Welcome to this week’s episode. Everything is fine. In this episode, I am joined by my good friends Aaron Rabi and Bethany Futrell to discuss NBC’s The Good Place, a show which is a testament to the fact that sitcoms can actually be philosophically robust and make people think deeply about morality and ethics. Who knew? Created by Michael Schur, The Good Place is a fantasy-comedy that explicitly incorporates ideas and concepts from moral and ethical philosophy via the narrative vehicle of a story about a group of people who die and find themselves in an afterlife.
In our conversation, Aaron, Bethany and I discuss moral contractualism, utilitarianism, the famous trolley problem, the moral and ethical implications and consequences of existential crises, the role of moral luck in the lives and actions of the show’s characters, whether or not eternal beings are capable of human morality as we know it, whether it’s morally justifiable to kill sentient A.I in order to upgrade their capabilities, and finally, the question of moral valence and why Aaron is ready and willing to pass moral judgment on Bethany for eating a banana for lunch. We also speculate on possible future directions for the show. Will we get our wish and get to see Jason Mendoza throw a Molotov cocktail at God?
Aaron Rabi’s podcast “Embrace the Void”: https://voidpod.com/
“Embrace the Void” on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ETVPod
Aaron Rabi’s other podcast “Philosophers in Space”: https://0gphilosophy.libsyn.com/
Thomas Scanlon 2013 lecture on morality and contractualism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXrVyVqqzJ0.
The Trolley Problem Experiment in Real Life by Vsauce: http://thenerdweb.com/trolley-problem-experiment-in-real-life-by-vsauce/
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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. The editing was done by Rich Lyons of the “Living After Faith” podcast.
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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.
In this episode, we are applying our doubts and critical thinking toward the myth of “alternative facts” and other lies and fictions of our day that has infected our democracy, ushered in a post-fact era and the digital misinformation age, and helped propel Donald Trump into the White House. My guest for this episode, Nathan Bomey, the author of a new book titled After the Fact: The Erosion of Truth and the Inevitable Rise of Donald Trump. Nathan Bomey is an award-winning business reporter for USA Today, and previously a reporter for the Detroit Free Press.
In this episode I welcome David Madison as my special guest. He is a former Christian minister who is now an outspoken atheist, author of the 2016 book Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief. He earned a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University School of Theology in 1975 and for nearly a decade served as pastor for two liberal congregations in Massachusetts. His lifelong interest in the Bible was eventually overshadowed by the kind of skepticism that an impartial consideration of serious historical and textual scholarship tends to foster. David joins me to discuss his transition from devout Christian minister to the vocal atheist and formidable critic of Christianity he is today, as well as to discuss a handful of the most devastating problems Christianity has tried and failed to answer.
This week I am very excited to bring you an interview with Karen L. Garst, PhD. She writes for the Faithless Feminist blog and website and is the editor of the book Women Beyond Belief: Discovering Life without Religion(published in 2016). She has also edited a new book which has just been published, titled Women v. Religion: The Case against Faith – and for Freedom. She joins me on this episode to talk about the intersection of atheism and women’s rights and to make the case that religion is the last cultural barrier to gender equality.
My guest on this episode is Dr. Abby Hafer. She holds a doctorate in zoology from Oxford University and teaches human anatomy and physiology at Curry College. She is the author of the 2015 book The Not-So-Intelligent Designer—Why Evolution Explains the Human Body and Intelligent Design Does Not.