Ministry of Ideas

Ministry of Ideas

By Zachary Davis

A podcast about the ideas that shape our lives.

Episodes

Public Thinking

We have usually relied on public intellectuals to provide facts, ideas, and cultural leadership--though not all have lived up to the ideal of “speaking truth to power.” Today, however, online networks and social media mean we are all public intellectuals, and we have new responsibilities that come with this role.  Guests Dr. Cornel West, professor at Union Theological Seminary and author of, among other works, Black Prophetic Fire.George Scialabba, author of What Good Are Intellectuals Good For?, and many other works.
10/06/2129m 46s

Above the Veil

The work of Ibram X. Kendi distinguishes between two forms of racism: segregationism and assimilationism. Segregationists argue that some groups are inferior by nature; assimilationists, on the other hand, argue that some groups are inferior by 'nurture,' but can overcome this inferiority if they conform to another group's cultural standards -- in America, always a White cultural standard. Black leaders past and present have challenged these racist assumptions while revealing the liberatory potential of a cultural engagement based on equality and mutual exchange.GuestsIbram X. Kendi,  director of the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research, contributing writer to The Atlantic and author of "How To Be An Antiracist" and "Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America 1619-2019."Max Mueller, assistant professor in the Department of Classics and Religious Studies  at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln  and author of "Race and the Making of the Mormon People."Dr. Anika Prather,  adjunct professor in the Classics Department at Howard University and author of "Living in the Constellation of the Canon: The Lived Experiences of African American Students Reading Great Books Literature."
25/02/2137m 5s

Dissecting Morality, Part II

Linking morality and science can conjure up disturbing histories around social Darwinism, eugenics, and genetically engineered humans. But scientists today are making discoveries that moral agents shouldn’t ignore: how to overcome aggression and tribalism, and how to sustain cooperation in a modern pluralist world. GuestsDiane Paul, professor emerita of the University of Massachusetts, Boston and research associate at the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology. Author of The Politics of Heredity and Eugenics at the Edges of Empire, among others.Ben Allen, associate professor of mathematics at Emmanuel College. Steven Pinker, professor of cognitive psychology at Harvard University  and best-selling author of  The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Language Instinct, The Blank Slate, and many others.
18/12/2027m 21s

Dissecting Morality, Part I

Linking morality and science can conjure up disturbing histories around social Darwinism, eugenics, and genetically engineered humans. But scientists today are making discoveries that moral agents shouldn’t ignore: how to overcome aggression and tribalism, and how to sustain cooperation in a modern pluralist world.GuestsDiane Paul, professor emerita of the University of Massachusetts, Boston and research associate at the Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology.Ben Allen, associate professor of mathematics at Emmanuel College.  Steven Pinker, professor of cognitive psychology at Harvard University  and best-selling author of  The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Language Instinct, The Blank Slate, and many others.
18/12/2030m 39s

Virtually Violent

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,  vulnerable communities have been hit especially hard by disruptive online attacks. But calling these attacks "violent" could jeopardize the future of disruptive protests designed to protest those same communities. GuestsErica Chenoweth, professor of human rights and international affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and author of Civil Resistance: What Everyone Needs To Know.Dr. Joan Donovan, research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.
22/10/2023m 42s

Welcome To Valhalla

Heathenry, a modern movement drawing on pre-Christian pagan religions, has become associated with the violent, racialized politics of the alt-right. Less well known is the fight to make heathenry — and the progressive values it can promote — inclusive and open to all.GUESTSRobert Schreiwer, Heathen activist, founder of the Heathen tradition of Urglaawe, Manager of Huginn’s Heathen Hof and Heathens Against Hate, and Steer of the Troth (2016-2019 and again in 2020). Founder of In-Reach Prison Services.Michael Strmiska, associate professor in global studies at SUNY-Orange and author of Modern Paganism in World Cultures.Lauren Crow, co-host of the Heathen History podcast.Ben Waggoner, co-host of the Heathen History podcast.Thomas Engelmann, outreach specialist at Life After Hate’s ExitUSA.
01/07/2029m 3s

Stealing the Canon

Literary canons have come under fire for perpetuating privilege and exclusion. But some artists — including William Shakespeare and Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda — show us how canons can actually build community and democracy. GuestsStephen Greenblatt, Cogan University Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University and editor of the Norton edition of Shakespeare’s works and the Norton Anthology of English Literature.Oskar Eustis, artistic director of New York City’s Public Theatre.John Ray Proctor, actor and drama professor at Tulane University. Rory Loughnane, senior lecturer in Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent and associate editor of the New Oxford Shakespeare.  
05/05/2031m 5s

Climate of Denial

Human-caused climate change is real and growing in impact. Yet many Americans see climate change as a belief that they can opt out of. Two belief structures are to blame: American Protestantism and postmodernism.GuestsTanya Luhrmann, professor of anthropology and psychology at Stanford University and author of When God Talks Back.Gary Aylesworth, professor emeritus of philosophy at Eastern Illinois University.Lee McIntyre, Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and author of Post-Truth.
28/04/2033m 28s

Progressive Souls, Part 2

Religious people have played an important role in progressive politics in the US for its entire history. Contemporary leftists should look to build bridges and include religious voices in the pursuit of a more just and sustainable society. (Part Two of Two) Guests Elizabeth Bruenig, Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne, Washington Post columnist and Professor at Georgetown University Dan McKanan, Professor at Harvard Divinity School
22/04/1925m 0s

Progressive Souls, Part 1

Religious people have played an important role in progressive politics in the US for its entire history. Contemporary leftists should look to build bridges and include religious voices in the pursuit of a more just and sustainable society. Guests Elizabeth Bruenig, Washington Post columnist EJ Dionne, Washington Post columnist and Professor at Georgetown University Dan McKanan, Professor at Harvard Divinity School
15/04/1927m 19s

The Myth of Modernity

Many think modernity is about the rise of science, the spread of democracy and capitalism, or the decline of religion or superstition. But those stories ignore the bigger picture about colonialism and race. Guests Mayra Rivera, professor of Religion and Latinx Studies at Harvard University. Jared Hickman, professor of English at Johns Hopkins University. Author of the book, Black Prometheus: Race and Radicalism in the Age of Atlantic Slavery.
09/11/1834m 36s

Spiritual Machines

Ever since early scientists began experimenting with immortality elixirs in the middle ages, religion has been influencing transhumanism. Now, we’re beginning to see transhumanism influencing religion. Guests Calvin Mercer, Professor of Religious Studies at East Carolina University Meghan O’Gieblyn, writer Blaire Ostler, Director and Former President of the Mormon Transhumanist Association
31/08/1830m 13s

Shifting Blame

We claim to judge people for what they intentionally do, but accidents often influence our judgments. In our justice systems, people can be harshly and unfairly blamed for bad luck—but in our personal lives, taking on blame isn’t always a bad thing. Guests Fiery Cushman, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University Daniel Statman, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Haifa
25/07/1827m 29s

Nothing Matters

Between the Buddhist doctrine of ‘emptiness,’ the Jewish idea of Ayin, and the quantum mechanical zero-point energy of a vacuum, it turns out there’s quite a lot to be said about Nothing. Guests Janet Gyatso, Professor of Buddhist Studies at Harvard Divinity School Daniel Matt, Scholar of Jewish Mysticism
10/07/1827m 19s

Tomorrow, Today

World’s fairs were created to celebrate industry, technology, imperialism, western supremacy, and progress; but they also led to unexpected critiques and movements that challenged those very purposes. Guests Evander Price, PhD Candidate in American Studies at Harvard University Robert Rydell, Professor of History at Montana State University Abigail Higgins, Harvard University, Class of 2017
15/06/1826m 56s

Apocalyptic Politics

Evangelical voters made up a significant portion of Donald Trump’s base in the 2016 presidential election. Their political agenda may not be peace or prosperity, but instead bringing us closer to the end of time. Guests Matthew Sutton, Graduate Studies Director, Washington State University History Department Katharine Hayhoe, Director, Climate Science Center, Texas Tech University Liya Rechtman, Harvard Divinity School student
25/05/1829m 26s

Consumed

Cannibalism has been used for centuries to define the lowest form of humanity, but the story isn't as straightforward as it may seem. Turns out, there may be a logic - or even a love - to eating people. Guests Emily Anderson, Curator of “Cannibalism: Myth & Reality” Bill Schutt, Author of Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History
10/05/1824m 42s

Child's Play

We shouldn’t be dismissive of the popularity of children’s literature among adults, as it is often in these works of fiction that powerful themes such as death, love, and virtue are most deeply and imaginatively explored. Guests Christina Phillips Mattson, Scholar of Children’s Literature Casper ter Kuile, Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divinity School and co-host of Harry Potter and the Sacred Text MG Prezioso, Contributing writer for Harvard Political Review
26/04/1829m 14s

Forbidden Fruit

Contemporary diet culture is only the latest manifestation of a long history of religious fervor about food. Guests Isabel Foxen Duke, health coach Alan Levinovitz, Professor of Religious Studies at James Madison University Corrie Norman, Associate Director, Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
12/04/1829m 41s

Enlightened Cynicism

Trust in government, media, organized religion, businesses and even democracy is at historic lows. But what if the answer to declining faith in institutions isn’t more hope, but more cynicism? Guests Sharon Stanley, Professor of Political Science at the University of Memphis and the author of The French Enlightenment and the Emergence of Modern Cynicism. David Mazella, Professor of English at the University of Houston and the author of The Making of Modern Cynicism
28/12/1720m 41s

Demeritocracy

Total faith in meritocracy leads to the dangerous belief that all social winners and losers are wholly deserving. Instead, we need an economy of grace. Guests Victor Tan Chen, assistant professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of Cut Loose: Jobless and Hopeless in an Unfair Economy Thomas Frank, author of What’s the Matter with Kansas? and Listen, Liberal
18/12/1725m 5s

Secular Salvations

The decline of organized religion in the West has opened up new paths for individuals to pursue what once was once understood to be salvation. Guests Craig Calhoun, President of the Berggruen Institute and author of Rethinking Secularism Sean Kelly, Professor of Philosophy of Harvard University and author of All Things Shining Angie Thurston, fellow at On Being and author of How We Gather
01/12/1721m 33s

21st Century Citizenship

What does it mean to be a citizen in America in 2017? Guests Danielle Allen, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics and University Professor at Harvard University Erhardt Graeff, PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media Shanelle Matthews, Director of Communications for the Black Lives Matter global network
17/11/1715m 28s

Mirror Image

16th-century glass mirrors and 21st-century camera phones actually share a lot in common; they both are technologies that shaped new forms of the self. Guests Ian Mortimer, historian and author of Millennium: From Religion to Revolution: How Civilization Has Changed Over a Thousand Years Ilan Stavans, professor of Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and author of I Love My Selfie
09/11/1715m 5s

White Balance

Understanding race in America requires understanding its relationship to class. Guests Joshua Bennett, writer and poet Julian Bourg, Professor of History at Boston College Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash
02/11/1713m 34s

(In)efficiency

Efficiency has moved from a technique for measuring machines to a widely held moral value. But at what cost? Guests Jennifer Alexander, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota and author of The Mantra of Efficiency: From Waterwheel to Social Control Tom Hodgkinson, founder and editor of The Idler
26/10/1716m 40s

Generation Why?

Who gets to define generational cohorts and do they obscure more than illuminate? Guests Neil Howe, author of Generations Tony Tulathimutte, author of Why There’s No ‘Millennial’ Novel
19/10/1713m 23s

Seriously Funny

What happens when politics becomes comedy and the jester becomes the king? Guests Emily Nussbaum, television critic for The New Yorker Avi Steinberg, writer Kwesi Mensah, comedian
12/10/1714m 41s

The Shape of History

The way we think about history can affect our belief that we can change it. Guests Jo Guldi, Associate Professor at Southern Methodist University and author of The History Manifesto Amber Morningstar Byars, artist and Standing Rock protestor For a written preview of the show, you can read this Boston Globe essay.
05/10/1712m 2s

Introducing Ministry of Ideas

Introducing Ministry of Ideas, a podcast that explores the ideas that shape our lives.
01/08/171m 24s
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