Very Bad Wizards-logo

Very Bad Wizards

Science Podcasts

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.

Location:

United States

Description:

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.

Language:

English

Contact:

607-342-7557


Episodes
Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 286: Laugh and the World Laughs With You

6/11/2024
David and Tamler dive into the mysteries at the heart of Park Chan-wook’s deeply disturbing masterpiece "Oldboy" (2003). An ordinary man, Oh Dae-su, is imprisoned for 15 years in an old, windowless hotel room. After being abruptly released Oh Dae-su embarks on a mission to discover why he was imprisoned and to get revenge on the man who did it. But does Oh Dae-su really want to know the answers? And is he asking the right questions? (SPOILER HEAVY EPISODE! See this movie before you listen! Available on Netflix in the US.) Plus, how familiar are you with words the words azimuth and espadrille? Turns out that the answer may depend on your gender. Brysbaert, M., Mandera, P., McCormick, S. F., & Keuleers, E. (2019). Word prevalence norms for 62,000 English lemmas. Behavior research methods, 51, 467-479. Oldboy (2003 film) [wikipedia.org]

Duration:02:12:47

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 285: On Culture and Agriculture

5/28/2024
It’s an old-school episode as David and Tamler dive into some intriguing research on the origins of cultural differences. Two neighboring communities in communist China were assigned to be wheat farmers and rice farmers. Seventy years later, the people in the rice farming communities showed signs of being more collectivist, relational, and holistic than the people in the wheat farming communities. Plus, we have some questions about a new study on censorship and self-censorship among social psychologists. Links: Clark CJ, Fjeldmark M, Lu L, Baumeister RF, Ceci S, Frey K, Miller G, Reilly W, Tice D, von Hippel W, Williams WM, Winegard BM, Tetlock PE. (2024) Taboos and Self-Censorship Among U.S. Psychology Professors. Perspectives on Psychological Science [pubmed] A fascinating theory about the cultural influence of rice farming now has evidence of causality by Eric Dolan [psypost.org] Talhelm, T., & Dong, X. (2024). People quasi-randomly assigned to farm rice are more collectivistic than people assigned to farm wheat. Nature Communications, 15(1), 1782.[nature.com] Talhelm, T., Zhang, X., Oishi, S., Shimin, C., Duan, D., Lan, X., & Kitayama, S. (2014). Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture. Science, 344(6184), 603-608. [science.org]

Duration:01:25:44

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 284: Reel Choices

5/14/2024
David and Tamler choose an episode topic that will define the identity and meaning of the Very Bad Wizards podcast going forward – our top 3 existentialist movies. Plus, you’re gonna be shocked to hear this, you might want to sit down, but there has been surprisingly little research on the metaphysics of puns. We look at a recent paper that remedies this appalling gap in the literature – and maybe the biggest surprise of all, Tamler has some nice things to say about it.

Duration:01:22:34

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 283: When Elephants Podcast

4/30/2024
David and Tamler talk about Caitrin Keiper’s wonderful sprawling essay on elephant life and society and the many philosophical questions surrounding these extraordinary creatures. What kind of mental states can we attribute to them? Do they have a kind of language? Are they moral? What are our moral duties to them? What accounts for the long-standing taboo against ‘anthropomorphizing’ elephants and other complex non-human animals? And lots more. Plus, a new segment “there should be a German word for this” - we come up with new German words for common phenomena or experiences. And a big announcement in the promo segment about the podcast going forward. Please consider supporting a long-time listener’s attempt to get their family out of Gaza.[gofundme.com] Links: Do Elephants Have Souls? by Caitrin Keiper [thenewatlantis.com]

Duration:01:23:53

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 282: Fearful Symmetry (Borges' "Death and the Compass")

4/16/2024
A Rabbi is found dead in a hotel room, stabbed in the chest. The room is filled with Kabbalah texts and a single page in an typewriter that reads “The first letter of the name has been written.” The celebrated detective and “reasoning machine” Erik Lönnrot suspects a rabbinical explanation but is he seeing patterns that may not be there? David and Tamler get out their pipes, magnifying glasses, and deerstalker hats to unravel another Borges mystery: “Death and the Compass.” Plus a new study on why men make errors about whether women are flirting with them, the latest in our series on studies that employ erotic fiction. Links: A Dress Is Not a Yes: Towards an Indirect Mouse-Tracking Measure of Men’s Overreliance on Global Cues in the Context of Sexual Flirting Pinpointing the psychological factors linked to men's misjudgments of women's sexual interest Death and the Compass by Jorge Luis Borges [wikipedia.org]

Duration:01:25:12

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 281: Choose Your Fighter

3/26/2024
We dig into the biggest rivalry in Tamler’s profession, analytic vs. continental philosophy. Are analytic philosophers truly the rigorous, precise, clear thinkers they take themselves to be? And is continental philosophy really just a bunch pretentious charlatans spouting French and German gibberish and writing obscure prose to mask the incoherence of their ideas? We look at a nice paper by Neil Levy that goes beyond the stereotypes and tries to describe and explain the differences between the two schools. Plus, The University of Austin (sic) is back in the news and we have a report from someone who attended one of their Forbidden Courses. This should be so easy but the article has us deeply conflicted about what to make fun of. [Important update: Trixie is on a 5 day streak of no accidents and is a perfect little sweet girl.] Links: An American Education: Notes from UATX by Noah Rawlings Levy, N. (2003). Analytic and continental philosophy: Explaining the differences. Metaphilosophy, 34(3), 284-304.

Duration:01:22:42

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 280: Mad Masque (with Phil Ford and J.F. Martel)

3/12/2024
Phil Ford and J.F. Martel from the great "Weird Studies" podcast join us for a whirling discussion of Edgar Allan Poe’s mesmerizing tale of decadence and disease “The Masque of the Red Death." We also talk about weird fiction more generally, why it’s so suited to the short story genre, how it creates a mood that drips and bursts from the seam of the page. Plus David and Tamler in the opening segment talk about Aella’s data-driven, chart and graph filled birthday orgy. Is she the sex symbol for our times? Links: My Birthday Gangbang by Aella [substack.com]Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" [wikipedia.org]Weird Studies podcast with J.F. Martel and Phil Ford Sponsored by: BetterHelpBetterHelp.com/vbw.Factor:factormeals.com/vbw50

Duration:01:39:37

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 279: The Greenhouses We Burned Along the Way (Lee Chang-dong's "Burning" Pt. 2)

2/27/2024
David and Tamler conclude their discussion of Lee Chang-dong’s "Burning" – we talk about the hunger dance at twilight, Ben’s greenhouse burning habit, Shin Hae-mi’s mysterious disappearance, Lee Jong-su’s clumsy and doomed quest to find out what really happened, and what to make of that final scene. Plus we choose the finalists for our Patreon listener selected episode.

Duration:01:09:58

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 278: Schrödinger's Everything (Lee Chang-dong's "Burning" Pt. 1)

2/13/2024
David and Tamler fall under the spell of Lee Chang-dong’s 2018 masterpiece Burning, a movie where nothing is what it seems, or maybe it is. An alienated young man meets what seems like his dream girl from his small town, but she’s about to leave for Africa. Will he take care of her cat? Is there a cat? When she comes back she’s attached (maybe) to a slick rich guy played by Steven Yeun and then she disappears. What happened? What’s real and what’s a pantomime? Adapted from a Murakami short story that’s adapted from a Faulkner short story, this movie warrants a true VBW deep dive, so we had to do it in two parts. This is part 1. Plus another segment of our pet peeves. “Updating my priors,” “Fixed it for you,” faculty governance, and more, these are the things that really grind our gears. Links: Burning (2018) [wikipedia.org] The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami (containing the short story "Barn Burning) [amazon.com affiliate link] Barn Burning by William Faulkner [wikipedia.org] Sponsored by: BetterHelpBetterHelp.com/vbw.Factor:factormeals.com/vbw50

Duration:01:32:17

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 277: The Merits of Buggery (Nagel's "Sexual Perversion")

1/30/2024
David and Tamler play the old hits – Thomas Nagel and sex robots. In the main segment we talk about Nagel’s essay “Sexual Perversion”, a surprising essay on many fronts (Sartre, erotic fiction, conceptual analysis, much more). What’s the nature of sexual desires? Can we say that some sexual interactions are perversions? Which ones? Can we have a perverse form of a hunger? Plus, a new study examines attitudes about sexual assault by probing for intuitions on assaulting sex robots. It gets more confusing from there. Links: Grigoreva, A. D., Rottman, J., & Tasimi, A. (2024). When does “no” mean no? Insights from sex robots. Cognition, 244, 105687. Nagel, T. (1969). Sexual perversion. The Journal of Philosophy, 5-17. Sponsored by: BetterHelpBetterHelp.com/vbw.Green Chef:Greenchef.com/60vbw

Duration:01:35:32

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 276: Attention Please

1/16/2024
David and Tamler are back for the new year and one of our resolutions was to do more episodes on William James. Today we talk about his account of ‘Attention’ from his 1890 volume The Principles of Psychology – another remarkably prescient chapter that still feels more than relevant today. What is attention and how does it function in the mind? What accounts for the different ways that we attend to things? Does attention help to shape or construct our reality? What is attention’s connection to the will? Does James anticipate predictive coding theory? Plus we discuss the removal of the head of a renowned university for reasons that have nothing to do with the mission of higher learning. Episode Links Chancellor of University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Fired [nbc.com] William James chapter on Attention from Principles of Psychology (1890) [yorku.ca]

Duration:01:27:24

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 275: The Ineffable Center (Borges' "The Aleph")

12/26/2023
An episode interesting from every point of view, we train our eyes on Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Aleph.” The first segment wins the kudos of the learned, the academician, the Hellenist, as we talk about the favorite things we saw this year. The second segment — baroque? decadent? the purified and fanatical cult of form? — dives into the philosophy, comedy, satire, and poignancy of this classic story. Once again, we show our awareness that truly modern podcasting demands the balm of laughter, of scherzo. The finicky will want to excommunicate our discussion without benefit of clergy but the critic of more manly tastes will embrace this episode as he does his very life. "The Aleph" by Jorge Luis Borges [wikipedia.org] Version we read: Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (translated by Andrew Hurley) [amazon.com affiliate link] Sponsored by: BetterHelpBetterHelp.com/vbw.Listening.com:listening.com/vbwGivewell.org

Duration:01:34:16

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 274: Can I Get a Kidney Voucher? (with Vlad Chituc)

12/13/2023
RETURNING guest Vlad Chituc joins us for a wide-ranging discussion about donating his kidney to a stranger, the effective altruism movement, and his sexuality. Was EA’s turn to ‘long-termist’ goals like preventing evil AI inevitable? Have they strayed too far from their Peter Singer/Jeremy Bentham inspired roots? And why won’t David and Tamler donate their kidneys? Plus a new article in Nature Climate Change argues that neuroscience can help the environment – can I interest you in some virtual trees? Doell, K. C., Berman, M. G., Bratman, G. N., Knutson, B., Kühn, S., Lamm, C., ... & Brosch, T. (2023). Leveraging neuroscience for climate change research. Nature Climate Change, 1-10. I spent a weekend at Google talking with nerds about charity. I came away … worried. by Dylan Matthews [vox.com] How effective altruism went from a niche movement to a billion-dollar force by Dylan Matthews [vox.com] Stop the Robot Apocalypse by Amia Srinivasan [lrb.co.uk] Sponsored by: BetterHelpBetterHelp.com/vbw.Listening.com:listening.com/vbwGivewell.org

Duration:01:35:02

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 273: Ah. Ah. (Miyazaki's "Spirited Away")

11/29/2023
David and Tamler board the train for Hayao Miyazaki’s mystical dreamy coming of age masterpiece Spirited Away. This is a true VBW deep dive. Plus a study by our secret crush suggests we may not be optimizing the value of our conversations. Mastroianni, A. M., Gilbert, D. T., Cooney, G., & Wilson, T. D. (2021). Do conversations end when people want them to?. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(10), e2011809118. Spirited Away [wikipedia.org] Sponsored by: BetterHelpBetterHelp.com/vbw.Listening.com:listening.com/vbwGivewell.org

Duration:01:57:51

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 272: Neigh Means Yay

11/14/2023
The morality of zoophilia has received shockingly little attention in contemporary ethical discourse…until now. David and Tamler break down the paper “Zoophilia is Morally Permissible” from the latest issue of The Journal of Controversial Ideas. We explore issues of harm, consent, and more… like a lot more. Then we talk about Robert Putnam's classic article “Bowling Alone” (the paper that led to his best selling book) about the decline of civic engagement in American life. Bensto, Fira (Pseudonym) (2023) Zoophilia Is Morally Permissible, Journal of Controversial Ideas, Vol. 3, Issue 2. Putnam, R.D. (1995). Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital. Journal of Democracy 6(1), 65-78. https://doi.org/10.1353/jod.1995.0002. Luhmann, M., Buecker, S., & Rüsberg, M. (2023). Loneliness across time and space. Nature Reviews Psychology, 2(1), 9-23. Sponsored by: BetterHelpYou deserve to be happy. BetterHelp online counseling is there for you. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Our listeners get 10% off the first month by visiting BetterHelp.com/vbw.

Duration:01:24:38

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 271: Concept-Con 2023

11/13/2023
It’s the first annual “Concept-Con” – a not at all cringe episode where David and Tamler apply the methods and rigor of analytic philosophy to dissect not one, not two, but four new concepts. We start out with a Gen-Z special “mid” and then after a break we analyze the concept “cool.” After that we have two mystery concepts that we sprung on each other. Spoiler alert – David had never heard of Tamler’s. It’s an episode (we can’t emphasize this enough) that is in no way cringe or corny. Plus some brief thoughts on Israel and Gaza. Sponsored by: BetterHelpYou deserve to be happy. BetterHelp online counseling is there for you. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Our listeners get 10% off the first month by visiting BetterHelp.com/vbw.

Duration:00:58:53

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 270: Take Me to the River (Blood Meridian, Pt. 3)

10/10/2023
David and Tamler conclude their three-part discussion of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. We talk about the Judge’s coin trick by the fire and the question of the supernatural in the novel. Next we dive into the imbecile’s “baptism” by the river, and then try to wrap our heads around the cryptic epilogue. Baffled at first, we ultimately arrive at the definitive interpretation of the epilogue’s meaning. Finally we offer Hollywood some suggestions for choosing the director and cast for the long sought-after film adaptation. Plus, we have nothing but praise for this study on measuring passive aggression. We really like it - I mean, we have a couple of issues with the methodology and the survey questions, but no, really, it’s a great paper… for a journal like that… Lim, Y. O., & Suh, K. H. (2022). Development and validation of a measure of passive aggression traits: the Passive Aggression Scale (PAS). Behavioral Sciences, 12(8), 273. [mdpi.com] 21 Questions to Identify a Passive-Aggressive Person by Mark Travers [psychologytoday.com] Blood Meridian [wikipedia.com] Sponsored by: BetterHelpYou deserve to be happy. BetterHelp online counseling is there for you. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Our listeners get 10% off the first month by visiting BetterHelp.com/vbw.

Duration:01:43:26

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 269: Death Hilarious (Blood Meridian, Pt. 2)

10/10/2023
In part 2 of our journey into Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Tamler and David talk about the kid and his form of resistance to the judge’s gleeful nihilism - does he (as the man) ultimately succumb at the end of the novel? We also discuss other notable members of the Glanton gang and go deep into several scenes, including the Comanche attack, Elrod’s sad fate, and the tarot reading from the family of traveling magicians. Plus two studies on honesty tell you the best countries to lose your wallet and the U.S. states with a bunch of dirty Wordle cheaters. Wormley, A. S., & Cohen, A. B. (2023). CHEAT: Wordle Cheating Is Related to Religiosity and Cultural Tightness. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 18(3), 702-709. Cohn, A., Maréchal, M. A., Tannenbaum, D., & Zünd, C. L. (2019). Civic honesty around the globe. Science, 365(6448), 70-73. Blood Meridian [wikipidia.org] Sponsored by: BetterHelpYou deserve to be happy. BetterHelp online counseling is there for you. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Our listeners get 10% off the first month by visiting BetterHelp.com/vbw.

Duration:01:31:42

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 268: Blood Meridian, Part 1

9/12/2023
In part one of our two-part episode on Cormac McCarthy’s blood-soaked phantasmagorical 1985 masterpiece Blood Meridian, David and Tamler talk about the historical sources of the novel, the cosmic questions the book poses, the capriciousness of the near-constant violence, and the ethical neutrality of McCarthy’s prose. We also get into the religious imagery, the gnostic elements, and the judge – what to make of the judge? Plus a new meta-analysis refutes the common wisdom that “opposites attract.” But did we ever really believe that anyway? Thanks to our beloved Patreon supporters for selecting this topic for the listener selected episode! https://phys.org/news/2023-08-evidence-opposites-dont.html Evidence of correlations between human partners based on systematic reviews and meta-analyses of 22 traits and UK Biobank analysis of 133 traits | Nature Human Behaviour https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Meridian Sponsored by: BetterHelpYou deserve to be happy. BetterHelp online counseling is there for you. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Our listeners get 10% off the first month by visiting BetterHelp.com/vbw.

Duration:01:17:21

Ask host to enable sharing for playback control

Episode 267: The Thickness of Reality

8/22/2023
David and Tamler return to the work of old favorite William James and argue about the 6th lecture (inspired by the French philosopher Henri Bergson) of his 1909 book “A Pluralistic Universe.” James attacks the philosophical habit of elevating unchanging concepts over the continuous ever-changing flux that characterizes raw experience. Concepts, James argues, carves joints where there are none. But why does James trust pure perception (unmediated by concepts) as a true window into reality? Does he want us to return to the blooming buzzing confusion of our infancy? Is his mystical side superseding his pragmatism? Plus, a new study on generosity after receiving a $10,000 windfall leads to a discussion of what we can interpret from null results, and lots more. Dwyer, R. J., Brady, W. J., Anderson, C., & Dunn, E. W. (2023). Are People Generous When the Financial Stakes Are High?. Psychological Science, 09567976231184887. A Pluralistic Universe by William James (Lecture VI) Sponsored by: BetterHelpYou deserve to be happy. BetterHelp online counseling is there for you. Connect with your professional counselor in a safe and private online environment. Our listeners get 10% off the first month by visiting BetterHelp.com/vbw.Rocket Money: Stop throwing your money away. Cancel unwanted subscriptions, and manage your expenses the easy way, by going to RocketMoney.com/vbw. Promo Code: VBW

Duration:01:12:52