23 January 2019
Science of Spirituality
The Wright Show
Emotions and the Brain
The Meaning of Future Life
The Weirdness of Physics
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Nov 13, 2018 — Nikita Petrov & Tanya Luhrmann
Tanya’s “local theory of mind”
Harry Potter, prayer, and other “cultural invitations”
Psychotherapy in the US and witchcraft in Ghana
American individualism and Asian interdependence
The differences between hearing God in Ghana and the US
The Internet as externalized imagination: Pepe and Kek
A “hyper-real God”: having coffee with Jesus
Thoughts, perceptions, the world, and the self
Nov 10, 2018 — Colin Pugh & Daniel Pinchbeck
How Soon Is Now?
An example of a modern myth: the GDP
Can society be reborn into new myths?
Daniel: We need to devote most of our efforts to sustaining the health of the planet
Why Daniel calls his beliefs “post-New Age”
What is “neo-Shamanism”?
Oct 31, 2018 — Nikita Petrov & Tony Ortega
Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard’s most compelling story
Hubbard as a writer
Hubbard’s mystical experience during a dental surgery
“Study tech”: Scientology’s obsession with dictionaries
Bullbaiting, or pushing one’s buttons
How Scientology teaches followers to identify enemies
Oct 28, 2018 — Stephen Asma & Rami Gabriel
Minding Emotions: music edition
The emotional shift between minor and major chords
Examining tonal dissonance in Western music
When melodies become “pregnant with meaning”
Why we find beauty in disharmony
Rami: Social class and culture imbue music with meaning, too
Is music hardwired in humans?
How practicing art and music hones the eye and the ear
Oct 14, 2018 — Colin Pugh & Alex Guerrero
Alex explains “lottocracy,” a system using random selection to choose politicians
Does democracy have to mean voting?
Democratic systems as forms of technologies
Imagining many legislatures, each devoted to a single issue
Capture and accountability in elections
How would randomly selected politicians learn about policy?
Leveraging collective knowledge for political decisions
Alex: Elections encourage short-term focus and tribalism
Aug 23, 2018 — Stephen Asma & Rami Gabriel
What is pleasure, and what isn’t?
How human will fits into philosophies of pleasure
Addiction, brain chemistry, and the lies we tell ourselves
Why are some people more prone to addiction than others?
Addiction as a disease of deprivation
Antonio Demasio’s new book that rethinks culture and the roots of consciousness
Aug 9, 2018 — Josh Summers & Stephen Asma
Stephen’s new book,
Why We Need Religion
Who is Stephen’s intended audience?
How religion shaped our emotional lives for millennia
Can you benefit from religion without sincere belief?
“False consolation”? No such thing, Stephen says
Stephen learns to appreciate the “smells and bells” of Buddhism in Bhutan
How will religion evolve in America?
Aug 6, 2018 — Nikita Petrov & Gary Lachman
The rise of “occult politics” in the Trump era
Pepe the Frog and “willing Trump into office”
Trickle-down metaphysics from Nietzsche to Trump
Steve Bannon’s connection to European far-right esoteric philosophy
“Putin’s Rasputin,” Alexander Dugin
Gary’s new project on the return of “Holy Russia”
Gary’s thoughts on Jordan Peterson
Jun 20, 2018 — William Black & Jemar Tisby
Jemar’s path from educator to historian
How racial history shapes the landscape of the Deep South
The “quiet exodus” of black Christians from white evangelical churches
Not a “skin problem,” but a “sin problem”
Jemar: Kindness isn’t just being polite to avoid offense
Bill explains the historic racial divide within the Cumberland Presbyterian Church
Jun 13, 2018 — Stephen Asma & Rami Gabriel
Where do culture, emotion, and cognition intersect?
Is altruism a fluke of humans’ inherently selfish nature?
How Western individualism clouds our view of human nature
Stephen: The strongest cultural adaptations are shared unconsciously
An evolutionary explanation of Trump’s cult of personality
Complicating the narrative on immigrant cultural values and success
Reactions to Stephen’s new book,
Why We Need Religion
Jun 7, 2018 — William Dailey & Ross Douthat
Ross’s new book,
To Change the Church
The strengths and weaknesses of Ross’s intellectual approach to faith
Father Bill speaks from Ireland about the country’s recent abortion referendum
Ross challenges liberal Catholics to explain their logic of doctrinal change
How marriage, divorce, and communion came back into Catholic conversation
What will people who read Ross’s book in a hundred years think of it?
May 17, 2018 — William Black & ContraPoints
What is “autogynephilia”?
Are there identifiable “subtypes” of trans women?
Are trans individuals’ souls “trapped in the wrong body”?
Why ContraPoints ruffles feathers in the Twittersphere
New Atheism as an entry point to the alt-right
Assessing Sam Harris and Ezra Klein’s recent debate on race and IQ
May 15, 2018 — Stephen Asma & Rami Gabriel
Are emotions cultural or physiological?
Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett’s argument for emotion-via-culture
Why social construct theory is all the rage today
Rami’s thoughts on self-help psychology
Rami: Pets teach us that emotional connection predates language
What makes emotions adaptive to environment?
Stephen and Rami review the Jaak Panksepp Memorial Symposium
What neuroscientists say about the brain’s unpredictability
May 1, 2018 — Scott Barry Kaufman & Ellen Hendriksen
What does it mean to “be yourself”?
Introversion vs. anxiety
Ellen’s advice for heading out into the world: Just do it
Men, women, and liquid courage
The building blocks of beautiful friendships
Apr 23, 2018 — Philip Menchaca & Kelly Baker
The Ku Klux Klan’s appeal to Protestant America
How the KKK rationalized a Jewish Jesus
The Birth of a Nation
and the symbology of the burning cross
How to “love thy neighbor” as a Klansman (answer: very selectively)
Kelly: The Klan declined, but its politics went mainstream
Kelly’s search for apocalyptic rhetoric in Klan literature
Apr 9, 2018 — Stephen Asma & Rami Gabriel
Puppet Show: Are emotions in the brain?
Luiz Pessoa’s argument for the feedback between lower and higher brain function
How the regions of the brain evolved to interact
“The content problem” in the neuroscience of emotion and cognition
Are the common fears of snakes and spiders “hard-wired,” and how?
What brain mapping fails to tell us about cognition
Rami’s research on prosopagnosia (face blindness) and emotional cognition
Apr 2, 2018 — William Black & Elizabeth Catte
The narrative of “economic anxiety” in Appalachia
Elizabeth: Appalachia is more diverse than you think
The myth of the “mountain white”
Critiquing J.D. Vance’s book
Political activism in the region
How Elizabeth sees her role as a “public historian”
Mar 13, 2018 — Josh Summers & David Lesondak
What is fascia and why does it matter?
When fascia malfunctions
What David does as a “body worker”
How body posture could influence mental health
Unanswered questions in fascia research
Can mindfulness meditation reduce the perception of pain?
The concept of “tensegrity,” or tensional integrity, in the human body
Mar 8, 2018 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Pater Edmund Waldstein
Why the Mortara case is still provoking argument 150 years later
Pater Edmund offers a defense of Pope Pius IX
Integralism and different conceptions of liberty
What would an integralist Catholic state look like?
How Pater Edmund became a monk (with a blog)
The day-to-day life of a modern meditating monk
Mar 7, 2018 — Stephen Asma & Rami Gabriel
Puppet show: Why are human emotions unique?
Does self-restraint make us human?
Considering emotions as social constructs
Stephen: If you have emotions, you have consciousness
Artificial intelligence doesn’t necessarily defer to it its creator
How insects are like robots
Does culture change how the brain reads emotion in faces?
Mar 4, 2018 — Philip Menchaca & Sr. Theresa Aletheia Noble
Growing up Very Catholic
Sister Theresa’s atheist youth and subsequent return to faith
Finding a calling within the Church
Why remembering her own mortality is essential to Sister Theresa’s faith
Sister Theresa: Not all believers understand their children’s doubt
Feb 21, 2018 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Catherine Nichols
Why is pop culture obsessed with good guy vs. bad guy stories?
Catherine: Modern stories don’t let the villain be fully human
World War II and the trope of the ragtag band of misfits
Shakespeare vs. comic book movies
Storytelling about why we go to war
What pop culture best represents moral complexity?
Feb 15, 2018 — Josh Summers & Tami Simon
From Swarthmore sophomore to meditating in India
How Tami started Sounds True publishing company at age 22
Tami’s spiritual teacher, Jasmine the cocker spaniel
Why it’s okay to mourn a deceased pet
Confronting the unethical behavior of spiritual teachers
Feb 9, 2018 — Stephen Asma & Rami Gabriel
This week’s puppet show: How do emotions help us survive?
Darwin’s attempts to understand the inner lives of animals
Can we really hide our feelings? Rami doubts it
The “seeking” drive that keeps us going
Angst: Fear without an object
How culture complicates finding a mate
Is there an adaptive function to recognizing beauty?
Feb 5, 2018 — William Black & Benjamin Park
The Mormon Church’s new president, 93 year-old Russell M. Nelson
The decades-long campaign to incorporate the Church into the American mainstream
Does the Church clash with academic historical study?
Untangling the fates of remarried Mormons’ souls
The LDS Church as a contained society within the US
Why did the first Mormon women choose polygamy?
