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Rationally Speaking

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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.
More Information

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

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

10/15/2017
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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 Everything. Julia and Zach talk about which new technology is the most likely to happen, which would be most transformative, and which would pose the most risk to the world. Also, has our society become too risk-averse? And what are the main bottlenecks...

Duration: 00:50:07


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

10/1/2017
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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 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.

Duration: 00:50:32


Rationally Speaking #193 - Eric Jonas on "Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?"

9/17/2017
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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....

Duration: 01:04:37


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

9/3/2017
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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...

Duration: 00:51:47


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

8/20/2017
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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...

Duration: 00:59:21


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

8/6/2017
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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...

Duration: 00:46:29


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

7/23/2017
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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...

Duration: 01:06:48


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

7/9/2017
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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 explains hypocrisy, self-deception, and other seemingly irrational features of human nature. Rob and Julia argue about how useful these kinds of "strategic wrongness" really are.

Duration: 00:45:48


Rationally Speaking #187 - Jason Weeden on "Do people vote based on self-interest?"

6/25/2017
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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 episode features psychologist Jason Weeden, arguing that self-interest is a much bigger determinant of voter behavior than most political scientists think it is. Jason and Julia talk about why researchers disagree over this question, and what...

Duration: 01:02:16


Rationally Speaking #186 - Tania Lombrozo on “Why we evolved the urge to explain”

6/11/2017
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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 what purpose explanation serves -- i.e., why it helps us more than our brains just running prediction algorithms. Tania and Julia also discuss whether simple explanations are more likely to be true, and why we're drawn to teleological...

Duration: 01:20:23


Rationally Speaking #185 - Hans Noel on "The role of ideology in politics"

5/28/2017
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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 scientist Hans Noel about why the Democrats became the party of liberalism and the Republicans the party of conservatism, whether voters are hypocrites in the way they apply their ostensible ideology, and whether politicians are motivated by ideals...

Duration: 01:00:39


Rationally Speaking #184 - Gregory Clark on "What caused the industrial revolution?"

5/14/2017
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Nothing changed the course of human history as much as the industrial revolution. Yet its cause is a mystery: Why did it occur in the late 1700s, and not sooner (or later)? Why did it occur in Britain, a relatively small and geographically isolated country, and not somewhere much bigger like China, or elsewhere in Northern Europe like the Netherlands? This episode features economic historian Gregory Clark, author of A Farewell to Alms and one of the leading scholars of the industrial...

Duration: 01:11:39


Rationally Speaking #183 - L. A. Paul on "Transformative Experiences"

4/30/2017
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What if you had the opportunity to become a vampire, irreversibly -- and everyone you knew who had become one said "It's utterly indescribable." Would you take the leap, not knowing what it would feel like, or how it would change your personality and values? That's an example of what philosopher L. A. Paul calls a "transformative experience," one that's especially hard to choose (or forgo) rationally, because of how unknowable it is and how it changes your very preferences. In this...

Duration: 00:58:09


Rationally Speaking #182 - Spencer Greenberg on "How online research can be faster, better, and more useful"

4/16/2017
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This episode features mathematician and social entrepreneur Spencer Greenberg, talking about how he's taking advantage of the Internet to improve the research process. Spencer and Julia explore topics such as: how the meaning of your research can change dramatically when you ask people *why* they gave the answers they did on your survey, how the sheer speed of online research can help us solve the p-hacking problem, and how to incentivize scientists to share their data and methods.

Duration: 00:58:31


Rationally Speaking #181 - William MacAskill on "Moral Uncertainty"

4/2/2017
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This episode introduces "moral uncertainty," the idea that you shouldn't be overly confident in your moral judgments -- like whether it's okay to eat meat, for example, or whether it's okay to abort a baby. The episode's guest is Will MacAskill, a founder of the effective altruism movement and Oxford professor of philosophy. Julia and Will discuss how to take multiple moral systems into account when making a decision, and how to deal with "absolutist" theories that insist some actions have...

Duration: 01:07:30


Rationally Speaking #180 - David Roodman on "The Worm Wars"

3/19/2017
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In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia talks with economics and public policy expert David Roodman about the "Worm Wars" in social science -- the debate over whether deworming pills are an effective way to fight poverty. Along the way they discuss how to analyze a study, the differences between economists and epidemiologists, and how to make high stakes decisions when all your evidence is flawed.

Duration: 00:52:52


Rationally Speaking #179 - Dani Rodrik on "Is economics more art or science?"

3/5/2017
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This episode features Harvard economist Dani Rodrik, talking about the epistemology of economics: Are there any general "laws" of economics that we can be really confident in? Do economists discard models if the data doesn't support them? And why do economists disagree with each other?

Duration: 00:57:36


Rationally Speaking #178 - Tim Urban on "Trying to live well, as semi-rational animals"

2/19/2017
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This episode features Tim Urban, author of popular longform illustrated blog Wait But Why. Julia and Tim explore one of their common interests: the tension between the rational and irrational aspects of human nature. Is there any value in the "irrational" parts of us (such as Tim's colorfully named "instant gratification monkey" and "social approval mammoth")? And can recognizing that tension help us live better -- or are we stuck struggling between our animal and rational selves?

Duration: 01:10:57


Rationally Speaking #177 - Dylan Matthews on "The science and ethics of kidney donation"

2/5/2017
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If you're a healthy adult, should you donate one of your kidneys to a stranger? This episode features journalist Dylan Matthews, who donated his kidney last year. He and Julia discuss the clever design of "donor chains," how we should evaluate the science about whether kidney donation is safe, and whether we have an ethical obligation to donate.

Duration: 00:57:34


Rationally Speaking #176 - Jason Brennan on "Against democracy"

1/22/2017
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Churchill famously called democracy "the worst system of government, except for all the others that have been tried." Could we do better? On this episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia chats with professor Jason Brennan, author of the book "Against Democracy," about his case for why democracy is flawed -- philosophically, morally, and empirically.

Duration: 01:05:54

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