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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
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 

Monday
Aug212017

RS 191 - Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on "What the internet can tell us about human nature"

Release date: August 20th, 2017

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz

There are a lot of sensitive topics about human nature that would be interesting to study, such as people's sexual behavior, or how racist people really are. Researchers studying those questions have always faced the problem that we tend to lie on surveys -- but we don't lie to Google. This episode features Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, economist and data scientist, and author of the book Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are. Seth and Julia discuss the insights new research gives us into which parts of the USA are more racist, what kinds of strategies reduce racism, whether the internet is making political polarization worse, and the sexual fetishes and insecurities people will only admit to their search engine.

Seth's Pick: "The Better Angels of our Nature" by Steven Pinker

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts 

Monday
Aug072017

RS 190 - Amanda Askell on "Pascal's Wager and other low risks with high stakes"

Release date: August 6th, 2017

Amanda Askell

You've probably heard of Pascal's Wager: That it's rational to believe in God, because if you're wrong it's no big deal, but if you're right then the payoff is huge. This episode features philosopher Amanda Askell, who (though not religious herself) argues that it's much trickier to rebut Pascal's Wager than most people think. Amanda and Julia also discuss how to handle other decisions where a risk has very low probability but would matter a lot if it came true -- should you round them down to zero? Does it matter how measurable the risk is? And should you take into account the chance you're being scammed?

Amanda's Pick: "Infinite Utilitarianism: More Is Always Better" by Luc Lauwers and Peter Vallentyne

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Jul232017

RS 189 - Stephan Guyenet on "What causes obesity?"

Release date: July 23rd, 2017

Stephan Guyenet

In this episode Julia sits down with neuroscientist and obesity researcher Stephan Guyenet, to talk about what scientists know so far about the causes of obesity, and in particular the brain's role in regulating weight gain. Julia and Stephan cover questions such as: Why did obesity start to increase in the United States in the latter half of the 20th century? Does the body have a "set point" of fat that it tries to defend, and what affects those set points? Are low-carb diets more effective for weight loss than low-fat diets, and if so, what explains the difference?

Stephan's Book: "The Hungry Brain"

Stephan's Pick: "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us" by Michael Moss

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

 

Full Transcripts 

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