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Related Readings
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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


Wednesday
Jun012011

RS36 - Why Should We Care About Teaching the Humanities?

Release date: June 5, 2011


Universities all around the country are closing programs in the humanities, at least in part because of the increasing widespread attitude that higher education should be treated as a business, and that programs that bring in money in the form of high tuitions from students and external grants are to be prioritized. SUNY Albany, for example, announced in the Fall of 2010 that the departments of French, Italian, Classics, Russian and Theater Arts were being eliminated. So, what is the point of studying languages, literature, history or philosophy? Can we, and perhaps more importantly, should we quantify their value? Can we have universities that focus only on science and marketable skills?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  Givewell.org

Massimo's pick: "The Philosophers' Quarrel: Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding"

Friday
May202011

RS35 - What is Philosophy of Science Good For?

Release date: May 22, 2011


In this episode we explore philosophy of science: What is it about, and should it matter to scientists? Massimo and Julia also discuss some of the most important questions in philosophy of science now, and some historical debates between leading philosophers of science, like Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper, over how science should or does work.  

So is philosophy of science, as Richard Feynman famously quipped, "as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds?" Or was philosopher Daniel Dennett closer to the truth when he said, "There is no such thing as philosophy-free science, only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on-board unexamined?"

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "The End of Discovery: Are We Approaching the Boundaries of the Knowable?"

Massimo's pick: The blog entry 10 Important Differences Between Brains and Computers

Friday
May062011

RS34 - Celebrities and the Damage They Can Do

Release date: May 8, 2011


If the recent hoopla about the royal wedding wasn’t enough to remind you, we live in a culture of celebrity, one where famous people command our attention and often pontificate on things they know nothing about. Obvious examples include the nonsense spewed out by Prince Charles about alternative medicine, and the former model Jenny McCarthy and her dangerous notion that vaccines are harmful because they cause autism. But these, of course, are easy targets. What are we to make of Ray Kurzweil (he of Singularity fame), who recently co-authored a book with a homeopath? Or of otherwise savvy political commentator Bill Maher, who doesn’t trust vaccines or anything coming from “Western” medicine? And then there are highly respectable intellectuals, like Stephen Hawking, who write off entire fields of inquiry (philosophy, in his case), without apparently knowing much about them.

So what is going on here? Why do so many people listen to Jenny McCarthy? And why do so many bright minds go public with ridiculous notions? Is there a pattern? Can we do something to defend ourselves and the public from the celebrity attack on reason?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's un-pick:  "Proust Was a Neuroscientist"

Massimo's pick: "Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence"