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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


RS143 - Scott Aaronson on "The theorem that proves rationalists can't disagree"

Release date: September 20, 2015

Scott AaronsonCan rational people disagree? This episode of Rationally Speaking features guest Scott Aaronson. Scott is a professor of computer science at MIT and has written about "Aumann's Agreement Theorem," which is related to Bayesian probability theory and seems to imply that two people cannot rationally disagree after they've shared their opinions and information with each other. Julia and Scott discuss how to reconcile Aumann's theorem with real-world disagreements, and explore the disconcerting question: Why should you favor your own beliefs, just because they're yours?


Scott's pick: Any book by Rebecca Goldstein, starting with "The Mind Body Problem."

 Full Transcripts 


RS142 - Paul Bloom on "The case against empathy"

Release date: September 6, 2015

Paul Bloom"I'm writing a book on empathy," psychologist Paul Bloom tells people. They respond warmly, until he follows up with, "I'm against it." On this episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia and Paul discuss what empathy is, why Paul is concerned that it's a terrible guide to moral decision making, and what the alternatives are.

Paul Bloom is a Canadian American professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University. His research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world.

Paul's pick: Fredrik deBoer's blog, "Tapped Out," and "Hannibal."



Full Transcripts 


RS141: Dan Sperber on "The Argumentative Theory of reason"

Release date: August 23, 2015

Dan SpeberThe traditional story about reason is that it evolved to help humans see the world more clearly and (thereby) make better decisions. But on that view, some mysteries remain: why is the human brain so biased? Why are we so much better at defending our pre-existing views than at evaluating new ideas objectively?

In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia talks with guest Dan Sperber, professor of cognitive and social sciences, who is famous for advancing an alternate view of reason: that it evolved to help us argue with our fellow humans and convince them that we're right.

Dan Sperber is a social and cognitive scientist. His most influential work has been in the fields of cognitive anthropology and linguistic pragmatics. Sperber currently holds the positions of Directeur de Recherche émérite at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Director of the International Cognition and Culture Institute.

Dan's picks:  "Speaking Our Minds," and

Link: "Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory" With Hugo Mercier.


 Full Transcripts