The Very Bad Wizards Podcast

One of our goals for the Philosophy in Residence program was to finally launch the podcast series that we had been developing this past year. From the beginning, Dave and I loved the idea of presenting accessible and (hopefully) entertaining discussions about the central issues in science and ethics.  But we had a problem: neither of us had a clue how to record, edit, upload, and promote a real podcast.  Even worse, Dave lives in Ithaca, NY and I’m in Houston.  This meant having to record the conversations long distance, a technical nightmare as it turns out.

Our time at the Harmony Hotel proved to be exactly what we needed.  Before the residency we had only been able to successfully record one episode.   In Nosara we were able to record several in one week, and the generosity of the hotel gave us more than enough motivation to do all the grunt work involved in launching the project.   And so, after over a year of development and false starts, and one week in Philosophers in Residence program, our first two episodes are now available in the iTunes store and at our website.  We hope you subscribe and enjoy them!

One final note: As my daughter Eliza explains in her brilliant cameo that leads off each episode, the podcast are listed as explicit for language and “inappropriate jokes.”  Our goal is to give a sense of how philosophers and psychologists talk about these issues outside the classroom–in bars and coffee shops (and beautiful beachside hotels).  Nothing too offensive—we hope.

Here are the episodes that are currently available:

Episode One: Brains, Robots, and Free Will. 

Dave and I talk about skepticism about free will and moral responsibility in the popular press from scientists like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne.   We agree that neuroscience adds nothing of substance to the arguments against free will.   Dave accuses me of being a hipster philosopher for abandoning the skeptical view once it got popular and then comes out as a Star Trek nerd when he asks: “are we all just like Data the android?”  For the record, I had no idea who that was.

Episode Two: The Dangerous “Truth” About Free Will.

Our first episode in Nosara and part two of our conversation on free will and moral responsibility.  Dave and I talk about some recent experiments indicating that people cheat more, and cooperate less, when their belief in free will is challenged.  We ask whether free will is necessary for things like love, gratitude, pride, and moral worth.   Special appearance by the “eat the poo poo” clip, a youtube instant classic.

Episode Three: Is it All Relative?  Moral Diversity Across Cultures.

Dave and I discuss recent work in philosophy and psychology about the differences in moral values and practices across cultures.  We talk about the implications of moral diversity: does it mean that we cannot criticize the practices of other cultures?  How should we regard moral disagreement?  Are there objective “truths” in ethics?  Somehow we need to play clips from The Big Lebowski and Pulp Fiction in order to resolve these questions.

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