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The History of Being Human

English, Sciences, 1 season, 106 episodes, 3 days, 11 hours, 36 minutes
History, anatomy and physiology, philosophy, psychology, anthropology. The podcast that attempts to resurrect sense and meaning from the dust of a billion factoids.
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HBH 56: The Psychopathography of Adolf Hitler

Hitler was a failure who achieved the opposite of nearly all of his stated intentions. But was he insane as well?  His life and legacy might argue he was, but what do the experts say?If he was insane, what was the diagnosis? And if he was not insane, how do you account for his actions?Was he a meth head, dragon chaser, narcissist, psychopath, schizophrenic, oedipal conflicted anal regressive, or what?  In this episode we explore the body of literature devoted to explaining the motivations and actions of Adolf Hitler, and ask the question of whether he should be explained at all.
4/17/202437 minutes, 52 seconds
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HBH 55: The Gruesome Wretched Death of Herod the Great

He's one of the most reviled people in Western history -- a man whose cruelty, jealousy, and violence are proverbial. And yet his legacy is much more nuanced, his person more complicated than most of us know. One thing that is not in question is that he died a miserable death; in pain, angry, and resentful. Was it, as Josephus said, divine justice? Was it foul play? Spoiler: as bad as it was, it appears to have been neither, and can be easily explained.
2/27/202429 minutes, 34 seconds
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Introductory YouTube Video

I have released my first TouTube video and this is the audio -- see the episode here:'s Cat Quick and Easy Yes, this is based on a longer podcast episode -- but hey, you've got to start somwhere!
2/7/20245 minutes, 58 seconds
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HBH 54: Homo Erectus

The OG, greatest generation of Human ever! At least if your metric is a dogged determination to keep existing.For 2 million years these prehistoric hominins wandered far and wide, high and low, filling every available lakeshore and riverbed. What can we know about them? Their looks, abilities, traits? Did they use fire? Language? Clothing? Where did they come from and get to?And why, after such a successful run, did they exit the world stage?Today on the History of Being Human, the essential guide to all things Erectus.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
1/1/202438 minutes, 9 seconds
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HBH 53: 23,000 Year-Old White Sands Footprints with Dr. Edward Jolie

This week I wander off the topic of Life Extension (more next episode) to take advantage of an opportunity to interview an anthropologist about the White Sands footprints.Not since the Laetoli Australopithecus prints has a set of human footprints rocked the world of paleontology like those found in White Sands, New Mexico. Studies have dated these prints to 21-23,000 year ago, more than 6000 years older than humans were known to have arrived in the Americas!Many scientist are convinced the date is accurate; but if it is, it means a reshaping of an entire paradigm.In this episode I speak with Dr. Edward Jolie about his work, and about those prints. Dr. Jolie is the Clara Lee Tanner Associate Professor of Anthropology (School of Anthropology) and Associate Curator of Ethnology (Arizona State Museum) at the University of Arizona. In this wide-ranging discussion we cover:0: 00 Intro to Dr. Jolie and his work12:10 Were the Anasazi (Ancestral Pueblo people) cannibals? (Sorry, I couldn't resist the Man Corn debate!)14:40 The White Sands footprints16:40 The "Clovis First" paradigm (ie., the "Standard Model" of peopling of Americas20:50. Why the White Sands prints are potential paradigm changers28:40 The reliability of oral cultural transmission30:40 Two objections to the 21-23K year old datingThank you to Dr. Jolie for sharing his insights with us. See him here: by Ian ArmstrongThis show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
11/14/202336 minutes, 56 seconds
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HBH 52: Human Lifespan, Aging, and Death

It is time to take a trip to that Undiscovered Country and visit our greatest teacher. How long do we live, how long did we live, and why don't we just keep on going?Never mind that we do the world and our gene pool a great service by only taking up space for a finite time, what are the chances we can extend our time for a while? Indefinitely?This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
10/27/202337 minutes, 24 seconds
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HBH 51: Quantum Entanglement

In this episode we cover the underpinnings of the either/or, cause-then-effect, deterministic, distance-separates-things, no-info-travels-faster-than-light, orderly world of classical physics. It is the world inhabited by such luminaries as Newton and Einstein. Then we descend into the merely probabilistic, action-at-a-distance, neither/both world of Quantum Physics to cover the most bafflng and counter intuituve (nay, SPOOKY in the words of Einstein) phenomenon in nature -- Quantum Entanglement.If you have not listened to the episode on Schrodinger's Cat (HBH 50) it is recommended you do so first. Superposition is a necessary precursor to this topic also.For more info:–Clauser%20experiment%20was,2010%20Wolf%20Prize%20in%20physics. by Ian ArmstrongThis show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
8/29/202325 minutes, 15 seconds
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HBH 50: Schrödinger's Cat Made Easy

To paraphrase Richard Feynman: If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics.Along the same lines, if you have made sense of Schrödinger's Cat thought experiment, you don't understand it.But that's not to say it can't be explained. Which is exactly what we do in this episode of the history of being human - present one of the most enduring, and most popularly recognizable, legacies of early quantum theory.This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
7/16/202314 minutes, 47 seconds
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HBH 49: What is Truth?

At Long Last - Pilate's Old Question Will Get an Answer!This show is part of the Spreaker Prime Network, if you are interested in advertising on this podcast, contact us at
6/14/202330 minutes, 26 seconds
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HBH 48: Night Vermin Triumphant

In this episode, the massive, rapacious king power lizards of the Cretaceous are finally taken off the board by an asteroid. We trace the origins and progress of the skulking night vermin that are unleashed in their absence. These night vermin, with their whiskers and fur and fancy new brains, become the superpowers of the Cenozoic (our current era).This is the story of the mammals, from a time long before their origin until the last common ancestor between humans and chimpanzees. Although this is a re-release of a previous episode, it contains never-before released material about the latest estimates of warm-bloodedness ariiving on the stage. Illustration by Ian Armstrong
5/8/202338 minutes, 18 seconds
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HBH 47: Life on the Installment Plan Redux

Continuing with the origins of everything that is, I present the history of planet Earth, from its birth to the age of mammals. Included:How old is the earth?What are the oldest rocks ever found?How old is life itself?When did multicellular organisms arise?When did life leave the sea for land?What percentage of species has survived until the current time?What were the 5 biggest mass extrinction events in history?And much more...information that sounds, admittedly, tedious, but only because it is. But! Can you truly know about yourself without knowing about the universe, solar system, and planet that are a part of you?
4/24/202333 minutes, 31 seconds
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HBH 46: The Beginning of Space, Time, and Us

In this episode:9 billion years of prehistory made dangerously accessibleThe broadest, easily understood, fascinating ideas of the "Big Bang"Mysteries of the Big BangWhat can we theorize?Where do our theories fail?What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Big Bang model?What are the philosophical and identity implications of Big Bang CosmologySummary of the development of the universe until the beginnings of our solar systemThis episode is an updated and expanded presentation of episode 11a. A key element in understanding current thought on our own nature.
4/17/202327 minutes, 43 seconds
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HBH 45: The Omphalos and the Oracle at Delphi

Attention: This is the episode that started the podcast -- the story of the maxim Know Thyself, the Prophetess at Delphi, Apollo and the python, Zeus and the omphalos, and the much more ancient Egyptian origins of the injunction.What did it mean to the ancients? Is it still relevant today, or has it cone the way of alchemy and phrenology?
3/21/202319 minutes, 17 seconds
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HBH 44: Changes Coming To A Podcast Near You

In this brief announcement I discuss the philosophy and rationale for content choices and discuss a few changes coming to the podcast.It is my belief that these changes will add value to my listeners, albeit indirectly, as they will enable me to produce more content and extend the reach of the podcast. Thank you for all your support. I am excited to be moving the podcast to the next level and hope you will continue to listen!
3/9/20238 minutes, 38 seconds
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HBH 43: The Mysterious, Tragic Death of Edgar Allen Poe

From the new Studio P, provided by Peyton, comes the death of Poe. In a sad case of life imitating art, Edgar Allen Poe, the master of the macabre and father of the mystery story presents us with a real-life masterpiece of both genres in his own tragic death. Poe boarded a train, disappeared for days, and turned up in a gutter outside a tavern/polling station wearing someone elses clothing. He was rushed to a hospital where he languished for day before dying. In his feverish delirium, he was never able to say what had happened to him or where he had been, but called out an unknown name several times during his last hours. Here, dear listeners, is one of the most puzzling of mysterious deaths in history, in all its lurid detail. Special thanks to Jess for the episode idea Cover Art by Ian Armstrong
3/5/202329 minutes, 55 seconds
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HBH 42: Alexander the Great's Amazing Life and Mysterious Death

Alexander was a prodigy in all things military and administrative, as unaccountably great in his own field as Mozart was in music or Michelangelo in art. By age 32, he had conquered the mightiest empire ever known and extended the boundaries of his kingdom to the edges of the known world. Against men, beasts, and entire armies, Alexander never lost a battle. But in the prime of his life and the apex of his power, he became ill and soon died. What, exactly, conquered the greatest conqueror the world had ever known? Infectious disease? Battle wounds? Prodigious drinking? Neurological or hereditary illnesses, or murder most foul and insidious? On this episode we speak with Professor Philip Freeman, author of the acclaimed biographgy of Alexander, about the death (and life) of one of the most influential figures in the history of being human. Please see Dr. Freeman's bio and bibliography here: Buy his book on Alexander, Hannibal, St. Patrick -- they are all highly readable and accessible but represent the best scholarship you would expect from a chaired professor of classical philology. Art Work by Ian Armstrong
1/25/202335 minutes, 24 seconds
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HBH 41: Friedrich Nietzsche's Mysterious Descent into Madness and Death

At the age of 44, Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the most influential philosophers and writers of his age, suffered a psychotic breakdown. For the next 11 years until his death from pneumonia, he evidenced profound dementia and was totally dependent on the care of others. For many years Nietzsche's decline was blamed on syphilis, but lately that diagnosis has come under increasing scrutiny or outright attack. In its place researchers have posited tumors, hereditary illnesses, rare metabolic disorders, and rapidly progressive forms of dementia. What is the truth? Can we ever know? Fear not, intrepid listener, this episode of The History of Being Human will deign to [attempt to] answer all mysteries around the death of Friedrich Nietzsche. 
1/10/202340 minutes, 47 seconds
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HBH 40: King Tut's Mysterious Mother and her Mysterious Death

Even King Tut had a mother. Once. And not for very long, it seems. This episode is actually several mysteries in one. Who was King Tut's mother?  Why did she die, esecially so young? Was it sickness, childbirth, accident, or murder most foul? A story of 18th Dynasty Egypt, tomb robbers, trauma before and after death, sneaky priests and vile heretics, sprinkled with rather dry medical research. Links: Tour of KV 35, where Younger Lady was found (down to the exact chamber): Photos of the Younger Lady including facial reconstruction:  
11/21/202236 minutes, 5 seconds
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HBH 39: The Death of King Tut

Tutankhamen died at 19 years old. No one is sure why or how.  His tomb, his mummy, and his DNA offer some tantalizing clues, but no definitive answer.   Here is the life and death of one of the best known mummies, from one of the least known Pharohs, in ancient history; a dive deeper than any other podcast is capable or willing to take.  It is a tale of sorrows and pains, of bizarre family dynamics, of deformities and deat, and of intrigue and possible murder. In the end, we answer what can be answered about the life and mysterious death of the most famous of all Pharaohs, King Tut.
10/31/202247 minutes, 6 seconds
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HBH 38: Anaximenes and His Air Get Their Due

The third and final member of the Milesian school, once considered the weak little sister of the philosphers, now appreciated in all his Air-udite glory. This is his story, as we have it, which may or may not correlate roughly to some things he actually said or did. As a synthesizer of the works of Thales and Anaximander, he held onto the best and abandoned the worst of their ideas, and in so doing became a father of empirical science.   
10/11/202224 minutes, 49 seconds
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HBH 37: Anaximander of Miletus

Today we take a long, hard look at the great Anaximander, the second member of the Milesian School, and possibly one of the most influential thinkers of all time.  The first metaphysician, the greatest astronomer of his age, the teller of time and builder of colonies, the man who dared disagree with his teacher and mentor and ended up transcending his theories, is here presented to you in all his glory. Such as it is.    
8/20/202231 minutes, 31 seconds
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HBH 36: The Greek Dark Ages, The Archaic Age, and Thales the Wise

In this episode we begin a series on the beginnings of "Western" thought and science. We start with the catastrophy of the Mycenean Collapse, the Greek Dark Ages, and the Archaic Age, then continue with a discussion of Miletus and its most revered citizen, Thales. Thales has left his mark on the planet with his work. As a brilliant sage whose ideas were the beginnings of science, he helped set a trajectory for all future generations of philosophers and scientists.     
7/30/202247 minutes, 17 seconds
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HBH 35: Dyatlov Deaths on Dead Mountain 2

Today, part 2 of the Dyatlov Pass mystery. What killed the 9 expert, fit trekkers on Dyatlov Pass in 1959?  Is the mystery finally solved? In this episode we dig deep and look hard into what we can know about what happened to the ill-fated expedition.   FF to 53:45 if you want the TL;DR version of the episode. Or, if you want to know the why behind the what, we spend the better part of an hour building our case -- for the intrepid listener only! Guaranteed to be the most detailed study of the incident available by Podcast, or you get doble your money back! Enjoy! Picture of "The Yeti" from Tibo's camera:  (look at image 17)
6/13/20221 hour, 6 minutes, 40 seconds
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HBH 34: The Radioactive KGB Yeti UFO Bear on the Mountain of Death

This is actually the story of the Dyatlov Pass deaths of 1959 -- an event that remains mysterious and controversial to this day.  9 healthy Russian Athletes on a ski trip die under stange circumstances.  The location and conditon of the bodies is both distrubing and bizarre.  Many conspiracy, supernatural, and naturalistic explanations have been attempted with varying levels of acceptance.  None accounts for every fact.   Today, the events and people in this riveting mystery. Next episode, the theories and explanations. See the group's pictures and read their diaries.  View maps and 3D models of the scene. Check the timeline.  This website is an excellent and enthralling resource:
5/30/202249 minutes, 2 seconds
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HBH 33 The Fundamental Nature of Physical Reality

There are some things you just have to know to keep up with the headlines. Things that, in some cases, provide crucial insights into who we are and how we and the universe we are part of work.   It might be that a big picture concept of the fundamental building blocks of reality is one of those things.   If you, like me, really want to understand something about physics, but find yourself thwarted at every turn by boring, overly-technical, confusing, and poorly organized presentations, allow The History of Being Human Podcast to throw its hat into the ring. What follows is my own boring, confusing presentation of some key ideas, presented as only a naive mind can.  All I can say in my defense is that you really just have to know this.  Or not.
4/12/202234 minutes, 5 seconds
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HBH 32: The Texas Tower Tumor of Terror

Today we cover the story of Charles Whitman, the erstwhile normal and successful young scout, altar boy, and marine sharpshooter who, in the course of 24 hours, killed his mother and wife, climbed the tower at UT Austin, and sniped at innocent civilians for an hour and a half. After he was killed, his autopsy revealed, possibly, a structure that might or might not bear on one of the biggest mysteries about humanity -- are we free to choose our own actions, or are our actions decided by factors outside our voluntary control? A somewhat disturbing story about the evil perpetrated by one very disturbed young man, so caveat auditor.
2/6/20221 hour, 2 minutes, 9 seconds
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HBH 31: The Terror of Torquemada

A late entry into the worst people ever compendium, Tomas de Torquemada, the first and greatest Grand Inquisitor of The Spanish Inquisition.  A man who began with a broad national mandate to root out heretics and insincere converses, and ended so loathed by everyone in Spain that he needed armed escorts wherever he went. A zealot so intransigent that the Pope tried to find a way to get rid of him.   This is the story of Torquemada and the beginnings and glory days of The Spanish Inquisition.  Our last episode on the Inquisition, and good riddance to it!  
1/15/202246 minutes, 57 seconds
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HBH 30: Three Trials of Joan of Arc

In this episode we conclude our series on the inquisition with the story of Joan of Arc with her three "trials:" 1. The Examination at Poitiers (link to a summary: 2. The 1431 Trial of Condemnation before the Inquisition (link to fulll transcripts: 3. The Trial of Nullification in the 1450s (link to full transcripts:  
12/12/202155 minutes, 33 seconds
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HBH 29: The Short, Astonishing Life of Joan of Arc

Here it is: the pious childhood, the voices, the missions, the uncanny miraculous insights, the fearless warring, the taunting and threatening, the temper, the visions and prophesies, and the prodigious feats of the Maid of Orleans.   According to Twain, this was far and away the most amazing human being to ever live, and that is saying an awful lot.  Wherever she stands on the ladder of greatness, Joan was a force wholly new and utterly unique in nature. One for the Ages. This is her life.
11/9/20211 hour, 4 minutes, 13 seconds
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HBH 28: The Life and Trials of Joan of Arc

In this episode we set the stage for the story of Joan of Arc, one of the most enigmatic and fascinating people in history.  To understand Joan we have to understand the Hundred Years' War, the festering quagmire into which she was born, and which she helped put an end to. Herein are dragons and whirlwinds, blood-soaked Vikings, slaughtered monks, broken treaties, lunatic kings, conquering dukes, glorious victories and crushing defeats, assassinations and treachery, conniving men and women, and war, war, war. In short, it was the last world you would expect a peasant girl to rise to greatness in.  But rise she would...  
10/10/202141 minutes, 48 seconds
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HBH 27: The Knights Templars' Humble Beginnings and Horrific End

They are one of the two most implicated groups in the history of conspiracy theories. But their real history is, if less mysterious and ominous, just as unsettling.  From a humble beginning, to becoming the richest order in Christendom, to being imprisoned, tortured, persecuted and executed. This is the story of the Knights Templar.
8/26/202158 minutes, 38 seconds
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HBH 26: Mother and Infant Down the Rocks

We continue our series on the Inquisition with the campaigns to suppress the Waldensians. These "Poor Men (and Women!) of Lyon" were known for their sandals and their beards; but mostly for their Christian piety, humility, and charity.   So of course they had to die. And die they did, in the tens, hundreds, and thousands.     
7/20/202134 minutes, 14 seconds
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HBH 25: Kill Them All and God Will Know His Own

In this episode we begin a full immersion experience into that most infamous of offices, The Inqusition.  From the forces at play in the persecution society where it began, through a few early burnings, to the papal bull that started it all, we refuse to shrink from staring it in all its repressive sanctimony. We also cover some of the early heretical movements and groups that caught the -- very unwanted -- attention of the ecclesiastical inquisition.  Finally, the Albigensian Crusade gets off to a brutal and sadistic start, as the Pope calls another crusade, this time against the Cathars -- in what historians call the first ideological genocide in history. Artwork by Ian Armstrong
6/29/202148 minutes, 6 seconds
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HBH 24: Polarization and Conspiracy Thinking

In this episode Steve Rathje, social psychologist specializing in social media and political polarization, explains to us why we are prone to conspiratorial thinking, and how we got into the state we find ourselves in Western societies.  Virality, engagement, fake news, motivated reasoning, negativity bias, and much more are covered the way only Steve can explain them. A long overdue episode 24 of HBH. But hey, it's summer, and we can finally travel, so it's better late than never.            
6/14/202133 minutes, 40 seconds
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HBH 23: Jan Bremer on Human Sacrifice

In this episode I speak to Professor Jan Bremer about human sacrifice. We touch on Greek, Roman, Maya, Indian, Aztec, Druid, Egyptian, Chinese, and other instantiations of this most intentionally terrifying of all practices. Who were the victims? How common was it? What motivated it? The answers, from Prof. Bremer, were suprising. I will not say he is a human sacrifice skeptic, but he believes it was less common and less costly than sensationalized accounts would lead us to believe.   Art by Ian Armstrong Music Icy Vindur by A. Himitsu    
5/18/202138 minutes, 11 seconds
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HBH 22: Fallacies, Biases, and Warped Reality

Conclusion (at last) of a three-part episode on the ways our perceptions and processing distort reality.  For the stalwart (and patient) seekers of knowledge only. 0:00  Groupthink 6:13   Halo Effect 10:41  Just World Fallacy 17:21  Negativity Bias 22:16  Optimism and Pessimism Bias 27:19   Reactance 31:44  Self-Serving Bias 34:41  Sunk Cost Fallacy 39:40  The Spotlight Effect 40:51  The Dunning-Krueger Effect as you never knew it   Art: Ian Armstrong          
4/25/202146 minutes, 48 seconds
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HBH 21: Our Distorted Reality

Today I begin a pedantic journey into the tragicomic ways our perceptions and judgments are altered and distorted by our own cognitive processes -- goofy, heartbreaking, and humorous all at once,  Index of topics included: 0:00    Intro 04:52   Anchoring Bias 08:59   Availability Heuristic 13:25   Backfire Effect 16:05   Barnum Effect 19:45   Belief Bias 23:06   Bystander Effect 27:22  Confirmation Bias and Belief Perseverance                Including Wm. Flinders-Petrie vs the Pyramidologists 33:56   Curse of Knowledge 35:10   Declinism aka Old Fartism  36:49   Framing Effects 40:06   Fundamental Attribution Error (Salience of the Actor)            Empty Boats   I will finish the topic in a few weeks, but in order to not bore you to death with this laundry list, I will interject a few historical vignettes between now and then.      
4/17/202146 minutes, 1 second
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HBH 20: Conspiracy Theories and Cognitive Glitches

In which we continue to Dumbest things in history series by looking at some of the glitches in us that make them possible.  And also that they are not the result of our lizard brain, because we don't have one. In this episode, we cover conspiracy thinking and theories and the  apophenia that makes them possible, including pareidolia, the gambler's fallacy, motivated reasoning, and of course our ability to talk ourselves into things through repetition.  
4/4/202151 minutes, 1 second
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HBH 19: Rasputin and the Romanovs

A bad decision for the ages--welcoming a pretentious narcissistic ignoramus into your family to weaken your already precarious hold on power, ignoring all warnings and thumbing your nose at the public outrage it engendered.   And worse, taking said lecher's advice on all matters, sacred and secular, because he claimed it came from God himself.  It sounds like a path to disaster, as indeed it was. In this episode we uncover what can be known about the life and strange death of Grigori Yefimovich Novykh, aka Rasputin, the so-called Mad Monk of Siberia and his tragic relationship to Tsar Nicolas II and his family.  Cover Art by Ian Armstrong    
3/19/202147 minutes, 16 seconds
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HBH 18: Vera Tiesler on Mayan Human Sacrifice

This is a release of an interview I did a year and a half ago, but have not released due to some technical -- and technique -- difficulties. Despite that, I have always wanted to clean it up as much as possible and release it, in large part because Dr. Tiesler is a world renowned expert on the topic and was very generous to grant the interview.          
2/11/202135 minutes, 6 seconds
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HBH 17: Human Glitches, Part 1

We have a lot going for us, which is why we are currently a very successful species. But we have a lot of problems, defects, deficiencies, dysteleology, and outright glitches in our systems. This episode, the first in a two part series on our glitches, catalogues some of the maladaptive elements that make us who we are. This episode: anatomical, physiological, and genetic human defects.  HBH 18: Mental glitches that allow us to make very stupid decisions, thought distortions and cognitive biases.          
12/7/202038 minutes, 53 seconds
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HBH 16: The All-Time Dumbest Thing Ever

There are countless stupid events, decisions, policies, and people in history, so it was a great surprise to see how easy it was to decide on the dumbest thing ever. It was, to put it bluntly, no contest. The Great Leap Forward had it all -- poor planning, poor execution, newspeak, happy talk, brutal repression, and tens of millions of deaths.  And you couldn't think of a more perfectly ludicrous name. Today's episode is a little complicated, as the topic is VAST and I made a vain attempt to cover it all.  Listen to it twice if you have to -- or if you have a stomach for it! Better yet -- Read about the Great Leap Forward: Mao's Great Famine by Frank Dikotter Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine by Xun Zhou        
11/23/20201 hour, 12 minutes, 29 seconds
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HBH 15: Fascism and Antifa

In this episode I get distracted while working on another topic.  Because of that failure to focus, we cover the origins of left and right political ideologies, the beginnings of fascism, its symbolism, and what special recipe makes a fascist regime fascist.  We also briefly discuss Antifa -- which is, depending on who you ask, either the most dangerous shadowy terrorist group in America with billionaire funding and extensive secret networks, or a total boogeyman invented by the right as a scapegoat. Cover art by Ian Armstrong
11/2/20201 hour, 2 minutes, 31 seconds
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HBH 14: The Dumbest Things Ever: The Satanic Panic of the 1980s

Ok, so it wasn't a world-historical level disaster, or maybe even close to the dumbest thing humans have ever believed. But it was pretty stupid. Nations gripped by a fear of covens of witches, repressed memories of ritual Satanic abuse, demonic rock-and-roll, ouija boards stealing your soul, and don't forget those blue-as-death animated corpses, the Smurfs!  All, of course, without any credible evidence whatsoever. If you wonder where the Q phenomenon began, and how it can possibly have legs, look no further than the Satanic Panic. This is an interview I did with Paul Corupe ( since I seem to mostly interview men named Paul(?!). It was originally produced for the series on mob behaviors and mass delusions but I am releasing it now due to some sound glitches that took me a while to correct (and since it applies to this series also). Buy the book: Cover Art by Ian Armstron      
10/6/202032 minutes, 31 seconds
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HBH 13: The Dumbest Things Ever: The People's Crusade

Today we embark down a very ignoble road and consider a few of the most dismal failures in history.  We begin with a big one -- something that failed spectacularly, at a very high cost, creating misery and infamy in its wake: The People's Crusade of 1095-6! Index of this episode, in case you want to skip to the juicy parts: 0:00      Intro: The Three Poisons 5:20     Why and When the Crusades? Intro to Crusading, Pilgrims; The Houses of Abbas, Fatimids, and Seljuks; Pope Urban II and Alexius I Komnenos. 25:57     The Council of Clermont and Urban's Call to Arms 30:31     Peter the Hermit Inflames the Yokels 33:48     What was the People's Crusade? 34:20     Walter sans Avoir Sets Off for Glory 37:32     The Vicious Little Count and His Holy Goose Crusaders 46:15      Peter the Hermit Storms Anatolia 56:09     Cost:Benefit Analysis of the People's Crusade, or What Does it Take to Be One of the Dumbest Things in History?          
9/29/20201 hour, 1 second
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HBH 12: The Mystery of the Copper Scroll

Today we discuss the mystery of 3Q15 -- also known as the Copper Scroll. One of the most mysterious, and potentially valuable finds, in archeology.  An enigmatic and totally unique document, scratched onto copper, that hints at the locations of over 2 billion USD worth of hidden treasure, left in a cave almost 2000 years ago. Who wrote the copper scroll? Is the treasure real? If so, whose treasure was it? And why, after decades of searching, has none of the treasure been found? Since we can't definitively answer any of those questions, we will detour into the history of the Essenes, the commune and caves at Qumran, the finding and controversies around the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the defeat and subsequent victory of the Romans in the first Jewish War.     Graphic Artwork by Ian Armstrong Music Icy Vindur by A. Himitsu  
9/8/202044 minutes, 44 seconds
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HBH 11: The Worst Year to be Alive Ever

The whole world seems pretty down on 2020. And let's face it, so far 2020 has not distinguished itself for outstanding achievements in the field of excellence.   But is it, as some have argued, the worst year ever? And if it is not, which year carries that dubious honorific?  Which year in history was the worst ever to be a human? Which year in the bigger history of forever was the worst ever to simply be a life form? And why? Many historians have thrown in on this question. Here are some of their answers, and the current consensus champ of the worst historical year ever to be human. At the end I offer my contender for worst year to be a life form ever. Graphic Art: Ian Armstrong  Music: Icy Vindur by A. Himitsu and Hard Times by John Lee Hooker  
7/17/202042 minutes, 57 seconds
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HBH 10: The Mystery of Consciousness

In today's episode we get heroically pummeled by one of the most intractable -- and maybe insoluble -- mysteries of our existence. A topic that strikes at the core of who we are and what it means to be human.   A short intro to and history of the problem of consciousness. What it is, what it does, how it can (possibly, ever?) be explained, and why it is such a perplexing phenomenon. 'Graphic The History of Being Human by Ian Armstrong Contact me at [email protected]  
7/6/202050 minutes, 41 seconds
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HBH 9: Adapt or Die II: Ancient Hominin and Ancestral Human Mysteries

In this episode we square off against some of the many, many puzzles remaining about who and when we came from, including: 0:00  -  0:58   Intro 0:58  -  4:30   The Hominins 4:30  -  6:52   The Earliest Ancestral Human 6:52  - 22:50   The Mystery and Controversy of H. naledi 22:50 - 41:40  The Walking Anachronisms of Red Deer Cave 41:40 - END    The Final Fate of the Neanderthals      
6/14/20201 hour, 1 minute, 42 seconds
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HBH 8: The Historical Jesus -- Mysteries of Life and Death

Rushing in again where angels fear to tread. This time into the deep end of the mysterious life of arguably the most influential person in the history of the West, if not the entire world. Who was Jesus? What did he think about himself? Where did he come from, what did he do, how did he die and why?  What were his influences? Was he a disciple of John or not?  Was he married or not? What happened after his death? How do we know any of this? Although not even close to exhaustive, there is a wealth of information in this episode about some of the episodes in the life of Jesus, about what we can and do know about the times and place he lived, about his motivations and influences, and about what happened after his death to vitalize a movement that would take over the Western World.    
6/1/20201 hour, 13 minutes, 36 seconds
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HBH 7: Mysteries of The Jesus of History II

In this episode I cover: --The Brutal Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE --Christ Mythicism, or can we know whether Jesus of Nazareth ever existed? --Mysteries about the genealogies of Jesus --Questions about the location of Jesus' birth    --Especially what on earth were two natives of Nazareth doing in  Bethlehem?   --Was there ever a time that Cesar declared that "all the earth should be taxed"? --What year was Jesus of Nazareth born?  What decade? Art: The History of Being Human by Ian Armstrong Debate on "Christ Mythicism": Song: Done too Soon by Neil Diamond
5/15/202054 minutes, 13 seconds
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HBH 6: The Jesus of History

In this episode we rush into a mystery where angels fear to tread and search for the Jesus of History.  We visit Palestine of the 1st Century and discuss: --its brutal Roman occupation --its geopolitical situation --the various sects and parties vying for power --Herod and the Herodians --slaughter at the temple --Pontius Pilates complex persona --and even a little Roman intrugue. Now that's something everyone can enjoy!  
4/27/202048 minutes, 53 seconds
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HBH 5: Weird Coincidences of History

In this edition of the History of Being Human we present our list of the most uncanny, improbable, and influential coincidences in history.  Events that make you wonder at times if there are hidden springs turning the wheels of history that we have yet to discover.   We peek into the into the troubled minds of conspiracy theorists and their followers for a few enlightening moments and also ask the question of how much volitional control we can exert over the moment of our deaths. Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong End song: 1904 by The Tallest Man on Earth email: [email protected]
4/17/202048 minutes, 11 seconds
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HBH 4: Armageddon and the Ends of Ages with Eric Cline, PhD

Armageddon. John of Patmos saw the great battle, where the "demonic spirits" would join "the kings of the whole world" and battle against the armies of "God Almighty." Revelation 16: 14,16 reads: "They are demonic spirits that perform signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty...Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon."  Since then, few words in the English language have carried the power of "Armageddon" -- the great symbol of the end of times apocalyptic battle royale. Why did John see this as the site for his great showdown? What is there about the hill of Megiddo (now Armageddon) that would inspire such violent imagery? Today we find out. We speak with the man who wrote "the" book on the Collapse of the Late Bronze Age and now has written "the" book on the history of the great dig at Har Megiddo and what was found there.   In this interview we cover the VERY violent past of Megiddo, the many battles that were waged there, and its status in the Bronze Age Collapse. Dr. Cline shares rare insights into the writing and teaching and researching life, references his extensive corpus of work, and previews some of his coming releases.   He also paints a sobering, not to say grim, picture of how similar our civilization today is to the end of the Late Bronze, and how a knowledge of history can go a long way toward saving the world. Highlights include comments on the origins of the Sea Peoples, the evidence for EXTENSIVE drought and famine at the end of the Late Bronze, the great plagues of the Hittites and Athens, a cryptic pleading letter from the King of Ugarit, the digs at Megiddo and the 34 battles fought there including Dr. Cline's own digs at Megiddo (!), the Great Temple of Megiddo from the 31st century BCE, John of Patmos and his Revelation of the penultimate battle at the end of time, and why he couldn't possibly have chosen a more apropos place to have a good apocalyptic war. Visit Dr. Cline: Buy his books: Write to me: [email protected] Intro song: Kaiak "Run to the Hills" Art: Ian Armstrong  
4/7/20201 hour, 13 minutes, 15 seconds
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HBH 3: Land of the Moloch Idols with Assaf Yasur-Landau

You know about them, but do you know them?  This episode we speak with someone who does.  Dr. Assaf Yasur-Landau is a recognized expert in the Canaanites, Philistines, Phoenicians, ancient Israel, and all things Near-Eastern Bronze and Iron Aged both underwater and on land. In this wide-ranging discussion, Dr. Yasur-Landau explains -- as only a working archeologist can -- who the Canaanites were and how they fared in the Collapse of the Late Bronze Age. We talk about who some of the Sea Peoples were, what motivated their incursions into Canaanite lands. We delve into whether there is any archeological evidence for the Exodus and Conquest of Canaan by the Israelites, the origins of Ancient Israel, and whether the Gods of Ancient Israel were different from other Canaanite deities. This is also a view of the collapse of the Late Bronze Age among the Canaanites, from a man who is immersed in their world and understands their material culture like few others. Visit his web page: See some of his work or join a dig (when it's safe to travel again): Visit the Facebook Page:        
4/2/202056 minutes, 37 seconds
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HBH 2: COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2

Today we take a break from the Collapse of the Late Bronze Age to present a primer on the causative agent, the transmission, and the pathology of coronavirus disease (not to be confused with the collapse of the Late Petroleum Age). What is it? Where and what did it come from? How many ways can it transmit? What are its vectors? How does it gain entrance to your body? What happens once inside? Symptoms and signs. Some of this you already know. Some you most likely have never heard or considered.  Much of it, I hope, is worth knowing. Comments, suggestions, or questions? [email protected] Protect yourself:   Artwork: Oz by Ian Armstrong    
3/22/202037 minutes, 31 seconds
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HBH 1: The Mystery of the Sea Peoples

Welcome to the inaugural episode of The History of Being Human. The name is different but the podcast is the same. The Sea Peoples, ominous harbingers of the end of an entire age. In this episode we encounter this most mysterious force of destructive pillaging pirate pilgrims in history. The Sea Peoples. All of them, the Sherden, Shekelesh, Denyen, Lukka, Ekwesh, Peleset, Teresh, Tjeker, and of course Weshesh. Who were they? Where did they come from? What did they want?  How did they destroy so many powerful lands? Who could withstand their onslaught? Did their confederation cause the Bronze Age Collapse, or were they also victims of larger forces at play? We read the first hand accounts, such as they are, as we examine the written records from Egypt and Ugarit, the evidence of DNA and physical culture, to learn what we can about these terrifying raiders.  And the truth is, it isn't much.  Most of The Sea Peoples are a mystery that might never be unraveled.  Email me with comments or corrections or questions at [email protected]. Let me know if you wish to remain anonymous, just in case I read your comments on the next episode. Cover art: Oz by Ian Armstrong  
3/10/20201 hour, 2 minutes, 1 second
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Know Thyself 50: The Late Bronze Age Collapse I -- The Civilizations

Welcome to the greatest mystery of the ancient world. In the 12 Century BCE, the greatest civilizations of the ancient world were suddenly and violently either eradicated or weakened so badly that they never recovered.  Almost every city of importance was demolished, most of them never inhabited again.  The Late Bronze Age was a dynamic, intriguing, optimistic time with vast nations and empires trading, writing letters, building and creating, traveling, intermarrying, and making war. And all of it, incomprehensibly, would end in a period of a few decades.  This episode is an introduction to the Empires and Kingdoms of North Africa, the Aegean, Levant, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia -- the worlds original (semi) global society    
2/25/202033 minutes, 31 seconds
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Know Thyself 49: The Mystery of the Mary Celeste

The most famous real-life ghost ship in history is also one of the greatest maritime mysteries ever. A ship found floating is good condition without a soul aboard. Valuables untouched. No evidence of violence or serious damage. The personal belongings of the captain and crew undisturbed. Strange spots, marks in the wood. A famous inquiry with a prosecutor that comes right out of a cartoon.  Wild theories, speculations, and accusations. No solutions.   Cover Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong Music clip: Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats by Billy Talent, Flying Dutchman Overture by Richard Wagner.  
2/4/202047 minutes, 33 seconds
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Know Thyself 48: Lost Franklin Expedition Mysteries

There are many mysteries haunting the memory of the Lost Franklin Expedition. Some questions have been answered, some remain to be answered, and others never will be.  How did Franklin die? Who was Aglooka? The Ice Zombies? Could the Inuit have saved them?  Why did 24 men die aboard ships with plenty of rations? Who sailed the ships South after they were abandoned? Did any men make it back to civilization? Did the expedition ever, at any point, have a chance? A deep dive into the questions that have perplexed and continue to baffle researchers of this ill-fated undertaking.    
1/20/20201 hour, 18 seconds
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Know Thyself 47: The White North Has Thy Bones -- The Lost Franklin Expedition

1845 Two Ships leave England to seek the Northwest Passage, and disappear from the face of the Earth. Where had they gone? What happened to them? Almost two centuries later, we know some of the answers. But mysteries remain. The most complete audio presentation of the Lost Franklin Expedition anywhere. Part 1 -- The Story.
1/7/202055 minutes, 33 seconds
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Know Thyself 46: Heretics Must Die!

It is one of the most infamous acts of butchery in history. Parisian Catholics vs Protestants at the height of the Reformation. People were going to die.  A lot of people. In this episode you will hear the background, the intrigues, the animosities personal and religious, the kings and queens and dukes and admirals, the popes and reformers, and in the end the murderers and their victims.  A sad, sordid, disturbing tale of how religious zealotry mixed with power lust, greed, and fear brought out the absolute worst in humanity and resulted in the wholesale slaughter of 10,000 to 30,000 people.   Cover Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong 
11/26/201949 minutes, 1 second
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Know Thyself 45: Rampaging Mobs Edition

This episode continues our excursion into the manifestations of mob behavior by covering some of the deadliest, most out-of-control, seething, frothing, infuriated hordes and outraged masses in history. Sports Hooliganism on a grand and deadly scale (as in 30,000 people massacred during the Nika riots), anti-Vaccination riots in Rio, Religious riots, salt riots, plague riots, riots and more riots. So light your Molotov cocktails, grab your rocks and clubs, and stake out your barricade for this survey of some of the deadliest (and goofiest) riots in the ancient and modern world. The in depth discussion of the NIKA RIOTS of 532 CE begins at 43 minutes.  
11/6/20191 hour, 2 minutes, 28 seconds
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Know Thyself 44: The Terror of History: Witch Trials with Teofilo Ruiz

National Humanities Medal Award Winner, Author, Revolutionary, Historian Professor Teofilo Ruiz explains how the witch persecutions began, what they consisted of, why they stopped, and what it means for humanity. A fascinating, broad and deep discussion with a brilliant and distinguished historical researcher and multi-award-winning teacher and author. From Professor Ruiz: “I think that the role of a historian, the role of a teacher—and I truly believe this—is to go against the grain. To argue. To be a contrarian. To make people think critically about things."  
10/1/201956 minutes, 1 second
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Know Thyself 43: The Bible in 50 Minutes

IMPORTANT CORRECTION!! Near the end of the episode I commit a gaffe and state that there is no "Satan" in the Old Testament, which is obviously false. As per our interview with Dr. Price, there IS a Satan in the Old Testament, most fully developed in the book of Job.  What I meant to say is that there is no DEVIL in the Old Testament!  I conflated the two terms (as did later interpreters of the bible), and said "Satan" when I meant "Devil," hence the error. Satan in the Old Testament is the accuser -- something akin to a prosecuting attorney working in the court of God. Satan in the New Testament is presented as the Devil, an Angra-Maniyuesque enemy to God, chief among the demonic forces who actively oppose the work of God. Although it is seen by later Christians as the same being, his role and powers are very differently presented in older Hebrew and Christian texts.  I will correct this with some bad editing when I get the chance. Other than that, I think my errors are no more than usual. Where did the belief in witches and demonic powers come from. What were the bases for these beliefs, the rationalizations of the persecutors, and the world view in which these unreal events played out? To find the answer, we run through the entire history of the universe as it was and is believed by billions, not millions, of people throughout time. The Bible is far and away the best-selling book of all time, and it has cast more light and shadow over civilization in the West than any other source.  But what does it say? What story does it tell. And where, pray tell, do all these devils and demons come from? Music: In Spiritus by Danny Rayel, By the Rivers of Babylon by Sublime Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong  
9/17/201953 minutes, 12 seconds
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Know Thyself 42: Steve Rathje on Identity and Reason

Who are you going to believe -- the group or your own eyes?  Answer (all too often): The Group. In the fascinating and wide-ranging discussion with Psychologist Steve Rathje, we take a hard look into: what reason is and why we developed it how our need for belonging drives our beliefs why we ignore inconvenient evidence whether it hurts worse to listen to the other side or get a root canal how even listening to conflicting evidence can threaten our identity why being smart can lead you deeper into error how Occam's razor can cut the wrong way how enemies can fulfill some of our deep needs what can be done to incentivize truth over tribalism Steve is studying for his PhD in social psychology at Cambridge University, and is the author of the Words Matter Blog in Psychology Today (Words Matter Blog). Music: Icy Vindur by A Himitsu Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong
7/30/201941 minutes, 21 seconds
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Know Thyself 41: Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins and the Daemonologie of King James

The 1640s were a brutal time in England, with the breakdown of many state governmental functions during the English Civil War.  It was a time of chaos, and the perfect opportunity for the one-man murrain known as Matthew Hopkins to begin accusing, swimming, pricking, and torturing hapless victims as witches. In 3 short years, Hopkins sent between 200 and 300 souls to the gallows.  But Hopkin's comeuppance was, ahem, coming, although the form it would take has been open to some dispute until recently.  Also, the "madness" of King James VI and I, the obsession with witches and demons, contributed to the general atmosphere of fear and loathing that allowed Hopkins and his ilk to have their way. Herein is the story of an honorary diplomate of the school of worst humans--Matthew Hopkins. Cover Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong
7/17/201940 minutes, 48 seconds
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Know Thyself 40: The Witches of Trier

For this episode I call an audible based on information I came across researching other topics. From 1581 to 1593 the city and surrounding villages of Trier, Germany were the scene of the greatest, worst, deadliest witch trials in European history. Powerful and weak, old and young, rich and poor became fuel for the pyres of Archbishop von Schonenberg and Bishop Binsfield. So many people died that the executioner became the equivalent of a multi-millionaire, while crops failed and two villages were left with only ONE woman alive in each.  Are witch trials the worst thing humans have ever perpetrated upon each other?  After this episode, you might change your opinion.   Cover Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong
6/25/201954 minutes, 46 seconds
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Know Thyself 39: The Connecticut Witch Hangings with Beth Caruso

Beth Caruso, author of "One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America's First Witch Hanging" tells us the stories of Alse Young and Lydia Gilbert, two of the first known victims of Witch Mania in The Colonies. Alse was hung 45 years before the more famous Salem witch fiasco, an event recorded in one line in the governor's daybook with her name left out. It was only through some serious sleuthing in the historical record that her story can be (somewhat) told.   Lydia Gilbert, another victim in the Connecticut persecutions, might have been convicted on the most ludicrous charges in the history of self-serving zealotry. Which is saying a lot. And which also proves there is no statute of limitations on bewitching a musket. These are the stories of the forgotten victims of a powerful delusion, told by a woman who has spent years learning the story of the times in which they lived. Buy Beth's Book: One of Windsor; One of Windsor Visit Beth's site: Learn more about the Connecticut Witch Trials:  
6/5/201936 minutes, 37 seconds
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Know Thyself 38: Witch Hunts and Black Mass

Today we stare into the hooked nose of a most troubling historical evidence of our capacity for hysteria: the witch craze. How did witches go from being village wise women and cunning folk to enemy number one, a mortal threat to God and good Christians everywhere? How did burning old men and women for fun and profit become a respectable hobby? In this episode we cover the 1324 case of Alyse Kyteler, Petronilla de Midia (aka Meath), and Bishop Ledrede... We look back at the stirrings of the witch mania in Europe... And outline the Black Mass as it struck terror into the hearts of Medieval peoples.    
5/23/201945 minutes, 1 second
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Know Thyself 37: Mob Mentality and Morality with Rob Henderson

Today we introduce our series on Mob Madness and Mass Delusions. I speak to Rob Henderson, PhD student in psychology and Gates scholar studying moral psychology (not his own) at Cambridge University. Topics include the physical pain of social ostracism, herd mentality, moral foundations theory, whether members of a screeching, seething mob are morally responsible for their activities, and the dangerous downside to creating your own personal echo chamber of like-minded people online. Grab your torch and pitchfork and join us in an intro to a the only series-long celebration of one of our defining human characteristics -- the capacity to whip ourselves into an foaming-at-the-mouth terrified and terrifying irrational frenzy and demolish everything in our path. READ Rob's Blog! Art work: Oz by Ian Armstrong    
5/14/201930 minutes, 1 second
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Know Thyself 36: Ancient Hominin Predators to Modern Man-Eaters

The bones of our ancient relatives and prehistoric ancestors bear the puncture wounds, scrapings, and bite marks that tell a horrifying tale of predation. Who and what we are has been shaped by what we had to duck, run, jump, and hide from.   But if you really want to know what preyed on us in the past, look no further that at what eats us now. From the Talon Holes in the Taung Child's skull to the bite marks on Peking Man, from the Beast of Gevaudan to the Leopard of Panar, here are a few of the trials of life that we, and our closest relatives, have endured.   Cover Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong      
5/3/201950 minutes, 2 seconds
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Know Thyself 35: Climate Change and Human History

In this episode we learn that we are tough to kill and hard to keep alive. Within our sphere we are durable and resilient, but that sphere is very narrow indeed. We survive catastrophes, searing heat, crippling injuries, and seemingly mortal wounds. But could we survive in any other time and place than here and now? This is an open question.   Artwork: Oz by Ian Armstrong Music: Icy Vindur by A Himitsu 
4/16/201940 minutes, 17 seconds
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Know Thyself 34: The Bugs are Going to Win with Mark Crislip, MD

Our relationship with microorganisms is *ahem* complicated...mostly symbiotic, but often combative and, yes, fatal. In this episode I speak with a physician on the front lines of the battle to the death between viruses, amoebas, and bacteria and their human victims.   Dr. Mark Crisplin in an infectious disease doctor in Portland, OR, and the author of a bi-weekly blog and several books. He is also and app-maker and an award-winning podcaster, creator of the now discontinued QuackWatch series and the Persiflager's Puscast. We speak on a wide range of topics, including which infectious diseases have killed the most people in history, how they did it, which ones are still a threat now and in the future, a virus so deadly that no one has ever recovered from it, whether ebola is a world-historic threat, resistance to antibiotics and the coming post-antibiotic world, Abraham Lincoln's possible syphilis, and the disease that is wiping out Tasmanian Devils. The picture Dr. Crislip paints is in some ways admittedly bleak. He believes that bacteria will develop resistance that renders our current antibiotics obsolete. And worse, he believes that there is no foreseeable pathway to avoiding this future.  Prepare for the Zombie apocalypse (which he does not see in the near future)! Look up Dr. Crislip's work:  
3/25/201940 minutes, 16 seconds
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Know Thyself 33: Smallpox

The Adapt or Die Series goes Viral... Egyptians, Hittites, Athenians, Romans -- outbreak after outbreak Variola major has been a pox on our house from time immemorial. No other disease has weakened and crippled empires and wiped entire peoples off the earth like smallpox. It killed 400-500 million in the 20th Century alone. And now, through a millennium-long effort of blowing scab powder, scraping lesions, and really listening to dairy maids, it's gone. Almost.     Artwork: Oz by Ian Armstrong
3/18/201954 minutes, 48 seconds
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Know Thyself 32: Plague Life 1347-1351

The puking flea apocalypse! This is one of the rare events in history where the death toll is constantly being revised HIGHER as new data comes in. By recent estimates, possibly 40% of THE WORLD killed by the Great Plague. What was it like to live during the end of the world? What did the dying -- and those who remained alive -- experience?  How did people understand what was happening? Who did they burn and torture? In this episode are 1st hand accounts of the Black Death. A blow-by-blow recounting of the havoc one particular bacteria has wrought on humanity.  And, or course, the way in which the human imagination is capable to taking a bad situation and turning it into something truly ghastly and despicable. Famine, pestilence, maudlin displays of self-mutilation, cruelty in the guise of piety, and, yes, nobility and heroism.  Welcome to Europe during the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages.   Graphic: Oz by Ian Armstrong
3/7/201954 minutes, 41 seconds
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Know Thyself 31: The Black Death -- Rumblings in the East

Where did the plague that ravaged Europe in the mid-1300's come from? How did it get there? Today we begin a three episode series on the Great Black Death Plague of Europe that killed millions and rewrote history. We stare unblinking into the face of arguably the worst catastrophe in the history of humanity.  Herein you will hear of flying corpses, the dawn of germ warfare, where some of the deadliest diseases known to man hang out, and why one English Princess never made it to her own wedding. In the Next Episode we will cover Plague Life. Finally, the third Plague episode will cover the collateral damage to societies and the social repercussions of the Plague. Yikes. Note: There were some annoying issues with the audio of the episode that will be corrected in the next episode. Cover Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong
3/1/201927 minutes, 52 seconds
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Know Thyself 30: The Plague of Justinian

In which we begin our "Adapt or Die" Series. The Byzantine empire was under attack, and tens of thousands of people in Constantinople were dying every week. It wasn't the Vandals or the Ostragoths, it was a disease that brought terror and death on a massive scale. Even the Great Justinian himself is not spared from the illness. Corpse halls, ghost ships, headless sailors, plague-ridden serpents, fever dreams and apocalyptic visions, and the wrath of God. We begin the episode with an intro to our complex relationship to one of the most ancient of all life forms. If you want to skip all bacteria stuff, The Plague of Justinian begins at 14:30
2/12/201933 minutes, 27 seconds
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Know Thyself 29: Adolf Hitler -- Worst Human Ever

The conclusion to the worst people ever series winds up falling to Godwin's Law. This is one of those rare cases where cliche, popular opinion, and received knowledge happen to be absolutely right: Hitler was as bad as human beings get. Aggressor and instigator of world's most deadly war. Instigator of thuggery and riots. Murderer of former friends. Head of the coldest, most clinical and industrial, act of mass murder in history. Prancing ranting provocateur. Mama's boy.    
1/28/20191 hour, 12 minutes, 30 seconds
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Know Thyself 28: The Lisbon Apocalypse with Susan Neiman, PhD

The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 and The Holocaust  What do these events have in common? They were both seminal events that challenged two different eras relationship to, and understanding of, evil.  Today I speak with Dr. Susan Neiman, director of The Einstein Forum, devotee of the enlightenment, moral crusader (well, sort of?), and author of "Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy." Link: We speak about the way evil shapes human actions and understanding of the world.    Pre-order her new book: Image: Oz by Ian Armstrong
1/14/201947 minutes, 52 seconds
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Know Thyself 27: 2nd Worst Ever -- The Man of Steel

The Real Life Big Brother that brought fear, suspicion, and distrust to the lives of 200 million people.  A man who believed you should kill your enemies, but kill your friends first. He demanded suppression, repression, execution, deportation, and propaganda on an empiric scale.  A man so vain that showing a picture of him with his blemishes could put you on his list of enemies. He sent squads to ice-axe murder a rival. His final activity as leader was to plan another glorious show-trial terror campaign against, get ready for it, Jewish doctors. This one couldn't die soon enough.      
1/1/20191 hour, 17 minutes, 41 seconds
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Know Thyself 2: The Cannibal Colonists of Jamestown

The first English settlement in the New World was *ahem* less than successful. You've seen the Disney version. Now hear the real story, which is so much better. Greed, incompetence, flayings, drownings, salted wife, thumb screws and executions, boiled saddles, cracked skulls, gunpowder burns, shipwrecks and mutiny, rats and cats and serpents, and many other "things which seame incredible." High drama, now recovered in the long lost kickoff to the cannibalism series.     Graphic: Oz by Ian Armstrong      
12/9/201839 minutes, 51 seconds
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Know Thyself 26: 3rd Worst Ever -- The Wrath of Khan

A man in whom there is much to admire. Except for his pioneering studies in mass genocide, I guess. And all the gratuitous violence, of course. And the fact that he killed and displaced so many humans that the earth's climate changed. How many, you ask? I'll see you Iron Man's 5% and raise you 5% more. Enough to make him the most prolific killer of humans the world has ever seen. Why not number 1 all time worst, you ask?  It's because we have to make allowance for the fact that, after all, these people did make him angry.
11/27/201856 minutes, 2 seconds
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Know Thyself 25: The Sins of Sam Harris

Can science tell us right from wrong?  Can it serve as a foundation for morality? Sam Harris believes it can. David Hume said it can’t almost 300 years ago     Note!!! This is a break from "The Worst People Ever" Series. Sam Harris is not, to my knowledge, anywhere close to one of the worst people in history.   Instead, his ideas on morality, such as they are, are critiqued.  
11/13/201840 minutes, 1 second
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Know Thyself 24: 4th Worst Ever -- The Necro-Nazi

Dissolute, drunken, perverted and depraved. A man who went on "violence binges" every time he got wasted, which was all the time; and whose actions were considered beyond the pale by almost all other Nazis. Meet the 4th Worst Homo sapiens sapiens of all time, a man you might not have ever heard of, but who you will now find hard to forget. Although I do not catalog his atrocities in explicit detail (there are plenty of places you can find that) the subject matter is mature. And revolting.      Cover Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong
10/28/201836 minutes, 31 seconds
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Know Thyself 23: 5th Worst Ever -- The Lab Rat

This festering bubo in the armpit of humanity was the "medical director" of the infamous Japanese Unit 731.  In pursuit of the deadliest possible biological warfare agent, and with a hearty dose of sheer sadistic curiosity, he performed his experiments in the spirit of true egalitarianism: on prisoners of war; on Chinese, Soviet, Indian, British and American troops; on civilians in the surrounding countryside. On anyone he could get his hands on. Caveat Auditor: This man's deeds are so odious that it's painful to research them and difficult to hear them. Not kidding.   Cover Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong    
10/17/201838 minutes, 15 seconds
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Know Thyself 22: 6th Worst Human Ever: Iron Man

Meet the one-man plague, the skull-stacker, the maker of incendiary camels, a man whose coffin curse is worse than any mummy because it actually panned out. In the annals of history, there have been very few people who accomplished what this man did. Too bad this genius was also an all-around dismal excuse for a human being.      
10/11/20181 hour, 41 seconds
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Know Thyself 21: Dr. Paul Zak on Connection, Trust, and a Life of Meaning

We take a well-earned break from the worst people in history to speak about the factors that influence what is best in us. Dr. Paul Zak is a renowned and prolific public intellectual, author, corporate advisor, and researcher. His groundbreaking work on the role of oxytocin in sociality has been profoundly and broadly influential.  In this interview we discuss the role of oxytocin in moral [read:pro-social] behavior, how it is released, and the significant life benefits that accrue from the behaviors it engenders. I raise Dr. Zak's hackles asking about psychopathy among corporate CEOs and question him about potentially contrary effects of oxytocin release.  Dr. Zak responds and teaches with characteristic grace and practical wisdom. I typically do my best to avoid sharing any kind of practical or useful knowledge with my audience. I am afraid I failed splendidly in this episode. Dr. Zak is famous: And handsome: And respected: So do something nice for yourself: Paul J. Zak's Amazon Page          
10/2/201839 minutes, 41 seconds
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Know Thyself 20: 8th and 7th Worst Ever: Darya Saltykova and Elizabeth Bathory

It's hard to argue with the top-ten status of these two horrors.  A scorned, vindictive, spiteful, misogynistic, brutal sadist. A loving wife and devoted mother, who also happened to get aroused by killing on a world-historic level. Both with vast piles of wealth and unchecked control over their victims. Both so powerful as to be almost untouchable. Sounds like a pair of nightmares in real life.     Cover Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong
9/24/201850 minutes, 30 seconds
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Know Thyself 19: Philosopher Todd Calder on Evil

In this episode I speak with a philosopher of evil, Todd Calder, PhD. Although more seraphic surfer than demonic, Todd wrote the article on the concept of evil in the Stanford Internet Encyclopedia of Evil: The Concept of Evil He has also authored numerous scholarly articles and presented at conferences and symposia on the topic, and is currently working on a book-length project "The Concept of Evil." See his CV and a selected bibliography here: Todd Calder CV Todd addresses whether such a thing as evil exists, what relevance it has or doesn't currently, why some want the whole term abolished and others want it rehabilitated, whether we can commit evil when trying to do good, if there can be evil without harm, whether ignorance of the consequences absolves you from evil acts, and, the question you are all hoping for an answer to:  was Thanos evil?
9/17/201854 minutes, 1 second
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Know Thyself 18: 9th Worst Human Ever: Christopher Columbus "Inhumanities and Barbarisms"

I didn't want to place him on this list.  But what choice did I have? Beloved national hero or sadistic monster. It depends on who you ask. If you ask a circa 1830 history teacher you will get one answer. If you ask the people he set his dogs on, the slaves he burned alive when they tried to escape, or the Spanish colonists he whipped to death, you might get a different one.
9/4/201852 minutes, 48 seconds
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Know Thyself 17: 10th Worst Human Ever: Eyewitness Account of Jim Jones from Jonestown Survivor Laura Johnston Kohl

In this shocking, baffling, and powerful episode, Laura Johnston Kohl gives us an insider's look into Jonestown. She shares her interactions with Jim Jones -- his sick manipulations, twisted ambitions, bizarre shaming meetings, his craving for power and control, his creepy dark glasses, his chimpanzee, his suicide practice runs, and culminates with the fatal events of November 18, 1978. Some elements of this podcast might be too intense for children. Laura's Book: Jonestown Survivor Her webpage: Like her on Facebook: Laura Johnston KOHL   Thank You Laura for an amazing, heartfelt, and wise interview. Cover Art: Oz by Ian Armstrong  
8/28/20181 hour, 50 minutes, 28 seconds
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Know Thyself 16: Dr. Robert Price, The Bible Geek, on Biblical Conceptions of Evil

In this inaugural episode in the series on the worst people in history, we begin by discussing the most influential source of information about moral evil in the Western World: The Bible.  Dr. Robert M. Price defies easy categorization. He is a prolific, accomplished, high-profile, and controversial figure in biblical studies. His long-running podcast, The Bible Geek, is enjoyed by thousands of believers and skeptics alike. He has written more books than most scholars have articles. He has debated the biggest names in theology, and served as a fellow of the influential Jesus Seminar. This wide-ranging discussion is likely to push one or more of your buttons, so caveat auditor. Because although Dr. Price is respectful and deferential, he is also, ahem, opinionated, and all the more interesting and challenging for it. Dr. Price's web page, where you can link to all his shows, articles, books, and even buy him dinner!:
8/21/20181 hour, 21 minutes, 32 seconds
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Know Thyself 15: Adapt or Die Edition

The ones who got left behind. Making us the victors (?). This is the last essay episode in the Origins series, and covers the time frame from our last common ancestor with chimps up until the extinction of the Denisovans.  What's the foolproof way to identify a secret ape? Who was the singing-est biped of all? How much do large brains cost, and are they worth it? And why aren't those Neanderthals smiling?
8/6/201847 minutes, 49 seconds
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Know Thyself 14: Aliens, Complexity, and Ethics with Philosopher Kelly Smith, PhD

NASA philosophical advisor Kelly Smith, PhD and I discuss: Does the universe move inexorably towards complexity? If so, what ethical implications does that have? If AI becomes more rational than humans, will AIs have ANY ethical obligations towards us? What is the state of public discourse today? What moral obligations will we have when we encounter alien life? What if they are hostile to us? And, speaking of that, is it a good idea in the first place to beam information about our pale blue home out into the universe? NOTE: technical difficulties, for the most part, are resolved in this iteration (!) Keep Up With Dr. Smith: SOCIA: academic group dedicated to issues surrounding the search for life. Dr. Smith's email: [email protected] Dr. Smith's paper on Manifest Complexity: Manifest Complexity: A Foundational Ethic for Astrobiology? On confessions of ignorance:       ARTWORK: Oz by Ian Armstrong
7/30/20181 hour, 12 minutes, 58 seconds
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Know Thyself 13: Rise of the Night Vermin

How did our skulking, digging, night sneak ancestors come to rule the world? With upgrades to their brains, fancy glands that drip liquid nutrition, and three bones in their middle ears. This episode is brought to you by the KT extinction event, without which none of this would have been possible.
7/23/201844 minutes, 11 seconds
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Know Thyself 12: Dr. Thomas Carr, Paleontologist, on the Half-Billion Year Experiment

How much force would it take to pull the horned head right off the neck of a triceratops? Crocodiles have the highest bite force ever measured in nature, how do they compare to T. rex. Today we speak with a recognized expert on Tyrannosaurs and all things dinosaur, Dr. Thomas Carr. We dig deep into why he won't be seeing Jurassic World and where the movie went wrong, what we do and don't know about dinosaurs, the dreaded Chickensaurus, the processes of evolution, why there aren't more big brains around, and what it all means for who WE are. After this episode you will be the smartest person in almost any room about everyone's favorite dead monsters as we continue our series on origins. Dr. Carr's twitter page:     and handle: @TyrannosaurCarr and blog: Join a real expedition!:     Graphic: "Oz" by Ian Armstrong
7/16/20181 hour, 1 minute, 23 seconds
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Know Thyself 11: Life on the Installment Plan

A biggest-picture history tour, from the Big Bang to the KT extinction event that starved, suffocated, froze, and basically snuffed every four-legged animal heavier than 25 kilos (55 pounds) out of existence. Oh, except for two or three. Life, never easy, got a lot harder 5 different times in our planet's inhospitable past. So hard that it almost ceased to exist entirely once or twice. Graphic: "Oz" by Ian Armstrong 
7/9/201858 minutes, 22 seconds
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Know Thyself 10: Paul M. Sutter, Astrophysicist

Paul M. Sutter offers a mind-blowing rundown of our current understanding of the Big Bang, dark matter and energy, cosmic voids, singularities, etc. Paul is a brilliant astrophysicist with a gift for communicating with the unwashed masses (like me) with wit, humor, and enthusiasm (not the annoying kind, either).  Dr. Sutter will help you truly understand events and concepts that you kinda had a nebulous sorta grasp on somewhat.  You know physical cosmology will come up at your next dinner party, so listen in and confound the poseur across the table.  Listen to Paul's awesome podcast: Visit his website: And, most importantly, preorder his soon-to-be bestseller: Graphic: "Oz" by Ian Armstrong
6/25/201844 minutes, 38 seconds
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Know Thyself 9: Cosmogony Myths

Where did the earth, sky, and stars come from? Where did WE come from? In this series on origins, you will see that a lack of real information never stops us from being certain we know the answers to these most inscrutible mysteries.
6/18/201842 minutes, 36 seconds
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Know Thyself 8: Rachel Herz on Eating and Disgust

  In this interview we speak with Rachel Herz, PhD., neuroscientist and author of "That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion" and "Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship With Food." Topics Include:  -Can eating certain foods affect, or even effect, your personality? -Why exactly do we like some foods and find others repulsive? -How your mind can change your hormonal response to food, and even alter the way you metabolize it! -Why artificial sweeteners are minions of the devil -The German cannibal who did unspeakable things with the full permission of his victim -What is the purpose of disgust, and what does it have to do with morality? -Hacking the best research to decrease (or increase) your food consumption -Much more! Catch up with Rachel via her WEBSITE. Read Her Books and Learn More: Why You Eat What You Eat: The Science Behind Our Relationship with Food and That's Disgusting: Unraveling the Mysteries of Repulsion and The Scent of Desire: Discovering Our Enigmatic Sense of Smell
6/11/20181 hour, 26 seconds
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Know Thyself 7: War Crimes and Aggression Cannibalism

It is the ultimate act of aggression and dehumanization. Cannibals from New Zealand to Syria, from Fiji to Japan show their contempt for vanquished enemies, inspire terror, and bond with their comrades through extreme, transgressive acts. We also delve into the emotion of disgust -- something that arguably evolved as a "behavioral immune system" and has been re-purposed into ethical domains.
6/4/201846 minutes, 21 seconds
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Know Thyself 6: The Siege of Leningrad and Crusader Cannibals

Cutting off a city from supplies, food and water and waiting for its inhabitants to succumb and surrender is a brutally effective form of ancient warfare.  But the deadliest siege in history occurred in the modern era, when Operation Barbarossa brought thousands of Nazi tanks to the walls of Leningrad. They surrounded the city for 872 days, killing hundreds of thousands and forcing the inhabitants to survive any way they could. And in this case, there were thousands of literate inhabitants who kept journals, documenting first hand the horrors that ensued. A heart wrenching account of misery on the grand scale. Then we go back to 1098 at Ma'arra, when Christian Crusaders overran the Syrian city, only to realize there was not enough food to keep an army marching... Finally, there are times when Mother Nature lays siege on all of us. We summarize a few of the deadliest famines in history.
5/21/201851 minutes, 46 seconds
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Know Thyself 5: Will Bagley on the Donner Party

A special interview with multiple award winning author, historian of the American West, and frontier storyteller Will Bagley.  Will sets the scene for the Donner disaster by breaking down the national and international events surrounding westward migration to California and the Oregon territories. He describes the schemers and get-rich-quick promoters that populated the overland trails. He mentions: -the worst disasters in overland migration history (hint: the Donner Party was not one of them) -why we find the Donner Party so “sexy,” -what factors predict who will eat whom, -the contributions and motivations of American Indians, -why powerful people do despicable things -what would have happened if the Donner party stayed on the Nevada side of the Sierras for the winter, and too many other insights to list.   Opinionated, iconoclastic, well-informed, Will Bagley is a reliable guide to the Donner party tragedy (even more trustworthy than Lansford Hastings) and a historian in the grand tradition of the old west.  Enjoy!
5/7/20181 hour, 15 minutes, 1 second
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This episode is about STRANDED CANNIBALS -- specifically the Donner Party and the Dudley Stevens case. Strange coincidences, ethical questions, never bringing a whip to a knife fight, mutinies and shipwrecks, deserts and mountains, starvation, death, and feats of strength and heroism. And cannibals. Episode Guide (for those who want to avoid philosophy. Or history.) 00:00 to 06:49 Considerations 06:49 to 20:20 The Dudley and Stevens case and “The Law of the Sea” 20:20 to 30:30 Screed: Consequentialism, Rules, and Stranded Cannibals 30:30 to END  The Donner Party    
4/30/20181 hour, 20 minutes, 20 seconds
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Know Thyself 3: Primate, Protohuman , and Prehistoric Cannibalism

We look into the evidence from primatology and archaeology to find the roots of human cannibalism in nature or nurture. Along the way we find shadows our own dual nature between sexy hippy bonobos and hawkish war chimps; learn how homo sapiens slept with their food, visit a stone age cave of nightmares in Britain; and join the debate over what seems to have been a short-lived fad for eating humans among the Ancestral Pueblo.
4/16/201848 minutes, 4 seconds