21 August 2019
Science of Spirituality
The Wright Show
Emotions and the Brain
The Meaning of Future Life
The Weirdness of Physics
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Mar 1, 2019 — Robert Wright & Jason Pontin
Jason’s tenure as editor of MIT’s
Jason says he never, ever feels offended
Why Jason’s investment firm didn’t back a new gene editing technology
Is current gene-editing technology a “moral and therapeutic dead end”?
How to regulate a future designer baby business
What makes CRISPR gene-editing technology revolutionary?
3D-printing and the future of gun control
Will mind-reading technology kill romantic love?
The theoretical limits of “thought identification” technology
Feb 12, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Crispin Sartwell
Crispin’s book chapter on the nature of truth
Do different uses of the word “truth” have a family resemblance?
The challenge of connecting truth with reality
Where does linguistics enter the picture?
How Crispin bucks expectations of academic philosophical writing
Dan: Analytic philosophy misses the forest for the trees
What’s missing from Crispin’s exploration of truth?
Feb 8, 2019 — Robert Wright & Douglas Rushkoff
Douglas’s new book,
Remembering when people behaved better online than IRL
Douglas was optimistic about the Internet. Then came capitalism.
Imagining a better Facebook
Douglas: “Being human is a team sport”
Tribalism and the Internet
The false promise of “disruption”
How capitalism complicates Douglas’s life
Feb 5, 2019 — Stephen Asma & Rami Gabriel
What is metaphysics, and did it get derailed?
The desire to live in a universe that “makes sense”
How the human lifespan limits our scope of understanding
Why we’re drawn to metaphysical questions
Why younger generations are choosing the supernatural and spiritual over traditional religion
Metaphysics as a means of organizing the sublime
Is the feeling of awe older than humanity itself?
The uncertain future of metaphysics
Feb 1, 2019 — Robert Wright & Gideon Rosen
What’s the philosophical status of materialism?
Gideon’s views about math lead him to reject materialism
Does the existence of consciousness disprove materialism?
Taking the simulation hypothesis seriously
How lucky are we to be alive right now?
Teleology and moral realism
Jan 27, 2019 — Josh Summers & Dan Keown
Dan’s new book,
The Unchartered Body: A New Textbook of Medicine
How Dan’s intrepid grandmother brought him to Eastern medicine
Explaining Eastern medicine to a skeptic
Embryology and the importance of “connectedness” within a body
What is “chi,” exactly?
Where Western medicine falls short
What placebo research proves (and doesn’t prove) about acupuncture
What does the acupuncture needle do?
Dan’s recommended lifestyle changes for systemic health
Jan 21, 2019 — Robert Wright & Lindsay Doran
Lindsay, a Golden Globe–winning movie producer, discusses the Academy Awards
Lindsay’s experience working on
This Is Spinal Tap
The psychology of a great film ending
Why there’s no sequel to
When Harry Met Sally
Art vs. craft in screenwriting
Should movies be moral?
Is a male conscience different from a female conscience?
A film that sounds like it’s great vs. one that actually is
Jan 19, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Oliver Traldi
Why Oliver quit law school
Is it professionally risky to express heterodox views in philosophy?
Philosophy as handmaiden to progressive politics
Dan’s essay on philosophy’s abuse of the harm principle
The chicken-or-egg question of students or faculty
Is leftism corrupting scholarship?
What politics can learn from the field of philosophy
The irony of a leftist discipline that exploits labor
Jan 15, 2019 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Alice Robb
Alice’s new book,
Why We Dream
All the wrong ways we used to think about dreams
The unusual discovery of REM sleep
When scientists thought dreams were a paranormal gateway
Alice describes participating in a “dream group”
What do events in dreams really mean?
Why do we have nightmares?
How to get started with lucid dreaming
Jan 11, 2019 — Robert Wright & John D. Caputo
John, a theologian and philosopher, explains postmodern Christianity
Why postmodernism is not “linguistic idealism”
Religion’s tendency to literalize
What Paul Tillich and Jacques Derrida thought about “the unconditional”
John: The Scriptures present a poetic, topsy-turvy vision of life
Where do our aspirations come from (if anywhere)?
Have art, literature, and social activism replaced religion?
Is there a link between the unconditional and Buddhism’s “unconditioned”?
Jan 8, 2019 — John Horgan & Deirdre McCloskey
Deirdre McCloskey’s personal experience with mind, body, and gender
Are there female and male psyches?
How traditional liberalism guides Deirdre’s personal philosophy
Why Deirdre describes herself as a postmodernist
Liberalism, capitalism, and Marx
Understanding the global turn to populism
Jan 4, 2019 — Robert Wright & Massimo Pigliucci
Could evolution be conscious?
Teleology vs. teleonomy
A purposeful universe is possible, sure—but is it likely?
The trouble with Stephen Jay Gould’s views on the evolution of complexity
It’s “like something” to be an individual human. Could it be like something to be a society?
The news from epigenetics: Heredity works in weirder ways than we knew
Jan 3, 2019 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Travis Smith
Travis’s new book,
The Incredible Hulk and the dangers of individualism
Why Wolverine embodies honor and integrity
Batman vs. Spider-Man, dueling reactions to our tragic universe
Family tragedies in the lives of Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker
Why adults should take comic books seriously
Jan 1, 2019 — What's an opinion you used to hold but don't anymore?
Dec 31, 2018 — Daniel Kaufman & E. John Winner
John’s personal history with punk rock
Why was punk more political in the UK than in NYC?
The far reach of capitalism into counterculture
How the NYC punk scene fizzled out
The early importance of record shops and FM radio stations
Punk and suburban oppression
Is punk dead or perennially youthful?
John: Gender expression is the new embodiment of the punk ethos
Dec 30, 2018 — John Horgan & Stuart Kauffman
Stuart’s early interest in the deepest questions in philosophy and science
How a premonition of his daughter’s tragic death shaped Stuart’s ideas about consciousness
Telepathy, nonlocality, and decoherence: making sense of inexplicable experiences
“Enablement,” Stuart’s concept of a creative, unpredictable causality
John on the connection between emotional experiences and intellectual views
John and Stuart look to the future with cautious optimism
A brief addendum on spoon bending
Dec 30, 2018 — What's the biggest difficulty you have in communicating with other people?
Dec 29, 2018 — What do prayer and meditation mean to you?
Dec 25, 2018 — Is adulthood different from your expectations as a child?
Dec 24, 2018 — Have you ever experienced the divine?
Dec 24, 2018 — John Horgan & Christof Koch
Footprints of consciousness in the brain
Information and consciousness
The “Jennifer Aniston neuron”
Integrated Information Theory and panpsychism
John and Christof disagree about the limits of science
A paradigm explosion in the science of consciousness
Implanting brain chips to compete with AI
Dec 22, 2018 — Do you like your job?
Dec 21, 2018 — Robert Wright & Scott Barry Kaufman
What is the “G” factor in human intelligence?
Fortunately for Scott and Bob, intelligence is about more than mentally rotating 3D objects
What Psych 101 classes get wrong about Abraham Maslow’s “self-actualization”
Is there a right way to self-actualize?
What is personality?
How self-actualized is Bob? He took Scott’s test to find out.
The “Dark Triad” (and why we need a little darkness)
Gender differences in narcissism
Dec 7, 2018 — Robert Wright & Michael Holleran
Father Michael’s 22 years as a Carthusian Monk
The contemplative tradition in Christianity
How Zen captivated Father Michael
Do Buddhist and Hindu mystics experience the same thing?
Zen’s influence on Father Michael’s theology
God, creation, and evolution
What insights does Christianity add to Buddhism?
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s influence on Father Michael
Dec 5, 2018 — Daniel Kaufman & Massimo Pigliucci
What distinguishes “action” from simple motor movement?
Can animals take deliberate action?
Why narrative has a place in science and physics
Biology, evolution, and the emergence of action
Why does Massimo want a beer?
Dan: The “free will problem” is ill-formed
How the evolution of language brought meaning to human behavior
Massimo and Dan’s latest projects
Nov 30, 2018 — Robert Wright & Sabine Hossenfelder
Sabine’s new book,
Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray
Sabine: There’s no reason to think the four fundamental forces can be unified
What “beauty” means to a physicist
The weirdness of the Higgs Boson
Must there be an explanation for the fundamental forces?
Sabine: Multiverse theory isn’t science
What Sabine wants physicists to be doing instead of chasing beauty
Nov 28, 2018 — John Horgan & Robert Trivers
A social theory based on natural selection
“This whole gender thing that’s blown up in the last 10 years…”
Women, men, and intelligence
Could evolutionary psychology explain honor killings?
“The older I get, the more I turn to prayer and meditation”
Robert’s recurring problem with spite
Nov 23, 2018 — Robert Wright & John Haught
The prescience of theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Teilhard’s synthesizing of the “above” and the “ahead”
John: The creation of humans is not the universe’s climax
John: God is “not yet”
Science and faith as different layers of explanation
Searching for God in a scientific age
Why John rejects perennialism
Questions from the live audience
Nov 16, 2018 — Robert Wright & Eddy Nahmias
Explaining “compatibilism,” the view that there’s no conflict between free will and determinism
Without free will, what happens to moral responsibility?
Eddy tells Bob he errs in saying determinism means events are “inevitable”
Free will is hard to imagine, but not nonsensical
Why most philosophers today are compatibilists
Bob: Compatibilists are just playing word games
Were prisoners destined from birth to wind up in prison?
Waiting for the “Einstein of consciousness”
Nov 14, 2018 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Rebecca Lohnes
Rebecca’s path from the Ivy League to an animal shelter
The science of animal training
The many reasons why you shouldn’t try to be your dog’s “alpha”
What we know about animal personality
What goes on inside an animal shelter?
Is there such a thing as a “bad dog”?
What’s actually happening when your pet looks ashamed
Aryeh and Rebecca debate whether their dog loves them
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 11, 2018 — John Horgan & Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
Rebecca’s childhood: poor, religious, and patriarchal
How Bertrand Russell helped Rebecca lose her faith
The problem of beauty
When Rebecca shared a transcendent moment with a troop of baboons
From physics to philosophy
From philosophy to fiction
Does art better address the mind-body problem than philosophy does?
Reasons to feel optimistic about the world
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”?
Nov 9, 2018 — Daniel Kaufman & David Ottlinger
What role should guns play in a liberal society?
What American deference to police says about authority and force
Why we leave justice in the government’s hands
Defining modern conservatism: Is Matt Lewis a “liberal”?
Do pro-gun arguments consider the social contract?
David: Do open-carriers want to live in a Mad Max movie?
Dan: Grover Norquist’s model citizen isn’t a citizen at all
Nov 4, 2018 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & Brandy Jensen
How Brandy came to write an advice column called “Ask a F*ck-Up”
Young people’s problems: depression, alienation, loneliness
Brandy’s central theme: the responsibilities we bear to each other
Can “bad men” change?
The different questions men and women ask
Brandy: A “sex strike” would never work
In defense of being in your own Twitter bubble
Why are there so many depressed people on Twitter?
Nov 3, 2018 — John Horgan & Owen Flanagan
Owen’s transition from Catholicism to “quiet skepticism”
The problem of evil
The hubris of modern philosophers
Can we live with the scientific image of man?
The origin of the universe, life, and consciousness
Owen: Doubt yourself
Does philosophy lead to practical wisdom?
Mind-altering chemicals and free will
Nov 2, 2018 — Robert Wright & Eric Kandel
The research on memory that won Eric the Nobel Prize
The difference between normal memory loss and Alzheimer’s
Eric’s new book,
The Disordered Mind
Eric’s breakthrough study of marine snails with giant nerve cells
What it’s like to win the Nobel Prize
Eric’s childhood escape from Nazi-ruled Vienna to America
Why Vienna was a center of intellectual ferment in the early 20th century
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 26, 2018 — Robert Wright & Amy Alkon
Amy’s self-help book,
Amy’s path from “the cooties girl” to advice columnist
Impersonating your way to the real you
How to overcome fear and anxiety
Why shame is neither good nor bad
Amy: Be authentic to your values, not to your self
The wrong way to get people to change