It's hard to reconcile the tremendous diversity of moral views in the world with our conviction that our own moral views are the right ones. Does this mean morality is relative? If so, what is it relative to? In this episode, Monty looks at what anthropology has to say about morality, and Tim talks about his own work in philosophy on using evolution to understand moral diversity.
It often feels like play is a frivolous waste of time, that it's good for kids but inappropriate for adults. But play is how we learn to interact with others, how to create and abide by rules, how to explore our world and ourselves. Play allows any of us - whether kid or adult - to use our imagination, to innovate and create. Even games like Fortnite can be more than just fun. In this episode we talk about the various dimensions of play, from its evolutionary origins to how it affects your brain.
It's no secret that both of us are old school Star Wars and Star Trek nuts (we even first bonded watching Star Trek: The Next Generation together back in the 1990s). But we think that science fiction is more than just action and fluff (although there's plenty of that too). In this episode we talk about how science fiction draws on the same mythological themes that appear across cultures throughout history, how it sparks the imagination and encourages us to imagine a better world.
One of the certainties of life is that it will end. Yet we don't often talk about death, what it means, why many of us fear it, and how it can bring meaning to our lives. In this episode, Monty talks about the importance of funeral and mortuary rituals from cultures throughout history, Tim shares Epicurus' insights on how to stop fearing death, and both chuckle at the futurists who seek to escape it.
Given that Tim is a philosopher who researches how biology informs morality, and Monty is an anthropologist who researchers how culture shapes who we are, you won't be surprised to hear that in this episode, Tim and Monty disagree (quite a lot) about whether there is such a thing as "human nature". They in turn draw on evolutionary biology, cultural observations, twin studies, philosophy (Chinese and western) and psychology to make their points, and even find a couple of points to agree about in the end.
Boys will be boys, and girls will be girls. Or will they? A lot of people think that if you're born with a certain set of chromosomes and particular genitalia, then your gender is set for life. But things aren't that simple. They never are.
So how does sex relate to gender? Tim and Monty discuss what the latest science, anthropology and philosophy have to say about gender, and look at how sex and gender inform who we are.
Are we naturally violent creatures that are tempered by culture? Or are we naturally peaceful and it's our culture that turns some of us violent? Tim and Monty discuss this (perhaps false) dichotomy and talk about what evolution and anthropology can tell us about the origins of violence.
Sex is everywhere. It shapes our biology, it steers our behaviour, it permeates our society. It's not only about reproduction, sex serves an important social function too. Tim and Monty go back to the roots, if you will, looking at the evolution of sex - including why humans have bigger penises than gorillas and smaller testicles than chimpanzees - to understand what sex means for us today.
There has been a spate of incidents recently where people have been prevented from speaking, or "disinvited" from speaking events, because what they say is perceived to cause harm or even just offence. What does this mean for free speech? What even is speech? Tim and Monty talk (and disagree) about different theories of how language reflects and/or creates reality, and whether there are any places where free speech truly does, or should, exist.
The #metoo movement has already had a momentous impact, and many people are still parsing what it means for them. We think meaningful change will ultimately come from men, so it's something men should be thinking and talking about more. In this episode Monty talks about his experience working with men and boys on combating toxic masculinity and Tim talks about the difficulties in even talking about #metoo.