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Rationally Speaking Podcast

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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.

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.

Location:

New York City, NY

Description:

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.

Twitter:

@rspodcast

Language:

English


Episodes

Is cash the best way to help the poor? (Michael Faye)

12/23/2021
The idea of giving poor people cash, no strings attached, is "very unappealing" for most donors, admits economist Michael Faye -- but it's still one of the best ways to help the poor. Michael and Julia discuss the philosophy behind his organization (GiveDirectly), the evidence we have so far about cash transfers as an anti-poverty intervention, and the various concerns people have about it: How long-lasting are the effects? Does it make recipients less likely to work? Does it cause inflation?

Duration:00:52:11

Humanity on the precipice (Toby Ord)

12/10/2021
Humanity could thrive for millions of years -- unless our future is cut short by an existential catastrophe. Oxford philosopher Toby Ord explains the possible existential risks we face, including climate change, pandemics, and artificial intelligence. Toby and Julia discuss what led him to take existential risk more seriously, which risks he considers underrated vs. overrated, and how to estimate the probability of existential risk.

Duration:01:08:51

Dangerous biological research - is it worth it? (Kevin Esvelt)

11/30/2021
Kevin Esvelt, a scientist at MIT, argues that research intended to prevent pandemics is actually putting us in a lot more danger. Also discussed: Kevin's own research on engineering wild animal species. Are the risks worth the benefits?

Duration:01:07:55

Why we're polarized (Ezra Klein)

11/5/2021
Ezra Klein explains how Republican and Democrats in the US became so different from each other, ideologically and demographically, and why that trend + our institutions = political gridlock. Questions covered include: Is polarization necessarily bad? Has the left polarized more than the right? And what should we make of polls that seem to show Republicans and Democrats used to agree on immigration policy?

Duration:01:18:53

The genetic lottery (Kathryn Paige Harden)

10/15/2021
Kathryn Paige Harden, author of “The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality” explains what scientists have learned about how our genes affect our educational success. Why is this research so controversial? And is it worth doing anyway?

Duration:02:10:31

How to reason about COVID, and other hard things (Kelsey Piper)

9/13/2021
Journalist Kelsey Piper (Future Perfect / Vox) discusses lessons learned from covering COVID: What has she been wrong about, and why? How much can we trust the CDC's advice? What does the evidence look like for different drugs like Fluvoxamine and Ivermectin? And should regular people really try to evaluate the evidence themselves instead of deferring to experts?

Duration:01:45:28

"Price gouging" in emergencies

8/18/2021
Every time there’s an emergency, the prices of certain goods skyrocket -- like masks and hand sanitizer during COVID -- and the public gets angry about price gouging. In this episode, two economists (Raymond Niles and Amihai Glazer) make the case for why “price gouging” is actually a good thing, and Julia raises potential counterarguments.

Duration:00:57:26

How to be a data detective (Tim Harford)

6/10/2021
When you see a statistic reported in the news, like "10% of University of California Berkeley students were homeless this year," how do you evaluate it? You shouldn't blindly accept every statistic you read. But neither should you reject everything that sounds surprising. Tim Harford, economist and author of The Data Detective: Ten Easy Rules to Make Sense of Statistics, talks about the heuristics he recommends using, and the mistakes people tend to make.

Duration:01:12:06

Are Uber and Lyft drivers being exploited?

4/9/2021
How much do Uber and Lyft drivers really earn, after expenses? Are they getting a raw deal by being classified as 'independent contractors' instead of employees? I explore the debate over these questions with three guests: Louis Hyman (Cornell), Veena Dubal (UC Hastings College of the Law), and Harry Campbell (The Rideshare Guy).

Duration:01:14:50

Unfair laws / Why judges should be originalists (William Baude)

3/19/2021
Is there any justification for seemingly unjust laws like "qualified immunity," which allows cops to get away with bad behavior? William Baude, a leading scholar of constitutional law, explores how these laws came to be and why they're so hard to change. Also, Baude makes the case for originalism, the view that judges should base their rulings on the original meaning of the Constitution. And Baude explains how rationalist principles have influenced his teaching and legal scholarship.

Duration:01:12:21

Intellectual honesty, cryptocurrency, & more (Vitalik Buterin)

3/4/2021
Julia and guest Vitalik Buterin (creator of the open-source blockchain platform Ethereum) explore a wide range of topics, including: Vitalik's intellectually honest approach to leadership, why prediction markets appear to be biased in favor of Trump, whether it was rational to invest in Bitcoin ten years ago, Vitalik's defense of life extension research against its critics, and more.

Duration:01:28:38

Understanding moral disagreements (Jonathan Haidt)

2/18/2021
Julia and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt (The Righteous Mind) discuss his moral foundations theory and argue about whether liberals should “expand their moral horizons” by learning to think like conservatives. Julia solicits Jon’s help in understanding her disagreement with philosopher Michael Sandel, in episode 247, over the morality of consensual cannibalism.

Duration:01:18:11

The case for one billion Americans, & more (Matt Yglesias)

2/3/2021
Matt Yglesias talks about One Billion Americans, his book arguing that it’s in the United States’ national interest to dramatically boost its population, by expanding immigration and having more babies. Matt and Julia also discuss arguments for and against the “YIMBY” movement, which pushes for building more housing; what they’ve both learned from reflecting on their misguided support for the Iraq War in 2003; and why (and how) Matt is trying to be more of a rationalist.

Duration:01:49:24

What’s wrong with tech companies banning people? (Julian Sanchez)

1/20/2021
Companies like Twitter and Facebook are increasingly willing to ban users -- and even if you agree with their decisions, is it worrying that a few companies have so much power? Julia discusses with Julian Sanchez, expert on tech and civil liberties.

Duration:01:01:08

The case for racial colorblindness (Coleman Hughes)

1/5/2021
Coleman Hughes explains why he favors a "colorblind" ideal and why the "race-conscious" camp disagrees with him. Coleman and Julia also discuss whether reparations are just, and what counts as racism.

Duration:01:11:02

Are Democrats being irrational? (David Shor)

12/22/2020
Data scientist David Shor discusses some of the bad choices made by Democratic political campaigns. What's the cause of the errors? Is it irrationality, coordination problems, or something else?

Duration:01:19:52

The moral limits of markets / The problem with meritocracy (Michael Sandel)

12/7/2020
Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel argues with Julia about human dignity, consensual cannibalism, and the case in his new book, The Tyranny of Merit, that meritocracy is to blame for recent populist backlashes in the U.S.

Duration:01:01:06

Deaths of despair / Effective altruism (Angus Deaton)

11/23/2020
Economist and Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton discusses the rise in “deaths of despair” in the U.S. – deaths from drugs, alcohol or suicide. What's causing it, and how do we know? Also, Julia and Angus debate whether effective altruism can help the poor.

Duration:01:10:36

Are Boomers to blame for Millennials' struggles?

11/9/2020
Rationally Speaking returns from hiatus with a look at a clash between two generations: Millennials, and their parents' generation, the Baby Boomers. Faced with stagnant wages and rising costs of education, rent, and health care, Millennials have a tougher path to economic security than Boomers did. And a growing number of millennial writers argue that their situation is the result of misguided and irresponsible policy choices made by the Boomers themselves. Are they right? Are Boomers to...

Duration:01:05:29

Rationally Speaking #244 - Stephanie Lepp and Buster Benson on "Seeing other perspectives, with compassion"

11/30/2019
This episode features a pair of interviews on a similar topic: First, Stephanie Lepp (host of the Reckonings podcast) discusses what she's learned from interviewing people who had a serious change of heart, or "reckoning," including a former Neo-nazi and a former sex offender. What causes a reckoning? Second, Buster Benson (author of Why Are We Yelling? The art of productive disagreement) shares his tips for coming away from a disagreement feeling more alive -- for example, don't just focus...

Duration:00:42:14