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.

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Episodes

  • 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.

  • Episode 11: It is Morally Wrong to Kill Morgan Freeman (with Yoel Inbar)

    December 28th, 2012  |  1 hr 15 mins

    Social psychologist Yoel Inbar joins Tamler and David to discuss Clint Eastwood's masterpiece of the Western genre: "Unforgiven." The discussion includes the nature of revenge, the requirements of justice, the rules of nicknaming, and who or what was being referred to as "unforgiven" in the movie's title.

  • Episode 10: Religion, Meaning, and Morality

    December 10th, 2012  |  58 mins 52 secs

    Does life have meaning if there is no God? Why should I be a good person if there's no reward or punishment waiting for me in the afterlife? Why does religion seem to make people happier and healthier? Dave and Tamler heroically try to answer these questions without being stoned.

  • Episode 9: Social Psychology, Situationism, and Moral Character

    December 3rd, 2012  |  1 hr 8 mins

    After discussing some listener feedback about the movie Swingers, Tamler and David talk about two classic experiments in social psychology: the Milgram Experiments and the Zimbardo Prison experiment. They discuss the power of the situation, its influence on recent philosophy, and whether there is room to believe in moral character and virtue. Also, Tamler admits to his former struggles with hard core street drugs, and Dave ponders which prison gang would be most accepting if he had to serve hard time.

  • Episode 8: Dishonesty, Character, and Dan Ariely

    November 11th, 2012  |  1 hr 11 mins

    In a very special episode of Very Bad Wizards, Dan Ariely joins David to chat about cheating, character, and the importance of moral rules. Tamler and David sandwich the chat with a discussion about the US Presidential election, the irony of moral psychologists making people do bad things, and end with a full-blown argument about what it means to say that something is morally wrong.

  • Episode 7: Psychopaths and Utilitarians Pt. 2 (Now with more poo poo)

    November 4th, 2012  |  1 hr 7 mins

    Tamler and David continue their discussion of utilitarian psychopaths (and psychopathic utilitarians), then broaden the discussion to include disgust and empathy. In the end, they resolve all questions about the proper role of emotions in moral judgment.

  • Episode 6: Trolleys, Utilitarians, and Psychopaths (Part 1)

    October 20th, 2012  |  1 hr 1 min

    Tamler contemplates ending it all because he can't get 'Call Me Maybe' out of his head, and Dave doesn't try to talk him out of it. This is followed by a discussion about drones, psychopaths, Canadians, Elle Fanning, horrible moral dilemmas, and the biggest rivalry in Ethics: utilitarians vs. Kantians.

  • Episode 5: Revenge, Pt. 2: The Revenge

    October 8th, 2012  |  1 hr 5 mins

    Dave and Tamler continue their discussion about their favorite topic. They talk about the evolutionary origins of
    retributive behavior, cross-cultural differences in revenge norms, and the proportionate punishment for someone who gives your wife a foot massage. They also play a clip from an interview they conducted in Nosara with local attorney Andres Gonzalez
    about the Costa Rican treatment of the criminals they call ‘pobrecitos.’

  • Episode 4: Revenge, Pt. 1

    September 20th, 2012  |  51 mins 34 secs

    Dave allows Tamler to rant about Sam Harris’s straw man attacks on moral relativism before launching into discussion about revenge, justice, "True Grit," and Michael Dukakis. Though they differ on many issues, Tamler and Dave agree that it’s hard to satirize a
    guy with shiny boots.

  • Episode 3: "We believe in nothing!" (Cultural diversity, relativism, and moral truth)

    September 8th, 2012  |  1 hr 1 min

    Tamler and Dave discuss recent work in philosophy and psychology about the differences in moral values and practices across cultures.