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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.

Current Episodes


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 


RS140 - Kenny Easwaran on, "Newcomb's Paradox and the tragedy of rationality"

Release date: August 9, 2015

Kenny EaswaranThis episode of Rationally Speaking features philosopher Kenny Easwaran, who delves into the notorious "Newcomb's Paradox" -- the puzzle about which it was once said, "To almost everyone it is perfectly clear and obvious what should be done. The difficulty is that these people seem to divide almost evenly on the problem, with large numbers thinking that the opposing half is just being silly." Kenny and Julia explore how Newcomb's Paradox is related to other puzzles in decision theory, like the Prisoners' Dilemma; what its implications are for free will; and what Kenny calls the "deep tragedy" at the heart of rationality.

Kenny Easwaran is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at Texas A&M University. He works on several topics relating to epistemology and decision theory, and the role of probability in helping to understand these and related concepts. 

Kenny's pick:  "Thinking, Fast and Slow" 


 Full Transcripts