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Related Readings
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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


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?

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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?

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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."

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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.

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

Saturday
Oct302010

RS21 - Joshua Knobe on Experimental Philosophy

Release date: November 7, 2010


 

Our guest, Joshua Knobe, is a philosopher interested in cognitive science, so interested, in fact, that he has contributed to establishing a whole new branch of inquiry known as experimental philosophy — and he plausibly claims that the name is not actually an oxymoron!

The idea is summarized in this way on one of the major web sites devoted to the enterprise: "Experimental philosophy, called x-phi for short, is a new philosophical movement that supplements the traditional tools of analytic philosophy with the scientific methods of cognitive science. So experimental philosophers actually go out and run systematic experiments aimed at understanding how people ordinarily think about the issues at the foundation of the philosophical discussion.”

Joshua Knobe is an assistant professor at Yale University, affiliated both with the Program in Cognitive Science and the Department of Philosophy. Most of his work involves using the kinds of experimental methods associated with cognitive science to address the kinds of questions associated with philosophy.

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Joshua's picks:

Thursday
Oct212010

RS20 - Q&A With Massimo and Julia

Release date: October 24, 2010


Massimo and Julia answer listeners' questions. In this installment the topics include: can political discourse be rational, who changed M&J's opinion on something and when have they changed someone's opinion, how do they guard against biases when they debate people, the morality of bestiality, and did Samir Okasha really solve the induction problem?

Plus, M&J's favorite sources for philosophy:

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