Interesting Listening: Rationally Speaking about the Cruel and Unusual

I am going to suggest two podcasts for which  I learned a far amount.  Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef deliver one of the only “skeptic” podcasts which is not obsessed with either religion or popularizing science, but understanding rationality, its limits, and its application.   Pigliucci and Galef are often best when they tackle an issue on their own.   I may suggest MOOC podcast for understanding how to parse data and ask the right questions about social and educational policy.  As a teacher and former lecturer, few administrators and policy makers know how to ask these kinds of questions.

Another excellent podcast, which I think may have pod-faded, is Cruel and Unusual .  This is probably the best podcast on looking at the history and development of punishment, particularly in the US, as well as making possible the contextual understanding for policy.   If I may, I will make several suggestions on this:

Sex and Punishment w/ Eric Berkowitz

This episode is particularly interesting at contextualizing modern sex laws in contrast with medieval and early modern laws.

The American Origins of Prison w/ Michael Meranze

The development of the modern prison is actually refined in the US, and gives birth to most of our modern prison system.

The Politicization of Punishment w/ Jonathan Simon

Goes into the problems of polity and policy, including the insanity that is the prison politics of Texas and California.

From Dungeons to Medieval Prisons w/ Guy Geltner

The late medieval prison was actually more humane than the early modern prison and maybe even the modern prison. The idea these were places where people just went to die is actually incredibly misleading and dungeons were privately held.


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