Rebecca Earle: The History and Politics of the Potato

The Dissenter | 19 April 2024 | 0h 54m | Listen Later | Podcasts | Spotify
Interview with Rebecca Earle discussing the origins of the potato, how good it is as a crop, and the status of potatoes in South America; how the potato came to Europe and spread across the globe; the political significance of nutrition in the Enlightenment and the modern era; the Great Famine in Ireland and the response of the British government, and different political views about the potato; attempts by governments to regulate the food market, how people react to them, and whether we really choose what we eat. Draws from her books Potato and Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato.

See also the episode The Potato.

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Caleb Everett – A Myriad of Tongues: How Languages Reveal Differences in How We Think

The Dissenter | 11 March 2024 | 0h 56m | Listen Later | Podcasts | Spotify
Interview with Caleb Everett about his book A Myriad of Tongues: How Languages Reveal Differences in How We Think. Discusses how people sometimes assume too much universality in language, and where linguistic diversity stems from; how people talk about time, numbers, space and directions, social relationships, and colours and odours; how the environment influences the evolution of languages, focusing on the example of extreme ambient aridity, and whistled languages; the limitations of studying grammatical patterns in idealized and written sentences; whether words are arbitrary, and if we can accurately translate every word and expression; the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and the broader study of universality and diversity in human cognition.

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Gregory Radick – Disputed Inheritance: The Battle over Mendel and the Future of Biology

The Dissenter | 5 February 2024 | 1h 12m | Listen Later | Podcasts | Spotify
Interview with Gregory Radick about his book Disputed Inheritance: The Battle over Mendel and the Future of Biology. Discusses the inter-relationships between the work of Mendel, Darwin and Francis Galton; the early 20C debate between William Bateson and W. F. R. Weldon about whether Mendelian genetics should be the standard entry point for learning about genes. Argues that if Weldon had lived longer and his view of Mendelian genetics as a special case ignoring environmental effects won out, we would have framed genetics fundamentally differently, with less of a framing of heredity as destiny.

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Freddie deBoer: How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement

The Dissenter | 7 September 2023 | 0h 57m | Listen Later | Podcasts | Spotify
Interview with Freddie DeBoer about his book How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement. Discusses the current cultural and political context in the US and its historical background; the George Floyd incident and its aftermath, and the Black Lives Matter movement; “elites” in the social justice movement, and the political consequences of the social justice movement being taken over by them; affirmative action and intersectionality; and solutions to improve leftist activism in the US.

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Luke Glowacki: Is Human Warfare Ancient or Recent?

The Dissenter | 22 December 2023 | 1h 44m | Listen Later | Podcasts | Spotify
Interview with Luke Glowacki about the evolution of war, and human cooperation. Discusses the main sources used to study the origins of war including animal models, archaeological evidence, and contemporary traditional societies; the myth that ancestral populations did not have anything to fight over or were too egalitarian to wage war, and also the myth that nomadic societies did not make peace; the deep-rooters and the shallow-rooters, the best evidence and arguments from both sides, and the epistemic and moral implications of the debate; large-scale cooperation in small-scale societies, and the main costs and benefits of intergroup cooperation and aggression; and whether peace is easy to maintain, and the role of key individuals in coalitional conflict.

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James McCann – Maize and Grace: A History of Africa’s Encounter with a New World Crop

The Dissenter | 20 October 2023 | 0h 53m | Listen Later | Podcasts | Spotify
Interview with James McCann about his book Maize and Grace: Africa’s Encounter with a New World Crop, 1500-2000. Discusses maize and its main traits as a crop; how it spread across the globe, and particularly, how it got to Africa; the role of politics and economics in the spread of maize across Africa, and the illustrative example of southern Africa, and how politics, science, and race intermingled there; the impact of maize on Africa’s biodiversity and the health and nutrition of African people; how colonialism influenced the spread of crops across the globe; the causal relationship between climate and history; and the work of Jared Diamond, and the idea of geographical determinism.

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Joseph Henrich: Cross-Cultural Research, Intelligence, Mating Systems, and Religion

The Dissenter | 28 August 2023 | 0h 58m | Listen Later | Podcasts | Spotify
Interview with Joseph Henrich discussing how culture shapes human psychology; human universals, and cognitive phenotypes; how different fields reacted to the WEIRD problem; the replication crisis; how to understand biases, like the prestige bias; what drives innovation, and cumulative culture; the collective brain hypothesis, and reframing how we think about intelligence and IQ; assortative mating, human mating systems, and the relationship between polygyny and inequality; religion, Big Gods, and theory of mind; the best methods to study psychology historically; and the overreliance on English speakers in the study of human cognition, and the need for people from more diverse cultural backgrounds in science.

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Michael Muthukrishna: A Theory of Everyone

The Dissenter | 25 September 2023 | 1h 40m | Listen Later | Podcasts | Spotify
Interview with Michael Muthukrishna about his book A Theory of Everyone: The New Science of Who We Are, How We Got Here, and Where We’re Going. Discusses the premise of the book; the four laws of life: energy, innovation, cooperation, and evolution; how cooperation expands in human societies, and what distinguishes us from other animals; intelligence and IQ, and the collective brain and the idea of “genius”; the importance of institutions and cultural norms, and the role of ideas; multiculturalism, and how to solve the “paradox of diversity”; our current energy ceiling, and the problems that derive from it and how to solve them; and the challenges of studying human behavior cross-culturally.

It’s finally here! Michael Muthkrishna launched what will surely be the most important book this year in conversation with Matthew Syed at the London School of Economics. You can watch the launch on LSE’s YouTube channel (the presentation starts 7 min 15 s into the video. You should definitely subscribe to his Substack.

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