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Related Readings
  • Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life
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  • Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science
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Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join hosts Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, science and pseudoscience.

Current Episodes


Monday
Nov282011

RS49 - Eugenie C. Scott on Denialism of Climate Change and Evolution

Release date: December 4, 2011


Our guest Eugenie C. Scott joins us to talk about a new initiative of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) to tackle denialism of global warming. Both evolution and global warming are “controversial issues” in the public sphere, but are not controversial in the world of science. There is some overlap between the two issues, but far more people are climate change deniers than evolution deniers. What is interesting to skeptics, however, is the similarity in the techniques that are used by both camps to promote their views. The scientific issues are presented as “not being settled,” or that there is considerable debate among scientists over the validity of claims.

Evolution and global warming opponents also demonize the opposition by accusing them of fraud or other wrong-doing. Denialists in both camps practice “anomaly mongering,” in which a small detail seemingly incompatible with either evolution or global warming is considered to undermine either evolution or climate science. Although in both cases, reputable, established science is under attack for ideological reasons, the underlying ideology differs: for creationism, the ideology of course is religious; for global warming, the ideology is political and/or economic.

Dr. Eugenie C. Scott is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, and sits on the Board of Advisors for the New York City Skeptics. She has written extensively on the evolution-creationism controversy and is past president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists. Scott is the 2010 recipient of the National Academy of Science's Public Welfare Medal. She is the author of "Evolution vs Creationism" and co-editor, with Glenn Branch, of "Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools."

Eugenie's pick: "SkepticalScience.com"

Sunday
Nov132011

RS48 - Philosophical Counseling

Release date: November 20, 2011


Our guest Lou Marinoff joins us to discuss philosophical counseling, a recent trend to use philosophy as a type of talk therapy. Now, despite the provocative title of his best-selling book, “Plato, Not Prozac!: Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems,” the idea is actually not to replace psychiatric medications with chats about the ancient Greeks. Rather, as he puts it in the introduction to the volume, you should take your medications if you really need them, but once your brain is back to a normal functionality you will likely still be faced with the same existential problems that plague most human beings. And that’s where philosophy might help.

Lou Marinoff is the Chair of the Department of Philosophy at The City College of New York and a founder of the American Philosophical Practitioners Association. His other books include "The Middle Way: Finding Happiness in a World of Extremes" and "Therapy for the Sane."

Lou's pick: "The Philosophical Practitioner"

References:

 In this episode our guest claims that Thomas Hobbes anticipate key Freudian concepts. Here are some examples, drawn from Leviathan (1651):

  1. Freud insisted that there are no "mental accidents": each thought follows from another, determinstically.

  2. "When a man thinketh on anything whatsoever, his next thought after is not altogether so casual as it seems to be. Not every thought to every thought succeeds indifferently." -- Leviathan, chapter 3.

  3. Freud insisted on the meaningfulness of dreams, as the "royal road to the unconscious."

    "... the thoughts are said to wander, and seem impertinent to one another, as in a Dream ... And yet in this wild ranging of the mind, a man may oft-times perceive the way of it, and the dependence of one thought upon another." -- Leviathan, chapter 3.

  4. Freud made much hay with "free association" of words and thoughts.

    "For in a discourse of our present civil war, what could seem more impertinent than to ask, as one did, what was the value of a Roman penny? Yet the coherence to me was manifest enough. For the thought of the war introduced the thought of the delivering up the King to his enemies; the thought of that brought in the thought of the delivering up of Christ; and that again the thought of the 30 pence, which was the price of that treason: and thence easily followed that malicious question; and all this in a moment of time, for thought is quick." -- Leviathan, chapter 3

  5. Freud insisted that human will is not free; rather, is a plaything of our affects and desires.

    "And therefore if a man should talk to me of ... a free will; or any free but free from being hindered by opposition; I should not say he were in an error, but that his words were without meaning; that is to say, absurd." -- Leviathan, chapter 5. "In deliberation, the last appetite, or aversion, immediately adhering to the action, or to the omission thereof, is that we call the will; the act, not the faculty, of willing. And beasts that have deliberation must necessarily also have will. The definition of the will, given commonly by the Schools, that it is a rational appetite, is not good. For if it were, then could there be no voluntary act against reason. For a voluntary act is that which proceedeth from the will, and no other. But if instead of a rational appetite, we shall say an appetite resulting from a precedent deliberation, then the definition is the same that I have given here. Will, therefore, is the last appetite in deliberating. " -- Leviathan, chapter 6.

  6. Hobbes also anticipated the DSM:  "In sum, all passions that produce strange and unusual behaviour are called by the general name of madness. But of the several kinds of madness, he that would take the pains might enrol a legion." --Leviathan, chapter 8.

 

Saturday
Oct292011

RS47 - SETI

Release date: November 6, 2011


Is the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, solid science, pseudoscience, or something else, as Massimo argues in his book "Nonsense on Stilts"? What are the theoretical foundations and empirical evidence that justify a multi-decade research program, and what are its chances of succeeding? Have we learned anything thanks to SETI? Also, if the universe is infinite, what problems does this pose for utilitarian ethics?

Julia's pick:  "Ask a Mathematician / Ask a Physicist"

Massimo's pick: "Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside (Popular Culture and Philosophy)"

References:
http://philpapers.org/rec/KUKSOT
http://carl.nbalternatives.com
http://www.nickbostrom.com/extraterrestrial.pdf
http://mcirkovic.aob.rs/paper_v4.pdf
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation