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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


RS61 - Willpower

Release date: May 20, 2012

This episode of Rationally Speaking is all about the age-old problem of willpower: why don't we do what we know is best for us? Massimo introduces some of the early philosophical approaches to this puzzle, and then Massimo and Julia go over more recent scientific research on the issue (for example: does resisting temptation deplete your reserves of willpower, or does it strengthen your willpower "muscle"?). They also examine possible solutions to the problem, including betting and precommitment, and online programs that can help.

Julia's pick:
Massimo's pick:





The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done
Why It's OK to Let Apps Make You a Better Person


RS60 - Q&A With Massimo and Julia

Release date: May 6, 2011

Massimo and Julia answer listeners' questions. In this installment the topics include: how much do works of fiction affect people's rationality, Bayesian vs. frequentist statistics, what is evidence, how much blame do people deserve when their actions increase the chance of them being targeted, time travel, and whether a philosophically examined life is a better life. Also, all about rationality in the movies, from Dr. Who to Scooby-Doo.

Comment on the episode teaser.


RS59 - Live at NECSS: David Kyle Johnson on the Simulation Argument

Release date: April 21, 2012

Julia, Kyle, and Massimo Live at NECSSIn this special live episode recorded at the 2012 Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, Massimo and Julia discuss the "simulation argument" -- the case that it's roughly 20% likely that we live in a computer simulation -- and the surprising implications that argument has for religion. Their guest is philosopher David Kyle Johnson, who is professor of philosophy at King's College and author of the blog "Plato on Pop" for Psychology Today, and who hosts his own podcast at Elaborating on an article he recently published in the journal Philo, Johnson lays out the simulation argument and his own insight into how it might solve the age-old Problem of Evil (i.e., "How is it possible that an all-powerful, all-knowing, and good God could allow evil to occur in the world?"). As usual, Massimo and Julia have plenty of questions and comments!

Kyle's picks:

1. Ted Schick and Lewis's book Vaughn’s "How To Think About Weird Things." In Kyle’s opinion, it's the best critical thinking book out there. He uses it in many of his classes, and he's not the only one. Carl Sagan also liked the book, and used it in at least one of this classes. The first edition even boasted a blurb from James Randi. It lays out the basics of critical thinking, and then applies them to a number of different topics of interest to students: ghosts, UFOs, conspiracy theories, name it! There is almost no way you can't be a skeptic after reading this book. If you have a friend who wonders why you are skeptic—give them this book. It’s very readable and much, much shorter than Demon Haunted World.

2. The Band is Ethereal Collapse. It's a Heavy Metal band, not for the faint of heart. They are not mainstream, but not a garage band either. They do dozens of shows a year, have 5 albums--you can even download and play a few of their songs on Rockband. They tickle Kyle's rational fancy because a number of their songs are about philosophy. "Categories," "Discovering the Absolute," and many more. Kyle can vouch for the philosophical quality of the songs--Ryan Klubeck, the lead guitarist and lyric writer for the band, is one of his graduated philosophy majors. Their new album, “The Precipice of Failure” should be available for download soon.