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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


Wednesday
Jul222015

RS139 - Eric Schwitzgebel on "Moral hypocrisy: why doesn't knowing about ethics make people more ethical?"

Release date: July 26, 2015

Eric SchwitzgebelYou might expect that professional ethicists -- people whose job it is to determine which behaviors are ethical and why -- would behave more ethically than other people. You'd be wrong! This episode features philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel , who is well known for his work studying whether experts in ethics live up to their own standards. He and Julia discuss why the answer is "no," and explore questions like, "How do you decide how moral you're going to try to be?" 

Eric Schwitzgebel is a Professor of Philosophy at University of California at Riverside. He is the co-author (with Russell T. Hurlburt) of Describing Inner Experience?: Proponent Meets Skeptic and blogs at The splintered Mind.

Eric's pick:  "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion" 

 

 

Full Transcripts 


Friday
Jul102015

RS138 - Ian Morris on, "Why the West rules -- for now"

Release date: July 12, 2015

Ian Morris For several centuries, historians have tried to answer the question: "Why is Western Europe (and later, North America) the dominant world power?" Past explanations cited culture, or "great men" who influenced the course of history. Stanford historian Prof. Ian Morris casts doubt on those explanations, instead taking a data-driven approach to the question that attempts to measure "social development" over history and find explanations for it. In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia delves into Morris' method and conclusions, and asks: can we make causal inferences about history?

Ian Morris is Willard Professor of Classics and Fellow of the Archaeology Center, Stanford University. He is a historian and archaeologist. He has excavated in Britain, Greece, and Italy, most recently as director of Stanford's dig at Monte Polizzo, a native Sicilian site from the age of Greek colonization. He is also the author of a number of books, among them: "Why the West Rules--for Now". "War! What Is It Good For?", and "Foragers, Farmers, and Fossil Fuels."

Ian's pick:  "Violence: A Modern Obsession" 

 Full Transcripts 


Thursday
Jun252015

RS137 - Marc Lipsitch on, "Should scientists try to create dangerous viruses?"

Release date: June 28, 2015

Marc LipsitchA controversial field of research is "gain-of-function," in which scientists take a virus (like a strain of flu) and attempt to make it more dangerous, for example by making it transmissible in mammals when it had previously been solely an avian flu. The motivation is to learn how viruses might mutate in nature so that we can be prepared -- but what if those engineered "superbugs" escape the lab and start a pandemic? In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Harvard professor of epidemiology Marc Lipsitch argues that the risks outweigh the benefits, and that we should halt gain-of-function research as soon as possible.

Marc Lipsitch is Professor of Epidemiology with primary appointment in the Department of Epidemiology and a joint appointment in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases. He directs the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, a center of excellence funded by the MIDAS program of NIH/NIGMS. He is also the Associate Director of the Interdisciplinary Concentration in Infectious Disease Epidemiology.

Marc's pick:  "Driving in the Dark: Ten Propositions About Prediction and National Security" 

NEW: Full Transcripts