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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
Oct032010

RS19 - Brendan Nyhan on False Beliefs that Refuse to Die

Release date: October 10, 2010


 

Ever notice how some beliefs only seem to become stronger, even as they're repeatedly debunked? For example, the belief that Barack Obama is a Muslim, or that Bush banned all stem cell research in the country. Brendan Nyhan tells about what he's learned from his research studies and his experience maintaining Spinsanity, a watchdog blog monitoring political misinformation. Is there any hope of clearing up false beliefs if denials simply make the problem worse? Brendan does offer hope, but it won't be easy.

Brendan Nyhan is a a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy Research at the University of Michigan. He received a Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at Duke University in May 2009. In 2011, He will join the Department of Government at Dartmouth College as an assistant professor. His research focuses on political scandal and misperceptions. He also conducts research on social networks and applied statistical methods.

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Brendan's picks:

 

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.

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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?

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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"