292 episodes

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.

Very Bad Wizards Tamler Sommers & David Pizarro

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.8 • 2.6K Ratings

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.

    Episode 288: The Despised Foot (The Denial of Death Pt. 2)

    Episode 288: The Despised Foot (The Denial of Death Pt. 2)

    David and Tamler conclude their discussion of Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death. We talk about Becker’s philosophy of science (does he have one?), his sweeping explanations for strongman leaders, neuroses, mental illness, sexual fetishes, and the refreshing absence
    of an answer or resolution to the existential paradox at the heart of being human. Plus, a special Pod Save the Wizards intro - we have a political gabfest about Biden, the infamous debate, Kamala Harris, and more…
    The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker [amazon.com affiliate link]
    The Denial of Death [wikipedia.org]
    Let us know where we should hold our 300th episode listener meet-up [surveymonkey.com]

    • 1 hr 30 min
    Episode 287: Gods With Anuses (The Denial of Death Pt. 1)

    Episode 287: Gods With Anuses (The Denial of Death Pt. 1)

    David faces his greatest fear as he and Tamler dive into Ernest Becker’s 1973 Pulitzer Prize winner The Denial of Death. Blending existentialist ideas within a psychoanalytic framework, Becker argues that the ultimate source of human motivation is not the repression of sexual drives (as Freud thought) but our terror of death and the yearning for an immortality we can never possess. This episode focuses on Part One of Becker’s book, and we’ll conclude the discussion in the next episode.
    Plus are gun owners really dissatisfied with their penis size? We look at the numbers.
    Hill, T. D., Zeng, L., Burdette, A. M., Dowd-Arrow, B., Bartkowski, J. P., & Ellison, C. G. (2024). Size matters? Penis dissatisfaction and gun ownership in America. American journal of men's health, 18(3), 15579883241255830.
    The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker [amazon.com affiliate link]
    The Denial of Death [wikipedia.org]
    Let us know where we should hold our 300th episode listener meet-up [surveymonkey.com]

    • 1 hr 31 min
    Episode 286: Laugh and the World Laughs With You

    Episode 286: Laugh and the World Laughs With You

    David and Tamler dive into the mysteries at the heart of Park Chan-wook’s deeply disturbing masterpiece "Oldboy" (2003). An ordinary man, Oh Dae-su, is imprisoned for 15 years in an old, windowless hotel room. After being abruptly released Oh Dae-su embarks on a mission to discover why he was imprisoned and to get revenge on the man who did it. But does Oh Dae-su really want to know the answers? And is he asking the right questions? (SPOILER HEAVY EPISODE! See this movie before you listen! Available on Netflix in the US.)

    Plus, how familiar are you with words the words azimuth and espadrille? Turns out that the answer may depend on your gender. 
    Brysbaert, M., Mandera, P., McCormick, S. F., & Keuleers, E. (2019). Word prevalence norms for 62,000 English lemmas. Behavior research methods, 51, 467-479.
    Oldboy (2003 film) [wikipedia.org]

    • 2 hr 12 min
    Episode 285: On Culture and Agriculture

    Episode 285: On Culture and Agriculture

    It’s an old-school episode as David and Tamler dive into some intriguing research on the origins of cultural differences. Two neighboring communities in communist China were assigned to be wheat farmers and rice farmers. Seventy years later, the people in the rice farming communities showed signs of being more collectivist, relational, and holistic than the people in the wheat farming communities. Plus, we have some questions about a new study on censorship and self-censorship among social psychologists.
    Links:
    Clark CJ, Fjeldmark M, Lu L, Baumeister RF, Ceci S, Frey K, Miller G, Reilly W, Tice D, von Hippel W, Williams WM, Winegard BM, Tetlock PE. (2024) Taboos and Self-Censorship Among U.S. Psychology Professors. Perspectives on Psychological Science [pubmed]
    A fascinating theory about the cultural influence of rice farming now has evidence of causality by Eric Dolan [psypost.org]
    Talhelm, T., & Dong, X. (2024). People quasi-randomly assigned to farm rice are more collectivistic than people assigned to farm wheat. Nature Communications, 15(1), 1782.[nature.com]
    Talhelm, T., Zhang, X., Oishi, S., Shimin, C., Duan, D., Lan, X., & Kitayama, S. (2014). Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture. Science, 344(6184), 603-608. [science.org]

    • 1 hr 25 min
    Episode 284: Reel Choices

    Episode 284: Reel Choices

    David and Tamler choose an episode topic that will define the identity and meaning of the Very Bad Wizards podcast going forward – our top 3 existentialist movies. Plus, you’re gonna be shocked to hear this, you might want to sit down, but there has been surprisingly little research on the metaphysics of puns. We look at a recent paper that remedies this appalling gap in the literature – and maybe the biggest surprise of all, Tamler has some nice things to say about it.

    • 1 hr 22 min
    Episode 283: When Elephants Podcast

    Episode 283: When Elephants Podcast

    David and Tamler talk about Caitrin Keiper’s wonderful sprawling essay on elephant life and society and the many philosophical questions surrounding these extraordinary creatures. What kind of mental states can we attribute to them? Do they have a kind of language? Are they moral? What are our moral duties to them? What accounts for the long-standing taboo against ‘anthropomorphizing’ elephants and other complex non-human animals? And lots more.
    Plus, a new segment “there should be a German word for this” - we come up with new German words for common phenomena or experiences. And a big announcement in the promo segment about the podcast going forward.
    Please consider supporting a long-time listener’s attempt to get their family out of Gaza.[gofundme.com]
    Links:
    Do Elephants Have Souls? by Caitrin Keiper [thenewatlantis.com]

    • 1 hr 23 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
2.6K Ratings

2.6K Ratings

Fortran64thewet ,

Yikes

Love these two and their banter and their terrific analysis of academic and literary texts. Moved to rate by the cringey superficial analysis of the political landscape. Docked zero stars for the distasteful discussion but please guys if you’re going to lampoon and criticize politicians for their flaws start with the worst politician in US history.

Vlada Gray ,

Consistently fun and informative

Love the show - been listening for many years!

Coren David William ,

Old Boy’s The Odyssey, you idiots

It’s The Odyssey, you idiots

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