Episodes

Episode 99: Mockingbirds, Destructo-Critics, and Mr. Robot  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

David and Tamler tackle three topics on their last double digit episode. First, should a middle school perform "To Kill a Mockingbird" even if they have to use bad language the "n-word," and talk about sexual assault? Tamler relates a story involving his daughter (who was supposed to play Scout) and a playwright who refused to allow his play to be censored. But when it comes to drama, middle school's got nothing on social psychology. Next, David and Tamler break down the latest controversy surrounding Princeton psychologist Susan Fiske's leaked column about the bullying destructo-critics and methodological terrorists that are challenging the establishment in the field. Finally, they give a spoiler-filled analysis of season 2 of Mr. Robot, a polarizing season for many fans. Tamler's suffering from a little theory fatigue, but David blows his mind with his explanation of what's really going on with the Dark Army and F-Society. Have you ever cried during sex?

LinksTo Kill a Mockingbird stage play [stageagent.com]Mob Rule or the Wisdom of Crowds? Susan Fiske's forthcoming column in the APS Observer [verybadwizards.com]Andrew Gelman's blog post about Susan Fiske's column [andrewgelman.com]Ioannidis, J. P. (2005). Why most published research findings are false. PLoS Med, 2(8), e124. [plos.org]The Hardest Science blog by Sanjay Srivastava (@hardsci)sometimes i'm wrong blog by Simine Vazire (@siminevazire)The 20% Statistician blog by Daniel Lakens (@lakens)Too Many Cooks [youtube.com]Bitcoin explained and made simple [youtube.com]Key generation [wikipedia.org]
Episode 98: Mind the Gap  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

David and Tamler break down what is maybe the biggest question in moral philosophy -- is it possible to derive value judgments from a set of purely factual claims? Like the Scottish Philosopher David Hume they express surprise when the usual copulation of propositions 'is' and 'is not' can suddenly turn into conclusions in the form of 'ought' and 'ought not.' And why are propositions copulating anyway? Aren't they a little young for that? Is proposition porn about to be the new fad? They also talk about Moore's Open Question Argument, which introduced the term "naturalist fallacy," and respond to angry criticism over last episode's Rationalia segment.     

LinksListener C. Derek Varn's blog post: "The Dogmatic Slumber of Neil deGrasse Tyson" [symptomaticcommentary.wordpress.com]Hume's Moral Philosophy [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]Is-ought problem [wikipedia.org]GE Moore's Moral Philosophy [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]Open-question argument [wikipedia.org]The Naturalistic Fallacy [wikipedia.org]
Episode 97: Dogmatic Slumber Party  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

Do you have strong views on climate change, taxes, health care, or gun control? Do you think the evidence and reason support your side of the debate? How do you know you’re right? David and Tamler discuss a recent paper by Dan Kahan and colleagues showing how prone people are to make errors in processing information to favor positions they are predisposed to believe. And even more shocking: the higher your numeracy skills, the more prone you are to fall prey to this bias. So how do we correct for this? Can we know anything at all with any confidence? Could it be that 'Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret' in not in fact a completely accurate depiction of how young girls think about puberty? Plus, we decide whether to join Neil deGrasse Tyson as a citizen of Rationalia. To paraphrase Mr. T, I pity the newscasters!

LinksReflections on Rationalia by Neal deGrasse Tyson [facebook.com]Vulcan learning pods from Star Trek (2009). [youtube.org]Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Dawson, E. C., & Slovic, P. (2013). Motivated numeracy and enlightened self-government. Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper, (307). [uoregon.edu]Ditto, P. H., & Lopez, D. F. (1992). Motivated skepticism: Use of differential decision criteria for preferred and nonpreferred conclusions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(4), 568. [phi.org]
Episode 96: Memory and Meaning in "Memento" (with Paul Bloom)  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

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...

LinksPaul 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]
Bonus Episode: More Doobie-ous Theories About "Mr. Robot" (Season 2)  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

Hello friend, did you come from the Berenstein with an 'E' universe? Or have you lived in the Berenstain with an 'A' universe? David and Tamler try to make sense of what's going on in Season 2 of Mr. Robot (Ep.1-5). You're gonna want to dig through your vomit for adderall for this one.

LinksThe Berenstain Bears [wikipedia.org]The Berenstein Bears: We Are Living in Our Own Parallel Universe [woodbetween.world]On the Berenstein Bears Switcheroo [woodbetween.world]
Episode 95: The Repugnance of Repugnance  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

We all remember the famous iTunes review calling David and Tamler "repugnant." (And the T-shirt/mugs are coming soon, we promise!) But what did the reviewer mean by that? Was he calling us "immoral"? Did he actually feel disgust when he listened to the podcast? And if so, was there wisdom in his repugnance--did the feeling offer any moral insight about the podcast's value? How did an emotion that originally evolved for pathogen avoidance get into moralizing business anyway? And why do white people kiss their dogs? Plus, an illuminating two week old discussion about the election, and Tamler finally comes around to defending a Kantian position—“the cart-egorical imperative” 

LinksKass, L. R. (1997). The Wisdom of Repugnance: Why we should ban the cloning of humans, the. Val. UL Rev., 32, 679. [stanford.edu]Very Bad Wizards Episode 7: Psychopaths and Utilitarians Pt. 2 [verybadwizards.com]"Freedom" internet blocking app [freedom.to]Dolly the cloned sheep [wikipedia.org]Kelly, D. (2011). Yuck!: the nature and moral significance of disgust. MIT Press. [amazon.com affiliate link]Sommers, T. (2013). Review of "Yuck: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust." The Philosophical Quarterly, 63(250), 172-174. [verybadwizards.com]Pizarro, D., Inbar, Y., & Helion, C. (2011). On disgust and moral judgment. Emotion Review, 3(3), 267-268. [peezer.net]Exaptation [wikipedia.org]Pinker on Kass--"The Stupidity of Dignity" in New Republic May 28 2008. [newrepublic.com]Do I Need an Umbrella? [doineedanumbrella.com]Cthulhu For President [cthulhuforamerica.com]
Episode 94: Buttery Friendships  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

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.

LinksVery 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]

artwork by Troy Brown

Episode 93: Avalanches, Blame, and Cowardice (With Yoel Inbar)  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

Scandinavian film scholar Yoel Inbar joins the podcast for a deep dive on the Swedish film Force Majeure, a darkly funny meditation on what our instinctive behavior in a moment of panic can reveal about our characters and relationships. The story: while having lunch on a ski slope in the French Alps, a family believes that an avalanche is bearing down on them. Just as it seems the avalanche is going to hit them, the father (Tomas) grabs his phone and gloves and runs indoors, abandoning his wife Ebba and two children. How does the family reckon with this incident? Is the act itself unforgivable, or is it Tomas’s behavior afterwards that makes him despicable? How blameworthy is Tomas for his display of cowardice? Is it even cowardice since he didn’t have time to think about it? What’s the deal with that creepy janitor and all the tooth brushing scenes? Why can’t Yoel and Tamler agree about the answers to any of these questions? Plus, more on the Redskins and Tamler tells an embarrassing story from his past.

LinksYoel Inbar [yoelinbar.net]On that one awkward sex scene from The Americans [vulture.com]Scandinavia [wikipedia.org]Force Majeure [imdb.com]Louie Season 1 Episode 9 "Bully" [imdb.com]
Episode 92: Jonathan Edwards' Basement  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

David and Tamler continue their intermittent “classic paper series” with an episode on Jonathan Bennett’s “The Conscience of Huckleberry Finn” (published in 1974—before the reason vs. emotion debate was all cool again). Using fictional and historical examples, Bennett raises a number of questions that are central to our understanding of human morality, such as what ought to guide our behavior--human sympathy or moral beliefs? Do emotions like empathy/sympathy have judgments built into them? Are these emotions dumb? Is morality dumber? Why was Jonathan Edwards such an asshole? Plus, we talk about the implications of a poll that suggests that most Native Americans aren’t offended by the name “Redskins” for the Washington D.C. NFL team.

Episode LinksNew poll finds 9 in 10 Native Americans aren’t offended by Redskins name by By John Woodrow Cox, Scott Clement and Theresa Vargas [washingtonpost.com] Bennett, J. (1974). The conscience of Huckleberry Finn. Philosophy, 49, 123-134. [earlymoderntexts.com]The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn [wikipedia.org]Heinrich Himmler [wikipedia.org]Jonathan Edwards [wikipedia.org]Pizarro, D. (2000). Nothing more than feelings?: The role of emotions in moral judgment. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 30, 355-375. [peezer.net]
Episode 91: Rage Against the Machines  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

Inspired by a recent ProPublica report on racial bias in an algorithm used to predict future criminal behavior, David and Tamler talk about the use of analytic methods in criminal sentencing, sports, and love. Should we use algorithms to influence decisions about criminal sentencing or parole decisions? Should couples about to get married take a test that predicts their likelihood of getting divorced? Is there something inherently racist about analytic methods in sports? Plus, David asks Tamler some questions about the newly released second edition of his book A Very Bad Wizard: Morality Behind the Curtain.

LinksMachine Bias by Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu and Lauren Kirchner [propublica.org]Mission Impossible: African-Americans & Analytics by Michael Wilbon [theundefeated.com]A Very Bad Wizard: Morality Behind the Curtain [amazon.com affiliate link to the Kindle version of 2nd edition. Eight new interviews. And an all-new foreword by Peez.]Paperback version of the 2nd edition (currently only available on the publisher's website) [routledge.com]
Episode 90: Of Mice and Morals  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

David and Tamler have their first real fight in a while over an article defending "social mixing"--distributing babies randomly across families such that no infant is genetically related to the parents who raise them.. Then they discuss a study published in Science in 2013 in which participants could earn money if they agreed to let mice be killed in a gas chamber.  Do free markets threaten our moral characters and cause us to abandon our principles? What are mechanisms behind this phenomenon when it happens? And why does David hate mice so much?

Episode LinksMaus by Art Spiegelman [wikipedia.org]If babies were randomly allocated to families, would racism end? by Howard Rachlin and Melvin Frankel [aeon.co]Falk, A., & Szech, N. (2013). Morals and markets. Science, 340, 707-711. [sciencemag.org].pdf available here [gtcenter.org]
Episode 89: Shame on You (with Jennifer Jacquet)  
Episode Audio Episode Notes

David and Tamler welcome author and environmental science professor Jennifer Jacquet to the podcast to discuss the pros and cons of shame. What's the difference between shame and guilt? Is shaming effective for generating social progress or getting tax cheats to pay up? Is twitter shaming on the rise or on its way out? And what does David do when he's alone in the dark?

But before all of that, David and Tamler introduce a new way to support the podcast--through our Patreon account (patreon.com/verybadwizards). Plus, we discuss the retraction of a press release announcing that a professor agreed to referee a journal article (!) And can one passage get Tamler, the eternal optimist, to hate philosophy?

LinksVery Bad Wizards are on Patreon [patreon.com]Sociology faculty member publishes book chapter [psu.edu]Penn State retracts press release about sociologist reviewing an article. [retractionwatch.org]A very confusing paragraph [verybadwizards.com]Bradley, B. (2009). Well-being and death. OUP Oxford.Jennifer Jacquet [jenniferjacquet.com]Is Shame Necessary? by Jennifer Jacquet [amazon.com affiliate link]Congratulations, you have an all male panel! [allmalepanels.tumblr.com]Racists getting fired [racistsgettingfired.tumblr.com]Shame (movie) [imdb.com]Babies (movie) [imdb.com]
Episode 88: A Doobie for Elijah  
Episode Audio

 

Episode Notes 

David and Tamler celebrate Passover with a high-spirited episode on guns, revenge, liberals, being offended, the fear of death, and whether kids have a right to be loved. Thanks to all you listeners for emailing your questions, comments, and complaints--this was a fun, energetic discussion. Plus, a blast from the past from an unusually alert Pizarro: Michael Shannon reading a sorority letter.  But won't somebody please think of the children???!! 

