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Related Readings
  • Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life
    Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life
    by Massimo Pigliucci
  • Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    by Massimo Pigliucci
  • Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science
    Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science
    by Massimo Pigliucci

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


Monday
May312010

RS10 - Nonsense on Stilts

Release date: June 6, 2010


The focus of this episode is Massimo's new book, Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk. The book, broadly speaking, is about what philosopher Karl Popper famously called the demarcation problem: how do we tell the difference among science, non-science and pseudoscience?  We explore the complex relationship among these, ranging from solid science like fundamental physics and evolutionary biology to definite pseudosciences like astrology and creationism. In the middle are the more interesting borderline areas that include the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, evolutionary psychology, and even superstring theory, to name but a few.

We also discuss other topics covered in the book, including  the whole issue of expertise and Think Tanks, which plays such an important role especially in media presentations of issues such as evolution, climate change, HIV-AIDS, or the alleged connection between vaccines and autism.  Julia and Massimo also address the ultimate question about pseudoscience: why do we care?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "Historians' Fallacies : Toward a Logic of Historical Thought"

Massimo's pick: The Ask a Philosopher! blog

Monday
May172010

RS09 - When Smart People Endorse Pseudoscience

Release date: May 23, 2010


It is very easy to make fun of not-so-educated people who reject evolution, but what happens when one of the most prominent contemporary philosophers, Jerry Fodor, writes a book about “What Darwin Got Wrong”? Similarly, we can dismiss extreme right wing politicians like Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who thinks global warming is a worldwide conspiracy of crazy scientists bent on destroying the American way of life. But what happens when two icons of the skeptic movement, Penn & Teller, do a whole show in which they completely deny all the well established evidence of anthropogenic climate change? And of course it is easy to laugh at Jenny McCarthy, the kook who claims (with Oprah Winfrey’s support) that she “just knows” that vaccines cause autism. But, what happens when a politically savvy atheist like Bill Maher says that people who get flu shots are “idiots?"

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "The Miracle Detective"

Massimo's pick: The It's only a theory blog

Monday
May032010

RS08 - The Anthropic Principle

Release date: May 9, 2010


The Anthropic Principle (AP), in its many forms, attempts to explain why our observations of the physical universe are compatible with the life observed in it. From the Weak AP (WAP), which in one form states that "conditions that are observed in the universe must allow the observer to exist", to the Strong AP (SAP) which in one version states that: “The Universe (and hence the fundamental parameters on which it depends) must be such as to admit the creation of observers within it at some stage,” they all try to answer the question of why there is life in the universe, or why the fundamental constants are the way they are. But, do any of these principles add anything to our understanding of the ultimate question of life and the universe?

Perhaps the best answer is embedded in Martin Gardner’s sarcastic proposal of the Completely Ridiculous Anthropic Principle (CRAP): “At the instant the Omega Point is reached, life will have gained control of all matter and forces not only in a single universe, but in all universes whose existence is logically possible; life will have spread into all spatial regions in all universes which could logically exist, and will have stored an infinite amount of information, including all bits of knowledge which it is logically possible to know. And this is the end.”

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "House"

Massimo's pick: http://andphilosophy.com/