You've got 10 minutes with Einstein. What do you talk about? Black holes? Time travel?
Why not gambling? The Art of War? Contemporary parenting?
Each week, host Jason Gots surprises some of the world's brightest minds with ideas they're not at all prepared to discuss. Join us and special guests Neil Gaiman, Alan Alda, Salman Rushdie, Margaret Atwood, Richard Dawkins, Maria Popova, Mary-Louise Parker, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many more...
Frans de Waal (primatologist) – You’re such a social animal
Love, grief, and moral disgust aren't unique to humans. Like chimps, humans sometimes struggle for dominance, but our first impulse is trust and connection. Frans de Waal has spent decades showing that most of what we believe about animals, humans, and the differences between us is wrong.
- The lifelong gratitude of a chimp de Waal taught to bottle-feed and adopt an orphan
- Trump's alpha male display during the 2016 debates
- How B.F. Skinner screwed up behavioral science for half a century
When I was a kid, there used to be a TV commercial for this series of animal videos you could order that were basically nothing but killing and sex. The tagline was "Find out why we call them . . . ANIMALS"!
"Wait a minute . . ." I used to think: "That's not why we call them animals. Also, we're animals too, aren't we? What exactly are you trying to say?"
That video series was a cynical cash grab, but it's not too far removed from how science has approached animal research, with some very recent exceptions. Generosity? Empathy? Happiness? Reconciliation? These rich emotions and prosocial behaviors were for humans. The animal kingdom was about dominance, survival, and the right to reproduce. Hey, it was a jungle out there.
My guest today, primatologist Frans de Waal, has spent decades gathering field and laboratory evidence that the line between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom is very blurry indeed, and that emotions are the deep connective tissue across species. His wonderful new book MAMA'S LAST HUG will help you find out why they call us…ANIMALS.
Surprise conversation starters in this episode:
Want to be smarter than you were yesterday? Learn to have better conversations using these 3 design principles.
- What is a great conversation? They are the ones that leave us feeling smarter or more curious, with a sense that we have discovered something, understood something about another person, or have been challenged.
- There are 3 design principles that lead to great conversations: humility, critical thinking, and sympathetic listening.
- Critical thinking is the celebrated cornerstone of liberalism, but next time you're in a challenging and rewarding conversation, try to engage sympathetic listening too. Understanding why another intelligent person holds ideas that are at odds with your own is often more enlightening than merely hunting for logic errors.
Should all speech be free? How much intolerance should society tolerate?
- For society to stay open and free, you don't need to eliminate prejudice. You need the opposite: All kinds of prejudice pitted against each other.
- Intellectual diversity helps society as a whole learn the truth. And as long as society has rules that force ideas to be openly tested, the intolerant will not gain the upper hand.
- "In America it's legal to be intolerant. It may not be right. It may not get you accepted or respected. But absolutely it's legal and it should be legal," says Jonathan Rauch.
When I was a teenager and music was still on cassettes, a mixtape was an act of love. In this episode, I'm putting together some of my favorite moments of 2019, strung together with minimal interruption from me.
Picking up where we left off a year ago, a conversation about the homeostatic imperative as it plays out in everything from bacteria to pharmaceutical companies—and how the marvelous apparatus of the human mind also gets us into all kinds of trouble.
- "Prior to nervous systems: no mind, no consciousness, no intention in the full sense of the term. After nervous systems, gradually we ascend to this possibility of having to this possibility of having minds, having consciousness, and having reasoning that allows us to arrive at some of these very interesting decisions."
- "We are fragile culturally and socially…but life is fragile to begin with. All that it takes is a little bit of bad luck in the management of those supports, and you're cooked…you can actually be cooked—with global warming!"
How do you write away the personal hole in your heart when that hole was left by a man half the world idolizes? Steve Jobs' daughter, the writer Lisa Brennan-Jobs, on the process and effects of writing her beautiful memoir SMALL FRY.
- "If I hadn't gone back with a fine-toothed-comb, a lot of these assumptions I had would have just been the air I breathed into my future."
- "There is something like theft in a memoir. If you want to write about yourself you have to write about other people who are unwitting and don't want to be written about…"
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