10: Nonsense on Stilts

June 6, 2010 The focus of this episode is Massimo’s new book, Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk. The book, broadly speaking, is about what philosopher Karl Popper famously called the demarcation problem: how do we tell the difference among science, non-science and pseudoscience?  We explore the complex relationship among these, ranging from … Read more

9: When smart people endorse pseudoscience

May 23, 2010 It is very easy to make fun of not-so-educated people who reject evolution, but what happens when one of the most prominent contemporary philosophers, Jerry Fodor, writes a book about “What Darwin Got Wrong”? Similarly, we can dismiss extreme right wing politicians like Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who thinks global warming is … Read more

11: The creation and ID wars

June 20, 2010 Our special guest this episode is Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, the premiere organization fighting for sound scientific educational standards in this country, and a permanent thorn in the ass of creationists and IDers nationwide. Genie updates us on the status of the ID and creationist wars, … Read more

7: Is string theory “not even wrong”? (Peter Woit)

April 25, 2010 We are taking on fundamental physics! Our guest, Peter Woit, is a physicist in the Department of Mathematics at Columbia University and author of Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law. We discuss the apparently peculiar state of theoretical physics (see also Lee Smolin’s The Trouble with … Read more

6: Fluffy thinking

April 11, 2010 Fluffy Thinking is a peculiar type of uncritical thinking that sounds sophisticated, and is next to impossible to criticize frontally both because it barely has anything to do with empirical evidence, and because it is hard to articulate what, exactly, these people are saying. These people include scientific luminaries like Freeman Dyson … Read more

5: The need for a space program (Neil deGrasse Tyson)

March 28, 2010 Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson joins Massimo and Julia to discuss the need for a space program. Many scientists (and most people in the skeptic community) simply assume that funding outlets like NASA are a good idea. But, can scientists justify the enormous expense involved, not just in terms of their personal curiosity, … Read more

4: The great atheist debate over the limits of science

March 14, 2010 “Accommodationist” is a word that began to appear in recent months during public debates over science and religion. The derogatory term has been applied to atheists and rationalists like Eugenie Scott, at the National Center for Science Education, and Chris Mooney, science writer at Discover Magazine, who maintain that science and faith … Read more

3: Can history be a science? (Peter Turchin)

February 28, 2010 Guest Prof. Peter Turchin from the University of Connecticut joins Massimo and Julia to discuss whether history can be studied and understood in a scientific manner. In an article in Nature (3 July 2008) on what he termed “cliodynamics,” he discusses the possibility of turning history into a science.  In it, he proposes that … Read more

2: Love, a skeptical inquiry

February 14, 2010 Will science ever really be able to explain love? Science has already found correlations between particular hormones and certain forms or stages of love. However, no matter how many correlations we find between brain activity and love, correlation does not imply causation. And what does it mean to explain love scientifically — … Read more

1: Why be rational?

February 1, 2010 Why is “speaking rationally” a worthwhile goal, anyway? It’s not self-evident, at least not to many people. Human beings certainly don’t seem made for it. Aristotle may have famously dubbed us “the rational animal,” but cognitive science tells a different story, with plenty of evidence that our brains blithely flout logic all … Read more