Search Episodes
Listen, Share, & Support
Listen to the latest episode
Subscribe via iTunes
Subscribe via RSS
Become a fan
Follow on Twitter

Support Us:

Please consider making a donation to help make this podcast possible. Any contribution, great or small, helps tremendously!

 
Subscribe to E-Mail Updates

Related Readings
  • Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life
    Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life
    by Massimo Pigliucci
  • Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    by Massimo Pigliucci
  • Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science
    Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science
    by Massimo Pigliucci

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


Monday
Jan242011

RS27 - The Perihelinox Episode, With Historian Timothy Alborn on Anniversaries

Release date: January 30, 2011


In honor of our first anniversary we invited Historian Timothy Alborn to help us understand the arbitrary nature of anniversaries, both those that mark events of personal significance and those that have a wider societal impact. We chose to record this episode on a very special "holiday": Perihelinox. If you've never heard of it it's because it was recently made up by our producer, Benny Pollak, to celebrate the night of the year when the earth is closest to the sun. Nothing is sacred in this episode, from Christmas to Kwanza, to Hanukkah, to Royal Jubilees. And, the Sex Pistols?

Timothy Alborn is a historian and the Dean of Arts and Humanities at the City University of New York Lehman College (and, incidentally, Massimo's boss). He has a Ph.D. in History of Science from Harvard University. His recent publications include "Regulated Lives: Life Assurance and British Society, 1840-1920" and "Conceiving Companies: Joint-Stock Politics in Victorian England."

Comment on the episode teaser.

Timothy's pick: "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming"

Sunday
Jan092011

RS26 - Is Anthropology Still a Science?

Release date: January 16, 2011


In a recent article in the New York Times, Nicholas Wade reported that the American Anthropological Association had decided “to strip the word ‘science’ from a statement of its long-range plan.” Is this just a reflection of the long standing division between physical and cultural anthropology or is there more here? The revised statement says that “the purposes of the association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects,” a wording that opens the possibility for cultural anthropologists to engage in public advocacy on behalf of cultures they are studying. So, what kind of discipline is  anthropology, after all? And, more broadly, should scientists cross the line from research into public advocacy?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "Stories of Your Life: and Others"
              "... pure idea porn ..."

Massimo's pick: The New York Times' "There Goes the Sun"

Tuesday
Dec282010

RS25 - Q&A With Massimo and Julia

Release date: January 2, 2011


Massimo and Julia answer listeners' questions, while trying to stay away from politics. In this installment the topics include: Is quantitative research more scientific than qualitative? Can philosophers really claim to have expertise on something? Is skepticism just another name for intelligence? How valuable is feminist philosophy? What is Bayesian reasoning? And what are M&J's anti-akrasia strategies?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Thursday
Dec092010

RS24 - Memetics!

Release date: December 19, 2010


The term meme was introduced by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 bestseller "The Selfish Gene." Dawkins was trying to establish the idea that Darwinian evolution is a universal, almost logically necessary phenomenon. He couldn't, however, point to exobiological examples to reinforce the concept of universal Darwinism, so he turned to cultural evolution, renamed “ideas” as “memes” (in direct analogy with genes), and voilà, the field of memetics was born.

Despite staunch support by authors such as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett, among others, serious questions can be raised about memes and memetics as a viable concept and field of inquiry. To begin with, how is memetics different from classical studies of gene-culture co-evolution? Second, what exactly are memes, i.e. what is their ontological status? Third, how do memes compete with each other, and for what resources? Is it even possible to build a functional ecology of memes, without which the statement that the most fit memes are those that spread becomes an empty tautology? Could this explain why the "Journal of Memetics" closed shop, or is it that they discovered everything there was to discover about memes?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality"

Massimo's pick: The New York Times' "The Stone"

Sunday
Nov282010

RS23 - Carol Tavris on Everybody Making Mistakes, Except Us...

Release date: December 5, 2010


Our guest, Carol Tavris discusses her book (co-authored with Elliot Aronson) "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. In it they describe how our powerful cognitive dissonance engine of self-justification gives us the incredible ability to rationalize events and beliefs so that we always end up being better than average at being right.  Also, how we are forced into these rationalizations by our absolute need to somehow square our most dearly held opinions of ourselves with the nasty tendency of some facts to contradict them.

Carol Tavris is a social psychologist who has tought at UCLA. She has written for many publications, including the NY Times and the LA Times. She is the author of a number of books, including "The Mismeasure of Women" and the recently re-released, "Psychobabble and Biobunk."

Comment on the episode teaser.

Carol's picks: 

Saturday
Nov132010

RS22 - Steven Novella on Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science

Release date: November 21, 2010


Our Guest, Dr. Steven Novella discusses a recent article in The Atlantic in which researcher John Ioannidis shows that 40% of papers published in top medical journals are either wrong or make exaggerated claims (and those are the top journals!).  He also discusses the difference between Science and Evidence based medicine. Also, Zombies: are they epidemiologically possible?

Steven Novella is an academic clinical neurologist at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is the host of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, author of the Neurologica blog, and co-editor of the Science Based Medicine blog.

Comment on the episode teaser.

Steven's pick: AMC's "The Walking Dead"