LinksMr. Robot Season 2 premiere date [usanetwork.com]Michael Shannon reads sorority letter [youtube.com]George Rainbolt's review of "The Right to be Loved" by Matthew Liao [npdr.nd.edu]The Right to be Loved by S. Matthew Liao [amazon]The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker [wikipedia.org]A History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell [wikipedia.org]The Story of Philosophy by Wil DurantRick and Morty [imdb.com]Marijuana is Kosher [npr.org]Louis CK on the Bill Simmons podcast [youtube.com]Is Shame Necessary? by Jennifer Jacquet [amazon.com affiliate link]Jennifer Jacquet [jenniferjacquet.com]

 

Episode 87: Lucky You (with Robert Frank)  
Episode Audio

(Note that download link on the player above now allows you to download an MP3 file)

Episode Notes

We hit the jackpot with this one! Economist Robert Frank (you may remember him from such episodes as The Greatest Books Ever Written) joins David and Tamler to talk about his new book Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy. What role does pure chance play in making or breaking our careers and lives? Are effort and talent enough to succeed, or does the ball need to bounce our way? Where do we get our will-power and talent--is that ultimately a matter of luck as well? And what happens when we reflect on the lucky breaks we've received in our lives? Does it make us happier and more generous? Or do we feel like our accomplishments have been taken away? Plus a brief discussion of the Frank's revelatory 1988 book Passions Within Reason, and of some recent studies about how we convey our commitment to cooperate.     

LinksRobert Frank [johnson.cornell.edu]Robert Frank interviewed on Fox News by Stuart Varney [video.foxbusiness.com]Ronald Coase [wikipedia.org]Everett, J.A.C., Pizarro, D. A. & Crockett, M.J., (in press). Inference of Trustworthiness from Intuitive Moral Judgments.  Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. [papers.ssrn.com]Passions within Reason by Robert Frank [amazon.com affiliate link]Frank, R. H., Gilovich, T., & Regan, D. T. (1993). The evolution of one-shot cooperation: An experiment. Ethology and sociobiology, 14, 247-256.Desteno, D., Breazeal, C., Frank, R. H., Pizarro, D., Baumann, J., Dickens, L., & Lee, J. J. (2012). Detecting the trustworthiness of novel partners in economic exchange. Psychological science, 23, 1549-1556. [pdf from davedesteno.com]Frank, R.H. (2016) Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy. [amazon.com affiliate link]
Episode 86: Guns, Shame, and the Meaning of Punishment  
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We know that criminal punishment has consequences, both good and bad, and that many people think that offenders deserve it. But what does punishment mean? What is society trying to express in the way it punishes criminals? And since people from all sides of the political spectrum agree that the prison population is way too big, is there a way to convey that meaning with alternative forms of sanctions? David and Tamler discuss Yale Law Professor Dan Kahan's classic paper "What do alternative sanctions mean?" that addresses these questions. But first, Tamler gets sanctimonious about other people being sanctimonious about guns on campus. At the risk of angering "that student," we "go there."  

LinksUniversity of Houston Faculty Devises Pointers on How to Avoid Getting Shot by Armed Students by Elliott Hannon [slate.com]A PowerPoint Slide Advises Professors to Alter Teaching to Pacify Armed Students by Rio Fernandes [chronicle.com]Kahan, D. M. (1996). What do alternative sanctions mean? The University of Chicago Law Review, 63(2), 591-653. [law.yale.edu]Moskos, P. (2013). In defense of flogging. Basic Books. [amazon.com affiliate link]

Artwork by Kim Reynolds

Episode 85: A Zoo with Only One Animal (with Paul Bloom)  
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Philosophers can be funny and funny movies can be philosophical. David and Tamler welcome frequent VBW guest and arch-enemy of empathy Paul Bloom to discuss their five favorite comic films with philosophical/psychological themes. Groundhog Day was off-limits for our top five (we would've all chosen it) so we start by explaining why it's the quintessential movie for this topic.

Links

[all movie links are to imdb.com]

Paul's Top 5The Big LebowskiShaun of the DeadThe Man with Two Brains/All of MeStranger than FictionBeing ThereTamler's Top 5Defending Your Life/Lost in AmericaModern TimesSeven Psychopaths/In BrugesBarton Fink/Sullivan's TravelsPurple Rose of CairoDavid's Top 5Office SpaceDr. StrangelovePinker, S. (1999). "The Doomsday Machine" in How the mind works. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 882(1), 119-127.BrazilTrading PlacesMr. SkinThe Princess Bride
Episode 84: Lifting the Veil  
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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...)

LinksPart 1: Litmus TestsThe Bad News Bears (1976) [imdb.com]A Confederacy of Dunces [wikipedia.org]Drive [imdb.com]Every Frame A Painting--Drive: The Quadrant System [youtube.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]ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement/Dubbing) [wikipedia.org]Sullivan's Travels [imdb.com]Spellbound [imdb.com]Slapshot [imdb.com]What We Do in the Shadows [imdb.com]Part 2: Williams, B. (1981). Rawls and Pascal’s Wager. Moral Luck, 94-100. [verybadwizards.com]Moral Luck [amazon.com affiliate link]Moral Foundations Questionnaire (30-item) [moralfoundations.org]
Episode 83: Ego Trip  
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David and Tamler continue their series of breaking down a classic essay/article in their fields. For this installment, David assigns Tamler Anthony Greenwald's fascinating 1980 review article "The Totalitarian Ego." What do totalitarian regimes, scientific theories, and your own cognitive biases have in common? As it turns out, quite a bit. Why do egos rewrite our memories, preserve our beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence, and make us think we're way more important than we are? And how does Thomas Kuhn fit into all this? Plus, we read a few of our favorite iTunes reviews.

LinksAudience video of Society for Personality and Social Psychology 2016 Session on Moral Purity with Kurt Gray, Jon Haidt, David Pizarro (courtesy of Kate Johnson) [youtube.com]Greenwald, A. G. (1980). The totalitarian ego: Fabrication and revision of personal history. American psychologist, 35, 603. [verybadwizards.com]

 

Episode 82: Totalitarian Slide-Rulers  
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David and Tamler take a break from their main jobs as TV critics to talk about a masterpiece in political philosophy: "Two Concepts of Liberty" by Isaiah Berlin. While they both celebrate the style and substance of this classic essay, in a startling twist Tamler praises conceptual analysis and David expresses a few misgivings about his Kantianism. What is the elusive idea of positive liberty, and  how can its pursuit lead to totalitarian rule?  When is it more important to buy boots than read Russian poetry? And why is David still so depressed by pluralism? Plus, coddling in Wisconsin? And another famous set of social psych studies is accused of biting the dust.  

LinksIn Wisconsin, Efforts to End Taunting at Games Lead to Claims of Coddling By Mike McPhate [nytimes.com]Take my Breath Away by Berlin [youtube.com]Cortex Podcast Episode #20 [relay.fm]Amy Cuddy "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are" TED Talk [ted.com]"The Power of the Power Pose: Amy Cuddy's Famous Finding is the Latest Example of Scientific Overreach" By Andrew Gelman and Kaiser Fung [slate.com]Berlin, I. (1958) “Two Concepts of Liberty.” In Isaiah Berlin (1969) Four Essays on Liberty.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. [verybadwizards.com]Positive and Negative Liberty [plato.stanford.edu]Freedom: Block Distractions
Episode 81: Domo Arigato, Mr. Robot (With Yoel Inbar)  
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Hello, listener. Hello, listener? That's lame. Maybe I should give you a name, but that's a slippery slope. You're only in my head. Or maybe we're in your head. Are you listening to this with headphones?

Shit. It's actually happened, I'm talking to imaginary listeners.  

What I'm about to tell you is top secret, a conspiracy bigger than all of us. There's a powerful group of people out there that are secretly running the world. I'm talking about the guys no one knows about, the guys that are invisible. The top 1% of the top 1%, the guys that play God without permission. That's right, it's the Partially Examined Life guys. And now I think they're following me.

Special guest Yoel Inbar joins us to talk about the best show of last year. Warning: This episode is full of spoilers. Do not listen until you've seen Season 1 of Mr. Robot.

LinksMr. Robot IMDBWikipedia
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