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


Friday
Sep242010

RS18 - Evolutionary Psychology

Release date: September 26, 2010



You’ve heard the claims: men are inclined to cheat on women because natural selection favors multiple offspring from multiple mates, especially if you don’t have to pay child support. Even rape has been suggested to be the result of natural selection in favor of “secondary mating strategies” when the primary ones fail. Welcome to evolutionary psychology, a discipline curiously situated at the interface between evolutionary science and pop psychology, where both wild and reasonable claims seem to clash against the wall of an incredible scarcity of pertinent data.

The issue is not whether it makes sense to apply evolutionary principles to the study of human behavior. Of course it does, human beings are no exception to evolution. But the devil is in the details, and the details deal with the complexities and nuances of how exactly evolutionary biologists test adaptive hypotheses, as well as with the nature of historical science itself.

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "Stumbling on Happiness"

Massimo's pick: "A Short Course in Intellectual Self-Defense"

Thursday
Sep092010

RS17 - Transhumanism

Release date: September 12, 2010


What's so great about being human, anyway? The transhumanist movement -- epitomized by organizations like Humanity+ and blogs like Accelerating Future -- advocate the pursuit of technologies to fundamentally change the human condition, tinkering with our brain, bodies and genomes to make ourselves smarter, stronger, happier, and longer-lived.

But many people worry that tampering with human nature could have dire consequences for individuals and society alike. In Our Posthuman Future, political theorist Francis Fukuyama sums up the position of the bioconservatives when he warns that new technologies may "in some way cause us to lose our humanity -- that is, some essential quality that has always underpinned our sense of who we are and where we are going," he writes. In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Massimo and Julia ask, first, are the goals of transhumanism realistic, and second, are they desirable?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?"

Massimo's pick: "Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error"

Thursday
Aug262010

RS16 - Deferring to Experts

Release date: August 29, 2010


At a talk he gave at TAM 8, Massimo argued that non-experts in a field aren't qualified to reject an expert consensus, such as that on anthropogenic climate change.  Most recently, he has taken Jerry Coyne to task for making a philosophical argument without having the necessary expertise. This raises a number of questions: Are there fields that have no experts, or that have pretend experts?  If there is a lot of disagreement among experts on a topic, should we take any individual expert's opinion less seriously? How much consensus is required before a non-expert should say, "OK, looks like this question really is settled"?

Perhaps noted expert George Carlin had it right when he said: "I have as much authority as the pope, I just don't have as many people who believe it."

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion"

Massimo's pick: "Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . .: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes"

Sunday
Aug082010

RS15 - Q&A with Massimo and Julia

Release date: August 15, 2010


In the first of what we hope will be a regular feature of Rationally speaking, Massimo and Julia answer listeners' questions. These range from what are M & J's sacred cows, to how we should approach morally repugnant claims made by venerated philosophers, to whether we are deluding ourselves believing that our votes count.

Comment on the episode teaser.

Saturday
Jul242010

RS14 - Jennifer Michael Hecht on Science, Religion, Happiness, and Other Myths

Release date: August 1, 2010


Author, science historian, philosopher, and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht discusses her views on science, religion, and skepticism.  She talks about her book "The Happiness Myth", showing how the very concept of happiness has changed dramatically both in time and across cultures, to the point that it may make little sense to simply ask “are you happy”? Also she makes her skeptical comments on the findings of science, for instance concerning eating and exercise habits, and how the skeptic community's reliance on science borders on religion.

Jennifer teaches at the New School in New York City. She is the author of "Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson" and of "The Happiness Myth: The Historical Antidote to What Isn't Working Today", among other books.

Comment on the episode teaser.

Jennifers's pick: The websites "HiLoBrow" and Best American Poetry

Friday
Jul162010

RS13 - Superstition, Is It Good For You?

Release date: July 18, 2010


Is it possible that superstition is actually good for you? Well, it turns out that superstition may, at least some of the time, have beneficial effects.  A paper published in 2008 in Science for example, suggests that lacking control over a situation increases people’s propensity to see illusory patterns — the implication being that the latter (a typical component of superstition) ameliorates stress when we feel that things are out of hand.  Also, a recent study published in Psychological Science shows that superstition improves people’s performance on certain tasks, presumably by making them more self-confident than they would be otherwise. Add to this a recent article in Scientific American to the effect that people with Asperger’s syndrome are less likely to project agency onto life’s events (and hence tend to be less superstitious), and suddenly the skeptic might not feel so cocky about being skeptical.

Of course we're not advocating in favor of superstition on the sole ground that it may be psychologically helpful. Still, what happens when something that we devote so much time fighting against turns out not to be entirely bad after all?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like"

Massimo's pick: The Epistemelinks website