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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
May012016

RS 158 - Dr. George Ainslie on "Negotiating with your future selves"

Release date: May 1st, 2016

Dr. George Ainslie

Ever make a plan to diet, or exercise, or study, and then -- when the scheduled hour rolls around -- decide, "Nah, I'll just put it off another day"? If you said "no," I don't believe you!

This episode features behavioral psychiatrist (and economist) George Ainslie, who demonstrated the existence of this ubiquitous phenomenon in human willpower, called hyperbolic discounting, in which our preferences change depending on how immediate or distant the choice is.

George and Julia discuss why hyperbolic discounting exists, and how it can be modeled as a negotiation between your current self and your future selves. In the process they explore some of the benefits and risks of this "intertemporal bargaining" approach to willpower, and how it relates to philosophical thought experiments such as the Prisoner's Dilemma and Kavka's Toxin.

George's Pick: "The Strategy of Conflict" by Thomas C. Schelling

George's Other Pick: "Inside Out"

Podcast edited by Brent Silk

 

Full Transcripts 

 

Sunday
Apr172016

RS 157 - Dr. Herculano-Houzel on "What made the human brain special?"

Release date: April 17th, 2016

Dr. Herculano-Houzel

For centuries, scientists have wondered what makes humans so much smarter than other species. Some proposed it was the size of our brain (though that didn't explain why whales weren't smarter than us); others thought it was the size of our brain relative to our body size (but there were problems with that explanation as well). In this episode, neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel lays out the mystery of the "Human advantage," and explains how a new technique she invented several years ago has shed light on some of these longstanding mysteries.

 

Suzana's Book: "The Human Advantage"
Suzana's Pick: "Catching Fire" by Richard Wrangham

Podcast edited by Brent Silk

 

Full Transcripts 

 

Sunday
Apr032016

RS 156 - David McRaney on “Why it’s so hard to change someone’s mind”

Release date: April 3rd, 2016

David McRaney

You're probably already aware that it's hard to change someone's mind with logical arguments and evidence, especially about emotionally charged topics. But are there exceptions?

David McRaney, bestselling author of "You Are Not So Smart" (and host of the blog and podcast by the same name) describes his experiences with people who have done an about-face on some important topic, like 9/11 conspiracy theories. He and Julia discuss a technique for changing someone's mind with evidence, how individual mind-change mirrors scientific progress, and what happens when you confront Trump fans with facts that contradict their narrative.

 

David's Picks:
"Invisible Gorilla" by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
"How We Know What Isn't So" by Thomas Gilovich

Podcast edited by Brent Silk

 

Full Transcripts 

 

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