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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.