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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


Thursday
Jun242010

RS12 - What About Thought Experiments?

Release date: July 4, 2010


Philosophers are often accused of engaging in armchair speculation, as far removed from reality as possible. The quintessential example of this practice is the thought experiment, which many scientists sneer at precisely because it doesn’t require one to get one’s hands dirty. And yet scientists have often engaged in thought experiments, some of which have marked major advances in our understanding of the world. Just consider the famous example of Galileo’s thought experiment demonstrating (rather counter intuitively) that two objects of different weight must fall at the same speed. And, perhaps more famously, Einstein's thought experiments on the nature of light.

And then, there are the other kind, like philosopher David Chalmers' famous thought experiment about zombies and the so-called "hard problem" of consciousness. Chalmers comes up with an (admittedly ingenious) little story, and we are supposed to deduce from it the momentous conclusion that there is more than matter/energy to the universe? Still, there are plenty of good thought experiments in philosophy, beginning with the so-called trolley dilemmas meant to probe our moral intuitions.

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Julia's pick:  "50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior"

Massimo's pick: John D. Norton Goodies

Sunday
Jun132010

RS11 - Guest Eugenie Scott on the Status of the Creationism and ID Wars

Release date: June 20, 2010


Our special guest this episode is Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, the premiere organization fighting for sound scientific educational standards in this country, and a permanent thorn in the ass of creationists and IDers nationwide.

Genie updates us on the status of the ID and creationist wars, as well as other issues related to the intrusion of religion in science education.  We also recount how, in what may be a very rare event,  Genie made Massimo change his mind about something!

Genie is a physical anthropologist by training, and enjoyed an academic career at the University of Kentucky, University of Colorado and California State, before devoting her efforts full time to a constant front-line fight against irrationalism. For this she has been rewarded not just with six honorary degrees (at last count), but also with the first Stephen Jay Gould prize from the Society for the Study of Evolution, and most recently with the prestigious National Academy of Science Public Welfare Medal. She has also authored the excellent Evolution vs Creationism and co-edited (with Glenn Branch) Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design Is Wrong for Our Schools.

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Our guest's "un-pick": The website of the Institute for Creation Research

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?

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

Massimo's pick: The Ask a Philosopher! blog