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Related Readings
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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.

Rationally Speaking is produced by Benny Pollak and recorded in the heart of New York City's Greenwich Village.

Don't forget to follow us on twitter and become fan of the RS Podcast on Facebook. You can also support Rationally Speaking by joining New York City Skeptics today.

Current Episodes

Sunday
Jun262011

RS38 - Holden Karnofsky on Evidence-based Philanthropy

Release date: July 3, 2011


Our guest Holden Karnofsky joins us to discuss Givewell, the nonprofit organization he founded. Givewell is devoted to investigating charities and NGOs to determine how much of an impact they’re having. You could call it “evidence-based philanthropy.” He discusses how Givewell evaluates charities, and what the research has to say about various controversies as well as the conventional wisdom in the nonprofit world: Can large charities be efficient? Is the percentage of the donation that goes to expenses really a useful metric? Should we focus on problems closer to home instead of giving to foreign countries? Do microfinance NGOs like Kiva or Grameen Bank live up to their claims? And should or can charities be evaluated objectively?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Holden's picks: "Core Economics", "More Than Good Intentions", and "Portfolios of the Poor".

Saturday
Jun112011

RS37 - The Science and Philosophy of Happiness

Release date: June 16, 2011


Debates over what’s important to happiness — Money? Children? Love? Achievement? — are ancient and universal, but attempts to study the subject empirically are much newer. What have psychologists learned about which factors have a strong effect on people’s happiness and which don’t? Are parents really less happy than non-parents, and do people return to their happiness “set point” even after extreme events like winning the lottery or becoming paralyzed? We also tackle some of the philosophical questions regarding happiness, such as whether some kinds of happiness are “better” than others, and whether people can be mistaken about their own happiness. But, perhaps the hardest question is: can happiness really be measured?

Comment on the episode teaser.

NOTE: Our reply to the accusations made by Jennifer Michael Hecht regarding this episode may be found here.

Wednesday
Jun012011

RS36 - Why Should We Care About Teaching the Humanities?

Release date: June 5, 2011


Universities all around the country are closing programs in the humanities, at least in part because of the increasing widespread attitude that higher education should be treated as a business, and that programs that bring in money in the form of high tuitions from students and external grants are to be prioritized. SUNY Albany, for example, announced in the Fall of 2010 that the departments of French, Italian, Classics, Russian and Theater Arts were being eliminated. So, what is the point of studying languages, literature, history or philosophy? Can we, and perhaps more importantly, should we quantify their value? Can we have universities that focus only on science and marketable skills?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  Givewell.org

Massimo's pick: "The Philosophers' Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding"