EF19 Show Notes

(EF19) BTP-EF4: Head Transplantation and Finding Inspiration for Speculative Fiction Behind the Podcast of Episode EF4


Looking to play or download the episode? Click here… EF19 (BTP-EF4): Head Transplantations and Finding Inspiration for Speculative Fiction — Behind the Podcast of Episode EF4

Episode EF19 Summary

Spoiler alert: You’re about to listen to a Behind the Podcast (BTP) of Episode EF4, which was Season 1, Episode 2 of the Evolve Faster Podcast titled The Decapitation of Reason: A Skeptic’s Guide.  The driving question of this episode (and this BTP) for you to think through is … How can you know anything? It’s a fascinating question that actually has surprisingly little research or philosophical investigation.

As a reminder about Episode EF4: At the height of his success, a controversial philosopher named Ian Ament reveals a dangerous plan to do a head transplant swap with his brother. Nobody knows why and both the scientific and medical communities at large are very concerned. In a tense live interview being viewed around the world with a potential surgeon, Ross Hunter, Ament methodically explains his reasoning. Yet his reasons only bring more questions. Is there something more behind Ament’s plan? For the next 60 minutes of this interview, the historical arc of reason—and Ian’s head—are both on the chopping block as we wait to find out if the ax will fall.

The second episode of the first season of the Evolve Faster Podcast Episode is driven by the big question How can we know anything. Back in 2017 when the controversial head transplant was announced we learned that there are exactly two crazy enough people to try it out. One would use the knife and the other would go under the knife. Since the surgery was canceled, we still don’t know what the results might have been, but we can speculate and create a knowledge template for when it happens.

To peek behind the curtain of Episode EF4, we’ll dissect the following submitted questions:

  • I remember hearing about the head transplant operation in real life. Were you inspired by that?
  • You have said this Episode could have been the best in the season, but wasn’t … why? And how did it change the podcast?
  • Was the rationalism-empiricism-skepticism thing just a red herring? Or is that legit rationale?
  • Do you make the music? That last track is intense!
  • This Story was complex to follow, what were the challenges in writing it?
  • Could we really discover if there’s soul?
  • Would the consequences be as bad as you predict? (History being rewritten)?
  • And more…


DEDICATION: Episode EF4 is dedicated to Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist, and reason-fanatic who, like Ian Ament in Episode EF4, might be willing to cut off his head if it would prove something fundamental about science. Perhaps something near and dear to his heart like disproving the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster might justify decapitation.

Dawkins coined the term meme just like Monty Python coined spam. His work on popularizing the gene as the central unit of evolutionary selection puts him on ‘Darwin of the modern era’ lists, at least in the popular sphere. And similar to the ubiquitous utility of the word spam in an internet flooded with junk, the word meme is synonymous with the current fake news epoch. It’s also likely to be the key concept for which Dawkins will be known.

If we take Dawkins’ perspective and look at individuals as “survival machines”, we can see the irony behind our need to be right. It is not a biological survival, but survival in the arena of opinion where several collections of knowledge are always fighting to be right. Knowledge is less and less used to prove a fact and more to establish a subjective point. It’s a slippery slope because although one side might have the correct facts, they aren’t the goal, but a tool to defeat the opponent.

People aren’t sharing the facts to enrich each other’s knowledge, but to fight, win, and survive. This tendency appears almost to be a biological instinct hardwired in all one of us. Because in the end, we are all only human.


In Episode EF4, the protagonist Ian Ament goes all in to shake the very foundation of humanity without questioning the possible downsides or what might physically happen to him. Progress, it seems, only proceeds in a single direction.

Whether you agree with all of his viewpoints or his combative style, Dawkins’ work is a plethora of thoughtful insights about humanity. Here is more you can check out if you want to learn more:


INSPIRATIONS: Charles Darwin, a man haunted by his discovery of what humanity might be, and the heavy burden of what that knowledge meant in a society still living in the dark. Mary Shelley, the famous writer of the novel Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus who dared to cut off more than just one limb with her pen. David Hume, a famous philosopher who is directly responsible for developing three contrary schools of thought. Because why should what we know limit us? Sergio Canavero, a neuroscientist who quite literary plans to bring Mary Shelley’s work to life. Episode EF4 was further inspired by Sergei Brukhonenko, Vladimir Demikhov, Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn, Plato, David Hume, Epicurus, Friedrich Nietzsche, Nicolaus Copernicus, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin. For a full list of data and references please, see Episode EF4 Show Notes.


Brian Wang, First Human Head Transplant will still happen soon based upon millions in sunk costs, www.nextbigfuture.com. https://www.nextbigfuture.com/2018/07/first-human-head-transplant-will-still-happen-soon-based-upon-millions-in-sunk-costs.html (Accessed: Feb 13, 2019).
Speculative Fiction, wikipedia.org.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_fiction (Accessed: Feb 13, 2019).

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