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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


Sunday
Nov122017

RS 197 - Doug Hubbard on “Why people think some things can’t be quantified (and why they’re wrong)”

Release date: November 12th, 2017

Doug Hubbard

In this episode Julia talks with Doug Hubbard, author of "How to Measure Anything," about why people so often believe things are impossible to quantify like "innovation" or "quality of life." For example, because people often have a deep misunderstanding of the meaning of probability. Or because they're reluctant to violate "sacred taboos" by putting a number on something like the value of human life. Or because it feels vulgar to "reduce" important things to a number. Doug explains how he responds to these objections and others.

Doug's Pick: "Innumeracy" by John Allen Paulos

Doug's 2nd Pick: "Decision Traps" by J. Edward Russo and Paul J.H. Shoemaker

Doug's Book: "How to Meassure Anything"

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Oct292017

RS 196 - Eric Schwitzgebel on "Weird ideas and opaque minds"

Release date: October 29th, 2017

Eric Schwitzgebel

Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel returns to the show to explore several related questions: His taxonomy of the three different styles of thinker -- "Truth," "Dare," and "Wonder" -- and whether one of them is better than the others. His case for why it's bad to interpret people "charitably." And his seemingly paradoxical claim that we are frequently wrong about our own conscious experience.

Eric's Pick: "Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America" by James Allen

Eric's Blog: The Splintered Mind

Eric's Book: "Describing Inner Experience? Proponent Meets Skeptic" by Russell Hurlburt and Eric Schwitzgebel

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Oct152017

RS 195 - Zach Weinersmith on "Emerging technologies that'll improve and/or ruin everything"

Release date: October 15th, 2017

Zach Weinersmith

This episode features Zach Weinersmith, creator of the philosophical webcomic Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, and the co-author (with his wife Kelly Weinersmith) of the new book Soonish: 10 Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything. Julia and Zach talk about which new technology is the most likely to happen, which would be most transformative, and which would pose the most risk to the world. Also, has our society become too risk-averse? And what are the main bottlenecks to technological development?

Zach's 1st Pick: "Schrödinger's Killer App: Race to Build the World's First Quantum Computer" by Jonathan P. Dowling

Zach's 2nd Pick: "West with the Night: A Memoir" by Beryl Markham

Zach's Book: "Soonish: 10 Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything"

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Oct012017

RS 194 - Robert Wright on "Why Buddhism is True"

Release date: October 1st, 2017

Robert Wright

This episode features bestselling author Robert Wright making the case for why Buddhism was right about human nature: its diagnosis that our suffering is mainly due to a failure to see reality clearly, and its prescription that meditation can help us see more clearly. Robert and Julia discuss whether it's suspicious that a religion turned out to be "right" about human nature, what it means for emotions to be true or false, and whether there are downsides to enlightenment.

Robert's Pick: "Beyond Freedom and Dignity" by B.F. Skinner

Robert's Book: "Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment"

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Sep172017

RS 193 - Eric Jonas on "Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?"

Release date: September 17th, 2017

Eric Jonas

The field of neuroscience has been collecting more and more data, and developing increasingly advanced technological tools in its race to understand how the brain works. But can those data and tools ever yield true understanding? This episode features neuroscientist and computer scientist Eric Jonas, discussing his provocative paper titled "Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?" in which he applied state-of-the-art neuroscience tools, like lesion analysis, to a computer chip. By applying neuroscience's tools to a system that humans fully understand (because we built it from scratch), he was able to reveal how surprisingly uninformative those tools actually are. Julia and Eric also discuss the related question: what kind of tools would we need to really understand the brain?

Eric's Pick: "The Doomslayer" by Ed Regis

Eric's Article: "Could a Neuroscientist Understand a Microprocessor?"

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Sep032017

RS 192 - Jesse Singal on “The problems with implicit bias tests”

Release date: September 3rd, 2017

Jesse Singal

You may have heard of the Implicit Associations Test (IAT) -- one of the most famous instruments from social psychology, it's frequently cited as evidence that most people harbor implicit racism or sexism, even if they aren't aware of it. This episode features science journalist Jesse Singal, who argues that the IAT has been massively overhyped, and that in fact there's little evidence that it's measuring real-life bias. Jesse and Julia discuss how to interpret the IAT, why it became so popular, and why it's still likely that implicit bias is real, even if the IAT isn't capturing it.

Jesse's Pick: "Galileo's Middle Finger" by Alice Dreger

Jesse's Article: "Psychology’s Favorite Tool for Measuring Racism Isn’t Up to the Job"

"My IRB Nightmare" by Scott Alexander

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts 

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