You can blame me, try to shame me, and still I’ll create podcasts for you! And anyone who knows what “Black Mirror” is (which should be everyone) will understand.
This episode is devoted to a deep-dive discussion of some of the philosophical ideas and issues explored in the television series “Black Mirror,” including such meaty areas as the nature of consciousness, the problem of personal identity and its relationship with memory, existentialism, morality and ethics (especially as these relate to the question of retributive justice), and of course technology and the role it plays in our lives.
Joining me for this discussion are two friends of mine, Jeremiah Traeger and Michael Schaffer, who are big fans of the series and whose most interesting contribution to this episode is their heated debate over whether the simulated counterparts of various characters are conscious beings or not. . .
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The opening clip is an excerpt from the audiobook “God is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens, courtesy of Hachette Audio. Text Copyright 2007 by Christopher Hitchens. Audio production copyright 2007, Hachette Audio. Used with permission.
The opening and ending music is “Jade” by Esther Nicholson and is used under license.
In this episode, we are doubting the historical existence of a man you may have heard about: Jesus of Nazareth. Ever since critical biblical scholarship began in the eighteenth century, largely a product of the Enlightenment, the consensus among mainstream historians and religious scholars has been that a man named Jesus did historically exist in Palestine and was crucified by the Romans in the first decades of the Common Era. Although these biblical critics did doubt and challenge the reality of the New Testament’s portrait of Jesus as a miracle worker and divinely appointed savior, they did think – or, more precisely, assume – that there was a real man named Jesus upon whom theological legends were later based. But there has always been another school of thought. The mythicists argued that not only was the Christ of faith a theological fantasy, but the Jesus of history was also a fiction. Jesus, said the mythicist scholars, never even existed historically.
Eastern mysticism clashes with rural America in this episode, as we recount a tale of religious bigotry, government paranoia, bombings, wiretapping, poisonings, assassination attempts, and airplane chases. I am joined by my good friend and patron the show Chris Watson, host of The Podunk Polymath Podcast, to review and discuss the six-part Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country. The series chronicles the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram, the once-thriving city established in 1981 in central Oregon by the Indian guru and mystic Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers.
In this episode, we explore the topic of fantasy role-playing games (RPGs) within the context of the moral panic and cultural stigmatization that surrounded games like Dungeons & Dragons and Vampire: The Masquerade during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s. My special guest is Joseph Laycock, PhD, assistant professor of religious studies at Texas State University and the author of three books, including Dangerous Games: What the Moral Panic over Role-Playing Games Says about Play, Religion, and Imagined Worlds. He has also written a book about vampire mythology and the communities that form around them and several journal articles on subjects which include Otherkin, parody religions, and paranormal beliefs.
My guest for this episode is Carly Gelsinger, author, writing teacher, and freelance editor. She holds a bachelor’s in psychology from William Jessup University and a master’s in journalism from Boston University. Her work has appeared in local, regional, and national publications. Her first book, which was released this month, is called Once You Go In: A Memoir of Radical Faith, a book about her life inside a fundamentalist Pentecostal church, where she was on fire for the Lord, as they say, until she found the courage to leave and forge her own path free of the toxicity and fear that fundamentalist religion so often breeds.
In this episode, there is plenty for us to doubt, because we’re talking about philosophy of mind with some moral and ethical philosophy thrown in like sprinkles on top. In what may well become a recurring theme on this podcast, we’re doing another philosophical deep-dive into a television series. This week, we’re analyzing HBO’s Westworld, a cerebral, high-concept series which explores the emergence of artificial consciousness in a theme park modeled after the American Old West and populated by highly sophisticated robots that look and act just like humans from that era.