Show cover of The History of Being Human

The History of Being Human

History, anatomy and physiology, philosophy, psychology, anthropology. The podcast that attempts to resurrect sense and meaning from the dust of a billion factoids.


HBH 37: Anaximander of Miletus
Today we take a long, hard look at the great Anaximander, the second member of the Milesian School, and possibly one of the most influential thinkers of all time.  The first metaphysician, the greatest astronomer of his age, the teller of time and builder of colonies, the man who dared disagree with his teacher and mentor and ended up transcending his theories, is here presented to you in all his glory. Such as it is.    
31:31 08/20/2022
HBH 36: The Greek Dark Ages, The Archaic Age, and Thales the Wise
In this episode we begin a series on the beginnings of "Western" thought and science. We start with the catastrophy of the Mycenean Collapse, the Greek Dark Ages, and the Archaic Age, then continue with a discussion of Miletus and its most revered citizen, Thales. Thales has left his mark on the planet with his work. As a brilliant sage whose ideas were the beginnings of science, he helped set a trajectory for all future generations of philosophers and scientists.     
47:18 07/30/2022
HBH 35: Dyatlov Deaths on Dead Mountain 2
Today, part 2 of the Dyatlov Pass mystery. What killed the 9 expert, fit trekkers on Dyatlov Pass in 1959?  Is the mystery finally solved? In this episode we dig deep and look hard into what we can know about what happened to the ill-fated expedition.   FF to 53:45 if you want the TL;DR version of the episode. Or, if you want to know the why behind the what, we spend the better part of an hour building our case -- for the intrepid listener only! Guaranteed to be the most detailed study of the incident available by Podcast, or you get doble your money back! Enjoy! Picture of "The Yeti" from Tibo's camera:  (look at image 17)
66:40 06/13/2022
HBH 34: The Radioactive KGB Yeti UFO Bear on the Mountain of Death
This is actually the story of the Dyatlov Pass deaths of 1959 -- an event that remains mysterious and controversial to this day.  9 healthy Russian Athletes on a ski trip die under stange circumstances.  The location and conditon of the bodies is both distrubing and bizarre.  Many conspiracy, supernatural, and naturalistic explanations have been attempted with varying levels of acceptance.  None accounts for every fact.   Today, the events and people in this riveting mystery. Next episode, the theories and explanations. See the group's pictures and read their diaries.  View maps and 3D models of the scene. Check the timeline.  This website is an excellent and enthralling resource:
49:02 05/30/2022
HBH 33 The Fundamental Nature of Physical Reality
There are some things you just have to know to keep up with the headlines. Things that, in some cases, provide crucial insights into who we are and how we and the universe we are part of work.   It might be that a big picture concept of the fundamental building blocks of reality is one of those things.   If you, like me, really want to understand something about physics, but find yourself thwarted at every turn by boring, overly-technical, confusing, and poorly organized presentations, allow The History of Being Human Podcast to throw its hat into the ring. What follows is my own boring, confusing presentation of some key ideas, presented as only a naive mind can.  All I can say in my defense is that you really just have to know this.  Or not.
34:05 04/12/2022
HBH 32: The Texas Tower Tumor of Terror
Today we cover the story of Charles Whitman, the erstwhile normal and successful young scout, altar boy, and marine sharpshooter who, in the course of 24 hours, killed his mother and wife, climbed the tower at UT Austin, and sniped at innocent civilians for an hour and a half. After he was killed, his autopsy revealed, possibly, a structure that might or might not bear on one of the biggest mysteries about humanity -- are we free to choose our own actions, or are our actions decided by factors outside our voluntary control? A somewhat disturbing story about the evil perpetrated by one very disturbed young man, so caveat auditor.
62:09 02/06/2022
HBH 31: The Terror of Torquemada
A late entry into the worst people ever compendium, Tomas de Torquemada, the first and greatest Grand Inquisitor of The Spanish Inquisition.  A man who began with a broad national mandate to root out heretics and insincere converses, and ended so loathed by everyone in Spain that he needed armed escorts wherever he went. A zealot so intransigent that the Pope tried to find a way to get rid of him.   This is the story of Torquemada and the beginnings and glory days of The Spanish Inquisition.  Our last episode on the Inquisition, and good riddance to it!  
46:57 01/15/2022
HBH 30: Three Trials of Joan of Arc
In this episode we conclude our series on the inquisition with the story of Joan of Arc with her three "trials:" 1. The Examination at Poitiers (link to a summary: 2. The 1431 Trial of Condemnation before the Inquisition (link to fulll transcripts: 3. The Trial of Nullification in the 1450s (link to full transcripts:  
55:33 12/12/2021
HBH 29: The Short, Astonishing Life of Joan of Arc
Here it is: the pious childhood, the voices, the missions, the uncanny miraculous insights, the fearless warring, the taunting and threatening, the temper, the visions and prophesies, and the prodigious feats of the Maid of Orleans.   According to Twain, this was far and away the most amazing human being to ever live, and that is saying an awful lot.  Wherever she stands on the ladder of greatness, Joan was a force wholly new and utterly unique in nature. One for the Ages. This is her life.
64:13 11/09/2021
HBH 28: The Life and Trials of Joan of Arc
In this episode we set the stage for the story of Joan of Arc, one of the most enigmatic and fascinating people in history.  To understand Joan we have to understand the Hundred Years' War, the festering quagmire into which she was born, and which she helped put an end to. Herein are dragons and whirlwinds, blood-soaked Vikings, slaughtered monks, broken treaties, lunatic kings, conquering dukes, glorious victories and crushing defeats, assassinations and treachery, conniving men and women, and war, war, war. In short, it was the last world you would expect a peasant girl to rise to greatness in.  But rise she would...  
41:48 10/10/2021
HBH 27: The Knights Templars' Humble Beginnings and Horrific End
They are one of the two most implicated groups in the history of conspiracy theories. But their real history is, if less mysterious and ominous, just as unsettling.  From a humble beginning, to becoming the richest order in Christendom, to being imprisoned, tortured, persecuted and executed. This is the story of the Knights Templar.
58:38 08/26/2021
HBH 26: Mother and Infant Down the Rocks
We continue our series on the Inquisition with the campaigns to suppress the Waldensians. These "Poor Men (and Women!) of Lyon" were known for their sandals and their beards; but mostly for their Christian piety, humility, and charity.   So of course they had to die. And die they did, in the tens, hundreds, and thousands.     
34:14 07/20/2021
HBH 25: Kill Them All and God Will Know His Own
In this episode we begin a full immersion experience into that most infamous of offices, The Inqusition.  From the forces at play in the persecution society where it began, through a few early burnings, to the papal bull that started it all, we refuse to shrink from staring it in all its repressive sanctimony. We also cover some of the early heretical movements and groups that caught the -- very unwanted -- attention of the ecclesiastical inquisition.  Finally, the Albigensian Crusade gets off to a brutal and sadistic start, as the Pope calls another crusade, this time against the Cathars -- in what historians call the first ideological genocide in history. Artwork by Ian Armstrong
48:06 06/29/2021
HBH 24: Polarization and Conspiracy Thinking
In this episode Steve Rathje, social psychologist specializing in social media and political polarization, explains to us why we are prone to conspiratorial thinking, and how we got into the state we find ourselves in Western societies.  Virality, engagement, fake news, motivated reasoning, negativity bias, and much more are covered the way only Steve can explain them. A long overdue episode 24 of HBH. But hey, it's summer, and we can finally travel, so it's better late than never.            
33:40 06/14/2021
HBH 23: Jan Bremer on Human Sacrifice
In this episode I speak to Professor Jan Bremer about human sacrifice. We touch on Greek, Roman, Maya, Indian, Aztec, Druid, Egyptian, Chinese, and other instantiations of this most intentionally terrifying of all practices. Who were the victims? How common was it? What motivated it? The answers, from Prof. Bremer, were suprising. I will not say he is a human sacrifice skeptic, but he believes it was less common and less costly than sensationalized accounts would lead us to believe.   Art by Ian Armstrong Music Icy Vindur by A. Himitsu    
38:11 05/18/2021
HBH 22: Fallacies, Biases, and Warped Reality
Conclusion (at last) of a three-part episode on the ways our perceptions and processing distort reality.  For the stalwart (and patient) seekers of knowledge only. 0:00  Groupthink 6:13   Halo Effect 10:41  Just World Fallacy 17:21  Negativity Bias 22:16  Optimism and Pessimism Bias 27:19   Reactance 31:44  Self-Serving Bias 34:41  Sunk Cost Fallacy 39:40  The Spotlight Effect 40:51  The Dunning-Krueger Effect as you never knew it   Art: Ian Armstrong          
46:48 04/25/2021
HBH 21: Our Distorted Reality
Today I begin a pedantic journey into the tragicomic ways our perceptions and judgments are altered and distorted by our own cognitive processes -- goofy, heartbreaking, and humorous all at once,  Index of topics included: 0:00    Intro 04:52   Anchoring Bias 08:59   Availability Heuristic 13:25   Backfire Effect 16:05   Barnum Effect 19:45   Belief Bias 23:06   Bystander Effect 27:22  Confirmation Bias and Belief Perseverance                Including Wm. Flinders-Petrie vs the Pyramidologists 33:56   Curse of Knowledge 35:10   Declinism aka Old Fartism  36:49   Framing Effects 40:06   Fundamental Attribution Error (Salience of the Actor)            Empty Boats   I will finish the topic in a few weeks, but in order to not bore you to death with this laundry list, I will interject a few historical vignettes between now and then.      
46:01 04/17/2021
HBH 20: Conspiracy Theories and Cognitive Glitches
In which we continue to Dumbest things in history series by looking at some of the glitches in us that make them possible.  And also that they are not the result of our lizard brain, because we don't have one. In this episode, we cover conspiracy thinking and theories and the  apophenia that makes them possible, including pareidolia, the gambler's fallacy, motivated reasoning, and of course our ability to talk ourselves into things through repetition.  
51:01 04/04/2021
HBH 19: Rasputin and the Romanovs
A bad decision for the ages--welcoming a pretentious narcissistic ignoramus into your family to weaken your already precarious hold on power, ignoring all warnings and thumbing your nose at the public outrage it engendered.   And worse, taking said lecher's advice on all matters, sacred and secular, because he claimed it came from God himself.  It sounds like a path to disaster, as indeed it was. In this episode we uncover what can be known about the life and strange death of Grigori Yefimovich Novykh, aka Rasputin, the so-called Mad Monk of Siberia and his tragic relationship to Tsar Nicolas II and his family.  Cover Art by Ian Armstrong    
47:16 03/19/2021
HBH 18: Vera Tiesler on Mayan Human Sacrifice
This is a release of an interview I did a year and a half ago, but have not released due to some technical -- and technique -- difficulties. Despite that, I have always wanted to clean it up as much as possible and release it, in large part because Dr. Tiesler is a world renowned expert on the topic and was very generous to grant the interview.          
35:06 02/11/2021
HBH 17: Human Glitches, Part 1
We have a lot going for us, which is why we are currently a very successful species. But we have a lot of problems, defects, deficiencies, dysteleology, and outright glitches in our systems. This episode, the first in a two part series on our glitches, catalogues some of the maladaptive elements that make us who we are. This episode: anatomical, physiological, and genetic human defects.  HBH 18: Mental glitches that allow us to make very stupid decisions, thought distortions and cognitive biases.          
38:53 12/07/2020
HBH 16: The All-Time Dumbest Thing Ever
There are countless stupid events, decisions, policies, and people in history, so it was a great surprise to see how easy it was to decide on the dumbest thing ever. It was, to put it bluntly, no contest. The Great Leap Forward had it all -- poor planning, poor execution, newspeak, happy talk, brutal repression, and tens of millions of deaths.  And you couldn't think of a more perfectly ludicrous name. Today's episode is a little complicated, as the topic is VAST and I made a vain attempt to cover it all.  Listen to it twice if you have to -- or if you have a stomach for it! Better yet -- Read about the Great Leap Forward: Mao's Great Famine by Frank Dikotter Forgotten Voices of Mao's Great Famine by Xun Zhou        
72:29 11/23/2020
HBH 15: Fascism and Antifa
In this episode I get distracted while working on another topic.  Because of that failure to focus, we cover the origins of left and right political ideologies, the beginnings of fascism, its symbolism, and what special recipe makes a fascist regime fascist.  We also briefly discuss Antifa -- which is, depending on who you ask, either the most dangerous shadowy terrorist group in America with billionaire funding and extensive secret networks, or a total boogeyman invented by the right as a scapegoat. Cover art by Ian Armstrong
62:31 11/02/2020
HBH 14: The Dumbest Things Ever: The Satanic Panic of the 1980s
Ok, so it wasn't a world-historical level disaster, or maybe even close to the dumbest thing humans have ever believed. But it was pretty stupid. Nations gripped by a fear of covens of witches, repressed memories of ritual Satanic abuse, demonic rock-and-roll, ouija boards stealing your soul, and don't forget those blue-as-death animated corpses, the Smurfs!  All, of course, without any credible evidence whatsoever. If you wonder where the Q phenomenon began, and how it can possibly have legs, look no further than the Satanic Panic. This is an interview I did with Paul Corupe ( since I seem to mostly interview men named Paul(?!). It was originally produced for the series on mob behaviors and mass delusions but I am releasing it now due to some sound glitches that took me a while to correct (and since it applies to this series also). Buy the book: Cover Art by Ian Armstron      
32:31 10/06/2020
HBH 13: The Dumbest Things Ever: The People's Crusade
Today we embark down a very ignoble road and consider a few of the most dismal failures in history.  We begin with a big one -- something that failed spectacularly, at a very high cost, creating misery and infamy in its wake: The People's Crusade of 1095-6! Index of this episode, in case you want to skip to the juicy parts: 0:00      Intro: The Three Poisons 5:20     Why and When the Crusades? Intro to Crusading, Pilgrims; The Houses of Abbas, Fatimids, and Seljuks; Pope Urban II and Alexius I Komnenos. 25:57     The Council of Clermont and Urban's Call to Arms 30:31     Peter the Hermit Inflames the Yokels 33:48     What was the People's Crusade? 34:20     Walter sans Avoir Sets Off for Glory 37:32     The Vicious Little Count and His Holy Goose Crusaders 46:15      Peter the Hermit Storms Anatolia 56:09     Cost:Benefit Analysis of the People's Crusade, or What Does it Take to Be One of the Dumbest Things in History?          
60:01 09/29/2020
HBH 12: The Mystery of the Copper Scroll
Today we discuss the mystery of 3Q15 -- also known as the Copper Scroll. One of the most mysterious, and potentially valuable finds, in archeology.  An enigmatic and totally unique document, scratched onto copper, that hints at the locations of over 2 billion USD worth of hidden treasure, left in a cave almost 2000 years ago. Who wrote the copper scroll? Is the treasure real? If so, whose treasure was it? And why, after decades of searching, has none of the treasure been found? Since we can't definitively answer any of those questions, we will detour into the history of the Essenes, the commune and caves at Qumran, the finding and controversies around the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the defeat and subsequent victory of the Romans in the first Jewish War.     Graphic Artwork by Ian Armstrong Music Icy Vindur by A. Himitsu  
44:44 09/08/2020
HBH 11: The Worst Year to be Alive Ever
The whole world seems pretty down on 2020. And let's face it, so far 2020 has not distinguished itself for outstanding achievements in the field of excellence.   But is it, as some have argued, the worst year ever? And if it is not, which year carries that dubious honorific?  Which year in history was the worst ever to be a human? Which year in the bigger history of forever was the worst ever to simply be a life form? And why? Many historians have thrown in on this question. Here are some of their answers, and the current consensus champ of the worst historical year ever to be human. At the end I offer my contender for worst year to be a life form ever. Graphic Art: Ian Armstrong  Music: Icy Vindur by A. Himitsu and Hard Times by John Lee Hooker  
42:57 07/17/2020
HBH 10: The Mystery of Consciousness
In today's episode we get heroically pummeled by one of the most intractable -- and maybe insoluble -- mysteries of our existence. A topic that strikes at the core of who we are and what it means to be human.   A short intro to and history of the problem of consciousness. What it is, what it does, how it can (possibly, ever?) be explained, and why it is such a perplexing phenomenon. 'Graphic The History of Being Human by Ian Armstrong Contact me at  
50:41 07/06/2020
HBH 9: Adapt or Die II: Ancient Hominin and Ancestral Human Mysteries
In this episode we square off against some of the many, many puzzles remaining about who and when we came from, including: 0:00  -  0:58   Intro 0:58  -  4:30   The Hominins 4:30  -  6:52   The Earliest Ancestral Human 6:52  - 22:50   The Mystery and Controversy of H. naledi 22:50 - 41:40  The Walking Anachronisms of Red Deer Cave 41:40 - END    The Final Fate of the Neanderthals      
61:42 06/14/2020
HBH 8: The Historical Jesus -- Mysteries of Life and Death
Rushing in again where angels fear to tread. This time into the deep end of the mysterious life of arguably the most influential person in the history of the West, if not the entire world. Who was Jesus? What did he think about himself? Where did he come from, what did he do, how did he die and why?  What were his influences? Was he a disciple of John or not?  Was he married or not? What happened after his death? How do we know any of this? Although not even close to exhaustive, there is a wealth of information in this episode about some of the episodes in the life of Jesus, about what we can and do know about the times and place he lived, about his motivations and influences, and about what happened after his death to vitalize a movement that would take over the Western World.    
73:36 06/01/2020