show episodes
 
Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.
 
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show series
 
Mickey and Yoel welcome repeat guest Ted Slingerland to talk about his new book "Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization," in which he makes the case for alcohol. Also, why are Yoel's guns out, and what was Mickey's worst trip? Special Guest: Edward (Ted) Slingerland. Sponsored By: Paperpile: No-fuss reference management …
 
David and Tamler argue about the philosopher L.A. Paul’s ideas on “transformative experiences” – big life decisions that will change you and your values so much that our normal decision-making models break down. Tamler is fully on board and hopeful for philosophy, but David sees Paul’s view as a threat to his precious rationality. Plus, we tackle t…
 
Yoel and Alexa discuss progress in open science over the past 10 years. Is the scientific reform glass half-full or half-empty? Where have we made progress, and what still needs work? We use two papers describing "Scientific Utopia" by Nosek and colleagues (written nearly 10 years ago!) in order to evaluate our progress. Also, the true story of how…
 
Tamler welcomes social psychologist David Pizarro of Cornell University to the podcast to talk about his recent article (along with Raj Anderson, Shaun Nichols, and Rachana Kamtekar) on “false-positive emotions.” When agents commit accidental harms, we typically tell them they shouldn’t feel too guilty, it’s not their fault, it was out of their con…
 
Mickey, Alexa, and Yoel break down "Breaking the Social Media Prism," a new book arguing that social media reinforces our pre-existing political beliefs and polarizes us against the other side. Plus, HUGE NEWS about who's hosting the show. Also, Yoel gets a French lesson. Links: Saison - Sour beer – LOOP Mission Lazer Lager | Brasserie Dieu du Ciel…
 
We’ve done deep dives on three of his stories, and now THE MAN HIMSELF, multi-award winning science fiction author Ted Chiang, joins us to explore the post-apocalyptic world of the video-game SOMA. You play Simon Jarrett, a man who goes for a brain scan in Toronto and wakes up a 100 years later in an underwater research facility, the last remaining…
 
Canada’s leading Russian literature scholar Yoel Inbar joins us to try to make sense of Gogol’s 1836 short story “The Nose.” A nose goes missing from a Russian official’s face and winds up in the barber’s loaf of bread. A few hours later, the nose has rocketed up the social hierarchy and denies his connection to the official. What’s going on? Is Ma…
 
Journalist and podcaster Jesse Singal joins the show to talk about the enduring popularity of social-psychological quick fixes and how they go wrong. Plus: what is wrong with how the media covers science? Special Guest: Jesse Singal. Links: Shipping Out of Boston | Jack's Abby Good Monster DIPA - Collective Arts Brewing Post Shift | Jack's Abby Gli…
 
"Sometimes I think of my death," Akira Kurosawa said, "I think of ceasing to be...and it is from these thoughts that Ikiru came.” David and Tamler explore what it means to truly live in Kurosawa’s 1952 masterpiece about a bureaucrat in postwar Japan who learns that he will die from stomach cancer within six months. Plus a new study provides evidenc…
 
Journalist, podcaster, and rapper Jesse Singal joins us to talk about his new book The Quick Fix, positive psychology (scam?), cancel culture in the media and academia (overblown?), Substack incentives, and lots more. Plus David and Tamler argue about the epistemology of ghosts. Special Guest: Jesse Singal. Sponsored By: BetterHelp: You deserve to …
 
Neuroscientist and addiction researcher Carl Hart joins the show to talk drug legalization. Why does he think all drugs should be legal? What are some common myths about drug use and addiction? And how has his personal experience as a regular drug user influenced his views? Bonus: What drugs should we try next? Special Guest: Carl Hart. Links: Fris…
 
VBW favorite Paul Bloom joins us to talk about William James’ account of instinct and its parallels to the nativism/empiricism debates in developmental psychology today. Also discussed: Richard Dawkins trolling philosophy, the ghost in Tamler’s kitchen, and why William James’ 130 year-old writings make psychologists sad about the present state of t…
 
We’ve always had nothing but praise for neuroscientists and their work, and today is no exception. We talk about a fantastically rich and ambitious essay by Erik Hoel that offers a theory of dreams and connects it to storytelling, the self, and the importance of maintaining a distinction between art and entertainment. So eat shit MCU - Martin Scors…
 
Lee Jussim joins the show to argue that we have been too soft on academia. We discuss problems in psychology and the social sciences including ideological bias, politically-motivated retractions, and more. Have things gotten better or worse over the past 10 years? Plus: is Lee bad at Twitter? Special Guest: Lee Jussim. Links: 6ix Days in Dade – Bel…
 
David and Tamler wander through the maze of Room 237, the great documentary by Rodney Ascher about five people and their views about what Stanley Kubrick’s "The Shining" is really about. When do interpretations become conspiracy theories? Why does Ascher never show us the faces of the interpreters? What is about Kubrick that invites obsessive and c…
 
David and Tamler return to the TCU (Ted Chiang Universe) to talk about his short story “Hell is the Absence of God." How would we behave if we had unequivocal proof of God, heaven, hell, and angels? Would that answer our questions about meaning and purpose and justice? Or would those same questions reappear in a different guise? Plus, the hard prob…
 
Psychologist Gordon Pennycook joins the show to talk bullshit and misinformation. What is bullshit, and why do some people fall for it more than others? Why does misinformation spread so readily, and what can be done to stop it? Plus: Yoel asks some perfectly reasonable questions about COVID's origins, and Mickey indulges in some Canadian content. …
 
Ever wonder why you’re still listening to VBW all of these years? Or why you check your phone 50 times a day? Or why you put on your pants the same way every morning? (If you still wear pants these days.) David and Tamler talk about William James’ essay on habits, why they’re so powerful, and how you can make your nervous system your ally instead o…
 
The legendary Houston Ballet dancer Lauren Anderson joins us to talk about the Atlanta Episode “Juneteenth” (Season 1, Episode 9), a hilarious exploration of race, class, identity, and carrying around your sister’s underwear. But first David and Tamler share some thoughts on the topic on everyone’s mind right now…Bean Dad. Oh yeah and the Capitol r…
 
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