18 October 2019
Science of Spirituality
The Wright Show
Emotions and the Brain
The Meaning of Future Life
The Weirdness of Physics
Subscribe to MeaningofLife.tv videos via podcast or email
May 3, 2019 — Robert Wright & William von Hippel
Bill’s new book,
The Social Leap
Why happiness is fleeting
Junk food and happy marriages
How to escape the anxiety of status competition
Psychological downsides of being a hunter-gatherer
Why America is more politically tribalized than Australia
The benefits of self-deception
Apr 30, 2019 — Robert Wright & Luke Kemp
Are we on the road to civilizational collapse?
Why we need global governance, not global government
The double-edged sword of civilizational complexity
The apocalyptic scenario Bob fears most
Luke: Not every problem has a technical solution
Bob: Slower technological change would be a blessing
Apr 26, 2019 — Robert Wright & Paul Bloom
How the new media landscape exacerbates tribalism
Can science and reason help combat tribalism?
Why tribal behavior comes naturally to humans
Want to succeed on social media? Try ridicule and moral condemnation!
Why virtual reality may not help you understand the plight of others
Trump’s masterful exploitation of empathy
If a magic therapy “cured” Harvey Weinstein, would punishment still be necessary?
Why social science is, and will stay, liberal
Apr 23, 2019 — Robert Wright & Richard Wrangham
Richard’s new book,
The Goodness Paradox
Why Jane Goodall’s view of chimpanzees took a turn for the darker
Proactive violence (a human specialty) vs. reactive violence
Richard’s “execution hypothesis” for how early humans dealt with violent males
Bob offers an alternative explanation for the domestication of our species
How our cousins the bonobos became nicer than our cousins the chimps
Richard’s explanation for the evolution of moral sense
Is war a part of human nature?
Apr 19, 2019 — Robert Wright & John Thatamanil
Alfred North Whitehead and his “process philosophy”
“Process theology,” which features a changing, non-omnipotent God
A God of persuasion, not coercion
Whitehead’s conception of divinity
Whitehead’s God and Christian theology
Waiting, or not waiting, for God
Beauty and the divine
How Whitehead’s God solves the problem of evil
Apr 16, 2019 — Robert Wright & Geoffrey Miller
What is polyamory?
The evolutionary origins of romantic jealousy
How polyamorous couples manage jealousy, insecurity, and time
Bob extols the benefits of long-term monogamy
Geoffrey’s advice for young men who can’t find romantic partners
Do smaller polyamorous communities get a little, well, incestuous?
Why are fewer young men having sex regularly?
Geoffrey: The ethics of polyamory set it apart from casual dating
Apr 12, 2019 — Aryeh Cohen-Wade & B. D. McClay
B. D.’s essay on mononucleosis and gnosticism
What the ancient gnostics believed about body and spirit
Fingernail clippings and other problems with bodily resurrection
Pros and cons of living in a body
Did George H.W. Bush get to walk out of his wheelchair at the gates of Heaven?
B. D. explains the Children’s Crusade of 1212
The Children’s Crusade’s contemporary resonances
, the reality show that makes you feel good about humanity
Apr 10, 2019 — Daniel Kaufman & Crispin Sartwell
What explains the sharp divide between analytic and continental philosophy?
Continental philosophy’s association with romanticism and fascism
How Richard Rorty, Crispin’s dissertation advisor, bridged the gap between the two schools
Heidegger’s skepticism of science
Crispin articulates the divide in terms of substance and style
How continental philosophy challenges the primacy of argument
Apr 8, 2019 — Robert Wright & Paul Shapiro
Paul Shapiro’s new book,
Clean Meat: How Growing Meat Without Animals Will Revolutionize Dinner and the World
Why conventional meat production is inefficient and unsustainable (not to mention cruel)
Recent innovations in lab-cultured protein, fat, and even leather
Will cultured meat ever become affordable?
How plant-based “meat” and “dairy” have gained market share in the past decade
Paul: History won’t look kindly on our treatment of animals
How Paul’s company is working to reduce meat consumption
Apr 2, 2019 — Robert Wright & Randolph Nesse
Randy’s new book,
Good Reasons for Bad Feelings
What’s the function of grief?
Good for your genes but bad for you
Evolutionary explanations for low mood/depression
What Freud got right
Orgasms and natural selection
Social media, the digital crack cocaine
Mar 15, 2019 — Robert Wright & Tripp Fuller
What does Christianity have in common with Pabst Blue Ribbon?
Young Bob and young Tripp’s critical readings of the Bible
Tripp: Human dignity doesn’t fit into a reductive materialist worldview
Do all Christians believe in divine intervention?
Could a deistic God have created Jesus?
Spiritual practices for the overly judgmental (pretty much everyone)
Tripp’s culture shock upon returning to North Carolina
Paul Tillich and the dialogue between culture and faith
Tripp: Oprah is the spiritual leader of the one percent
Mar 4, 2019 — Nikita Petrov & John Horgan
Nikita launches a YouTube channel and a Patreon page
Could depression be rational?
The nihilistic/psychedelic/Buddhist Russian writer Victor Pelevin
Louis CK and the problem of evil
Gnosticism and the blunder of creation
The mystery of communication
Russia is a book, America is a computer game
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