Reading Our Times

Reading Our Times

What will the world look like in 2050? In conversation with Hamish McRae

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What will the world be like a generation from now? Warmer and more crowded, certainly. But… richer? More peaceful? Healthier? Better educated? On Mars? Or at war? Predicting the future is risky but also, arguably, necessary if we hope to navigate the path before us.

In this episode, Nick Spencer talks to Hamish McCrae about his book The World in 2050: How to Think About the Future

What is the soul? In conversation with John Cottingham

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Whatever else has happened to religious practice over the last 40 years, it doesn’t seem to have affected the way we talk about, or believe in, the soul, with as many people doing so today as they did 40 years ago. But what we mean by the ‘soul’ is far from clear. Is it a thing, a process, or just a figures of speech?

In this episode, Nick Spencer speaks to Prof. John Cottingham about his book In Search of the Soul.

What do men want? In conversation with Nina Power

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Even allowing for the fact that relationship between the sexes has never been easy, we surely live in strangely anxious times when it comes to such matters, with accusations of misogyny and toxic masculinity rife. Are men a problem? How do men and women differ? And what, if anything, do we want or need from each other?

In this episode, Nick Spencer speaks to Nina Power about her book What do men want?: masculinity and its discontents.

Where does science end and pseudoscience begin? In conversation with Michael Gordin

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Anti-vaxxers, creation science, astrology – for supposedly rational times, irrational and pseudoscientific beliefs appear to be doing quite well. Why? Which pseudosciences are flourishing, and for what reasons? And where even is the border between science and pseudoscience?

In this episode, Nick Spencer speaks to Prof. Michael Gordin about his book On the Fringe: Where Science meets Pseudoscience.

How did we get into this mess? In conversation with Helen Thompson

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We live in strange, unsettling, perhaps even exceptional times. How did we get here? In particular, how have our dependence on energy, our need for economic growth and our distrust in politics combined to shape our unstable 21st century.

In this episode, Nick Spencer speaks to Prof. Helen Thompson about her book Disorder: Hard Times in the 21st Century.

Where did religion come from (and where is it going)? In conversation with Robin Dunbar

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The more religion dies, the more it stays alive, predictions of its imminent demise being as popular now as they were a hundred years ago. Why? Where did religion come from? Why is it so deep rooted in human nature? And where, if anywhere, is it going?

In this episode, Nick Spencer speaks to Prof. Robin Dunbar about his book How Religion Evolved and why it endures.

Can spying ever be ethical? In conversation with Cécile Fabre

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Strange as it may seem given what they do, ethics is very important to the intelligence services. But how do you – how even can you – spy ethically?

In this episode, Nick Spencer speaks to Prof. Cécile Fabre about her book Spying Through a Glass Darkly: The Ethics of Espionage and Counter-Intelligence.

Why trust science? In conversation with Naomi Oreskes

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Science is the basis of so much in the modern world that to ask why we should trust it seems unnecessary, even wrong. Yet, people do, and not all of them for the best motives.

In this episode, Nick Spencer speaks to Prof. Naomi Oreskes about her book Why Trust Science? which answers ‘science sceptics’ of all stripes, and opens up new perspectives on the importance of diversity in science.

How do pandemics shape history? In conversation with Kyle Harper

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Covid-19 was not the first pandemic in history, and it won’t be the last. We have lived with disease throughout our history, and our history has accordingly been shaped, sometimes transformed, by disease. But how?

In the final episode of this series of Reading Our Times, Nick Spencer talks to the historian Kyle Harper about his new book Plagues upon the Earth: Disease and the Course of Human History.

What actually is the Common Good? In conversation with Anna Rowlands

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The Common Good is a remarkably popular phrase, used widely by the left and the right, the religious and the secular. But does it actually mean anything? Is it so elastic as to have no real content?

In this episode, Nick Spencer talks to Anna Rowlands about her new book Towards a Politics of Communion, about what the Common Good means and what it offers a society like ours.

About this podcast

Reading Our Times is the podcast that explores the books and the ideas that are shaping us today. It is hosted by Nick Spencer, Senior Fellow at the think tank, Theos.

We’re going to be talking to some of the world’s leading authors about issues like meritocracy, justice, populism, human rights, the brain, liberalism, and religion.

Above all, we'll be exploring what these books have to say about the times we live in and about the people we are.

So listen with us, and we’ll introduce you to authors, books and ideas that illuminate ourselves and our world today.

For more information about the people and ideas behind the podcast, visit or follow us on Twitter @theosthinktank and @theosnick.

by Theos Think Tank


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