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Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, science and pseudoscience. Rationally Speaking was co-created with Massimo Pigliucci, is produced by Benny Pollak and recorded in the heart of Greenwich Village.

Current Episodes


Sunday
Sep172017

RS 193 - Eric Jonas on "Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?"

Release date: September 17th, 2017

Eric Jonas

The field of neuroscience has been collecting more and more data, and developing increasingly advanced technological tools in its race to understand how the brain works. But can those data and tools ever yield true understanding? This episode features neuroscientist and computer scientist Eric Jonas, discussing his provocative paper titled "Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?" in which he applied state-of-the-art neuroscience tools, like lesion analysis, to a computer chip. By applying neuroscience's tools to a system that humans fully understand (because we built it from scratch), he was able to reveal how surprisingly uninformative those tools actually are. Julia and Eric also discuss the related question: what kind of tools would we need to really understand the brain?

Eric's Pick: "The Doomslayer" by Ed Regis

Eric's Article: "Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?"

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Sep032017

RS 192 - Jesse Singal on “The problems with implicit bias tests”

Release date: September 3rd, 2017

Jesse Singal

You may have heard of the Implicit Associations Test (IAT) -- one of the most famous instruments from social psychology, it's frequently cited as evidence that most people harbor implicit racism or sexism, even if they aren't aware of it. This episode features science journalist Jesse Singal, who argues that the IAT has been massively overhyped, and that in fact there's little evidence that it's measuring real-life bias. Jesse and Julia discuss how to interpret the IAT, why it became so popular, and why it's still likely that implicit bias is real, even if the IAT isn't capturing it.

Jesse's Pick: "Galileo's Middle Finger" by Alice Dreger

Jesse's Article: "Psychology’s Favorite Tool for Measuring Racism Isn’t Up to the Job"

"My IRB Nightmare" by Scott Alexander

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts 

Monday
Aug212017

RS 191 - Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on "What the internet can tell us about human nature"

Release date: August 20th, 2017

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

There are a lot of sensitive topics about human nature that would be interesting to study, such as people's sexual behavior, or how racist people really are. Researchers studying those questions have always faced the problem that we tend to lie on surveys -- but we don't lie to Google. This episode features Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, economist and data scientist, and author of the book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Seth and Julia discuss the insights new research gives us into which parts of the USA are more racist, what kinds of strategies reduce racism, whether the internet is making political polarization worse, and the sexual fetishes and insecurities people will only admit to their search engine.

Seth's Pick: "The Better Angels of our Nature" by Steven Pinker

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts