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Where do your opinions come from? Do we ‘think’ our world views, or ‘feel’ them? And what do our beliefs mean for politics and society? In each episode of On Opinion, Turi Munthe asks thought leaders to share their perspectives on why we think what we think and what it means for the world today, discussing everything from the war on truth to how to argue with people you hate. Hosted on Acast. See acast.com/privacy for more information.
 
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show series
 
S2 E29: Our Stone-Age Brains “We have mental mechanisms that have been there since the Stone Age and no longer function in this environment” Short-term thinking, lazy reasoning and stereotyping, and too much focus on what’s bad (the ‘negativity bias’)… all are throw-backs to our last major evolutionary stage, when humans lived in a world of scarcit…
 
S2 E28: The Spirituality Movement “A lot of those who’ve left the church tend to be younger people, who nonetheless still consider themselves spiritual. They’ve been turned off by churches, but they haven’t necessarily gone full atheist, materialist…” Religion is declining around the world. Even in America, the great outlier of the post-Christian W…
 
S2 E27: Generational Politics “If you truly understand what’s different between generations, you have a much better idea of what’s coming up in the future.” It turns out there are very real differences between the generations. Key external events - a world war, a crippling global financial crash, 9⁄11, or even a pandemic - will mark a generation in…
 
S2 E26: Political Predisposition “40% of the variance observed in political attitudes can be attributed to genetics” Twin studies have suggested that one third of our political orientation can be traced to our genes. But does that mean our politics are predisposed? John Hibbing is one of the greats of Political Psychology in the US. His work spans …
 
S2 E25: On Emotion “The world that we live in today is fuelled by heightened emotion…” Over the course of these two seasons of On Opinion, we’ve looked at opinions through the lens of philosophy, psychology, social science, anthropology and evolution. But one area we’ve missed is that of feeling. Omar Kholeif and Jonathan Sklar take very different …
 
S2 E24: The Journal of Controversial Ideas “You can’t have a good education if you’re not exposed to ideas you don’t agree with” Twelve years ago, Francesca Minerva published an academic article in the Journal of Medical Ethics giving a moral defence of infanticide. She was overwhelmed by the reaction she received - for an academic article in the e…
 
S2 E23: The Evolution of Cooperation “Every multicellular being is a collective that operates as a whole - the individual is an ‘invention’ of evolution” Cooperation is at work up everywhere - from our ‘selfish’ genes working together in the genome, through to the democratic societies that regulate our collaboration. Cooperation is what distinguish…
 
### S2 E22: Psychometrics: measuring ourselves > _“Psychometrics is one of the most important or influential areas of applied psychology”_ Psychometrics, the study of personality and ability, began with the Chinese Imperial Court exams, which measured intelligence and civility, as well as archery and horse-riding. Via the East India Company, testin…
 
“Dehumanisation both justifies and motivates acts of extraordinary violence - but it is not in any sense an innate disposition” Here lies the terrifying quandary: if humans are the most social of all primates and mammals, if our sociality and capacity for collaboration is at the very heart of our success as a species, how are we able to engage in s…
 
“Dehumanisation is a psychological process, and every psychological process can be used for good or bad.” Humanisation (attributing motive and consciousness) and dehumanisation are flip sides of common cognitive processes, what Harris calls “Flexible Social Cognition”, which he has measured via fMRI scans. “I think of dehumanization much more as an…
 
“We often treat privacy as a quick fix for much deeper social problems - like prejudice and bias” Our lives are constantly documented. Our Facebook likes, our Tweets and even our credit card statements all reveal information about us. But what about our faces? Michal Kosinski has demonstrated that off-the-shelf, commercially available AI can analys…
 
“Our inner and outer crises are two sides of the same coin” There are many lenses through which to explain polarisation - economic, political, demographic, evolutionary… Alex Evans wants us to consider it from a psychological perspective. Alex has campaigned around inclusion and social justice for two decades, but researchers in Israel changed his …
 
“The avoidance of conflict is actually the real problem” We traditionally view an argument as a symptom of a problematic relationship, but relationship psychologists have found that they actually lead to healthier and happier people. Children who grow up arguing with their parents do better in school, and couples who air their disagreements stay to…
 
“The disadvantaged don’t make the world, they cope with it” Since Etienne de la Boetie’s Discourse on Voluntary Servitude (1577), we have asked ourselves why the weak, the poor and the marginalised accept injustice. Social scientists talk to economic and political oppression. John Jost’s work shows that the oppressed don’t just suffer the injustice…
 
"Populism is a permanent shadow of modern representative democracy, and a constant threat" The last few decades has seen a democratic drift, as populist leaders emerge all over the world - from Bolsonaro and Trump in the Americas, through Orban, Kaczynski and Erdogan in Europe, to Modi and Duterte in Asia. Their policies have little in common, but …
 
“The more we increase the connectivity of people, the more people get stuck in extreme positions and echo chambers on the extreme edges of our belief structures.” In December 2017, Jens Koed Madsen heard Mark Zuckerberg talking about the power of connectivity. Zuckerberg’s hypothesis was that the more people were connected, the more quickly we woul…
 
Michael Shermer is one of the world’s most prominent skeptics - founder of The Skeptic Society and editor of its magazine Skeptic. Once a fundamentalist Christian, Michael has spent his career uncovering the workings and causes of our 'Believing Brain'. “Our brains are wired to think more like lawyers than scientists - to win arguments, to bolster …
 
Roberto Foa's research on Global Dissatisfaction with Democracy and Youth Dissatisfaction with Democracy uncovered the highest rates of dissatisfaction in decades, particularly amongst young people. “The majority of Americans today are dissatisfied with Democracy” 2019 represents the highest level of democratic discontent on record. Around the worl…
 
“There’s a subtle but crucial difference between ‘Opponent’ and ‘Enemy’” If Polarization is on the rise around the world, it takes different forms. The “Ideas Landscape” in the US, UK, France and Germany is very different, with the US - unfortunately - most radicalised across its politics. There, political sorting amongst voters and inside Congress…
 
“The key division in all political systems is the result of two distinct perceptions of the most dangerous threats” Western politics have traditionally been divided into Conservatives and Liberals - tradition vs egalitarianism. John Hibbing, who more than anyone has put biology back into our understanding of politics, proposes an entirely new appro…
 
“We synchronise together through processes of emotional contagion and social conformity… This helps produce a shared experience of the world.” Human beings are social creatures. But is this social nature more than just a desire to be connected? Do we actually form one collective consciousness? Are humans more a ‘We’ than an ‘I’? In her book Hivemin…
 
“You really do have to do bridge building at the community level. People have to learn to talk to each other across sides” The Left and the Right today are miles apart. In the past few years, polarisation has become an integral part of our societies. But has it always been this way - is polarisation a natural part of democracy? Covering the politic…
 
“Dyadic morality is ultimately about the link between perceived harm and immorality…” Why do we believe murder is “wrong”? Why can’t we compare the effects of a hurricane with the acts of a paedophile? Kurt Gray argues that human morality stems from “harm” - that moral acts have an intentional agent and a victim, and it is this perception of harm c…
 
“A lot of the human behaviour that seems perplexing, irrational (like politics or religion) is often most effectively explained by Evolutionary Psychology” We evolved to live in hunter-gatherer communities clustered in small units spread sparsely across the landscape. Existentially threatened by outsiders - who brought war as well as germs - humans…
 
“Microaggressions are so hard because they typically don’t meet traditional philosophical conceptions of blameworthiness…” Microaggressions are the latest front in the culture wars - seemingly harmless comments such as “yes, but where are you really from…” or misused pronouns, over time, can cause profound damage to the receiver. But the idea of ca…
 
“We need to borrow from both the Left and the Right to achieve a renewal of liberalism…” As a journalist and political commentator, Timothy Garton Ash took a front row seat watching Eastern Europe open up in the 1990s - the heyday of Liberal expansionism around the world. Today, faced with populist authoritarians and illiberal democrats at home, an…
 
“We have to come to the table, even if it’s just to say we disagree… then you have a chance to move forward” The number of armed groups created in the last 6 years surpasses the number created since WW2. States themselves have been creating them, globalisation has linked them up, and the population displacement driven by climate change has only exa…
 
"By gaining greater knowledge of how others think, we can become less certain of the knowledge we think we have, which is always the first step to greater understanding" It goes without saying that the way we think is embedded in our own time and culture. The same is true even of Philosophers: our 'professional' thinkers. Julian Baggini's How the W…
 
“In their desire for groups to BE equal, Liberals have a bias towards PERCEIVING groups to be equal… Inequality must therefore always be explained through discrimination and prejudice, rather than evolved or genetic differences” Turi talks with Dr. Cory Clark about the origins of bias - why it is so ingrained in our thinking, its evolutionary uses,…
 
“When evidence is ambiguous––when it is hard to know how to interpret it—it can lead rational people to predictably polarize.” Turi talks with philosopher Kevin Dorst to understand why all our cognitive ‘flaws’ - from confirmation bias and motivated reasoning, through our selective exposure to media, even the prejudice we apply to our analysis of e…
 
“Democracy runs on disagreement: it is by means of citizens hashing out their differences that democracy can achieve better political outcomes.” In Part 2 of their podcast, Turi and Bob Talisse follow on from their discussion of Equal Citizenship (and why polarization strains that ideal), to discuss Disagreement and how we build democratic ‘Civilit…
 
"Democracy is the thesis that a decent and stable political order is possible amongst equal citizens who disagree, but only if that disagreement is made to work in the service of democracy through civility." In this two-part podcast, Turi and Bob Talisse explain these core ideas of Equal Citizenship, Disagreement and Civility, why they're so fundam…
 
“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing” Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 1670 The Mind is embodied - it is a bodily function. What causes it to function in the way that it does. What motivates it? And here’s the rub. Because the mind has two, often contradictory, reasons for working. Epistemic: we think for knowledge, truth, accuracy. Emot…
 
“John Stuart Mill would be the kind of person who would argue for following people with whom you strongly disagree because they’re the ones that are gonna make you think.” Turi talks with the philosopher Nigel Warburton about free speech and its foundational text - John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859). Today, all sides of the political spectrum dec…
 
“People are drawn to conspiracy theories to satisfy particular unmet psychological needs - epistemic, existential and social.” Turi talks with Professor Karen Douglas of the University of Kent, to understand where conspiracy theories come from. Karen has surveyed all the literature on conspiracy theory. She identifies three core drivers behind the …
 
"A lot of beliefs that are fundamental to who we are and to how we think about the world are influenced by things that appear to be arbitrary and irrelevant to the truth of the matter.” Turi talks with Professor Miriam Schoenfield, of the University of Texas at Austin, to understand whether we can have any kind of certainty about the truth of our b…
 
Turi speaks with Professor Karin Wahl-Jorgensen about how emotion drives the political agenda. What are emotional epochs? Are we all responsible for the growth of "angry populism"? Is it justified? How is social media putting emotion at the heart of the global news agenda? How is collective trauma shaping today's protest movements? More on this epi…
 
"The more intelligent someone is, the more polarized their opinions on climate change become. More intelligent Republicans are actually more likely to be climate change deniers, while more intelligent Democrats are more likely to endorse the scientific consensus. So, at the extremes of intelligence, you really see a big strong divergence of opinion…
 
“The struggle [is]...because of some of the ethics and practices of traditional journalism, there's an inclination or habit to quote both sides. Even though there really aren't both sides." Turi talks to Spaceship Media founder Eve Pearlman about growing media polarisation, fake news and how we can combat the crisis of truth. What is polarisation? …
 
“You may think that the feeling you're feeling is happening because of you. But in reality that's actually a performance that's being scripted by some very clever search engine in Silicone Valley." Turi talks to futurist Shumon Basar about how technology is transforming the way we think and feel. What is the extreme present? How has the digital wor…
 
“When it comes to morality, we have our moral taste buds, most people are motivated to do good...But there’s still quite a lot of wiggle room...a lot of uncertainty...that creates an opportunity for decision making” Turi talks with Research Director for Kindlab, at www.kindness.org, Dr Oliver Scott Curry to find out how humans became moral animals.…
 
"You can write a blog, every time you do, you are distributing information - propagandizing. And, in that sense the day's propaganda is very similar to this virus, because what's been fascinating...is that you are very aware that you're not just a victim of it, but that you may [also] have spread it” Turi talks to writer Peter Pomerantsev about how…
 
“People are not born extremists. What are the social circumstances that have created the ground for radicalisation?” Turi talks with psychotherapist and conflict resolution expert Gabrielle Rfikind about what extremists think. What makes societies susceptible to radicalisation? Are people born extremists? How is Europe moving into a dangerous space…
 
"We are responding in ways, which are...imaginative and potentially dangerous...terrifying...mass information surplus really destabilizes people's understanding of where they sit in the world. When you've got thousands of different competing narratives attacking you at all times it's extremely destabilizing and, therefore, could very easily prompt …
 
Why do we think what we think? Find out more about The Parlia Podcast with host Turi Munthe. The Parlia Podcast will ask: what is an opinion? Do we ‘think’ our worldviews, or ‘feel’ them? Are they inherited? What do our beliefs mean for politics and society? Our ideas make us who we are, and yet we almost never ask where they come from. In each epi…
 
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