#63: The Evolution Of Bret Weinstein


Bret Weinstein came to public prominence as the professor at the centre of the 2017 Evergreen State College protests. He is a well-known member of the “Intellectual Dark Web”.

This episode isn’t about any of that, for Bret’s main trade is evolutionary biology. Joe and Bret discuss his journey as a thinker in this field, and the ideas that define his evolutionary toolkit. They also address the two controversial issues of group selection and the evolution of religion.

Show notes

Selected links

Topics discussed

  • What was special about Bret and his brother Eric’s upbringing that made them independently successful? [9:22]

  • How would Bret design a curriculum to homeschool a teenager? [18:28]

  • What was the moment Bret first got hooked on the concept of natural selection? [23:35]

  • Bret’s college journey. [27:52]

  • What is Darwinian natural selection and what are its four prerequisites? [33:00]

  • What was Bret’s emotional reaction to the gene-centred view of evolution? [41:45]

  • How did something as perfect and complex as the tail of the Iranian spider-tailed horned viper evolve? [47:11]

  • How does natural selection explain altruism? [53:19]

  • Who is Bob Trivers, one of Bret’s most important mentors? [1:01:21]

  • What is the theory of “reciprocal altruism”? [1:05:31]

  • Who was Dick Alexander, Bret’s other mentor, and was his impact on Bret? [1:07:15]

  • Why did Bret find formal education so traumatic? [1:20:41]

  • Are there any evolutionary concepts that have improved Bret’s relationship with his wife Heather? [1:26:29]

  • How did religion evolve? [1:31:35]

  • Was Bret making a group-selectionist argument in his debate with Richard Dawkins? [1:47:19]

  • Why does Bret think religion is an adaption? [1:55:21]

  • Why does Bret think humanity needs to take evolution from “autopilot and into our own hands”? [1:59:04]

  • What does Bret see as his role going forward -- will he remain a “Professor in exile”? [2:01:00]

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