Culture, Ideas, Religion

Keith Ivey (resized) via CC/Flickr,,

Monday, we’re putting Utah’s voters under the microscope, and we’re particularly curious about what motivates the state’s Mormon electorate. Utah has long been a sure bet for the Republican Party. This year, the party’s presidential candidate is putting Utah’s partisan loyalty to the test. But where does that loyalty come from? What matters most to the state’s electorate? And are voters here really all that different from the average American? A panel of guests will join us, and we hope you will, too.

Niccolò Machiavelli lived hundreds of years ago, and though he was a gifted political strategist, he knew nothing about democratic republics. So the scholar Maurizio Viroli recognizes that it’s a bit extravagant to consult a 15th-century Florentine for electoral advice in 21st-century America. But Machiavelli, Viroli says, remains the most competent, honest and disinterested political counselor we could ask for. Viroli joins us Friday to examine what Machiavelli can teach us about choosing leaders. (Rebroadcast)

White Trash

Aug 2, 2016
The U.S. National Archives,

We like to think of America as a class-free society where anyone who works hard can achieve economic success. Historian Nancy Isenberg says it’s a promise as old as our nation, and that it’s always been a myth. She argues that landowners and the elite have only valued the poor for their labor - while describing them as vagrants, crackers, squatters, and rednecks. Isenberg joins us Tuesday to trace what she calls the 400-year untold history of class in America. Her book is called White Trash.

The Work of the Dead

Jul 29, 2016
Peter Pelisek, CC via Flickr,

Why is it that we care for the dead? The philosopher Diogenes suggested that his corpse simply be tossed over the city wall, but it’s an idea that seems unthinkable. Historian Thomas Laqueur says bodies matter because we’ve decided they do - from prehistoric times, regardless of faith or creed. Laqueur’s book explores the ways we’ve ritualized and remembered the dead throughout history. Friday, he joins Doug to explain how our relationship to the dead has helped shape the modern world. (Rebroadcast)

A few years ago, Paul Tough wrote a book about new research showing that character traits like grit, self-control, and optimism are critical to a child’s success. Tough’s latest book builds on that research by explaining how to put it into practice. He argues that a child’s home and school environments are the principle barriers to his or her success. Improve the environment, Tough says, and you can improve the child. He joins us Wednesday to explain his theory of helping children succeed. (Rebroadcast)

Why Men Fight

Jul 26, 2016
Gilberto Tadday

When a mixed martial arts studio moved in across the street from literary scholar Jonathan Gottschall’s office, the timing couldn’t have been better. Gottschall was in a mid-life crisis; he was out of shape and his academic career was stalling. So joining the gym was personal, but he was also fascinated by these questions: Why do men fight and why do we like to watch? Tuesday, Gottschall joins Doug to talk about his experience in the cage, and about violence and the rituals that contain it. (Rebroadcast)

Monday, we're joined by University of Utah professor Paul Reeve to talk about his book Religion of a Different Color. In it, he explores how America's Protestant white majority characterized Mormons as racial outsiders in the 19th century. Protestants were convinced that members of the country's newest religion were not merely a theological departure from the mainstream, they were racially and physically different. Medical doctors even supported the claim. Reeve says the LDS church responded to those attacks with aspirations for whiteness that may have been a little too successful. (Rebroadcast)

(public domain)

At one time, Rome was just an insignificant village in central Italy. At its height, it was, as renowned classicist Mary Beard points out, a sprawling imperial metropolis of more than a million people that served as the capital for a vast empire. Beard says ancient Rome is important because it underpins Western culture and politics, and in a new book she chronicles how the Republic grew, persisted, and declined by exploring how the Romans thought of themselves. She joins us Thursday to talk about it. (Rebroadcast)

Journalist Lesley Hazleton says that if you want to understand headlines from the Middle East today, you have to understand the story of Islam’s first civil war. When the prophet Muhammad died, factions in the young faith became embroiled in a succession crisis. The power grabs, violence, and political machinations resulted in the schism between Sunni and Shia. Hazleton joins Doug to tell the story of Islam’s sectarian divide and to explain how that history influences current events. [Rebroadcast]

Where does genius come from? Some people say geniuses are born, or that they’re made by thousands of hours of work. But what if genius is actually grown, like a plant? Travel writer Eric Weiner has scanned the globe and come to exactly that conclusion. He says genius arises in clumps at particular places and times when certain ingredients are present. Think Ancient Greece, 14th-century Florence, or modern-day Silicon Valley. Weiner joins us Tuesday to explain his theory of the geography of genius. [Rebroadcast]