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Very Bad Wizards

Science Podcasts


Location:

United States

Language:

English

Contact:

607-342-7557


Episodes

Episode 183: Accept the Mystery (with Paul Bloom)

2/25/2020
VBW favorite Paul Bloom takes a short break from his Sam Harris duties to help us break down the Coen Brothers' ode to uncertainty, A Serious Man. Does inaction have consequences? Can you understand the cat but not the math? Why are there Hebrew letters carved into the back of a goy's teeth? Dybbuk or no Dybbuk? Why does God make us feel the questions if he’s not gonna give us any answers? Plus, Paul defends the psych establishment against critiques from the podcast peons at Two...

Duration:01:39:21

Episode 182: The Paper That Launched a Thousand Twitter Wars (With Yoel Inbar)

2/11/2020
Podcasting legend Yoel Inbar (from Two Psychologists Four Beers (https://fourbeers.fireside.fm)) joins us to break down Tal Yarkoni's "The Generalizability Crisis,” the paper that launched a thousand Twitter wars. Psychologists make verbal claims about the world, then conduct studies to test these claims - but are the studies actually providing evidence for those claims? Do psychological experiments generalize beyond the the strict confinments of the lab? Are psychologists even using the...

Duration:01:10:54

Episode 181: The Fraudulence Paradox (David Foster Wallace's "Good Old Neon")

1/28/2020
Our whole lives we’ve been frauds. We’re not exaggerating. Pretty much all we’ve ever done is try to create a certain impression of us in other people. Mostly to be liked or admired. This episode is a perfect example, Tamler pretending to be a cinephile (check out his four favorite pieces of 2019 “pop culture” in the first segment), David trying to connect with the people (Baby Yoda, Keanu Reeves etc.) – and of course what could be more fraudulent than a deep dive into a David Foster Wallace...

Duration:02:09:01

Episode 180: Chekhov's Schrödinger's Dagger (Kurosawa's "Rashomon")

1/14/2020
Eleventh Century Japan. A samurai and his wife are walking through the forest and come across a bandit. The bandit attacks the samurai and has sex with/rapes his wife. A woodcutter finds the samurai, stabbed to death. Who killed the samurai and with what? What role did his wife play in his death? Kurosawa gives us four perspectives, told in flashbacks within flashbacks. Who’s telling the truth? Is anyone? Can we ever know what really happened? A simple story on the surface becomes a...

Duration:01:56:12

Episode 179: Talking Shit

12/24/2019
David and Tamler wrap up the decade with an episode on trash-talking that morphs into a debate over the value of experimental inquiry. Participants in a lab put more effort into a slider task after they’re insulted by a confederate. Do experiments like these tell us anything about trash-talking in general? Can it explain the effect of Mike Tyson telling Lenox Lewis he’d eat his children, or of Larry Bird looking around the locker room before the 3-point contest saying he was trying to figure...

Duration:02:03:24

Episode 178: Borges' Obsession-Obsession ("The Zahir")

12/10/2019
David and Tamler happen across Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Zahir” and now they can’t stop thinking about it. What is the ‘Zahir’ – this object that can take many forms and that consumes the people who find it? What does it represent? Is it the fanaticism of being in love? The ever-present threat (and temptation) of idealism? A subtle critique of Christian theology? Is the Zahir a microcosm of everything? Why is Borges so obsessed with obsession? Plus, it’s the annual drunken end-of-the night...

Duration:01:40:53

Episode 177: Pure Linguistic Chauvinism

11/26/2019
Tamler learns something new about menstruation. David weighs in on the democratic debates and the impeachment hearings. Then we map the various social and political factions onto the factions in our respective fields. Who are establishment neoliberals of philosophy, and who are the white feminists? What about the IDWs of psychology – and the Chads and Stacys? Finally we get serious and break down the article by Alan Fiske in Psychological Review called “The Lexical Fallacy in Emotion...

Duration:02:04:58

Episode 176: Split-Brains and the (Dis)Unity of Consciousness

11/12/2019
David and Tamler discuss famous 'split brain' experiments pioneered by Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga. What happens when you cut off the main line of communication between the left and right hemispheres of our brain? Why under certain conditions do the the left and right brains seem like they have different abilities and desires? What does this tell us about the ‘self’? Do we have two consciousnesses, but only that can speak? Does the left brain bully the right brain? Are we all just a...

Duration:01:48:22

Episode 175: At Least We Didn’t Talk About Zombies (Nagel’s “What is it Like to be a Bat?”)

10/29/2019
We try (with varying success) to wrap our heads around Thomas Nagel’s classic article “What is it Like to be a Bat?" Does science have the tools to give us a theory of consciousness or is that project doomed from the outset? Why do reductionist or functionalist explanations seem so unsatisfying? Is the problem that consciousness is subjective, or is it something about the nature of conscious experience itself? Is this ultimately an epistemological or metaphysical question? What are we...

Duration:01:42:33

Episode 174: More Chiang for Your Buck ("Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom" Pt. 2)

10/15/2019
Is character destiny, or can fluky decisions or tiny shifts in weather patterns fundamentally change who we are? Does the existence or non-existence of alternate universes have any bearing on freedom and responsibility? David and Tamler conclude their discussion of Ted Chiang’s “Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom” along with another very short piece by Chiang called “What’s Expected of Us” that was first published in Nature. Plus, do you have low likability in the workplace? It could be...

Duration:01:46:30

Episode 173: Talking to Your (Alternate) Self [Ted Chiang's "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom"]

10/1/2019
David and Tamler dive back into the Ted Chiang well and explore the fascinating world described in "Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom." What if you could interact with alternate versions of yourself - versions that made different choices, had different jobs, or different partners? Would you get jealous of your other selves if they were more successful? Would you want them to be unhappy so you could feel better about your own choices and path? If your alternate self was in a good...

Duration:01:40:07

Episode 172: Are You Free (to like the Chappelle special)?

9/17/2019
David and Tamler start out with a discussion of the new Chappelle special and the negative reaction from many critics. Is Chappelle trolling his audience? Has he lost touch with the powerless people he used to champion? Or have critics missed his larger point, and failed to approach the new special as an art form? Then they address the latest development in the literature around Benjamin Libet's famous study that, according to some people, proved that free will doesn't exist. How did that...

Duration:01:40:42

Episode 171: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Theodicy? (The Book of Job)

8/27/2019
David and Tamler dive back into the Bible, this time to the perplexing and poetic Book of Job. What does this book have to say about the theodicy, the problem of evil? Why does Job (and his children) have to suffer so much just so God can prove a point to Satan? Are the speeches of Job's friends meant to be convincing? Does Job capitulate in the end? Does God contradict himself in the last chapter? What’s the deal with Elihu? So many questions, not as many answers – maybe that's why it's...

Duration:01:31:41

Episode 170: Social Psychology Gets an Asch-Kicking

8/13/2019
Is social psychology just a kid dressing up in grown-up science clothes? Are the methods in social psychology--hypothesis-driven experiments and model-building--appropriate for the state of the field? Or do these methods lead to a narrowing of vision, stifled creativity, and a lack of informed curiosity about the social world> David and Tamler discuss the strong methodological critique of psychology from two of its leading practitioners - Paul Rozin and Solomon Asch. Plus, food porn, real...

Duration:01:49:34

Episode 169: A Bug's Life (Kafka's "The Metamorphosis")

7/30/2019
David and Tamler try to control their emotions (with varying success) as they go deep into Franz Kafka's masterful novella "The Metamorphosis." What kind of a story is this? A Marxist or religious allegory? A work of weird fiction? A family drama? A dark comedy? Why does a story about a man who turns into a giant insect get under our skins so much? Plus a study that links insomnia to our fear of death. What a cheerful summer episode! (Actually we're fairly proud of this one... As always we...

Duration:01:50:07

Episode 168: The Big Lebowski vs Pulp Fiction (Pt. 2)

7/16/2019
It's Part 2 of the Lebowski vs. Pulp Fiction showdown. This time we focus on the Dude, Walter, Donny, and most importantly Jesus Quintana. (Nobody fucks with the Jesus). What's the ethos of this stoner masterpiece? Is it a nihilstic movie? A deconstruction of masculinity? A cannabis infused Daoist parable? And is it fair to compare these two classics from the 90s? Fair? Who's the fucking nihilist you bunch of crybabies! Plus - trolling. What is it? Why do people do it? Can works of art troll...

Duration:01:33:14

Episode 167: The Big Lebowski vs Pulp Fiction (Pt. 1)

7/3/2019
There are only two kinds of people in the world, Pulp Fiction people and Big Lebowski people. Now Pulp Fiction people can like Big Lebowski and vice versa, but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice tells you who you are. In the first episode of this two-parter, David and Tamler make that choice – and then go deep into the themes, performances, and philosophy of Tarantino’s iconic 90s classic Pulp Fiction. What’s the meaning of a foot massage?...

Duration:01:08:12

Episode 166: Total Recall (Ted Chiang's "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling")

6/18/2019
Memory is highly selective and often inaccurate. But what if we had an easily searchable video record of all our experiences and interactions? How would that affect our relationships? What would it reveal about our characters and our sense of who we are? Is there a kind of truth that can’t be determined by perfect objectivity? David and Tamler dive deep into Ted Chiang’s amazingly rich and poignant short story “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling” which explores how new technologies...

Duration:01:49:13

Episode 165: Life With No Head (With Sam Harris)

6/4/2019
Sam Harris returns to the podcast to talk about meditation and his new Waking Up meditation app. What are the goals of mindfulness practice - stress reduction and greater focus, or something much deeper? Can it cure David's existential dread? Tamler's fear of his daughter going away to college? Can sustained practice erode the illusion of self? Is that even something we'd want to do? What if it diminishes our attachment to people we love? And what is the self anyway? Is Sam a defender of...

Duration:02:16:14

Episode 164: Choosing to Believe

5/14/2019
David and Tamler argue about William James' classic essay "The Will to Believe." What's more important - avoiding falsehood or discovering truth? When (if ever) is it rational to believe anything without enough evidence? What about beliefs that we can't be agnostic about? Are there hypotheses that we have to believe in order for them to come true? Does James successfully demonstrate that faith can be rational? Plus, a philosopher at Apple who's not allowed to talk to the media - what are...

Duration:01:21:30