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RS128 - 5th Anniversary Live Show 

Release date: February 27, 2015

This episode marks the fifth anniversary of the Rationally Speaking podcast! To commemorate the occasion, Massimo and Julia hold a live-streaming Q&A in which they respond to questions submitted via Twitter. Topics include: What's the best book to read to improve your rationality? What's the biggest problem with the skeptic community? How can we get politicians to be reasonable? And how can you be so sure that other people exist? Halfway through the show, Massimo makes a surprising and poignant announcement.

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Reader Comments (8)

I agree with Julia that politicians aren't getting more rational anytime soon because of the incentives they face. Not to mention voters are rationally ignorant of how irrational politicians are.

I think another important point regarding the kinds of things people are generally irrational about is that it matters how cheap or expensive a belief is to hold. People tend to be much more unreasonable when they are holding cheap beliefs. For instance, political beliefs are mired in irrationality largely because a person holding an irrational belief has an infinitesimal chance of changing the outcome of an election. Whereas, it's much more expensive to believe the car you're buying for $500 is of exceptional quality.

It's sad to see Massimo go. He introduced me to many philosophical ideas through this podcast, and I'm very grateful. This podcast was my first true podcast love back when I started listening to it a few years ago. I gobbled up all of the episodes. Thanks guys.

February 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJake Zielsdorf

Hey guys, I have a question for both of you - earlyish in the podcast Massimo mentions theology, and that it can be done well, for instance Plantinga, but that Plantinga is working from a presupposition of God and that presupposition is not one that Massimo is willing to make. Later on you guys discuss the difficulty or impossibility of refuting radical skepticism, and Julia notes that she just doesn't find the question an interesting or practical one, and so she just takes the existence of external reality as a given. I was wondering how each of you would explicate the differences between taking reality as given, but not taking God as a given. One could say that as far as reality goes, we have all this sensory evidence, which for God we don't - but wouldn't that be begging the question, since it's that external evidence that is being called into question? Or one could suggest that parsimony would lead us to make as few suppositions as we need to, and God is an extra one on top of reality itself - but again if we're calling into question the existence of anything outside our heads, why should such heuristics as that necessarily apply? Possibly I'm missing an obvious difference between the two but I was wondering how you guys would respond to that challenge

I'm also sorry to see Massimo go, thankyou for all the fantastic podcasts and blogposts and giving my brain lots of things to chew on where it otherwise might've just been turning over and over on empty (not pleasant! heh). Thanks :)

February 28, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I don't think Julia or Massimo ever respond to these comments.

"I was wondering how each of you would explicate the differences between taking reality as given, but not taking God as a given"

The simplest explanation for our perception of reality is that reality exists. But in the end, it doesn't matter if it does or not, because we have to act as if it does. That's why I find the question boring, too. I'm not even sure if the question has any meaning.

The notion of God doesn't really explain anything, so it's an arbitrary, culturally derived assumption.

March 1, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Esres

Gotta say... this "experiment" was horribly manipulative and disrespectful (treating others like objects to be changed or operated on).... Not listening once Massimo leaves fyi, and I'll consider that a win (aka I lasted long enough to see Massimo quit) lol ttfn

March 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJacob
Regarding politics and rationality among voters and politicians, I think the hosts are ignoring the question of basic interests.
Even if there is overwhelming evidence supporting one position, or the effect of a given policy, voters will tend to stick to supporting certain policies if it is in their interest.
From a rational choice perspective, where their preference are skewed toward their own utility, or the utility of their friends, family, social, religious or ethnic Group, etc, this is likely a rational way of behaving.

So even if a policy is ineffective or damaging, some voters will still support if it is alligned with their interests, even if it is damaging to society at large, or the common good. An example is large corporations supporting a policy of open borders, with weak border protection. The policy is formally illegal, as it fails to counter illegal immigration. It lowers wages and stimulates the shadow economy, depressing tax revenue. Thereby going against the interests of the typically unskilled native workers. But it usually benefits the owners of Capital who benefit from a larger pool of cheap Labour. The effect on the overall economy is ambigous. While the effect on the general culture is usually increased ideological polarization and antagonisms.

There is no "rational" way to resolve this clash of interests, that is just the nature of politics and political economy. The criterion of pareto improvement is of Little help in resolving this clash of interests.
March 26, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJannik
@ Jannik,

"Rational Choice Theory" is very often opposed to what Rationality truly means because it is basically just focusing on ones own values & perspectives and not taking into consideration the broader spectrum of Social diversity, relationships & implications. so then more often than not, from a "rational" choice perspective just leads to more issues/problems that could have been avoided if only a more logical & accurate assessment could have been taken to fully understand the wider implications & effects our behaviors have on Society & Culture.

The only way we can truly behave in a Rational manner is to try and fully understand and carefully consider how our choices in life impact the greater landscape of Human/Environment interactions. And if it is found that these behaviors are affecting these chains of events in any type of negative fashion, just because they might be of our 'interests', this still wouldn't be what Rationality is all about because these choices you are making are producing more damaging effects to Society at large which will undoubtedly going affect you and your family also because you also participate and live in this System.

As for the example you gave about Corporations/Immigration and trying to find a Rational resolution. It definitely is possible but those with the Power, i.e. Governments, Politicians, Corporations would have to realize and want to participate in a Rational solution. But the issue here is that Economics & Rationality are frequently in Contradiction to one another. Because one is more about understanding ones own self-interests while the other is more about understanding the broader implications of Socioeconomic outgrowths. And if they did miraculously decide to take the Rational World view and resolve these issues, all they would have to do in a situation like this is to pay Living Wages to the native workers.. simple as that! Foreign workers are Never the problem here because they have No Power and are just trying to Survive themselves. So the imperative here is to focus on those with Power & Influence. But instead what is happening today is that those with the Power are using it to Distract & Obfuscate their role in all of this and putting all of the blame on something else like Politics, Foreigners, Countries, Policy etc...

So basically what we're dealing with here is an Economic Model that doesn't support for true Rational behavior. Because like what I said, this System is just a giant Contradiction to a Rational Worldview. so in effect what you get then is the Irrationality Epidemic we are currently living under today.
November 29, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterErnesto
Pure, or perhaps more accurately extreme, Utilitarianism indeed may give unreasonable, even sociopathic results. However, an Utilitarianism that takes into account all circumstances appropriately can give rationally correct ethical determinations.

I think therefore I am. I doubt everything else, including all my other knowledge. That should keep my ego in check and prevent me from engaging in overconfidence or arrogance. Seems like a good argument.

Massimo recommends a good academic background and Julia recommends a good professional background. Both make very good sense.
Julia also has it correct that many of the best events in life occur through serendipity.
December 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJameson
Hey! It;s a Nice one !!!
July 21, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterMyIPL.Fun

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