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Episode 205: Nerdist Podcast
Cara Santa Maria
Nerdist PodcastNerdist Podcast

Nerdist Podcast: Cara Santa Maria

Neuroscientist and science educator Cara Santa Maria sits down with Chris and Jonah to talk about asking strange questions at museums, how Cara teaches science to non-scientists, and where conscientiousness comes from!

This episode is brought to you by Go to My PC. Visit Go to My PC and enter the promo code ‘Nerdist’ for a free 30 day trial!

The World's Smallest Cat is Impossibly Adorable

The World's Smallest Cat is Impossibly Adorable

Google App Matches Selfies with Museum Portraits

Google App Matches Selfies with Museum Portraits

The Sexy Jeff Goldblum Funko You've Always Wanted

The Sexy Jeff Goldblum Funko You've Always Wanted



  1. Smailien says:

    Couldn’t get through 45 minutes of it, can’t stand listening to either side of the political spectrum ramble on without anyone on the opposite side presenting an argument.

  2. Matt Grandis says:

    Thank you, Doc, I’ll gladly accept this title. Actually, I consider myself a skeptic AND an atheist, so … yeah, this is quite all right with me 🙂

  3. @Matt
    I think these kinds of discussions are awesome. Notice how we’re trading ideas instead of insults. We may not agree on every point but we’re not clouding the issue by lashing out with personal attacks. And at the end of the day, everyone who participates in the discussion and is forced to question their precepts will end up the better for it. Prevention of the discussion isn’t an answer to the problem and doesn’t get anybody anywhere.

    I will say that if atheism is what you say it is then it needs a better name. In fact I think I’ll do it right now. By the power vested in me by nobody in particular I hereby strip you of your atheism and dub thee…a skeptic. What do you think?

  4. Matt Grandis says:

    It’s seldom about the arguments, Doc. What it’s about is proof. Faith does not need proof while science relies on proof. This is the breaking point in the discussion. I, too, understand if Fingerbang felt hurt by the mocking tone of the conversation, and I’m sorry. But I don’t think he needs to feel hurt. I don’t feel hurt if someone calls out an irrational atheist. I’d probably be the first one to call him out myself. A christian shouldn’t feel the need to cover for an irrational fundamentalist just because he calls himself a christian, too. We all need to separate ourselves from the damaging influence of fundamentalists.

    There’s one thing about atheism that you’re wrong about, though. Atheism has never claimed and will never claim to have absolute knowledge. That would go against everything science stands for. An important part of being an atheist is the search for answers — by means of the scientific method. An atheist will never be a believer. But if God’s existence is proven by science, an atheist would have to accept that fact. Atheism is not about “hating God”, as many religious people think. It’s not about “denying God”. It’s about not having any compelling reason to believe in God. And while faith by definition is independent of proof or evidence, atheism, just like science, is able to adapt if new evidence emerges.

    Lastly, you who felt hurt by the seemingly mocking comments, have you really listened to the podcast and what Cara said? She told the story of her first love with whom she bonded over atheism. He had a change of heart, probably for shallow reasons, and thrust aside everything that defined their relationship. Don’t tell me you can’t understand how hurtful this is. If you’ve never experienced it yourself, I envy you. Mocking is a way of dealing with the betrayal of this memory. I don’t know about you but I tend to get nasty when I’m hurt, as most people do. It’s not the most likable character trait, I agree. But I understand when people lash out. Look at all the “mocking” comments in context and you’ll see that it’s not about putting down faith as a whole. It’s a personal way of dealing with a difficult matter.

    And, Chris — I’m sorry. I know this kind of discussion is exactly what you tried to prevent. But I guess sometimes it’s good to get some stuff out of your system.

  5. Frankie says:

    I am super attracted to left-handedness too! Everybody has thought that was weird, but I love it. I also forced myself to learn how to write with my left hand. Cool beans. Excellent episode.

  6. @Fingerbang By the way…no shitty hate comments yet. But the day is yet young.

    @Fantas! Correct me if I’m wrong, but Shakespeare (one of the poorest examples of brevity yet greatest examples of wit in history) gave that line to one of his characters as an ironic joke. It was funny because the character was very long winded and still fancied himself very witty. So you can quote me as saying that context is the soul of using famous quotes to burn people.

  7. I actually think that Fingerbang has a valid point even if he comes on a little strong while making it. I can’t speak for him, but from reading his post it appears that it’s not the questioning of his faith that bothers him, it’s the flippant and arrogant tone taken while his faith is being questioned. That might bother anyone.

