Search Episodes
Listen, Share, & Support
Listen to the latest episode
Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS
Become a fan
Follow on Twitter

Support Us:

Please consider making a donation to help make this podcast possible. Any contribution, great or small, helps tremendously!

 
Subscribe to E-Mail Updates

Related Readings
  • Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life
    Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life
    by Massimo Pigliucci
  • Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    by Massimo Pigliucci
  • Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science
    Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science
    by Massimo Pigliucci
Monday
Feb202017

RS 178 - Tim Urban on "Trying to live well, as semi-rational animals"

Release date: February 20th, 2017

Tim Urban

This episode features Tim Urban, author of popular longform illustrated blog Wait But Why. Julia and Tim explore one of their common interests: the tension between the rational and irrational aspects of human nature. Is there any value in the "irrational" parts of us (such as Tim's colorfully named "instant gratification monkey" and "social approval mammoth")? And can recognizing that tension help us live better -- or are we stuck struggling between our animal and rational selves?

Tim's Pick: Sam Harris's Interview of Glenn Loury, "Racism and Violence in America"

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 

Full Transcripts 

Reader Comments (5)

But how do we balance the tension between the cheese-eating surrender monkey and the sexual harassment panda?
February 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMax
Such a shame this potentially interesting discussion was spoilt by the sheer volume and overuse of the word "like" (three in succession at one point) by both parties. It was surely a conversation between two over-excited "teenagers in a school locker room" and painful to the ear.
Alas, I never made it to the end :(

Julia, I AM a fan of these podcasts (and most of your output) but this was awful. I could swear you'd met your dream "date" and lost the plot.
S-l-o-w D-o-w-n. Then most of the "pause" words for thinking will fade away.
March 7, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
the voice in your head
is not something YOU are doing
it's something happening TO you
you have been hijacked
by your own language machine

waking up from the trance of language
is a game-changer

don't believe everything you hear your language machine say
April 2, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterheron stone
the voice in your head
is not something YOU are doing
it's something happening TO you
you have been hijacked
by your own language machine

waking up from the trance of language
is a game-changer

don't believe everything you hear your language machine say
April 2, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterheron stone
I'm not quite clear on what both of you mean by the rational aspect of human nature. Sometimes you talk about it as something aspirational—as in the line "A truly rational side understands the value of balance and understands the value of sacrifices, compromises, and things like that."—other times it sounds like you are referring to an existing structure in people's brains or minds, perhaps similar to Kahneman's system 2.

Thought of aspirationally, it makes sense to view the rational aspect as above the emotional-intuitive one, because then the latter is a component of the former. If we are pointing toward something that actually exists in the brain, this is way less obvious. We are not perfect, rational consciousnesses trapped in meat—we are imperfect, rational-ish consciousnesses running on meat. Sometimes we carefully look at all the available evidence, make computations and deductions, then still end up wrong. We can't fully incorporate our intuitive-emotional side into our rational deliberation because we still don't really understand how it works. This may explain some of people's concerns about rationality being opposed to emotion or intuition. Sometimes the rational part of our minds is described as separate from emotion and intuition, while other times the rational part is described as incorporating emotion and intuition.

On a separate but related note, I think we should be careful about dismissing desires like social approval as irrational. The fact that they don't seem to have changed much over millions of years is evidence that they aren't well calibrated for the modern world. However, it also means that in millions of years the desire hasn't had to change. Situations of not needing a strong desire for social approval may be more an anomaly than a new norm. And, as you both expressed quite well at the end, social relationships are the best part of life for most people. When evaluating something's importance, we should consider both its survival value and the value it gives to survival.
May 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.