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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


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. 



RS58 - Intuition

Release date: April 8, 2012

Massimo's thinking capWhen your intuition tells you something, should you listen? That depends! Relying on intuition can be anything from a highly effective strategy used by experts, to an excuse not to require evidence for your beliefs. In this episode, Massimo and Julia talk about what people mean by "intuition," where our intuitions come from, and when intuition can beat careful reasoning.

Julia's pick: "Information is Beautiful - Snake Oil?"
Massimo's pick: "Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us"



RS57 - Peer Review

Release date: March 25, 2012

If you value scientific evidence you're probably familiar with the idea that having "peer-reviewed" studies is crucial to the legitimacy of any new claim. But what does "peer-reviewed" entail, anyway? In this episode, Massimo and Julia open up the black box of peer review, explaining how the process originated, how it works, and what's wrong with it. They also try brainstorming ways it could be fixed, and ask: how is the Internet changing the way we do research?

Julia's pick: The game "Zendo"
Massimo's pick: "Download The Universe"