When newly-minted Nobel Prize winner Roger Penrose riffed on very weird physics with Joe Rogan (2018)

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/10/07/when-newly-minted-nobel-prize-winner-roger-penrose-riffed-on-very-weird-physics-with-joe-rogan-2018.html

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I’ll have to listen later, but I may have already heard this one. I really like the science guests on the show.

A serious, if meta-question: if Alex Jones or Adam Carolla have interesting people on their shows, would BB pass along those interviews uncritically?


I think there is a little bit of murkiness in terms.

Un-consciousness, as in “knocked-out” or “asleep” is not the same kind of consciousness as “self-aware”. Awake is not the same as Self-Aware. Both use the same term “consciousness”. We need to enter the idea of Sentient - able to feel, to not just react but have an awareness of your situation, an opinion about your situation - self-aware.

Came here to say a version of the same thing. The world would be a better place without Rogan in it. For every interesting and genuine intellectual he has on, he gives a platform to ten conspiracy nut jobs, racists, sexists, and white supremacists. He and Jordan Peterson have created a whole generation of “White Intellectual Men” who think things like denying vaccine effectiveness or wondering if women really should stay home is all valuable Just Asking Questions debate. It’s among the most insidious new forms of cultural monstrosity-building and he needs to be stopped. He’s Alex Jones, but he doesn’t yell so people think he’s harmless.


Penrose is cool. I’ve refused to listen to Rogan since it took Neil Degrasse Tyson to talk him out of thinking the moon landing was faked. The Penrose appearance on Sean Carroll’s Mindscape podcast is a good listen.


A smart journalistic interviewer will always make the interview more interesting, because they will know how to ask questions that strike at what is unique and compelling about the guests work. Rogan continuously fails here - even when he has good guests, and the show is interesting, it looms that it could have been such a better interview if Rogan was just smarter. The last thing I watched with him was his recent interview with Snowden, where I think he asked one insightful question in the whole interview. Despite that Snowden was interesting.

Its important because not all guests will be skillful as distilling the complexity of their work down to a conversational level, Penrose is actually pretty good at this, but you can watch him direct the conversation to the heart of the questions, because Rogan missed or is simply unaware of the important points.

I’d never follow him or go out of my way to listen to his interviews because of this.


Rogan is an asshole. I won’t listen to Alex Jones, and I won’t listen to Alex Jones Light either.


Very astute- this is the main issue with Rogan for sure. It’s not just that he gives a platform to wackos who need to be marginalized for the good of society, it’s that he listens to their nonsense uncritically. If he was up there challenging anti-vaxxers on their evidence or taking misogynists to task for their shallow understanding of lobsters, that would be one thing. Instead he’s just letting these people use him.

It’s a shame that interviewing doesn’t get more credit as a valuable skill. Rogan’s only qualification for this is that he hosted a reality show where people eat bugs for money. If he demonstrated some talent or journalistic integrity, that would be one thing. However his whole approach is of the anti-intellectual “open minded until your brains fall out” nouveau-fake-scholarly variety that is killing us all right now.

The sad part is, his fans would interpret what I just wrote as ivory tower gatekeeping on information. We’re in this weird place where any sort of quality control on information is interpreted as classism.


I actually have a lot of reservations about Penrose himself.

I’m sure his work in physics is good and important, but his contributions to popular science – specifically regarding consciousness – are bad and anti-scientific. And the fact he’s an eminent scientist in an unrelated field makes that much, much worse, because he’s basically using the cultural capital of science to undermine science.

In a nutshell, he came out with a book arguing that consciousness is inherently mystical, and people pointed out that his case was nonsense, even by the standards of the actual philosophy-of-mind folks who are sympathetic to that view. And then his pop-science career since then has AFAIA been a campaign of doubling down with ever more tenuous arguments.

In fairness his books are interesting reads, because he ropes in a lot of interesting but unrelated topics in the course of failing to defend his central point. But in 2020, we ought to be wary of paying lots of attention to people because they’re interesting to listen to, when their overall agenda is troubling.


This sounds classist as hell, but where I think he holds the most appeal is with the mediocre, middlebrow bro who is juuuust smart enough to follow the philosophy of the Matrix, and thinks that loudly proclaiming that both sides suck is a profound expression of political nuance. And if I’m being 100% honest, I get the attraction.

I understand the appeal of thinking you’re the clever one because you’re not brainwashed by the college degree or whatever blinders you think everyone else has on, and it’s really, really handy when that cynicism also happens to line up perfectly with the libertarian ideal of wanting the Man out of all your business but not being all that concerned with the Man fucking over folks who you aren’t partying with.

I mean, there’s a reason that a lot of adults think Catcher in the Rye and Fight Club and On the Road are profound works of philosophical genius.


Yeah - fuck that guy (Rogaine) whatever he’s ranting about.


Wouldn’t be surprised if the red pill was a reference to taking hormones.


I’d say it’s more elitist than classist (although there is of course a link between social class and education) but it’s also something I would agree with.


I’m glad the BBS generally agrees about Rogan and his dangerous pursuit as an accessible entry point into the alt right for young men who haven’t quite figured out the difference between contrarianism and critical thought. Even if the blog itself doesn’t seem to agree…


I have him on Permanent Ignore but I think it must be faulty.


Yeah, if nothing else he is a central figure in the… conversation?.. about the relationship between college education and smartness. I watched most of a pod he did with Penn Jillette, largely on that subject (Jillette being a similar sort of intellectual figure himself). It was irritating and interesting in equal parts.

The thing is, of course you can be an intelligent person and not go to college; but you can never know what difference it _would_have made, and that’s why it can become a fixation for some people. And they can be exhausting, because they assume you think you understand stuff better than them, which creates an atmosphere, which blocks exactly the kind of collaborative thought that it is the purpose of higher education to cultivate.

Although, exclusive colleges don’t help here. Some smart people are poor, or have other stuff going on at 18.


I hear you, and I went a bit out of my way to sound classist in my earlier post with flowery language (which is its own reward here on BB, anyway).

The point I didn’t hit hard enough is that this all boils down to the devaluing of expertise. Somewhere along the way, we decided that doctors are elitist, and therefore all opinions are equal. It’s that “therefore” that is literally killing us. People are responding to perceived classism by deciding that all opinions are of equal value on all issues.

The end result is people throwing fits in Walmart over a mask because the president has told them that all the world’s epidemiologists and infectious disease experts are liars or just trying to stifle their freedom. It’s utter madness.

Yes elitism is bad and has been a huge problem in many areas of society, but more than ever we need expertise in this world. The world is so complicated now that nobody can know enough on all topics to survive and we need to understand who is worth listening to on a given topic and who isn’t. People are losing that (or never had it) and then the internet happened and now science has lost all meaning because people don’t apply discretion to information they take in.

I don’t think any of this is new (no human problem is new, really) but the Cheeto in Chief and his minions have really supercharged this problem lately.

People like Rogan are the nobility of this new information feudalism.

Absolutely, and the enlightenment thinkers understood this. It’s why universal public education has always been the bedrock of progressive democracy. Private American universities operated for profit are a cancer on the enlightenment ideals upon which the US was founded. They are a pretty uniquely American problem, also. The rest of the free world still has largely public universities, with a few carve-outs here and there for religions and whatnot. Private universities are a very typically American problem though also, being rooted in racism and sexism as they are.


This is a perfectly concise summary of Rogan that I just used 100x as many words trying to convey. Bravo, and thank you for this. :smiley:


I enjoy hearing Nobel prize winning scientists muse philosophically, but that’s just me.