    This is an interesting battle and it’s one that probably isn’t going to get resolved anytime soon. Quite frankly I don’t see how either side can claim to have absolute knowledge of anything. Theists claim that there is a God, and atheists claim there isn’t. Each side condemns the other and claims superiority over the other. The fact is that neither one of them knows for a fact which side is correct. For all the atheists know some all powerful being created the universe six thousand years ago and gave us a cryptic book to teach us how to live our lives (although the evidence against this is very strong). And for all the Christians know there isn’t a God and the universe exists for reasons we haven’t yet fully uncovered. Maybe the truth lay somewhere between these two extremes.

    I think that the mocking comments on this podcast, though, were more directed at the creationists that absolutely refuse to consider any viewpoint other than their own and label those who believe differently as evil. These creationists, however, are not much worse than the atheists who absolutely refuse to consider any viewpoint other than their own and label those who believe differently as morons. Both sides of this argument, though, are bruised and battered by the douchebaggery of the other side and tend to use the worst examples from the other side to justify their scorn. What can I say? The fundamental things apply as time goes by.

  8. Wendy says:

    As a libertarian atheist I enjoyed the scientific aspects of the conversation. But Ms. Santa Maria’s statement, “reality has a liberal bias”…wow…the arrogance is astonishing. Reality has no bias. Reality has no political leanings. It simply is. To state that one’s political perspective is favoured by reality may be comforting for one’s ego, but is no different than a zealot proclaiming the supremacy of their god. Science exists to objectively measure reality. Not to validate political ideologies.

  9. Roy says:

    @ fingerbang

    I’m sorry you feel that way.
    You seem like a decent guy so please don’t take this as a personal attack:
    Your beliefs do not grant you privilege. No beliefs, how precious they may be, should be exempt of critical evaluation.

    Nobody has the right not to be offended. If one feels offended by a few disparaging remarks that’s just too bad.

    speaking of which:
    Thumbs up to cara for saying her tatoo was a fuck you to creationists. A fuck you to creationists is NOT a fuck you to all religious people.
    Creationists are only a subset of religious people that decided to throw reason and critical thinking out the window in favour of blind faith.

    TFaith is a poor sustitute for reason.

  10. Matt Grandis says:

    But the Venn diagram of Christians and creationists is not a solid circle either (at least I hope so, Atheist speaking here). Science and faith can coexist where they find common ground. Creationism is completely irrational and has been debunked by science again and again and again. So, to me this “fuck you” is directed towards people who deny hard evidence in favour of faith. Which definitely consitutes an “anti-ignorant-jerk” stance, not an anti-theist stance.

  11. Carl says:

    Chris and Jonah tried hard to keep the discussion from getting crazy. I’m sorry Cara gets hate mail. That’s not a Christian thing – that’s a jerk thing. Saying she’s “very proud of” her ink as it’s her “‘fuck you’ to creationists” undermined her comment that faith and science could coexist. The Venn diagram of Christians and dillweeds is not the solid circle she *seemed* to be saying. It ended up coming off very anti-theist, not anti-ignorant-jerk. I do think she actually dislikes assholes; the momentum of the talk just went needlessly far. I wish they could’ve spent more time talking science – she seemed bright – have her back on!
    This comment from a Christian who LOVES science, education and equality (and the Nerdist) (there are lots of us)

  12. Roy says:

    Go Cara Santa Maria! 🙂

    I’m glad that, now, when I hear Santa Maria I can think:’ Oh yeah, that awesome science communicator.” and not just have this song haunting me for the rest of the day.
    (I’ll spare you the Schlager version by Roland Kaiser.)

    It’s good to hear the Huffington Post has a real science section besides the pseudo science and alt-med woo. I’ll be sure to check it out.
    A big, big thanks for discussing mental health so honestly and openly. So many people, including me, are suffering from depression and it’s still too much in the taboo sphere.

  13. Fingerbang says:


    As a conservative-libertarian Christian, it’s so frustrating for me when I like a show that I know is liberally pervasive from the host to most of the audience produces an episode such as this. Don’t get me wrong, I am not bashing the show or the content, but it is hard to listen to a podcast that turns to religion with a completely one-sided and mocking tone. Of course you probably don’t see anything being “mocking” but comments such as, “An old gray bearded guy blows the moon across the sky” are just that, although made in jest are indicative of your true feelings and it comes across that way.

    You make comments such as, “Hey, people are feel to believe anything they want and I respect that”. That’s cool and it sounds like an accepting viewpoint, but a sentiment like that rings hollow when it is made following numerous comments disparaging and mocking religion and religious people. Also, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are secular symbols, not religious.

    I might have been the only one, but everybody who listens to your podcast is not a “Liberal-Huffingtonn Post Reading-Daily Show Kool-Aid drinker”, and as someone who is just now starting to become profitable with this venture you should recognize that and try to have broad appeal from a business standpoint.

    Now I am self-forced to stop listening to the podcast, and it’s not because I want to stay in my little world view bubble as most “liberals” & “Conservatives” do, but honestly do not believe that they do – Example the VAST majority of people I have ever heard bash Fox News have never watched it, or have only watched carefully edited snippets on The Daily Show and formed a concrete opinion based on what someone else told them) But I digest…

    My point is, I simply choose not to subject myself to listening to a one-sided discussion of religion by a group of people who clearly have a mocking viewpoint of religion (Like Cara’s “This is always my “Fuck You” to Creationists…” line Yeah, no hostility there.).

    I know nobody is going to miss me not listening to the show and it won’t affect you in the slightest and there will most likely be a ton of gut-reactive douchebags who will post shitty hate comments in response to my post, but I just wanted to post my honest feedback.

    Very sincerely I wish you the best of luck with everything. You are a talented and entertaining guy and you are building something great with Nerdist. I’m out!

  14. Josh says:

    Hey @Fantas! wit is shit, funny is money.

    HEEE shot the sheriff! But he didn’t shoot no deputy…

  15. Fantas! says:

    They broke up at some point, apparently.

    Quemmento, brevity is the soul of wit. Try and learn that, kiddo.

  16. John48221 says:

    Based on my google image search I guess it’s a fair assumption she’s dating Bill Maher. Just taking a leap.

  17. Justin says:

    Thank you for this podcast. Your discussion on religion and the universe was excellent. More of this, also if Molly Lewis wants to come on that would be a great listen.

  18. Silent Night says:

    Fart fart. Penis penis
    Listen to the hot genius.

    Well that’s my take:)

  19. Another perfect moment was when Cara was telling Jonah that smart people always have that insecurity about their intelligence. You just have to listen to Jonah speak to know that he’s smart, and yet he’s constantly doubting himself, as so many of us do.

    @Josh Consider yourself deputized, cowboy. Wait now THAT was weird. LOL

  20. TooTheMax says:

    It’s funny that everytime I see someone that is not a comedian on the podcast I think “Great, this is going to be a boring episode.” But I am always happy be surprised and completely entertained by it, now I feel a little smarter . Also where are all these beautiful, smart women like Cara and Danica McKellar.

  21. Brandon Reasoner says:

    Thank you for having Cara on the Podcast. As an ex-moron now atheist, I really appreciate her words. Thanks

  22. Brandon Reasoner says:

    Thank you for having Cara on the Podcast. As an ex-moron now atheist, I really appreciate her words.

  23. Patty Marvel says:

    I am *SO* dedicating “21st Century Digital Boy” to this podcast on my show in an hour. Seriously, this may be my favorite podcast ever because it’s *SO* refreshing to hear science and religion discussed so frankly and, to be honest, in a way that mirrors my own world view. I’m a semi-closeted atheist (in at work and to most relatives, out with most friends) and to hear someone else talk about what “works” and what doesn’t for them and, yeah, the repercussions if you dare say ANYTHING outside the mainstream was weirdly comforting and I was cheering at some statements. Shoot, I’ll throw in “Nurds” by The Roaches and The The’s “Armageddon Days are Here (Again)” in honor of Podcast #205. You know what…just call me with requests. Anyone reading this can call my station at 216-368-2208 and request something (preferably something from the 1980s that does NOT suck, so no Motley Crue). I go on the air at 2:00am in the Eastern Time Zone and you can either listen to the live feed or the on-line archive for the next week. Seriously, this episode was AMAZING and I’m celebrating!!!

  24. Josh says:

    @Doctor Quemmento I’m with YOU, bud. Don’t want to seem to forward or anything, but I’ll let you deputize me any day. Wait, was that weird? Anyway, I was sad to hear Chris talk about some of the trolls, and not your incredible comment from the other day. You’re a kick-ass writer, dude. Seriously. I try to be one. But you’re really good. I hope you’re doing something with the written word in your career & life!

    I tried to tell some of the haters over at “You Made it Weird” to chill, but then became the troll-target myself. lol It was kinda funny, in a sad, humans suck kind of way. Ah well. I say take ’em on!

    And as always, enjoy your BURY-TROLL!

  25. Did I immediately go to youtube and find Sam Harris!? YES!

  26. Rob S. says:

    Fart, fart penis. penis
    You all know we mean this
    Our shows are the keenest.
    NOW Gooo Nerdist!!!!!

  27. Thank you for your kind words folks, and for the record I’m not trying to be a self appointed troll Sherriff. It just really irritates me to see such a good finished product with so much hard work put into it get shit on by people for stupid reasons. Some people seem to think that the ability to point out something negative with something that’s good somehow puts them on the same level as the person who actually made the thing that was good. “We would never even TRY to build anything that good, but we can sure tear it the hell down”, they seem to say.

    For example, a funny, engaging, well-spoken neuroscientist is a guest on the Nerdist podcast. She talks very eloquently and intelligently at length about some of the most important questions of our time. She then goes onto the comment section of the podcast to see how the finished product went over with the audience, reads a few of the comments, and feels compelled to apologize because SHE MISPOKE WHILE MAKING A PASSING COMMENT ABOUT A DAMN MOVIE THAT CAME OUT 20 YEARS AGO. Somehow, I feel like we can do better.

    Just consuming something without thinking doesn’t gain you anything. Nitpicking doesn’t make you cool. Having a negative opinion about everything you see doesn’t make you look smart. It makes you look like an asshole. The people who put this content out read these comments and it affects them. Don’t we all know what that’s like? That said, can we pretty please think before we type and maybe raise the level of the conversation?

    By the way @Ryan that sounds like a LOT of responsibility. 🙂 I think we’d be better off with the divide and conquer technique.

  28. April says:

    Yes! I was a little confused the first time I learned about Letter-to-a-Christian-Nation Sam Harris because I thought, “What? Star Search guy?”

  29. Wesley Damian Woolfall says:

    Cara Santa Maria i like what she say

  30. Doh! You are right, folks! Jurassic Park is full of CG. I should’ve read into that more. I was remembering a special I saw about the animatronics in the film and mistakenly thought that they were the main/only special effect used. They were dang realistic for 1993 though! Thanks everyone for listening. I had a blast 🙂

  31. Wesley Marshall says:

    Sam Harris video Chris talked about.

    Your Welcome

  32. TJ LAZER says:

    They heavily used CG in Jurassic Park. I loved the podcast, though!

  33. Kati says:

    This has easily been one of my favorite shows yet. 5 STARS. Thank you guys so much for this treat! :->

  34. amysrevenge says:

    Very good one guys. I love the mix of atheist morality and dick jokes.

  35. Kayla says:

    Best podcast ever. More like this, please! Cara, I love you and your lip ring. Let’s move to Vermont and get gay married and talk science to each other.

  36. Whatdidtusay says:

    I’m not a science or math person, most times when it came to classes I would doze off or become frustrated because I didn’t understand what was being taught, which I now know is from having a learning disability called Dyscalculia. Having said that, I LOVED this podcast, thank you Cara for making science actually understandable and enjoyable to listen to.

  37. Phil says:

    Not to be that guy, but almost all of the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are CGI. They only use animatronics for close ups. While the movie holds up really well, some of the CGI is laughable at times. Still awesome, though.

  38. TheThinker1958 says:

    Cara Santa Maria: the negative comments about the lip-ring might be motivated because men thinks you are beautiful and you shouldn’t “alter” your face with rings.

  39. Liz says:

    I want to like/up vote/etc Doctor Quemmento’s comment for being awesome and then do the same to Matt Grandis for explaining why I wanted to do it in the first place.

    Also, I’m now a bit prouder of being left handed!

  40. Megan says:

    The thing Jonah mentions that changes your taste buds briefly is a “miracle berry”

    Yay for CSM, more science guests!!

  41. Ryan says:

    To Whom it May Concern:
    I nominate Doctor Quemmento as official troll-slayer of the Nerdist comment boards. He has posted two awesome smackdowns in one week (see the John Lithgow episodes comment section).

  42. Great podcast with an incredibly smart scientist who also happens to be an absolutely gorgeous woman! You should seriously consider doing more sciency podcasts. Also, stop having unprotected sex with chimps!! It’s just icky.

  43. Matt Grandis says:

    I’m hopelessly damaged by social media and want to like or plus or whatever your comment, Doc.

  44. @Darek
    Um, maybe if you had listened to the podcast you would know if he asked her that. Also if you have negative things to say about the Huffington Post’s “rampant psuedo-science” they might be better placed on the Huffington Post website rather than here. Don’t get me wrong, we’re all really impressed at how sciency you look when you shit on sciency things for sciency reasons, but I’m just making a suggestion.

    I for one loved the podcast and feel better about humanity for having listened to it. I hereby dub Cara Santa Maria as the anti-Kardashian and applaud the act of putting something out into the world that shows that just because you’re good looking doesn’t mean you have to dumb it down in order to be successful.

  45. Alex says:

    Woohoo, I am left handed so my slim odds just increased slightly!

    Honestly, one of the best discussions on science I have heard in a long time. I love hearing a fellow educator talking about their views on how we learn.

  46. Matt Grandis says:

    I think I’m in love.

  47. Darek says:

    Wait, HuffPo has a science correspondent ? I hope you asked her about the laughable pseudo-science that’s rampant on that site.

  48. SlimCharles says:

    Haven’t listened to it still, but Cara Santa Maria might be the coolest female name ever. And, on a shallow note, she’s easy on the eyes too 🙂