Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is the bi-weekly podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join hosts Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely from unlikely, and science from pseudoscience. Any topic is fair game as long as we can bring reason to bear upon it, with both a skeptical eye and a good dose of humor! We agree with the Marquis de Condorcet, who said that in an open society we ought to devote ourselves to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." Rationally Speaking is produced by Benny Pollak and is recorded in the heart of New York City's Greenwich Village.

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Rationally Speaking is the bi-weekly podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join host Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely from unlikely, and science from pseudoscience. Any topic is fair game as long as we can bring reason to bear upon it, with both a skeptical eye and a good dose of humor! We agree with the Marquis de Condorcet, who said that in an open society we ought to devote ourselves to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them."Rationally Speaking was co-created with Massimo Pigliucci, is produced by Benny Pollak, and is recorded in the heart of New York City's Greenwich Village.
🇬🇧 English
last modified
2019-05-29 22:51
last episode published
2019-05-27 20:00
publication frequency
14.65 days
New York City Skeptics author   owner  
Number of Episodes
Detail page
Society & Culture Science & Medicine Philosophy Natural Sciences Social Sciences



Date Thumb Title & Description Contributors

Rationally Speaking #234 - Dylan Matthews on “Global poverty has fallen, but what should we conclude from that?”

The global poverty rate has fallen significantly over the last few decades. But there's a heated debate, between people like psychologist Steven Pinker and anthropologist Jason Hickel, over how to view that fact. Is it a triumph for capitalism? Should ...
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Rationally Speaking #233 - Clive Thompson on "The culture of coding, and how it’s changing the world"

Technology writer Clive Thompson discusses his latest book, Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World. Topics Clive and Julia cover include: - Why coders love efficiency so much - Are there downsides to efficiency? - Do coders hav...
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Rationally Speaking #232 - Tyler Cowen on “Defending big business against its critics”

Economist Tyler Cowen discusses his latest book, "Big Business: A love-letter to an American anti-hero." Why has anti-capitalist sentiment increased recently, and to what extent is it justified? How much are corporations to blame for wage stagnation, c...
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Rationally Speaking #231 - Helen Toner on "Misconceptions about China and artificial intelligence"

Helen Toner, the director of strategy at Georgetown's Center for Strategy and Emerging Technology (CSET), shares her observations from the last few years of talking with AI scientists and policymakers in the US and China. Helen and Julia discuss, among...
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Rationally Speaking #230 - Kelsey Piper on “Big picture journalism: covering the topics that matter in the long run”

This episode features journalist Kelsey Piper, blogger and journalist for "Future Perfect," a new site focused on topics that impact the long-term future of the world. Kelsey and Julia discuss some of her recent stories, including why people disagree a...
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Rationally Speaking #229 - John Nerst on "Erisology, the study of disagreement"

This episode features John Nerst, data scientist and blogger at everythingstudies.com, discussing a potential new field called "erisology," the study of disagreement. John and Julia discuss why Twitter makes disagreement so hard; whether there's anythi...
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Rationally Speaking #228 - William Gunn and Alex Holcombe on "Is Elsevier helping or hurting scientific progress?"

In the wake of the University of California's decision to end their contract with Elsevier, the world's largest scientific publisher, a lot of people have been talking about the effect that publishers like Elsevier have on the progress of science. Will...
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Rationally Speaking #227 - Sarah Haider on "Dissent and free speech"

This episode features Sarah Haider, the president of Ex-Muslims of North America. Julia and Sarah discuss why it's important to talk about the challenges of leaving Islam, and why that makes people uncomfortable or angry. They also explore whether bein...
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Rationally Speaking #226 - Rob Wiblin on "An updated view of the best ways to help humanity"

If you want to do as much good as possible with your career, what problems should you work on, and what jobs should you consider? This episode features Rob Wiblin, director of research for effective altruist organization 80,000 Hours, and the host of t...
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Rationally Speaking #225 - Neerav Kingsland on "The case for charter schools"

This episode features Neerav Kingsland, who helped rebuild New Orleans' public school system after Hurricane Katrina, converting it into the country's first nearly-100% charter school system. Neerav and Julia discuss: why Neerav believes the evidence s...
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Rationally Speaking #224 - Rick Nevin on "The long-term effects of lead on crime"

This episode features Rick Nevin, an economist who is known for his research suggesting that lead is one of the main causes of crime. Rick and Julia discuss: how do we know the correlation between lead and crime is a sign of a causal relationship? Has ...
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Rationally Speaking #223 - Chris Fraser on "The Mohists, ancient China's philosopher warriors"

Not enough people know about the Mohists, a strikingly modern group of Chinese philosophers active in 479-221 BCE. This episode features Chris Fraser, expert on Mohism and professor of philosophy at the University of Hong Kong. Chris and Julia discuss ...
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Rationally Speaking #222 - Spencer Greenberg and Seth Cottrell on "Ask a Mathematician, Ask a Physicist"

This episode features the hosts of "Ask a Mathematician, Ask a Physicist," a blog that grew out of a Burning Man booth in which a good-natured mathematician (Spencer Greenberg) and physicist (Seth Cottrell) answer people's questions about life, the uni...
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Rationally Speaking #221 - Rob Reich on "Is philanthropy bad for democracy?"

This episode features political scientist Rob Reich, author of "Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy, and How it Can Do Better". Rob and Julia debate his criticisms of philanthropy: Does it deserve to be tax-deductible? Is it a violation ...
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Rationally Speaking #220 - Peter Eckersley on "Tough choices on privacy and artificial intelligence"

This episode features Peter Eckersley, an expert in law and computer science, who has worked with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Partnership on AI. Peter and Julia first delve into some of the most fundamental questions about privacy: What ...
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Rationally Speaking #219 - Jason Collins on "A skeptical take on behavioral economics"

In this episode, economist Jason Collins discusses some of the problems with behavioral economics: Why governments have started to rely too much on the field, and why that's bad; why it's suspicious that there are over 100 cognitive biases; when "nudge...
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Rationally Speaking #218 - Chris Auld on "Good and bad critiques of economics"

In this episode, economist Chris Auld describes some common criticisms of his field and why they're wrong. Julia and Chris also discuss whether there are any good critiques of the field, and whether economists think that people with an addiction to alc...
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Rationally Speaking #217 - Aviv Ovadya on "The problem of false, biased, and artificial news"

Aviv Ovadya, an expert on misinformation, talks with Julia about the multiple phenomena that get lumped together as "fake news." For example, articles that are straightforwardly false, misleading, or artificially created (think "Deepfakes," videos that...
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Rationally Speaking #216 - Diana Fleischman on "Being a transhumanist evolutionary psychologist"

On this episode of Rationally Speaking, professor Diana Fleischman makes the case for transhumanist evolutionary psychology: understanding our evolved drives, so that we can better overcome them. Diana and Julia discuss sexual preferences, jealousy, an...
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Rationally Speaking #215 - Anders Sandberg on "Thinking about the long-term future of humanity"

This episode features Anders Sandberg, a researcher at Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute, explaining several reasons why it's valuable to think about humanity's long-term future. Julia and Anders discuss the common objection that we can't predict o...
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Rationally Speaking #214 - Anthony Aguirre on "Predicting the future of science and tech, with Metaculus"

This episode features physicist Anthony Aguirre discussing Metaculus, the site he created to crowd-source accurate predictions about science and technology. For example, will SpaceX land on Mars by 2030? Anthony and Julia discuss details such as: why i...
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Rationally Speaking #213 - Dean Simonton on "The causes of scientific and artistic genius"

This episode features Professor Dean Simonton, who has spent his life quantitatively studying geniuses, from Einstein to Mozart. Dean and Julia discuss his views on whether IQ is important, whether some innovations are "in the air" at given points in h...
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Rationally Speaking #212 - Ed Boyden on “How to invent game-changing technologies”

This episode features neuroscientist Ed Boyden discussing two inventions of his that have revolutionized neuroscience: optogenetics and expansion microscopy. Ed and Julia talk about Ed's approach to coming up with good ideas, why he prefers reading old...
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Rationally Speaking #211 - Sabine Hossenfelder on "The case against beauty in physics"

This episode features physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, author of Lost in Math, arguing that fundamental physics is too enamored of "beauty" as a criterion for evaluating theories of how the universe works. She and Julia discuss the three components of be...
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Rationally Speaking #210 - Stuart Ritchie on "Conceptual objections to IQ testing"

This episode features Stuart Ritchie, intelligence researcher and author of the book "Intelligence: All That Matters." Stuart responds to some of the most common conceptual objections to the science of IQ testing. Can we even define intelligence? Aren'...
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Rationally Speaking #209 - Christopher Chabris on "Collective intelligence & the ethics of A/B tests"

This episode features cognitive psychologist Christopher Chabris discussing his research on "collective intelligence" -- why do some teams perform better than others at a wide variety of tasks? Julia discusses potential objections to the findings and h...
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Rationally Speaking #208 - Annie Duke on "Thinking in bets"

This episode features Annie Duke, former pro poker player and author of the book Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don't Have All the Facts. Julia and Annie debate why people tend to ignore the role of luck in their decisions, whether...
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Rationally Speaking #207 - Alison Gopnik on "The wrong way to think about parenting, plus the downsides of modernity"

Developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik explains why modern parenting is too goal-oriented. Alison and Julia discuss whether anything parents do matters, whether kids should go to school, and how kids learn discipline if you don't force them to do thi...
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Rationally Speaking #206 - Kal Turnbull on "Change My View"

When people argue on the internet, you never expect anyone to actually say "You know what, that's a good point, you've changed my view somewhat." But Change My View, a fast-growing subreddit founded by Kal Turnbull, is an exception to the rule. Julia a...
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Rationally Speaking #205 - Michael Webb on "Are ideas getting harder to find?"

This episode features economist Michael Webb, who recently co-authored a paper titled "Are ideas getting harder to find?" It demonstrates that the number of researchers it takes to produce a technological innovation has gone up dramatically over time. ...
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Rationally Speaking #204 - Simine Vazire on "Reforming psychology, and self-awareness"

Simine Vazire is a professor of psychology, the author of the blog, "Sometimes I'm Wrong," and a major advocate for improving the field of psychology. She and Julia discuss several potential objections to Simine's goal, how to handle criticism, and Sim...
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Rationally Speaking #203 - Stephen Webb on “Where is Everybody? Solutions to the Fermi Paradox.

In 1950, the great physicist Enrico Fermi posed a question that people have been puzzling over ever since: Where is everybody? The universe has been around for billions of years, so why haven't we seen any signs of alien civilizations? This episode fea...
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Rationally Speaking #202 - Bryan Caplan on "The Case Against Education"

In this episode, economist Bryan Caplan argues that the main reason getting a college degree is valuable is because of signaling (i.e., it proves that you have traits that employers value, like conscientiousness and conformity), and not because college...
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Rationally Speaking #201 - Ben Buchanan on "The Cybersecurity Dilemma"

The security dilemma is a classic problem in geopolitics: Often when one nation takes measures to protect itself from attack (like adding to their stockpile of missiles), other nations see that and worry it means the first nation is preparing to attack...
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Rationally Speaking #200 - Timothy Lee on "How much should tech companies moderate speech?"

This episode features tech and policy journalist Timothy Lee, discussing a question that's increasingly in the spotlight: How much should tech companies be actively moderating their users' speech? For example, should Facebook be trying to fight fake n...
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Rationally Speaking #199 - Jessica Flanigan on "Why people should have the right to self-medicate"

This episode features Jessica Flanigan, professor of normative and applied ethics, making the case that patients should have the right to take pharmaceutical drugs without needing to get a prescription from a doctor. Jessica and Julia discuss a series ...
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Rationally Speaking #198 - Timur Kuran on “Private Truths and Public Lies"

In this episode, economist Timur Kuran explains the ubiquitous phenomenon of "preference falsification" -- in which people claim to support something publicly even though they don't support it privately -- and describes its harmful effects on society. ...
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Rationally Speaking #197 - Doug Hubbard on “Why people think some things can’t be quantified (and why they’re wrong)”

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...
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Rationally Speaking #196 - Eric Schwitzgebel on "Weird ideas and opaque minds"

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 b...
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Rationally Speaking #195 - Zach Weinersmith on "Emerging technologies that'll improve and/or ruin everything"

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 Everythin...
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Rationally Speaking #194 - Robert Wright on "Why Buddhism is True"

This episode features bestselling author Robert Wright making the case for why Buddhism was right about human nature: its diagnosis that the our suffering is mainly due to a failure to see reality clearly, and its prescription that meditation can help ...
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Rationally Speaking #193 - Eric Jonas on "Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?"

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 ...
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Rationally Speaking #192 - Jesse Singal on “The problems with implicit bias tests”

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 ...
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Rationally Speaking #191 - Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on "What the internet can tell us about human nature" (Fixed)

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 surv...
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Rationally Speaking #190 - Amanda Askell on "Pascal's Wager and other low risks with high stakes"

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) ar...
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Rationally Speaking #189 - Stephan Guyenet on "What causes obesity?"

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 que...
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Rationally Speaking #188 - Robert Kurzban on "Being strategically wrong"

In this episode, recorded live at the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, Julia interviews evolutionary psychologist Rob Kurzban, author of "Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite." Rob describes the "modular mind" hypothesis, and how it explai...
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Rationally Speaking #187 - Jason Weeden on "Do people vote based on self-interest?"

What determines which policies a person votes for? Is it their personality, their upbringing, blind loyalty to their political party? Or is it self-interest -- people voting for policies that will benefit themselves and the groups they belong to? This ...
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Rationally Speaking #186 - Tania Lombrozo on “Why we evolved the urge to explain”

Humans have an innate urge to reach for explanations of the world around us. For example, "What caused this tragedy?" or "Why are some people successful?" This episode features psychologist and philosopher Tania Lombrozo, discussing her research on wha...
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Rationally Speaking #185 - Hans Noel on "The role of ideology in politics"

We're used to conflating political parties (Republican and Democrat) with political ideologies (conservative and liberal), but the two were very distinct only a few decades ago. In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia talks with political scienti...
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