For some time now, we have been having discussions with social and “natural” scientists about the state of our various societies – especially in the U.S. – in an attempt to better understand what we really are as a species, where we went wrong, and how we can find our way towards a healthier, more humanistic society.
What we’ve learned is that we are currently in a very unhealthy, even sociopathic time in human history. The multiple crises we face, of which Climate Change is one of the most urgent, may not have many viable solutions, but one thing for sure…our demise is not inevitable. This has been the message most of our guests have tried to get across – even the most pessimistic ones. Today’s guests are no different.
Audio can be found here!
Darcia Narvaez on Basic Needs, Wellbeing, and Morality
Dr. Narvaez’ research explores questions of species-typical and species-atypical development in terms of wellbeing, morality, and sustainable wisdom. She examines how early life experience (the evolved nest) influences moral functioning and wellbeing in children and adults. She integrates evolutionary, anthropological, neurobiological, clinical, developmental and education sciences in her work. Questions that interest her include: How does early experience shape human nature? What do sustainable indigenous societies have to teach the modern world? What types of moral orientations do individuals develop in species-typical and -atypical environments? What is indigenous ecological wisdom and how do we cultivate it?
Audio can be found here!
George Lakoff on The Political Mind
This week, Matthew LaClair speaks with cognitive linguist George Lakoff. Professor Layoff is the author of eleven books including NY Times bestsellers The Political Mind: Why you Can’t Understand 21st Century American Politics with an 18th Century Brain, and The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant, and he has just retired from teaching after 50 years, 44 years which he spent at the University of California at Berkley.
How do political ideas spread? Why do people often vote against their own interests? Why have ultra-Conservatives been so successful in controlling American discourse? What message should liberals and progressives focus on going forward?
Audio can be found here!
Stephen G. Post on his new book, The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us Through Hard Times
Stephen speaks widely on themes of benevolent love and compassionate care at the interface of science, health, spirituality, and philanthropy. His work has been featured in periodicals such as Parade Magazine and O: The Oprah Magazine, and on such media venues as The Daily Show, John Stossel, 20/20 and Nightline. He has addressed the U.S. Congress on volunteerism and public health.
Research has revealed that when we show concern for others—empathizing with a friend who has lost a loved one, mowing the lawn for an elderly neighbor, or volunteering to mentor a school-aged child—we improve our own health and well-being and embrace and give voice to our deeper identity and dignity as human beings. The Hidden Gifts of Helping explores the very personal story of Stephen and his family’s difficult move and their experience with the healing power of helping others, as well as his passion about how this simple activity—expressed in an infinite number of small or large ways—can help you survive and thrive despite the expected and unexpected challenges life presents.
Social Science Under Fire II
It’s generally accepted by most freethinkers that it’s very easy, and quite common for our bias to reduce our ability to perceive the world around us accurately. Accordingly, freethinkers overwhelmingly agree that we can significantly limit the effects of bias when we employ scientific method.
Surprisingly however, when to comes to understanding the human condition, freethinkers often demonstrate the same, folksy, traditional biases we all do before we consider the scientific evidence, even after they’ve consulted the research!
The picture painted of the human experience as described by scientific research is remarkably different than those folk or traditional ways of knowing ourselves; therefore, the implications for our political and economic institutions is vast. Or perhaps this is the cause of the bias, itself.
To take a look at this phenomenon we will be speaking with two scientists on the nature of social science and it’s ability to tell us who and what we are, and the big question of “human nature.”
Continue reading “Show 339: Social Science Under Fire II”
“On Human Nature and the Potential for Peace” w/ Anthropologist Douglas Fry
This program aired in honor of Universal Peace Day!
A few weeks ago on Equal Time for Freethought, Arnell Dowret interviewed two social scientists and a bio-engineer on the validity and importance of social science – what it can tell us about human nature, whether or not it was a rigorous enough a science to inform us on how to develop healthier societies, and if all the recent attacks on it by skeptics, evolutionary psychologists, and indeed some social scientists, have been deserved or not. It is perhaps not unreasonable to suggest that by the end of the program, the validity of the social sciences had been fairly proven – with all due respect to the bio-engineer participant.
Still, if my experience discussing social science and human nature – particularly with regards to violence, warlike behavior, authoritarianism and selfishness – with scientifically and politically serious people on Facebook is any indication on where many people today stand on the validity of social science… things look weak at best for those defending sciences like sociology, anthropology and psychology.
And while I have found, without much surprise, that most people who reject social science tend to be political centrists, conservatives or r-libertarians, I have also found what seems to be a deep suspicion of the merits of these sciences even from those left of center. – Barry F. Seidman
Douglas P. Fry teaches in the Faculty of Social and Caring Sciences at Abo Akademi University in Finland and is an adjunct research scientist in the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology at the University of Arizona. A renowned anthropologist and a leading authority on aggression, conflict, and conflict resolution, he has worked in this field for over twenty-five years and has published many articles and books on this subject. His latest text is ‘Beyond War: The Human Potential For Peace.’
This program aired on WBAI on July 26th and August 2nd, but the full audio can be found here!
Is Social Science bunk?
Were Stanley Milgram’s “Obedience Experiments,” and Philip Zimbardo’s “Stanford Prison Experiments,” unscientific and immoral?
Is Social Science even science?
Join us as ETFF focuses in on questions such as these with three extraordinary guests for this one hour special presentation!
Challenging the value and accuracy of the social scientific enterprise will be Dr. Barbara Oakley, author of “Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend.” Dr. Oakley has been doing interviews (including for the Center For Inquiry’s podcast, ‘Point of Inquiry’), attacking social science and some of its seminal studies.
Standing up for social science in general will be Dean of Social Sciences and University Professor of the Social Sciences at New York University, Dr. Dalton Conley. And back with us for a second time to address criticisms regarding his Stanford Prison Experiment will be Social Science legend, Dr. Philip Zimbardo.
The Sequel to this program can be found here!
“The Dialectical Biologist: A Discussion w/ Dr. Richard Levins“
Richard Levins studied agriculture and mathematics at Cornell. He was a tropical farmer in Puerto Rico before getting his PhD at Columbia University. He later moved to Harvard with the sponsorship of E. O. Wilson, with whom they had later disputes over sociobiology. Levins was elected member of the US National Academy of Sciences but resigned because of the Academy’s role in advising the US military.
Levins is John Rock Professor of Population Sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health. During the last two decades Levins has concentrated on application of ecology to agriculture, particularly in the less developed nations. He has also written on philosophical issues in biology and modelling.
An influential article of his is “The Strategy of Model Building in Population Biology”. He has influenced a number of contemporary philosophers of biology. With the evolutionary geneticist Richard Lewontin, Levins has written a number of articles on methodology, philosophy, and social implications of biology.
This interview, conducted by Professor of Philosophy Paul Eckstein (Bergen Community College, NJ), focuses mainly on Levins’ contribution to the text, Biology Under the Influence: Dialectical Essays on Ecology, Agriculture, and Health (w/ Lewontin).
Dr. Joy Leary on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome
Dr. Joy Leary is a social scientist and accordingly she takes a causation oriented view of behavior. In contrast to supernatural explanations she recognizes that there are causal determinants which lead people to behave as they do. In the black community this is a viewpoint which is under represented. The vast majority of public discussion by black Americans regarding behaviors by fellow black individuals which create problems for themselves and for those around them is void of social scientific causal frame work. Instead on the left we hear about racism and ongoing oppression by the white majority, and on the right we hear about the need for individual responsibility and the assertion that the blacks who have managed to succeed are proof that the claim that there continues to be racial barriers to success is false.
Leary’s work takes a more comprehensive view both acknowledging the intimate family cultural issues that result in perpetuating pain and suffering while also connecting it to the history that created those family dynamics, as well as the larger social issues which exist today. By reflecting on the challenges which continue to be faced by black Americans through the lens of psychology and sociology, Dr. Leary brings a level of rational analysis into the discussion that is desperately needed yet extremely rare. Rather than condemning white society, rather blaming black individuals, Leary stays clear of the partisanship; and, like a scientist, tries to describe what she observes as accurately as possible and without passing self-righteous judgments, she offers viable explanations for what she observes which are consistent with our best understanding of developmental psychology and various other fields of social science.
Continue reading “Special Repeat: Dr. Joy Leary on Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome”
Language usage in America over the last 40 years has polarized society – all or nothing, judgmental terms like good and evil, sinful and righteous, pride and guilt – while nuanced, knowledgeable and meaningful language has been vilified as “political correctness.” Can naturalists and humanists offer a unique perspective and be of any real value in the public square today? What sort of contribution can we make to public discourse which is consistent with humanist values and evidence based thinking?