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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


Sunday
Oct012017

RS 194 - Robert Wright on "Why Buddhism is True"

Release date: October 1st, 2017

Robert Wright

This episode features bestselling author Robert Wright making the case for why Buddhism was right about human nature: its diagnosis that our suffering is mainly due to a failure to see reality clearly, and its prescription that meditation can help us see more clearly. Robert and Julia discuss whether it's suspicious that a religion turned out to be "right" about human nature, what it means for emotions to be true or false, and whether there are downsides to enlightenment.

Robert's Pick: "Beyond Freedom and Dignity" by B.F. Skinner

Robert's Book: "Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment"

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Sep172017

RS 193 - Eric Jonas on "Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?"

Release date: September 17th, 2017

Eric Jonas

The field of neuroscience has been collecting more and more data, and developing increasingly advanced technological tools in its race to understand how the brain works. But can those data and tools ever yield true understanding? This episode features neuroscientist and computer scientist Eric Jonas, discussing his provocative paper titled "Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?" in which he applied state-of-the-art neuroscience tools, like lesion analysis, to a computer chip. By applying neuroscience's tools to a system that humans fully understand (because we built it from scratch), he was able to reveal how surprisingly uninformative those tools actually are. Julia and Eric also discuss the related question: what kind of tools would we need to really understand the brain?

Eric's Pick: "The Doomslayer" by Ed Regis

Eric's Article: "Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?"

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Sep032017

RS 192 - Jesse Singal on “The problems with implicit bias tests”

Release date: September 3rd, 2017

Jesse Singal

You may have heard of the Implicit Associations Test (IAT) -- one of the most famous instruments from social psychology, it's frequently cited as evidence that most people harbor implicit racism or sexism, even if they aren't aware of it. This episode features science journalist Jesse Singal, who argues that the IAT has been massively overhyped, and that in fact there's little evidence that it's measuring real-life bias. Jesse and Julia discuss how to interpret the IAT, why it became so popular, and why it's still likely that implicit bias is real, even if the IAT isn't capturing it.

Jesse's Pick: "Galileo's Middle Finger" by Alice Dreger

Jesse's Article: "Psychology’s Favorite Tool for Measuring Racism Isn’t Up to the Job"

"My IRB Nightmare" by Scott Alexander

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts