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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
August 31st, 2012 | 1 hr 13 mins
Tamler and David discuss whether giving up our belief in free will makes us more likely to abandon our moral standards.
August 30th, 2012 | 1 hr 10 mins
Dave and Tamler talk about the new wave of skepticism about free will and moral responsibility in the popular press from people like Sam Harris and Jerry Coyne, and argue that neuroscientific data adds little of substance to the case other than telling us what we already know: human beings are natural biological entities. Dave comes out as a Star Trek nerd and asks whether we're all, in the end, like Data the android. They also wonder whether a belief in free will is all that's keeping us from having sex with our dogs. Finally, Dave grills Tamler about his new book on the differences in attitudes about free will and moral responsibility across cultures.