Show 507: Patricia Churchland

Patricia Churchland: Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain

The human experience, and the ‘self’, is so rich it must be produced by some transcendent being, some ultimate self that goes beyond the physical body, or so it is claimed.  How else can spiritual experience and deep emotion be explained?  Can they all be products of the brain?

It turns out that by studying the brain, scientists have gained profound understandings of much of human nature.  The brain really is capable of generating the rich, varied human experiences we call ‘spirituality’.  But that fact challenges our ideas about who and what we are.  If our ‘selves’ are “just” the product of some physical mechanism, even one as complex as the brain, are we really robust human beings?

Patricia Churchland, professor emerita at the University of California, San Diego, teaches neurophilosophy.  She’s accustomed to tackling the big philosophical questions with respect to the brain, and has become comfortable with the idea that our ‘selves’ really are our brains.  She’ll discuss these questions and more on this brain-twisting episode of ETFF!

Show 503: Judith Hand on Shifting our Thinking about War…

Judith Hand on Shifting our Thinking about War…

A few months ago we had on anthropologist Douglas Fry and psychologist Darcia Narvaez to discuss, among other things, violence, aggression, and war and how it relates to human nature. Some of the questions on that topic we asked included, Is war making inevitable? Why do we make war? Have we always made war? And, can we ever get to a time when there will be no more war?  Evolutionary Biologist Judith Hand has been working on these questions for a long time, and we discussed war and other aspects of human nature with her on Equal Time in the past. We have invited her back today to discuss her new book, SHIFT: The Beginning of War and The Ending of War.

Show 498: War, Peace, and Human Nature

We are a culture besieged by violence. Everyday we hear stories of mass shootings or stabbings, of a rising violent crime rate, of vigilantism, and we have been marred in one war or another since the birth of this nation… resulting in the maiming or killing of millions (usually far less Americans than those we target).

When peace activists, humanists, or even average citizens – tired of all the violence and war – try to speak out against the insanity, we are told human beings are violent by nature.  We are shown right-leaning works of social science which prove our bloody history to be the norm, not an anomaly, and told it goes back 50,000 years or more. We are told that war is either in our genes, or even something which is needed for homo sapien sapien to have balance in our societies. Even those who admit “war is hell” are pretty sure it is also inevitable; consequently they, and many in our society, feel those of us looking toward a peaceful, egalitarian, humanistic society without warfare are utopians living in a reality of our own inception… peaceniks left over from the radical 60s who have not grown up and who would be better served trying to help others within our current, often dysfunctional society, rather than demand another kind of world…

But what are humans REALLY like? What does the science ACTUALLY say? We will be speaking with evolutionary anthropologist Douglas Fry and psychologist Darcia Narvaez about these questions and more on the next edition of Equal Time for Freethought!

Show 471: David Swanson – War is a Lie

David Swanson – War is a Lie

“This world community must renounce the resort to violence and force as a method of solving international disputes. We believe in the peaceful adjudication of differences by international courts and by the development of the arts of negotiation and compromise. War is obsolete. So is the use of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. It is a planetary imperative to reduce the level of military expenditures and turn these savings to peaceful and people-oriented uses.” -Humanist Manifesto II

“This book (War is a Lie) is every American’s best defense against the greatest danger we face as human beings: the threat of war.  (David) Swanson reveals how American leaders (from both major political parties) have confused the public to create the illusion of consent for endless destruction and slaughter. Behind the fear-mongering, flag-waving and lies of George W. Bush and the blandishments of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama lies the ugly reality that our leaders have been seduced by political ambition, delusions of military superiority, and the promise of secrecy and impunity to commit otherwise unthinkable crimes.” Nicolas J. S. Davies, Author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

Show 422: Women & the End of War? w/ Kathleen Barry & Judith Hand

Women & the End of War? w/ Kathleen Barry & Judith Hand

What affect does militarism have on men? Are men – or humans in general – naturally warlike, aggressive, and violent? What role should woman play in modern society when it comes to leadership roles, and can women’s impact on power structures reduce violence and war in any way?

Sunsara Taylor will speak with sociologist Kathleen Barry and evolutionary biologist Judith Hand on these questions on the next Equal Time for Freethought – part one of an (unofficial) two part series on human nature, what we can expect from humanity in the future, and how we can secure a progressive, humanistic future society.

Show 387: The Power of Nightmares

Two-Hour Special: ‘The Power of Nightmares’

“The Power of Nightmares is a BBC documentary film series, written and produced by Adam Curtis.  The films compare the rise of the Neo-Conservative movement in the United States and the radical Islamist movement, making comparisons on their origins and claiming similarities between the two.

More controversially, it argues that the threat of radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organised force of destruction, specifically in the form of al-Qaeda, is a myth perpetrated by politicians in many countries—and particularly American Neo-Conservatives—in an attempt to unite and inspire their people following the failure of earlier, more utopian ideologies.”

Show 380: War, Gender, & Religion

War, Gender, & Religion

This Saturday on Equal Time for Free Thought, Sunsara Taylor will be talking with:

Nica Lalli, author of “Nothing,” a memoir about growing up – and then making her way in the world – without religion. This segment will examine the lessons Lalli has drawn from her own search for meaning and her journey to becoming what she calls a “pink atheist” as well as her insights and approaches to building a family and community with, or sometimes at least among, those who believe in different ways.

And…

Kathleen Barry, author of “Unmaking War, Remaking Men,” which examines the links between “masculinity” as we know it and a world of wars of aggression and plunder.

Taylor and Barry will explore the links between the rampant violence against women in the most intimate of spaces and the mass-scale brutality of imperialist wars, including some discussion of the recent unjust and immoral U.S. military assault on Libya.


Show 290: Cindy Sheehan on Radical Politics and Humanism

Cindy Sheehan is widely known – and loved – for being the courageous mother who refused to accept the BIG LIE that her son, Casey, died for a “noble cause” in the Iraq war. Instead, she camped out on Bush’s ranch and refused to leave as long as he refused to meet with her, each day calling more attention to the illegitimacy of his wars.

But, what most people don’t know is that Cindy Sheehan, once a Roman Catholic, is now a humanist.

This week on Equal Time for Freethought, Sunsara Taylor will interview Cindy Sheehan and explore her journey away from the church and organized religion. They will discuss Cindy’s views on humanism and what meaning she finds in working to change the real world – in struggling and sacrificing to put an end to the horrors the US empire is inflicting on innocents around the world and upon the young people it is turning into cannon fodder and war criminals.

For many secular folks, religion can’t hold a candle to the morality that Cindy Sheehan has exhibited – and inspired in others – in turning her own horrendous grief and loss into fuel for a world without such cruelties.

Show 289: “On Human Nature and the Potential for Peace”

“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!

Show 234: Fund Drive Special With Dr. Joel Kovel

Joel Kovel has spent the better part of his adult life profoundly concerned with the effects of human relationships as they impact the species as a whole, and indeed the planet itself. Like many of us on the Left, Joel has come to his work from a place of deep emotional and intellectual conflict… a conflict we experience via between the way we see the human adventure, and the way certain forces have shaped where we are today. All too often, the clash between what “is” and what we think “ought” to be, winds up in the end to favor the status quo. We are given all sorts of reasons for this by our more conservative friends from political and economic “practical” reasons, to the “lowly” nature of human beings (whether of the Christian or Hobbesian kind).

Alas, many of us live with the notion that ‘the more things change (for better or worse), the more they stay the same… which is just another way of our accepting what “is,” and putting our aspirations, hopes, and desires into that hidden away bottom shelf labeled “Utopian Fantasies.”

But as we have addressed for a long time now on Equal Time for Freethought – and indeed all across WBAI – Utopia is not a fantasy, but a destination-one no one expects to reach, but is driven by our very nature to come closer to. Those who argue for another kind of human nature that somehow justifies the status quo, do so from either a place of ignorance, fear, or – for those of us who are financially or politically well off – narcissistic comfort. For Joel Kovel, this just won’t do, and he has done his part to see that Utopia is removed from the bottom shelf, brushed off, and returned back to all of us.
Continue reading “Show 234: Fund Drive Special With Dr. Joel Kovel”