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Made You Think

Feb 8, 2024

“If you believe that humans are animals, there can be no such thing as the history of humanity, only the lives of particular humans. If we speak of the history of the species at all, it is only to signify the unknowable sum of these lives. As with other animals, some lives are happy, others wretched. None has a meaning that lies beyond itself.”

Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! This week, we’re diving into discussion on Straw Dogs by John Gray. From questioning moral structures to pondering the collective soul, we'll journey through the philosophical landscape of Straw Dogs, examining technology, lifespans, and the very essence of humanism.

We cover a wide range of topics including:

  • Connections between Straw Dogs and Taoism
  • Whether becoming more moral as a society is possible
  • Individualistic vs collectivistic ways of thinking
  • Gray's critique on the idea that humans are special over animals
  • Technology, striving, and human progress

And much more. Please enjoy, and make sure to follow NatNeil, and Adil on Twitter and share your thoughts on the episode.

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(0:00) In today’s episode, we’re covering Straw Dogs by John Gray. We kick off the episode by sharing our overall impressions of the book and connect it to one of our previous reads, Novacene.

(3:23) How would we summarize this book? Nat, Neil, and Adil share their interpretation of the book in their own words, comparing and contrasting their summaries.

(8:19) We discuss the disparity between our aspirations for progress and the reality of human nature, exploring how societal foundations have shifted.

(12:35) Examining John Gray's argument, we delve into the book's six sections, analyzing its reflections on human nature, morality, and the essence of progress. 

(14:55) Are we evolutionarily any different from other animal species? We share the example of a hive of white ants, and their contributions to the collective vs. the individual.

(18:19) Measuring happiness and progress are both tricky. Plus, is it more harmful than beneficial to have faith in humanity and progress?

(23:11) We pull out some of our key quotes from the book about technology, evolution, and the collective. Technology is not a human-only thing, and over time, new technologies will continue to emerge.

(29:55) Differences between Robert Persig’s and John Gray's ideas. We look at whether our views on life can change and how science fits into all of this.

(36:12) Gray appears anti-striving, with ideals that we shouldn't try to control life or we'll end up disappointed in the end.

(41:30) To strive or not to strive? We talk about the evolution of technology, it's accessibility in today's age, and the hard work that has happened in order for tech to progress. 

(46:48) Black holes and string theory and dark matter. Oh my! We chat about some cool scientific theories and how they affect our understanding of the world.

(50:59) Lots of sci-fi books are being made into tv shows and hitting the major streaming services. Nat, Neil, and Adil list a few that they're excited about.

(59:42) Don’t judge a book by the Goodreads reviews! If you’re intrigued to pick up a copy of Straw Dogs, you can check that out here. We give our final thoughts on the book and discuss some other books that John Gray has written.

(1:05:22) That wraps up this episode! Next up, we’ll be reading Flowers for Algernon. Make sure to check it out and read along with us before the next episode. Plus, Made You Think’s got a new website! Head on over here to see the new format, view by topics and series, and leave us a book suggestion!

If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS@adilmajid@nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.

You can now support Made You Think using the Value-for-Value feature of Podcasting 2.0. This means you can directly tip the co-hosts in BTC with minimal transaction fees. To get started, simply download a podcast app (like Fountain or Breez) that supports Value-for-Value and send some BTC to your in-app wallet. You can then use that to support shows who have opted-in, including Made You Think! We’ll be going with this direct support model moving forward, rather than ads.

Thanks for listening. See you next time!