May 24, 2021
56: "We are entropic eddies complex enough to have woken up" - Hugo Award winning Sci-Fi author Peter Watts - Sentientist Conversation
Play • 1 hr 16 min

Peter Watts ( is a Hugo Award winning sci-fi author. His works include the Rifters trilogy (e.g. Starfish) & the Firefall series (e.g. Blindsight). He earned a Ph.D from the Univ of BC Canada. He held several academic positions & worked as a marine-mammal biologist before becoming an author. 

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?” Sentientism is "evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings." The video of our conversation is here on YouTube.

We discuss:

0:00 Welcome

1:30 Peter's Intro - Baptist to biology to sci-fi

- A father so confident in Baptist truth that he encouraged questioning "He taught so many people about the word of god but had somehow failed to reach me"

- Becoming a marine biologist then fleeing the political bullshit

- Becoming a sci-fi author

- Including academic references in sci-fi. "I've been published in Nature more than they have because Nature publishes sci-fi stories!"

- "One of the coolest things about this gig is that scientists seek me out"

4:35 What's real?

- Parental default "We're programmed to imitate & imprint"

- A "rock star" Baptist minister father who trained other ministers. Seeing him struggle with domestic abuse, dementia & being a "non-practicing homosexual"

- "He was the most unjudgmental man I've ever known." "Rolling his eyes at the sin but loving the sinner." Maybe because he was afraid of being judged for being gay. "A tormented, unhappy but wonderful guy"

- Starting to question religion by reading sci-fi

- Robert Heinlein's 'Stranger in a Strange Land' "introduced me to what an asshole the old testament god was". For some reason this hadn't been mentioned in Sunday school

- Interestingly, as a gay minister, dad didn't seem to know about Leviticus

- "Learning just enough from sci-fi novels to be an asshole to my dad"

- "God doesn't really explain anything"

- Being an atheist teenager + later becoming anti-religious

- "Religion is basically a biological epiphenomenon"

- Snorting oxytocin to improve fidelity

- In/out group tribalism

- Once you strip away the rhetoric humans act pretty much like any other mammal

- "Being right is not as important in survival as having the esteem of your social group"

- "Nobody ever achieved exalted social status by saying 'you guys are all fucking morons & here's my evidence'"

- More educated people sometimes just have better post-rationalisations

- "When you think of people as mammals a lot of stuff that seems bat-shit insane suddenly makes sense"

- A soft spot for psionics/telepathy: "Time travelling snuff porn"?

- "We kinda don't know everything yet - isn't that what science is about?"

- Does being open-minded make us vulnerable to fundamentalists?

- "It's easier to fit god than uncertainty onto a bumper sticker"

And much more... (see YouTube or

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Join our "I'm a Sentientist" wall here:

Everyone interested, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. Main one:

Thanks Graham:

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