Very Bad Wizards

a philosopher and a psychologist ponder human morality

About the show

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.

Very Bad Wizards on social media


  • Episode 27: You, Your Self, and Your Brain (With Eddy Nahmias)

    July 22nd, 2013  |  1 hr 22 mins

    Our streak of very special guests continues! Philosopher Eddy Nahmias joins the podcast to us why people mistakenly think they're not morally responsible, and how his new study casts doubt on Sam Harris's view on free will. Eddy also describes his new project (with Toni Adleberg and Morgan Thompson) on why women leave philosophy.

  • Episode 26: Evolution and Sexual Perversion (with Jesse Bering)

    July 7th, 2013  |  1 hr 21 mins

    Psychologist and author Jesse Bering joins us to talk about evolutionary psychology and his forthcoming book "Perv." In the relatively uncontroversial part of the episode, we ask if homophobia is an adaptation and if women have evolved rape defenses. After that, sex with animals, sex with bookshelves, foot fetishes, amputee fetishes, falling down the stairs fetishes... I don't know, just listen.

  • Episode 25: Burning Armchairs (with Joshua Knobe)

    June 24th, 2013  |  58 mins 28 secs

    Josh Knobe, the Michael Corleone of experimental philosophy, joins us to talk about taking philosophy into the lab and the streets. We discuss how people moralize everyday concepts like intention, causation, and innateness. Dave wonders if X-phi people are just doing social psychology, and Tamler tries his best to get Josh mad with his critique of Josh's experimental work on free will.

  • Episode 24: The Perils of Empathy (with Paul Bloom)

    June 10th, 2013  |  1 hr 23 mins

    Paul Bloom joins us in the second segment for a lively discussion about the value of  empathy as a guide our moral decisions. And in our first scoop, we talk about Paul's new book "Just Babies: The Origin of Good and Evil,"racist babies, and how 80s sitcoms changed the world.

  • Episode 23: Straw Dogs (with Yoel Inbar)

    May 27th, 2013  |  1 hr 16 mins

    Dave, Tamler, and special guest Yoel Inbar break down Sam Peckinpah's brilliant (at least according  to one of us) 1971 film Straw Dogs.

  • Episode 22: An Enquiry Concerning Slurs and Offensiveness

    May 12th, 2013  |  1 hr 4 mins

    In what might very well be the last episode before we're pulled off the air, Tamler outlines his data-free "theory" of what makes something offensive. What makes a joke about race, ethnicity, gender, disability funny sometimes, and deeply hurtful at other times?

  • Episode 21: Grad School

    May 6th, 2013  |  1 hr 33 mins

    Dave and Tamler shrug off inside baseball concerns and argue whether to go to grad school, what to do when you get there, and share horror stories about the job market.

  • Episode 20: Boston, Brains, and Bad Pronunciation (with Molly Crockett)

    April 21st, 2013  |  1 hr 20 secs

    Dave and Tamler begin with a brief, heartfelt discussion about the Boston Bombings. In the second and third segments, Molly Crockett joins us to challenge Fiery Cushman for the prize of classiest episode ever.

  • Episode 19: The Burning Bridges Episode (Pt. 2)

    April 6th, 2013  |  1 hr 3 mins

    Re-recording a not-so-tragically lost episode (it kinda sucked), Dave and Tamler talk about the things they hate most about philosophy and psychology.

  • Episode 18: "Boy If Life Were Only Like This" (With Joe Henrich)

    March 22nd, 2013  |  49 mins 54 secs

    Joe Henrich joins the podcast to tell us that we know nothing about his work and that how we got to teach a class in anything is absolutely amazing. We continue our discussion from Episode 17 about his critique of the social and behavioral sciences in "The Weirdest People in the World" and his work in small scale societies on fairness norms.

  • Episode 17: Learning about Bushmen by Studying Freshmen?

    March 15th, 2013  |  50 mins 12 secs

    Thousands of studies in psychology rely on data from North American undergraduates. Can we really conclude anything about the "human" mind from such a limited sample-- especially since Westerners are probably more different from the rest of the world's population than any other group We talk about Joseph Henrich and colleagues' critique of the behavioral sciences in their paper "The WEIRDEST People in the World."

  • Episode 16: Race, Reparations, and American (In)Justice (with Damani McDole)

    March 2nd, 2013  |  1 hr 21 secs

    For those who thought our most uncomfortable topics were behind us, on this episode we are joined by David's childhood friend Damani McDole to discuss several potentially offensive topics surrounding race and justice in America, such as slavery, reparations, affirmative action, and the use of the n-word.

  • Episode 15: The Burning Bridges Episode (Pt. 1)

    February 16th, 2013  |  53 mins 50 secs

    You don't need to be a psychologist or a philosopher to enjoy a good, old-fashioned bitch-fest. In the first of a two-part episode (no single compact disc, 8-track, or LP could hold all our complaints), Tamler and David list two of the things that bug them about their respective fields. We take issue with bad writing, brain worship, meaningless questions, and psychologists' obsession with the number two. Enjoy and try not to hold it against us.

  • Episode 14: Bonus Episode on Snitches, Tattletales, and Whistleblowers

    February 8th, 2013  |  27 mins 14 secs

    In a break from tradition, we recorded a 25-minute episode on the morality of tattletaling, snitching, ratting, and whistleblowing. We discuss why these people seem especially despicable (except for maybe "Bubbles" from "The Wire" and the guy from "The Insider"), and David gets Tamler to agree that he'd never turn him into the police.

  • Episode 13: Beanballs, Blood Feuds, and Collective Moral Responsibility (With Fiery Cushman)

    January 22nd, 2013  |  1 hr 9 secs

    Our classiest episode yet (OK, that's not saying much, but still...)--Psychologist Fiery Cushman joins us for a discussion about collective punishment and collective responsibility. We use Fiery's recent paper on the practice of "beaning" in baseball (punishing one player for a teammate's offense by throwing a 95 MPH fastball at the player's head) to illustrate the phenomenon.

  • Episode 12: Justice for #!$@ ?

    January 13th, 2013  |  1 hr 13 mins

    Dave and Tamler square off the role of the victim in criminal punishment and find little to agree about. Tamler defends the restorative justice approach, while Dave expresses skepticism about its value and worries it might even be damaging.