Jan 24, 2018 — Josh Summers & Drew Ackerman
Drew’s journey from insomniac to teller of bedtime stories for adults
“Interesting, but not too interesting; boring, but not too boring”
Warning: This segment may put you to sleep
The countercultural community of insomniacs
How podcasting led to personal growth
Jan 23, 2018 — Noah Rasheta & Paige Smathers
Paige on where mindfulness and diet meet
How to build a healthier relationship with food
The meditative potential of mindful eating
All-or-nothing thinking is incompatible with eating well
Noah and Paige introduce their upcoming event, Mindful Eating Workshop
Future online resources for the project
Jan 19, 2018 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Liz Wolfe
Why the Aziz Ansari story blew up
Are women like “Grace” damned if they do, damned if they don’t?
Libertarianism and consent
Katie Roiphe vs. the creator of the Shitty Media Men list
Is giving the benefit of the doubt possible in the age of the Twitter mob?
Having good politics vs. being a good person
Jan 17, 2018 — Nikita Petrov & Tanya Luhrmann
How psychosis and prayer can make invisible entities ‘real’
Why the voices heard by American schizophrenics are especially mean
Turning madness into vocation: the shamans of West Africa
Why talking to one’s hallucinations is a good idea
How evangelicals shape their God
‘Remembering’ past lives in Scientology and ‘satanic ritual abuse’ in therapy
Jan 13, 2018 — Josh Summers & Thomas Joiner
Thomas describes a modern narcissism epidemic
Does a lack of self-esteem fuel narcissism?
Why is a focus on the “self” ubiquitous in mindfulness?
Challenging the health claims of mindfulness meditation
Why “self-compassion meditation” makes both Josh and Thomas uncomfortable
The common ground between mindfulness and stoicism
Jan 10, 2018 — Stephen Asma & Rami Gabriel
Stephen and Rami present: “The Evolution of Emotion” puppet show
How ancient societies managed their earthly impulses
The human anger displayed in Greek mythology
Marcus Aurelius’s concept of the “wise man”
Hafez, the drunk Sufi poet
How does culture influence our core emotions?
Are animals capable of feeling anger?
Stephen on how horror plays on our most primal fears
Jan 8, 2018 — Philip Menchaca & Jonathan Young
Who was Joseph Campbell?
Applying the idea of the monomyth to
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Can we disentangle myths from culture?
Cinderella and mental health
How Jonathan uses mythology in psychotherapy
Is it healthy to think of yourself as a hero on a quest?
Religion and the experience of meaning vs. the idea of meaning
Dec 18, 2017 — Philip Menchaca & Joseph Baker
American paranormal culture, from dabblers to devotees
Speaking in tongues vs. alien visitations
The search for Bigfoot turns professional
Can you be both “normal” and “paranormal”?
Why ghost stories seem to “latch onto our brains”
The data behind the reissue of Joseph’s book,
Dec 5, 2017 — Noah Rasheta & Ellen Leanse
Ellen’s new book
The Happiness Hack
as an owner’s guide to the human brain
Distraction as a “dopamine hijack”
Conditioning the mind for happiness
The neurology behind self-inflicted emotional wounds
How to change happiness from “destination” to “journey”
Ellen’s tips for “hacking into” contentment and purpose
Nov 15, 2017 — Philip Menchaca & Michael Jerryson
The Rohingya crisis in Myanmar
Is Aung San Suu Kyi to blame?
The Buddhists inciting violence against Muslims
The conditions that foster Buddhist nationalism
Myanmar’s theocratic vibes
Who’s helping the Rohingya?
Nov 3, 2017 — Robert Wright
Oct 10, 2017 — Philip Menchaca & Joseph Baker
How Trump plays on the values of Christian nationalism
What does it mean to be secular?
What is driving the global trend toward secularism?
Joseph: The New Atheists are influential, but not representative
How human mortality keeps religion alive
Sep 24, 2017 — Nikita Petrov & Tony Ortega
Former Scientology executive Marty Rathbun’s private conflict with the Church
New breakthroughs in media coverage of Scientology
How the Church swiftly conquered US law and the IRS
What makes Scientology different from other religions?
How L. Ron Hubbard invented a reality for his followers
Why Scientology isn’t concerned with the apocalypse
The Church’s beef with professional psychology
Sep 12, 2017 — Josh Summers & Aaron Goldberg
Learning the tonal language of jazz
How Aaron turned jazz into a career
Why human connection makes jazz work
The connection between improvisational jazz and Buddhism
Are music listeners’ attention spans shrinking?
Aaron’s advice for new jazz listeners: Start with Miles
Sep 8, 2017 — Josh Summers & Stephen Asma
Stephen’s new book,
The Evolution of Imagination
Are dreams like “proto-consciousness”?
The mind as an extension of the body
Where Stephen thinks “effective altruism” falls short
How to improve your imagination
Trump as a bad improviser
Bringing imagination to a meditation practice
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