Matters of Life & Death

In each episode of Matters of Life and Death, brought to you by Premier Unbelievable, John Wyatt and his son Tim discuss issues in healthcare, ethics, technology, science, faith and more. John is a doctor, professor of ethics, and writer and speaker on these topics, while Tim is a religion and social affairs journalist. We talk about how Christians can better engage with a particular question of life, death or something else in between.

Medical Assistance in Dying 1: Judicial activism, a ‘reasonably foreseeable’ death, the unacceptability of suffering, and reasons to stay alive

18 Jan 2023

Since 2016, Canada has offered assisted suicide through its public healthcare system. And the criteria for Medical Assistance in Dying has steadily expanded year on year, and will soon include not just those suffering from terminal conditions, but al...

Martin Rees 3: Pre-emptive science fiction, the morality-reality gap, adventurers on Mars, and the mind of the Creator

11 Jan 2023

In the third and final installment of John’s discussion with Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal, they discuss Martin’s views on the future of space travel and astronauts, and whether some robotic future progeny of humankind will eventually replac...

Martin Rees 2: Blurred humanity, re-dignifying care work, algorithms reading lung X-rays, and the risks of virtual life

4 Jan 2023

Happy New Year! Today’s episode continues the Big Conversation between John and Martin Rees, the astronomer royal. In this part, they respond to robotics experts who welcome the arrival of non-human machines which could take over care work, healthcar...

Martin Rees 1: Advances in artificial intelligence, the Eliza effect, passing the Turing Test, and the problem of other minds

28 Dec 2022

Today’s episode is a little different from normal as we’re going to begin a short series sharing a recent conversation John had with Lord Martin Rees, the astronomer royal. As well as a highly distinguished cosmologist and astrophysicist, Martin is.....

Social media and politics 2: A mucky business, the ultimate conspiracy theory, ‘showbiz for ugly people’, and and atomised individuals

21 Dec 2022

In the second half of our conversation with Tim Farron, we discuss his conviction that Christians should get stuck into politics despite its compromises and challenges. Why did his own term as leader of the Liberal Democrats come unstuck so badly, an...

Social media and politics 1: The judgemental society, 3,000 offensive tweets a day, freedom from vs freedom to, and Elon Musk’s Twitter

14 Dec 2022

This week we’re joined by the former leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron to discuss social media and politics. Research suggests UK members of parliament like Tim get sent thousands of offensive tweets every single day. Why have social network...

Mental health 2: Emotional resilience, the bio-psycho-social model, the power of story, and depression in the Psalms

7 Dec 2022

In the second half of our discussion with Christian psychiatrist Daniel Maughan, we work through some ways in which the church might play in role in supporting those struggling with their mental health back to fullness of life. But is there also a pl...

Mental health 1: Power dynamics, the psychiatrist as brick wall, casualties of social media, and over-pathologising distress

30 Nov 2022

Since the covid pandemic there has been an alarming rise in people presenting with mental health problems. Today we speak with Christian psychiatrist Daniel Maughan to better understand why this might be happening, how our mental healthcare systems a...

Dependence 2: The Panopticon at home, evangelising to retirees, existential angst in the House of Lords, and rejecting self-sufficiency

23 Nov 2022

In the second part of our conversation on ageing and dependence, we think about how secular society has tried to ameliorate the crisis of isolated older people with technological solutions. Can the smart home or robotics really save us from having to...

Dependence 1: Isolated elderly people, altruistic suicide, a second childhood, and a crucified hero

16 Nov 2022

We’ve discussed in previous episodes the looming ‘demographic timebomb’ – a growing mass of elderly and increasingly chronically ill people in many developed nations, expected to place huge strain on public resources. The policy debates around this i...

Protestant Social Teaching 2: The ars moriendi, open casket funerals in Derry Girls, the end of Christendom and ethical quietism

9 Nov 2022

Resuming our conversation with Rhys Laverty from the Davenant Institute, we look at John’s contribution to the Protestant Social Teaching book – a chapter exploring post-Reformation tradition around death and dying. What might medieval and early mode...

Protestant Social Teaching 1: Overlap with Catholicism, chronological snobbery, rejecting one-size-fits-all ethics, and ‘worldly’ versus ‘spiritual’ matters

2 Nov 2022

Over 150 years the Catholic Church has built up a body of ethical doctrine commonly known as Catholic Social Teaching, which applies Catholic theology to wider social concerns, covering everything from labour relations to contraception. In this episo...

AI sentience 2: I-Thou relationships, talking to stuffed animals, thanking Alexa, and Turing red flag laws

26 Oct 2022

Building on last week’s discussion of AI chatbots, we consider the theology and sociology of why interacting with other human beings is so central to our personhood. But would it matter if we did enter into a counselling or caring relationship with a...

AI sentience 1: Blake Lemoine and LaMDA, trillions of words, mute idols, and the God who speaks

19 Oct 2022

Earlier this year, a Google engineer went public with his concerns an artificial intelligence chatbot program he had been testing had become sentient. Although his fears were dismissed by Google’s bosses, parts of his conversations with the softwar.....

Matters of Life and Death: The book reconsidered, the Moscow State University reading list, audiobooks, and the decline of the reading Christian

12 Oct 2022

Twenty-four years ago, John published the book which gave this podcast its name: Matters of Life and Death. His first foray into Christian writing and teaching on ethics, it’s now available as an audiobook for the first time which we’re using as an e...

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