lives: Aristotle's and that of the Stoics. Why did Aristotle focus so much on friendship and what happens when those friendships get too "watery"? Are emotions crucial for developing virtues or are they “so much mist on the windshield?” Are the stoics right that we shouldn’t get attached to things that are beyond our control? Plus, a new Twitter account has David and Tamler polishing their CVs, and a request for listener suggestions for our 100th episode.
Note: We recorded this episode after the police shootings in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis but before the shootings of the police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge. We talk a bit about the violence, but not about what happened after Minneapolis.
- Very Bad Wizards No Context (@vbw_no_context)
- Effective altruism [wikipedia.org]
- Nancy Sherman Homepage [nanycsherman.com]
- Nancy Sherman "Navigating our Moral World." In Sommers, T. (2016). A Very Bad Wizard: Morality behind the curtain. Routledge. [verybadwizards.com]
Jul 19 2016
Rank #20: Episode 96: Memory and Meaning in "Memento" (with Paul Bloom)
So where are you? You’re in some house. What am I listening to? Sounds like the radio. Is it the radio? No, you’re not allowed to use that language on the radio. What are they talking about? A movie, it’s called "Memento." Have I seen that? I think so, yeah. Who are these people? Hey I recognize that voice, that’s Paul Bloom! I took his Coursera course before the accident, it was awesome! What’s he doing talking to these guys? One of them sounds like he has a tampon down his throat. Hey wait, this is starting to get interesting. Personal identity, the search for purpose. All right, let’s settle in... So where are you? You're in some house. What am I listening to? Sounds like the radio...
- Paul Bloom [campuspress.yale.edu]
- Memento [imdb.com]
- Christopher Nolan [imdb.com]
- Everything you wanted to know about "Memento" by Andy Klein [salon.com]
- Kania, A. (Ed.). (2009). Memento (Philosophers on Film Series). Routledge. [amazon.com affiliate link]
- Clive Wearing: Man without a memory [youtube.com]
- Patient H.M. (Henry Molaison) [wikipedia.org]
- Christina Starmans [christinastarmans.com]
Special Guest: Paul Bloom.
Aug 16 2016