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Related Readings
  • Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life
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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


Tuesday
Dec282010

RS25 - Q&A With Massimo and Julia

Release date: January 2, 2011


Massimo and Julia answer listeners' questions, while trying to stay away from politics. In this installment the topics include: Is quantitative research more scientific than qualitative? Can philosophers really claim to have expertise on something? Is skepticism just another name for intelligence? How valuable is feminist philosophy? What is Bayesian reasoning? And what are M&J's anti-akrasia strategies?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Thursday
Dec092010

RS24 - Memetics!

Release date: December 19, 2010


The term meme was introduced by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 bestseller "The Selfish Gene." Dawkins was trying to establish the idea that Darwinian evolution is a universal, almost logically necessary phenomenon. He couldn't, however, point to exobiological examples to reinforce the concept of universal Darwinism, so he turned to cultural evolution, renamed “ideas” as “memes” (in direct analogy with genes), and voilà, the field of memetics was born.

Despite staunch support by authors such as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett, among others, serious questions can be raised about memes and memetics as a viable concept and field of inquiry. To begin with, how is memetics different from classical studies of gene-culture co-evolution? Second, what exactly are memes, i.e. what is their ontological status? Third, how do memes compete with each other, and for what resources? Is it even possible to build a functional ecology of memes, without which the statement that the most fit memes are those that spread becomes an empty tautology? Could this explain why the "Journal of Memetics" closed shop, or is it that they discovered everything there was to discover about memes?

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Julia's pick:  "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality"

Massimo's pick: The New York Times' "The Stone"

Sunday
Nov282010

RS23 - Carol Tavris on Everybody Making Mistakes, Except Us...

Release date: December 5, 2010


Our guest, Carol Tavris discusses her book (co-authored with Elliot Aronson) "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. In it they describe how our powerful cognitive dissonance engine of self-justification gives us the incredible ability to rationalize events and beliefs so that we always end up being better than average at being right.  Also, how we are forced into these rationalizations by our absolute need to somehow square our most dearly held opinions of ourselves with the nasty tendency of some facts to contradict them.

Carol Tavris is a social psychologist who has tought at UCLA. She has written for many publications, including the NY Times and the LA Times. She is the author of a number of books, including "The Mismeasure of Women" and the recently re-released, "Psychobabble and Biobunk."

Comment on the episode teaser.

Carol's picks: