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Related Readings
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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.

Current Episodes


Monday
Sep022019

RS 239 - Saloni Dattani on "The debate over whether male and female brains are different"

Release date: September 2nd, 2019

Saloni Dattani

Several recent books have argued there's no difference between male and female brains. Saloni Dattani, a PhD in psychiatric genetics, discusses some of the problems with the argument, and what we really know so far about gender and the brain.

Links

Saloni's Twitter

Saloni's article on the debate over gender and the brain

"Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne

The back-and-forth between Gina Rippon, Cordelia Fine and Daphne Joel versus evolutionary psychologists on gender in the brain and behavior

Research on the digit ratio and prenatal testosterone

Some of the literature in the philosophy of biology regarding innate & socialised differences:

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Monday
Aug192019

RS 238 - Razib Khan on "Stuff I've Been Wrong About"

Release date: August 19th, 2019

Razib Khan

It's rare for public intellectuals to talk about things they've gotten wrong, but geneticist Razib Khan is an exception. He recently published list of 28 things he's changed his mind about in the last decade, not just in genetics, but in other fields of science, politics, society, and religion. Julia interviews Razib about some of the items on the list -- why did he change his mind, and what lessons does he feel he's learned from his past errors?

Links 

Razib's website

Razib's blog post, "Stuff I was wrong about"

"The Fall of Rome: And the End of Civilization" by Bryan Ward-Perkins

Razib's follow-up post about religion and the Roman Empire

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Monday
Aug052019

RS 237 - Andy Przybylski on "Is screen time bad for you?"

Release date: August 5th, 2019

Andrew Przybylski

It's common wisdom that spending a lot of time on your smartphone, or checking social media like Facebook and Twitter, takes a psychological toll. It makes us depressed, insecure, anxious, and isolated -- or so people say. But is there any research to back that up? Julia discusses the evidence with professor Andy Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Links 

Andy's website

Andy on Twitter

"The association between adolescent well-being and digital technology use," a 2019 paper by Andy, and Amy Orben, which we discuss in the episode (it compares the effect size for screen time with other things like eating potatoes, or being bullied)

"The Welfare Effects of Social Media," by Hunt Alcott et al (2019), the randomized controlled trial in which people were paid to deactivate their Facebook profiles, which we discuss in the episode

This thread by Jonathan Haidt contains some valuable debate over the screen time research, and links to a Google Doc in which Haidt and others summarize the top studies.

"Jurassic Park" by Michael Crichton is a book that influenced Andy as a kid - reread it through the lens of incentives in scientific research

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Jul212019

RS 236 - Alex Tabarrok on "Why are the Prices So D*mn High?"

Release date: July 22nd, 2019

Alex Tabarrok

Over the last two decades, the prices of consumer goods like toys and electronics have gone way down, but the prices of health care and education have gone up roughly 200%. Why? In this episode, economist Alex Tabarrok discusses his latest book, co-authored with Eric Heller, "Why are the Prices So D*mn High?," which blames rising costs on a phenomenon called the Baumol Effect.

Links 

"Why are the Prices So D*mn High?" by Alex Tabarrok and Eric Heller

Alex's series of posts on Marginal Revolution summarizing the Baumol effect thesis

Alex's reply to comments/criticism of his thesis

Scott Alexander's post on rising prices and the Baumol effect: "Considerations on Cost Disease"

... and a follow-up post, "Highlights from the Comments on Cost Disease"

Scott's review of Alex's book

... and follow-up

Noah Smith's column on the Baumol effect

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Jul072019

Back in Two Weeks

No new episode this week, folks! Tune back in on July 22nd when Rationally Speaking will resume our regular biweekly update schedule.

Monday
Jun242019

RS 235 - Tage Rai on "Why people think their violence is morally justified"

Release date: June 24th, 2019

Tage Rai (Photo: Reed Hutchinson)

We typically think of violence as being caused by a lack of control, or by selfish motives. But what if, more often than not, violence is intended to be morally righteous? That's the thesis of the book "Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships." Author Tage Rai debates his book's thesis with Julia. Plus: What does The Iliad teach us about changing attitudes about morality over time?

Links 

"Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships" by Alan Fiske and Tage Rai

"The Division of Labor in Society" by Emile Durkheim

"The Iliad" by Homer

Tage Rai's Twitter

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts