Podcast: The Moral Molecule

Posted by on June 13th, 2012

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Brian and Andrew are joined by special guest Dr. Paul Zak, author of the new book The Moral Molecule. They discuss how much of the body needs to be replaced by machine parts before you are no longer considered human. Also, the likelihood of robot sexually transmitted diseases. Narcisism inspired by chat bots, how little we know about our own brains and why we are constantly building our next generation to live forever.

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4 Responses to “Podcast: The Moral Molecule”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I first heard Dr. Zak on IEEE Spectrum’s podcast in May. He is studying the biochemistry of why some people become more moral and prosocial. Plus, he talks about the levels of interpersonal trust and how it determines if a society succeeds or fails.

    The Smithsonian’s “Science and Nature” blog talked to evolutionary anthropologist Christopher Boehm about his book, ‘Moral Origins.’ He takes the natural evolutionary view of how human mortality emerged. He says mortality came along with big game hunting.

    He looked at all the possible hunter-gatherer societies that have been studied and eliminated those that wouldn’t exist in the Pleistocene. Got rid of hunters who domesticated horses, fur traders, etc, but he couldn’t go past 250,000 years ago due to brains being different.

    His theory started when people hunted large hoofed mammals to survive. Mr Boehm says the alpha males were pushed out of the way, the need to share food was of importance. You cannot have selfishness and a hierarchy to get food. The birth of self control and then conscience. He talks about Edward Osbourne Wilson’s idea that it takes a thousand generations for a new evolutionary feature to evolve. Thus, Christopher says conscience took maybe 25,000 to 75,000 years to evolve and it continues this day with our culture going after bullying.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    The Weird Thing’ers talked about “Panspermia.” Reminded me of a recent ‘Daily Galaxy’ article. It talked about meteorites from the oldest asteroids, which formed during the birth of the solar system. They call those meteorites, chrondrites and they rained down on Earth maybe 3.9 billion years ago. And surprise, surprise, this happens to be when we find first fossil evidence of life on Earth. The article has a nice picture of the timeline for the ‘Lunar Cataclysm Hypothesis’:


  3. Anonymous Says:

    io9 talked to NASA’s planetary scientist Chris McKay about “Panspermia”:

    “1. The geological evidence for the earliest life on Earth is very early, soon after the end of the late bombardment. There is good evidence for life on Earth at 3.5 billion years ago, indirect evidence at 3.8 billion. The end of the late heavy bombardment is 3.8 billion years ago.

    2. The genetic evidence indicates that the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of life could have been roughly 3.5 billion years ago (but with large uncertainties) and that LUCA was a fairly sophisticated life form in terms of metabolic and genetic capabilities.

    1 and 2 together give the impression that life appeared on Earth soon after the formation of suitable environments and it appears to have come in being remarkably developed – like Athena born fully formed from the head of Zeus.”

  4. Emajekral Says:

    Great episode. Missed JRY.

    Can we have links to the research on differences in theory of mind between Republicans and Democrats, esp. the the inability of Democrats to articulate the Republican point of view? When I Google it I get incoherent name calling from the Democrat pundits. Not willing to sift through it.