On Opinion

The Parlia Podcast, with Turi Munthe

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  • 29. Our Stone-Age Brains, with Maren Urner

    S2 E29: Our Stone-Age Brains“We have mental mechanisms that have been there since the Stone Age and no longer function in this environment”Short-term thinking, lazy reasoning and stereotyping, and too much focus on what’s bad (the ‘negativity bias’)… all are throw-backs to our last major evolutionary stage, when humans lived in a world of scarcity, danger and constant tribal fighting.In today’s more clement environment where resources are plentiful and the likelihood of being murdered minimal, those mental models no longer apply. In fact, over-reliance on those outmoded forms of thinking risk bringing us back to an age of conflict.“We can either change by design or change by disaster. I prefer the former.”Listen to Maren make the case for embodied thinking, and explain how a new approach to conversation can change the way we engage socially and politically:The 3 Principles of Dynamic ThinkingHow to redefine groupsSwitching our focus from the individual to the collectiveConstructive JournalismWhy thinking is embodiedWhy rational decision-making is always emotionalThe danger of habitsProf. Maren UrnerMaren Urner is a neuroscientist, professor of media psychology, and the best-selling author of Raus aus der Erwigen Dauerkrise. She is also the founder of Perspective Daily, a German-language online magazine for constructive journalism.More on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project hereAnd visit us at:

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  • 28. The Spirituality Movement, with Jules Evans

    S2 E28: The Spirituality Movement“A lot of those who’ve left the church tend to be younger people, who nonetheless still consider themselves spiritual. They’ve been turned off by churches, but they haven’t necessarily gone full atheist, materialist…”Religion is declining around the world. Even in America, the great outlier of the post-Christian West, half the population doesn’t believe in organised religion any more.But the loss of our traditional beliefs has given rise to a growing number of ‘spiritualist’ alternatives. They range from mainstream ‘Wellness’ culture, through eco-spiritualism, occultism, witch culture on Instagram and astrology on TikTok, through to the darker visions of QAnon and Millenarianism.What defines Spiritualist thinking? What are its roots? Why is it flowering now? And why does it bleed so easily into Conspiracy?“In the last two years, spiritual culture has curdled - from positive and optimistic to a much more fearful and paranoid kind of message…”Listen to Jules and Turi discuss:The history of spiritualism, from the 16th century to todayThe cornerstones of spiritualist thinking: from myths and monsters through to harmony and healthThe ‘Meaning Gap’‘Conspirituality’: why conspiracy theories and spirituality so easily bleed into each other.Intuition (over Reason) as a path to knowledgeWhat Rationalists have lostHow Spiritualists have reacted to CovidJules EvansJules Evans is a writer and practical philosopher interested in emotions, well-being, transcendence and flourishing. He is the author of Philosophy for Life: And Other Dangerous Situations, and The Art of Losing Control: A Guide to Ecstatic Experience.More on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project hereAnd visit us at:
  • 27. Generational Politics, with Bobby Duffy

    S2 E27: Generational Politics“If you truly understand what’s different between generations, you have a much better idea of what’s coming up in the future.”It turns out there are very real differences between the generations. Key external events - a world war, a crippling global financial crash, 9⁄11, or even a pandemic - will mark a generation in a way that differentiates them from previous or later ones.But there are also slower cultural and technological differences that also make their mark: consider the dwindling role of religion across the West over 4 generations, or the impact of smart phones on the way we all think.”The concept of the Generation is the most important one… because it is how history moves, changes, wheels and flows” - Ortega y GassetBobby Duffy has written the book on generational differences, and here explains what brings us together and splits us apart - from our attitudes to sex, money and moral values to the way we think of driving or home-ownership.“Because we’re so deeply connected, looking at things generationally is really important to us because we want each generation after us to do better”Listen to Bobby discuss:How to go about defining generationsHow we get our stereotypes right and wrongWhy Gen Z are in a ‘sex recession’Why Gen X are so miserableWhether the Baby Boomers really did have it so much easierWhether there is space for the ‘individual’ in a demographic analysis of culture and personalityThe 3 Key drivers of attitudinal changeAnd why we all live 200 years…Read the Full TranscriptBobby DuffyBobby Duffy is Professor of Public Policy and Director of the Policy Institute. He has worked across most public policy areas in his career of nearly 30 years in policy research and evaluation, including being seconded to the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. He is the author of Generations - Does when you’re born shape who you are?More on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project hereAnd visit us at:
  • 26. Political Predisposition, with John Hibbing

    S2 E26: Political Predisposition“40% of the variance observed in political attitudes can be attributed to genetics”Twin studies have suggested that one third of our political orientation can be traced to our genes. But does that mean our politics are predisposed?John Hibbing is one of the greats of Political Psychology in the US. His work spans decades and has broken ground across multiple disciplines - from polling and representation, to the biology of political differences. John believes that knowledge of of this genetic influence can help us better understand each other.“Predispositions are not destiny, but defaults - defaults that can be and frequently are overridden.”Conservatives and Liberals evolved clear and distinct bedrock values deep in our collective past. Our views of the outsider, our perception of threat, our concern for order may be as innate to us as our sense of taste or our personality traits.“Politics is universal; it’s human nature that varies”Recognising how our values differ, and the reasons why we have such different perspectives on what makes for a just and good society is fundamental to the democratic project. Because ultimately, we need both Left and Right to survive.Listen to John discuss:How taste and politics are linkedThe core values of conservatism and liberalismWhy Left and Right are universal across culture and historywhether there is a ‘Liberal’ GeneWhy Nature vs Nurture is a meaningless questionHow to talk to the other sideRead the Full TranscriptJohn HibbingJohn Hibbing is an American political scientist and Foundation Regents University Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is known for his research on the biological and psychological correlates of political ideology. He is the author of Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives and the Biology of Political DifferencesMore on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project hereAnd visit us at:
  • 25. Emotional Politics, with Omar Kholeif and Jonathan Sklar

    S2 E25: On Emotion“The world that we live in today is fuelled by heightened emotion…”Over the course of these two seasons of On Opinion, we’ve looked at opinions through the lens of philosophy, psychology, social science, anthropology and evolution. But one area we’ve missed is that of feeling.Omar Kholeif and Jonathan Sklar take very different approaches to understand the world we live in, but both see emotion as something that can affect individuals and collective groups.Jonathan feels that you can transpose psychoanalysis, which is designed for the individual, to a culture and a moment in history. Omar is convinced not only that ‘ages’ have emotions, dominant leitmotifs of feeling that impact everyone around them, but also that today is a particularly emotional age - that our feelings are closer to the surface.Listen to Turi speak to Jonathan and Omar about:How we define ‘ages’The difference between the Arab Spring and Black Lives Matter protestsWhether we need to ‘fix’ an age of anxietyThe rise of hatred across the WestHow psychoanalysis can heal emotional wounds of traumaThe importance of mourning“There’s a considerable rise in anxiety and tension and people hating other people, and there’s far less debate going on…”Works cited include:William Reddy’s Emotional RegimesWill Davies on Nervous StatesRead the Full TranscriptOmar KholeifOmar is a writer, curator, and cultural historian, and is Director of Collections and Senior Curator at Sharjah Art Foundation, Government of Sharjah, UAE. Trained as a political scientist, Kholeif’s career began as a journalist and documentary filmmaker before entering into the picture palace of museums. Concerned with the intersections of emerging technologies with post-colonial, and critical race theory, Kholeif’s research has explored histories of performance art; the visual experience of mental illness; the interstices of social justice, as well as the aesthetics of digital culture.Jonathan SklarJonathan trained in medicine at the Royal Free, University of London in 1973, and then trained in psychoanalytic psychotherapy in the Adult Department, Tavistock Centre for four years with adults, children and adolescents. At the same time he trained at the Institute of Psychoanalysis and has been a psychoanalyst since 1983 and a training analyst since 1996. He is chair of The Independent Psychoanalysis Trust.On Opinion is a member of The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts that examines what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.Produced by Emma PenneyMore on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at:
  • 24. The Journal of Controversial Ideas, with Francesca Minerva

    S2 E24: The Journal of Controversial Ideas“You can’t have a good education if you’re not exposed to ideas you don’t agree with”Twelve years ago, Francesca Minerva published an academic article in the Journal of Medical Ethics giving a moral defence of infanticide. She was overwhelmed by the reaction she received - for an academic article in the early days of Twitter and Facebook, it went ‘viral’. She received death threats from the public, academics refusing to shake her hand, and she found it hard to get tenure. But she says that she was lucky. If the same thing happened today, she’d be a lot worse off than a few disgruntled colleagues.Francesca is one of the co-founders of the Journal of Controversial Ideas, alongside Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan. Their aim is to promote free inquiry on controversial topics, in the face of what they see as increasing censorship across the academy.“It has become really common for academics to sign petitions to get somebody they disagree with fired or demoted…”Francesca worries that without the capacity to discuss or challenge widely held views, our search for the truth will fall flat. She worries that the very idea of academic enquiry is changing: that truth is ‘constructed’ rather than ‘discovered’.“I don’t know if university as we know it is going to survive.”Works cited include:Jon Haidt and The Coddling of the American MindRonald Dworkin on TruthRead the Full TranscriptFrancesca MinervaFrancesca Minerva is a research fellow at the University of Milan. Between 2011 and 2020 she has worked as a post-doc at the University of Melbourne, at the University of Ghent, and at Warwick University. She is the co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Controversial Ideas. Her research focuses on applied ethics, including lookism, conscientious objection, abortion, academic freedom, and cryonics.On Opinion is a member of The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts that examines what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.More on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at:
  • 23. The Evolution of Cooperation, with Nichola Raihani

    S2 E23: The Evolution of Cooperation“Every multicellular being is a collective that operates as a whole - the individual is an ‘invention’ of evolution”Cooperation is at work up everywhere - from our ‘selfish’ genes working together in the genome, through to the democratic societies that regulate our collaboration.Cooperation is what distinguishes us most strikingly from our evolutionary cousin, the Chimpanzee. It is what allowed us safely to descend from the tree canopy into the savannah. It is what defended us from tyrants, helped us build agrarian societies, and forms the basis of our sense of justice and morality.But cooperation has a dark side: we collaborate to better compete. How we regulate that dark force is key to our survival.“Collaboration is the essential ingredient of and largest threat to our success”Listen to Nichola explain:The biological evolution of cooperation in humansHow we compare with other great collaborators: bees, ants and birdsThe evolution of society: from egalitarian to feudal to democraticWhy loneliness is physiologically harmfulWhen cooperation becomes murderousWhy evolution gave us the Tragedy of the CommonsHow the invention of Institutions changes the rules of the evolutionary gameWorks cited include:Christopher Boehm’s Reverse Dominance HierarchyPeter Turchin and his Z-CurveRichard Dawkins’ Selfish GeneRead the Full TranscriptNichola RaihaniNichola Raihani is a professor in Evolution and Behaviour at UCL, where she leads the Social Evolution and Behaviour Lab. She is the author of The Social Instinct: how cooperation shaped the worldOn Opinion is a member of The Democracy Group, a network of podcasts that examines what’s broken in our democracy and how we can work together to fix it.More on this episodeLearn all about On OpinionMeet Turi Munthe: more about the Parlia project here: visit us at: