Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking

www.rationallyspeakingpodcast.org
Exploring the borderlands between reason and nonsense


#235 - Tage Rai on “Why people think their violence is morally justified”
Jun 24 • 59 min
We typically think of violence as being caused by a lack of control, or by selfish motives. But what if, more often than not, violence is intended to be morally righteous? Author Tage Rai debates this with Julia.
#234 - Dylan Matthews on “Global poverty has fallen, but what should we conclude from that?”
May 27 • 77 min
The global poverty rate has fallen significantly over the last few decades, but there’s a heated debate over how to view that fact. Vox journalist Dylan Matthews explains the disagreement.
#233 - Clive Thompson on “The culture of coding, and how it’s changing the world”
May 13 • 57 min
Technology writer Clive Thompson discusses his latest book, “Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World.”
#232 - Tyler Cowen on “Defending big business against its critics”
Apr 29 • 64 min
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?
#231 - Helen Toner on “Misconceptions about China and artificial intelligence”
Apr 15 • 58 min
Helen Toner, the director of strategy at Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), shares her observations from the last few years of talking with AI scientists and policymakers in the US and China.
#230 - Kelsey Piper on “Big picture journalism: covering the topics that matter in the long run”
Apr 1 • 53 min
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.
#229 - John Nerst on “Erisology, the study of disagreement”
Mar 18 • 64 min
This episode features John Nerst, data scientist and blogger at everythingstudies.com, discussing a potential new field called “erisology,” the study of disagreement.
#228 - William Gunn and Alex Holcombe on “Is Elsevier helping or hurting scientific progress?”
Mar 4 • 58 min
William Gunn, director of scholarly communications for Elsevier, and Alex Holcombe, cognitive scientist and open science advocate, discuss the University of California’s decision to end their contract with Elsevier, the world’s largest scientific…
#227 - Sarah Haider on “Dissent and free speech”
Feb 17 • 58 min
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.
#226 - Rob Wiblin on “An updated view of the best ways to help humanity”
Feb 4 • 53 min
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.
#225 - Neerav Kingsland on “The case for charter schools”
Jan 20 • 47 min
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.
#224 - Rick Nevin on “The long-term effects of lead on crime”
Jan 6 • 60 min
This episode features Rick Nevin, an economist who is known for his research suggesting that lead is one of the main causes of crime.
#223 - Chris Fraser on “The Mohists, ancient China’s philosopher warriors”
Dec 16, 2018 • 43 min
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.
#222 - Spencer Greenberg and Seth Cottrell on “Ask a Mathematician, Ask a Physicist”
Dec 2, 2018 • 57 min
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 Spencer Greenberg and Seth Cottrell answer people’s questions about life, the universe, and everything.
#221 - Rob Reich on “Is philanthropy bad for democracy?”
Nov 13, 2018 • 47 min
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.
#220 - Peter Eckersley on “Tough choices on privacy and artificial intelligence”
Oct 28, 2018 • 62 min
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.
#219 - Jason Collins on “A skeptical take on behavioral economics”
Oct 14, 2018 • 55 min
In this episode, economist Jason Collins discusses some of the problems with behavioral economics.
#218 - Chris Auld on “Good and bad critiques of economics”
Sep 30, 2018 • 48 min
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.
#217 - Aviv Ovadya on “The problem of false, biased, and artificial news”
Sep 16, 2018 • 38 min
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.
#216 - Diana Fleischman on “Being a transhumanist evolutionary psychologist”
Sep 2, 2018 • 46 min
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..
#215 - Anders Sandberg on “Thinking about the long-term future of humanity”
Aug 19, 2018 • 43 min
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.
#214 - Anthony Aguirre on “Predicting the future of science and tech, with Metaculus”
Aug 5, 2018 • 50 min
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?
#213 - Dean Simonton on “The causes of scientific and artistic genius”
Jul 22, 2018 • 66 min
This episode features Professor Dean Simonton, who has spent his life quantitatively studying geniuses, from Einstein to Mozart.
#212 - Ed Boyden on “How to invent game-changing technologies”
Jul 8, 2018 • 48 min
This episode features neuroscientist Ed Boyden discussing two inventions of his that have revolutionized neuroscience: optogenetics and expansion microscopy.
#211 - Sabine Hossenfelder on “The case against beauty in physics”
Jun 24, 2018 • 42 min
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.
#210 - Stuart Ritchie on “Conceptual objections to IQ testing”
Jun 10, 2018 • 57 min
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.
#209 - Christopher Chabris on “Collective intelligence & the ethics of A/B tests”
May 27, 2018 • 51 min
This episode features cognitive psychologist Christopher Chabris discussing his research on “collective intelligence” and why people get so upset at companies like Facebook and OKCupid for doing experiments on their users, and whether that’s fair.
#208 - Annie Duke on “Thinking in bets”
May 13, 2018 • 52 min
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.
#207 - Alison Gopnik on “The wrong way to think about parenting, plus the downsides of modernity”
Apr 29, 2018 • 63 min
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 things.
#206 - Kal Turnbull on “Change My View”
Apr 15, 2018 • 49 min
Julia and Kal Turnbull discuss the culture of the subreddit Change My View, what makes it such an oasis for reasonable discussion on the Internet, and what we’ve learned about what motivates people to change their minds or not.
#205 - Michael Webb on “Are ideas getting harder to find?”
Apr 1, 2018 • 48 min
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.
#204 - Simine Vazire on “Reforming psychology, and self-awareness”
Mar 18, 2018 • 53 min
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.
#203 - Stephen Webb on “Where is Everybody? Solutions to the Fermi Paradox.”
Mar 4, 2018 • 40 min
The universe has been around for billions of years, so why haven’t we seen any signs of alien civilizations? This episode features physicist Stephen Webb, who describes some of the potential solutions to the puzzle.
#202 - Bryan Caplan on “The Case Against Education”
Feb 18, 2018 • 47 min
In this episode, economist Bryan Caplan argues that the main reason getting a college degree is valuable is because of signaling, and not because college teaches you useful knowledge or skills.
#201 - Ben Buchanan on “The Cybersecurity Dilemma”
Feb 4, 2018 • 44 min
In this episode, Ben Buchanan (postdoctoral fellow at Harvard studying cybersecurity and statecraft) explores how the escalation dilemma plays out in the realm of cybersecurity.
#200 - Timothy Lee on “How much should tech companies moderate speech?”
Jan 21, 2018 • 44 min
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?
#199 - Jessica Flanigan on “Why people should have the right to self-medicate”
Jan 7, 2018 • 42 min
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.
#198 - Timur Kuran on “Private Truths and Public Lies”
Dec 10, 2017 • 59 min
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.
#197 - Doug Hubbard on “Why people think some things can’t be quantified (and why they’re wrong)”
Nov 12, 2017 • 53 min
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.”
#196 - Eric Schwitzgebel on “Weird ideas and opaque minds”
Oct 29, 2017 • 65 min
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.
#195 - Zach Weinersmith on “Emerging technologies that’ll improve and/or ruin everything”
Oct 15, 2017 • 50 min
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 Everythings.
#194 - Robert Wright on “Why Buddhism is True”
Oct 1, 2017 • 50 min
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.
#193 - Eric Jonas on “Could a neuroscientist understand a microprocessor?”
Sep 17, 2017 • 64 min
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 to a computer chip.
#192 - Jesse Singal on “The problems with implicit bias tests”
Sep 3, 2017 • 51 min
This episode features science journalist Jesse Singal, who argues that the Implicit Associations Test (IAT) has been massively overhyped, and that in fact there’s little evidence that it’s measuring real-life bias.
#191 - Seth Stephens-Davidowitz on “What the internet can tell us about human nature” (Fixed)
Aug 20, 2017 • 59 min
Seth Stephens-Davidowitz and Julia discuss the insights new research gives us into which parts of the USA are more racist, what kinds of strategies reduce racism, and whether the internet is making political polarization worse.
#190 - Amanda Askell on “Pascal’s Wager and other low risks with high stakes”
Aug 6, 2017 • 46 min
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.
#189 - Stephan Guyenet on “What causes obesity?”
Jul 23, 2017 • 66 min
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.
#188 - Robert Kurzban on “Being strategically wrong”
Jul 9, 2017 • 45 min
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.”
#187 - Jason Weeden on “Do people vote based on self-interest?”
Jun 25, 2017 • 62 min
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.
#186 - Tania Lombrozo on “Why we evolved the urge to explain”
Jun 11, 2017 • 68 min
Humans have an innate urge to reach for explanations of the world around us. This episode features psychologist and philosopher Tania Lombrozo, discussing her research on what purpose explanation serves.
#185 - Hans Noel on “The role of ideology in politics”
May 28, 2017 • 53 min
Julia talks with political scientist Hans Noel about why the Democrats became the party of liberalism and the Republicans the party of conservatism.
#184 - Gregory Clark on “What caused the industrial revolution?”
May 14, 2017 • 66 min
This episode features economic historian Gregory Clark, author of A Farewell to Alms and one of the leading scholars of the industrial revolution.
#183 - L. A. Paul on “Transformative Experiences”
Apr 30, 2017 • 52 min
In this episode, philosopher L. A. Paul and Julia discuss real life examples of transformative experiences — such as having children — and debate how to deal with them.
#182 - Spencer Greenberg on “How online research can be faster, better, and more useful”
Apr 16, 2017 • 52 min
This episode features mathematician and social entrepreneur Spencer Greenberg, talking about how he’s taking advantage of the Internet to improve the research process.
#181 - William MacAskill on “Moral Uncertainty”
Apr 2, 2017 • 54 min
Julia and William MacAskill discuss “moral uncertainty” and how to take multiple moral systems into account when making a decision, and how to deal with “absolutist” theories that insist some actions have infinite badness, like lying.
#180 - David Roodman on “The Worm Wars”
Mar 19, 2017 • 48 min
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.
#179 - Dani Rodrik on “Is economics more art or science?”
Mar 5, 2017 • 48 min
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?
#178 - Tim Urban on “Trying to live well, as semi-rational animals”
Feb 19, 2017 • 50 min
Julia and Tim Urban 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? And can recognizing that tension help us live better?
#177 - Dylan Matthews on “The science and ethics of kidney donation”
Feb 5, 2017 • 44 min
Journalist Dylan Matthews, who donated his kidney last year, 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.
#176 - Jason Brennan on “Against democracy”
Jan 22, 2017 • 51 min
Julia chats with professor Jason Brennan, author of the book “Against Democracy,” about his case for why democracy is flawed — philosophically, morally, and empirically.
#175 - Chris Blattman on “Do sweatshops reduce poverty?”
Jan 8, 2017 • 57 min
Professor Chris Blattman has run some well-designed randomized controlled trials exploring low-paying factories (which some might call “sweatshops”), and he discusses what surprised him and how he’s updated his views from his research.
#174 - John Ioannidis on “What happened to Evidence-based medicine?”
Dec 11, 2016 • 45 min
John Ioannidis and Julia discuss how Evidence-Based Medicine has been “hijacked,” by whom, and what do do about it.
#173 - Brendan Nyhan on “What can we learn from the election?”
Nov 27, 2016 • 39 min
Julia talks with political scientist Brendan Nyhan about Trump’s surprising win in the 2016 presidential election. Were the polls and models wrong? If so, why? How surprised should we have been by Trump’s win? And why didn’t the markets react badly to it?
#172 - Brian Nosek on “Why science needs openness”
Nov 13, 2016 • 48 min
This episode features Brian Nosek, a professor of psychology and founder of the Center for Open Science. He and Julia discuss what openness means, some clever approaches to boosting openness, and whether openness could have any downsides.
#171 - Scott Aaronson on “The ethics and strategy of vote trading”
Oct 30, 2016 • 55 min
Julia and professor Scott Aaronson explores the unorthodox idea of “swapping” your vote with someone in a swing state who was going to vote for a third party candidate.
#170 - Will Wilkinson on “Social justice and political philosophy”
Oct 16, 2016 • 50 min
How did “social justice” come to mean what it does today? Will Wilkinson and Julia discuss the libertarian reaction to social justice, whether or not social justice is a zero-sum game, and how the Internet exacerbates conflicts over social justice.
#169 - Owen Cotton-Barratt on “Thinking About Humanity’s Far Future”
Oct 2, 2016 • 49 min
What can we do now to affect whether humanity is still around in 1000 years (and what life will be like then)? In this episode, Julia talks with Owen Cotton-Barratt, a mathematician at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute.
#168 - Don Moore on “Overconfidence”
Sep 18, 2016 • 47 min
Don Moore and Julia discuss the various forms of overconfidence, whether its upsides are big enough to outweigh its downsides, and what people mean when they insist “I think things are better than they really are.”
#167 - Samuel Arbesman on “Why technology is becoming too complex”
Sep 4, 2016 • 50 min
In this episode, Julia talks with complexity scientist Samuel Arbesman, about his new book Overcomplicated: Technology at the Limits of Comprehension, why unprecedented levels of complexity might be dangerous, and what we should do about it.
#166 - Eric Schwitzgebel on “Why you should expect the truth to be crazy”
Aug 21, 2016 • 53 min
What role should “common sense” play in evaluating new theories? This episode features a discussion with philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel on his theory of “Crazyism,” that we should expect the truth to be at least a little bit crazy.
#165 - Robert Frank on “Success and Luck”
Aug 7, 2016 • 56 min
Julia chats with professor of economics Robert Frank about his latest book, Success and Luck: The Myth of the Modern Meritocracy. Why do we discount the role of luck in success? And would acknowledging luck’s importance sap our motivation to try?
#164 - James Evans on “Using meta-knowledge to learn how science works”
Jul 24, 2016 • 50 min
Has science gotten slower over the years? What unstated assumptions are shaping our research without us even realizing it? Julia talks with sociologist of science James Evans, who investigates questions like these using some clever data mining.
#163 - Gregg Caruso on “Free Will and Moral Responsibility”
Jul 10, 2016 • 59 min
If people don’t have free will, then can we be held morally responsible for our actions? In this episode Julia talks with philosopher Gregg Caruso, who advocates a position of “optimistic skepticism” on the topic.
#162 - Sean Carroll on “Poetic Naturalism”
Jun 26, 2016 • 50 min
This episode features physicist Sean Carroll, author of the recent bestseller The Big Picture: on the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself. Sean and Julia talk about the new “ism” he introduces in the book, “poetic naturalism.”
#161 - Tom Griffiths and Brian Christian on “Algorithms to Live By”
Jun 12, 2016 • 49 min
Julia chats with the authors of Algorithms to Live By, about how to apply key algorithms from computer science to our real life problems. For example, deciding which apartment to rent, planning your career, and prioritizing your projects.
#160 - Live at NECSS — Jacob Appel on “Tackling bioethical dilemmas”
May 29, 2016 • 67 min
It’s the annual live episode, taped at NECSS in NYC! This year features returning guest Jacob Appel, a bioethicist (and lawyer, and psychiatrist). Jacob and Julia discuss various bioethical dilemmas.
#159 - Colin Allen on “Do fish feel pain?”
May 15, 2016 • 55 min
Julia talks with philosopher of cognitive science Colin Allen about whether fish can feel pain. Are fish conscious, and how could we tell? What’s the difference between pain and suffering?
#158 - Dr. George Ainslie on “Negotiating with your future selves”
May 1, 2016 • 47 min
Behavioral psychiatrist (and economist) George Ainslie demonstrates the existence of the ubiquitous phenomenon in human willpower, called hyperbolic discounting, in which our preferences change depending on how immediate or distant the choice is.
#157 - Dr. Herculano-Houzel on “What made the human brain special?”
Apr 17, 2016 • 51 min
In this episode, neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-Houzel lays out the mystery of the “Human advantage,” and explains how a new technique she invented several years ago has shed light on what makes humans so much smarter than other species.
#156 - David McRaney on “Why it’s so hard to change someone’s mind”
Apr 3, 2016 • 55 min
David McRaney describes his experiences with people who have done an about-face on some important topic, like 9/11 conspiracy theories. He and Julia discuss a technique for changing someone’s mind with evidence.
#155 - Uri Simonsohn on “Detecting fraud in social science”
Mar 20, 2016 • 59 min
He’s been called a “Data vigilante.” In this episode, Prof. Uri Simonsohn describes how he detects fraudulent work in psychology and economics — what clues tip him off? How big of a problem is fraud relative to other issues like P-hacking?
#154 - Tom Griffiths on “Why your brain might be rational after all”
Mar 6, 2016 • 53 min
What if our biases are actually a sign of rationality? Tom Griffiths, professor of cognitive science at University of California, Berkeley, makes the case for why our built-in reasoning strategies might be optimal after all.
#153 - Dr. Vinay Prasad on “Why so much of what we ‘know’ about medicine is wrong”
Feb 21, 2016 • 47 min
This episode features Dr. Vinay Prasad, author of “Ending Medical Reversal: Improving Outcomes, Saving Lives,” who talks with Julia about why medical research is so often fatally flawed, and what we can do about it.
#152 - Dan Fincke on “The pros and cons of civil disagreement”
Feb 7, 2016 • 53 min
Julia and philosopher and blogger Dan Fincke discuss civility in public discourse. Do atheists and skeptics have a responsibility to be civil when expressing disagreement, and does that responsibility vary depending on who their target is?
#151 - Maria Konnikova on “Why everyone falls for con artists”
Jan 24, 2016 • 49 min
Julia interviews Maria Konnikova, science journalist and author of “The Confidence Game: Why we fall for it… Every time,” who explains why con artists are so effective that even the best of us are vulnerable.
#150 - Elizabeth Loftus on “The malleability of human memory”
Jan 10, 2016 • 47 min
Julia interviews psychologist Elizabeth Loftus, whose pioneering work on human memory revealed that our memories can be contaminated by the questions people ask us, or by misinformation we encounter after the fact.
#149 - Susan Gelman on “How essentialism shapes our thinking”
Dec 13, 2015 • 47 min
In this episode, psychologist Susan Gelman describes her work on the psychological trait of essentialism: the innate human urge to categorize reality and to assume that those categories reflect meaningful, invisible differences.
#148 - David Kyle Johnson on “The Myths that Stole Christmas”
Nov 29, 2015 • 45 min
Julia interviews philosophy professor David Kyle Johnson, the author of “The Myths that Stole Christmas.” Kyle explains the little-known origin story of Santa Claus and then Kyle and Julia debate the ethics of lying to children about Santa Claus.
#147 - Andrew Gelman on “Why do Americans vote the way they do?”
Nov 15, 2015 • 52 min
Professor of statistics and political science Andrew Gelman shines some clarifying light on the intersection between politics and class in America, explaining what the numbers really show. He and Julia also ask “Is it rational to vote?”
#146 - Jesse Richardson on “The pros and cons of making fallacies famous”
Nov 1, 2015 • 50 min
Jesse Richardson, a creative director who has been using his advertising background “for good and not for evil” by building skeptic sites including “Your Logical Fallacy Is.” Julia asks: Aren’t many so-called logical fallacies not actually fallacious?
#145 - Phil Tetlock on “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction”
Oct 18, 2015 • 55 min
Professor Phil Tetlock discusses his team’s landslide wins in forecasting tournaments sponsored by the US government. Also, the problem of meta-uncertainty and how much we should expect prediction skill in one domain to carry over to other domains.
#144 - Bryan Caplan on “Does parenting matter?”
Oct 4, 2015 • 63 min
Economist Bryan Caplan argues that, despite our intuition that parenting choices affect children’s life outcomes, there’s strong evidence to the contrary. They also explore what that means for how people should parent and how many kids they should have.
#143 - Scott Aaronson on “The theorem that proves rationalists can’t disagree”
Sep 20, 2015 • 50 min
Scott Aaronson. professor of computer science at MIT, discusses a theorem which implies that two people cannot rationally disagree after they’ve shared their opinions and information. Also, why should you favor your own beliefs just because they’re yours?
#142 - Paul Bloom on “The case against empathy”
Sep 6, 2015 • 52 min
Psychologist Paul Bloom and Julia discuss what empathy is, why Paul is concerned that it’s a terrible guide to moral decision making, and what the alternatives are.
#141 - Dan Sperber on “The Argumentative Theory of reason”
Aug 23, 2015 • 56 min
Julia talks with guest Dan Sperber, professor of cognitive and social sciences and famous for advancing an alternate view of reason: that it evolved to help us argue with our fellow humans and convince them that we’re right.
#140 - Kenny Easwaran on, “Newcomb’s Paradox and the tragedy of rationality”
Aug 9, 2015 • 54 min
Philosopher Kenny Easwaran delves into the Newcomb’s Paradox and how it is related to other puzzles in decision theory, like the Prisoners’ Dilemma. Also, its implications for free will and what Kenny calls the “deep tragedy” at the heart of rationality.
#139 - Eric Schwitzgebel on “Moral hypocrisy: why doesn’t knowing about ethics make people more ethical?”
Jul 26, 2015 • 48 min
If you expect that professional ethicists would behave more ethically than other people you’d be wrong. Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel and Julia discuss why the answer is no and explore questions like how do you decide how moral you’re going to try to be?
#138 - Ian Morris on, “Why the West rules — for now”
Jul 12, 2015 • 54 min
Ian Morris discusses his theory of why Western Europe and North America have become the dominant world powers. He takes a data-driven approach to measure social development over history to find explanations. Also, can we make inferences about history?
#137 - Marc Lipsitch on, “Should scientists try to create dangerous viruses?”
Jun 28, 2015 • 44 min
Epidemiology Marc Lipsitch discusses a controversial field of research, gain-of-function, in which scientists take a virus and attempt to make it more dangerous. He argues that the risks outweigh the benefits and that we should halt it as soon as possible
#136 - David Roodman on Why Microfinance Won’t Cure Global Poverty
Jun 15, 2015 • 42 min
Can we pull the world’s poor out of poverty by giving them access to financial services? This episode features a conversation with economist David Roodman, formerly a fellow at the Center for Global Development and senior advisor to the Gates Foundation,…
#135 - Robin Hanson on: “Most human behavior is signaling”
May 31, 2015 • 47 min
In this episode, economist Robin Hanson explains the signaling theory of human behavior: That our motivations for our choices, about school, shopping, medical care, and so on, evolved primarily to shape other people’s perceptions of us. In the process…
#134 - Michael Shermer on: “Science drives moral progress”
May 17, 2015 • 46 min
Common wisdom holds that the world is getting more violent, but is that really true? Leading skeptic Michael Shermer, professor and author of many books on science, morality and skepticism, argues to the contrary. Shermer’s thesis in his recent book, “The…
#133 - Sean Carroll on “The Many Worlds Interpretatioln Is Probably Correct”
May 3, 2015 • 47 min
In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Caltech physicist Sean Carroll describes an “embarrassing” state of affairs in modern physics: that we still don’t know how to interpret quantum mechanics, almost a century after its discovery. Sean explains why he…
#132 - Live From NECSS 2015
Apr 21, 2015 • 61 min
This live episode of Rationally Speaking, taped at the 2015 Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, is a special one: it’s Massimo’s last episode as co-host! He and Julia look back over their history together and discuss which topics they’ve…
#131 - James Randi on Being An Honest Liar
Apr 5, 2015 • 48 min
The Amazing Randi, famous magician and a pioneer of Skepticism, joins this episode of Rationally Speaking for a conversation about the past and future of the Skeptic movement. Massimo and Julia’s questions for Randi include: Do you think Skepticism has…
#130 - The Atheists Own 10 Commandments
Mar 22, 2015 • 48 min
Do atheists need their own 10 commandments? What would such a thing look like? In this episode, Julia and Massimo discuss a recent attempt to define some secular commandments. They debate the relevance of particular commandments, like “All truth is…
#129 - Would the World Be a Better Place Without Religion?
Mar 8, 2015 • 51 min
What is the evidence as to whether the world would be better off without religion? Research shows correlation between religiosity and prosocial traits. Also, are there other reasons to suspect that religion’s net effect on the world is negative?
#128 - 5th Anniversary Live Show
Feb 26, 2015 • 69 min
On a live episode, M&J respond to live questions. Topics include: books to read to improve your rationality, the biggest problems in the skeptic community, and how to get politicians to be reasonable. Also, Massimo’s surprising and poignant announcement.
#127 - Elise Crull on Philosophy of Physics
Feb 8, 2015 • 49 min
Philosopher of physics Elise Crull explains why some physicist’s view that a philosopher of science is as much use to scientists as an ornithologist is to birds is wrong. Also, what philosophers have to say about physics and whether anything really exists
#126 - Preston Bost on Crazy Beliefs, Sane Believers
Jan 25, 2015 • 43 min
Prof. of psychology Preston Bost joins M&J to discuss whether it can be rational to believe in conspiracy theories. What kinds of people latch onto them, and why? Also, possible evolutionary reasons for their appeal, and which beliefs are rational anyway?
#125 - The Quantified Self
Jan 18, 2015 • 49 min
M&J discuss the recent rise of the new “Quantified Self” movement in which people are mining their own data for insights about how to be happier and more effective. They discuss self tracking, what you can learn from it, and what its pitfalls might be.
#124 - Stoicism
Dec 28, 2014 • 45 min
The ancient philosophy of stoicism, which advocates (among other things) practicing mindfulness, accepting the things you can’t change, and regulating negative emotions. Also, the results of Massimo’s experimentation with it and its potential problems.
#123 - Daniel Lakens on P-Hacking and Other Problems in Psychology Research
Dec 14, 2014 • 45 min
Professor Daniel Lakens from the Eindhoven University of Technology joins M&J to discuss what’s wrong with social sciences research. Why so many psychology papers can’t be trusted, and what solutions might exist, including fixing skewed incentives.
#122 - The Science and Philosophy of Humor
Nov 30, 2014 • 50 min
M&J delve into the science and philosophy of comedy, questions like: Why did humans evolve to have a sense of humor? What’s the relationship between comedy and existential terror? And how many bad philosophy jokes can Massimo tell before Julia loses it?
#121 - Benjamin Todd on 80,000 Hours
Nov 16, 2014 • 50 min
Benjamin Todd, executive director of 80,000 Hours, on which career should people choose to help others effectively? Medicine? Research? Non-profit? Also, the heuristics that should go into career choices, and what exactly we mean by doing good.
#120 - Nihilism
Nov 2, 2014 • 51 min
Massimo and Julia explain the different types of philosophical nihilism, reveal their own personal views on the subject, and explore why nihilism has such different emotional effects on different people.
#119 - Aaron James on Assholes (and Bitches)
Oct 21, 2014 • 46 min
Philosophy professor Aaron James discusses what makes an asshole an asshole, and why they’re so uniquely maddening. Also, the assholery of certain people in politics and atheism, the difference between an asshole and a bitch, and swap coping mechanisms.
#118 - Live From Baruch College With Dr. Steven Novella
Oct 5, 2014 • 110 min
Steve, Massimo, and Julia discuss the recent lawsuit facing the SGU, share their gripes about the ways that skeptics sometimes oversimplify the issues, and answer audience questions such as, “Is anything off-limits to skeptical activism?”
#117 - Maria Konnikova on How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
Sep 21, 2014 • 48 min
Psychologist Maria Konnikova discusses how to use your logical, reflective side in everyday life. Also, tips on Holmesian thinking, Is your unreflective, Watsonian side really so bad, and did Sherlock make mistakes in his famous quotes about thinking?
#116 - Jim Baggott and Massimo on Farewell to Reality
Sep 7, 2014 • 28 min
Jim Baggot, one of an increasingly vocal number of critics of some directions taken lately by fundamental theoretical physics, particularly string theory. They explore what it means for some physicists to call for a new era of “post-empirical” science.
#115 - Maarten Boudry and Massimo On the Difference Between Science and Pseudoscience
Aug 24, 2014 • 33 min
Philosopher of science Maarten Boudry sits down with Massimo to chat about the difference between science and pseudoscience, and why it is an important topic not just in philosophy circles, but in the broader public arena as well.
#114 - Massimo and Julia Go Freestyle
Aug 10, 2014 • 51 min
M&J go rogue: no guest, no pre-set topics, just conversation about things on their mind. Among other things, the questions of how to change your mind, the “surprise journalling” method, and, importantly: How do you know if you’re a jerk?
#113 - The Turing Test
Jul 27, 2014 • 52 min
J&M take a critical look at the Turing test as a standard for consciousness and at an artificial intelligence named “Eugine Goostman” which reportedly passed the test. Also, what it would mean for an AI to be conscious, and how we could ever tell.
#112 - Race: Just a Social Construct?
Jul 13, 2014 • 48 min
The problems with race as a genetically-based concept. Also, a controversial recent book on the subject and the problems with analyses that attempt to attribute differences such as those between rich and poor countries to innate racial differences.
#111 - Human Nature
Jun 29, 2014 • 55 min
The science and philosophy of human nature: what traits are “built in” to being human, and how would we know? And once we know what human nature consists of, should we try to protect it against changes?
#110 - Scientia, the Unity of Knowledge
Jun 15, 2014 • 55 min
M&J discuss “scientia,” the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and Massimo’s new “Scientia Salon” online journal. Also, how the boundaries blur between math, science and philosophy, and how the Internet can change scientific research.
#109 - Rebecca Newberger Goldstein on Plato at the Googleplex
Jun 1, 2014 • 50 min
Philosopher and author Rebecca Goldstein discusses her latest book: “Plato at the Googleplex: Why Philosophy Won’t Go Away.” Also, the value of philosophy in modern science and whether it makes sense to designate experts in ethical reasoning.
#108 - Suicide
May 18, 2014 • 55 min
M&J discuss the ethics of suicide through the lens of several major philosophies. They also explore the social science of suicide: how does one person’s suicide affect the community?
#107 - MOOCs
May 4, 2014 • 48 min
Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs for short, have been hailed as the next wave in secondary education. M&J discuss how to measure MOOCs’ effectiveness, separating the hype from the genuine promise. Also, other forms of alternative higher education.
#106 - Live From NECSS With Lawrence Krauss
Apr 20, 2014 • 62 min
Theoretical physicist and author Lawrence Krauss chats with M&J about whether the laws of the universe demand some kind of explanation, whether string theory should be deemed a failure, and how he ended up featured in a geocentrist documentary.
#105 - Greta Christina on Coming Out Atheist
Apr 6, 2014 • 59 min
Atheist activist Greta Christina and M&J disagree over the boundaries of the atheist movement, and discuss how cognitive biases make it hard to asses whether people regret coming out as atheists and what should atheist communities be modeled after.
#104 - Edward Frenkel on Love and Math
Mar 23, 2014 • 48 min
Mathematician Edward Frenkel, author of “Love and Math,” talks about how the subject seduced him as a young man, how he believes it’s generally mis-taught in schools, and how you can find beauty — even romance — in mathematics.
#103 - Neil deGrasse Tyson on Why He Doesn’t Call Himself an Atheist
Mar 9, 2014 • 52 min
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses the question of whether he should call himself an atheist. In a Big Think video he explained that he avoids that label because it causes people to make all sorts of unflattering (and often untrue) assumptions.
#102 - Zach Weinersmith on His “SMBC” Webcomic
Feb 23, 2014 • 50 min
Guest Zach Weinersmith, author of SMBC, the popular “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal” webcomic, clarifies his position in the ongoing philosophy vs. science fight, the ethics of offensive jokes, and discusses BAHFest and his movie ”Starpocalype.”
#101 - Max Tegmark on the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis
Feb 9, 2014 • 51 min
Physicist Max Tegmark joins us to talk about his book “Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality” in which explains the controversial argument that everything around us is made of math.
#100 - Live Q&A: Massimo and Julia Answer Everything!
Jan 26, 2014 • 79 min
Q&A recorded live at the Jefferson Market Library in NYC. Topics range from science, philosophy and the borderlands between the two. The questions push the hosts to think on their feet, and even to admit their ignorance on stage!
#99 - Judith Schlesinger Exposes the Myth of the Mad Genius
Dec 22, 2013 • 43 min
Psychologist Judith Schlesinger explains why she thinks that, despite the impression you’d get from TV, movies, and plenty of common wisdom, the “mad genius” archetype is simply the result of folklore, misunderstanding, and bad research.
#98 - Jerome Wakefield on Psychiatric Diagnoses: Science or Pseudoscience?
Dec 8, 2013 • 53 min
Dr. Jerome Wakefield, psychiatrist and PhD in philosophy, discusses the arbitrariness of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and the controversies around various mental disorders, including depression and sexual fetishes.
#97 - Peter Singer on Being a Utilitarian in the Real World
Nov 24, 2013 • 47 min
Ethicist Peter Singer discusses his utilitarian arguments about how we should treat animals, why we have a moral obligation to give to charity, whether infants should count as “people,” and more that have won him widespread fame — and notoriety.
#96 - Sally Satel and Scott Lilienfeld on the Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience
Nov 10, 2013 • 52 min
Psychiatrist Sally Satel and psychologyst Scott O. Lilienfeld discuss their book “Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience” and how much explanatory power does neuroscience really have on areas such as love, morality, addiction.
#95 - Gerard O’Brien On the Computational Theory of Mind
Oct 27, 2013 • 56 min
Philosopher Gerard O’Brien from the University of Adelaide, who specializes in the philosophy of mind, discusses the computational theory of mind and what it implies about consciousness, intelligence, and the possibility of uploading people onto computers
#94 - Maarten Boudry on Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem
Oct 3, 2013 • 60 min
Massimo and philosopher Maarten Boudry from Ghent University discuss their new book, “Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem” on the difference between science and pseudocience. Also, learn how Maarten pranked theologians.
#93 - Dr. Michael E. Mann On The Science Of Climate Change
Sep 29, 2013 • 55 min
In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia and Massimo talk to physicist and climatologist Michael Mann about how we know the climate is getting warmer. Among other things, they cover the physical processes of climate change, the role that predictive…
#92 - Dr. Paul Offit On Believing in Magic
Sep 15, 2013 • 45 min
How has alternative medicine managed to become so mainstream? Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases discusses alternative medicine, why it’s still unregulated, and whether or not to tell patients about placebos.
#91 - Kendrick Frazier On Skeptical Inquiry
Sep 1, 2013 • 49 min
Kendrick Frazier, editor of Skeptical Inquirer, talks about the present, past, and future of skepticism, how the movement’s focus has changed, and what the frontiers of skepticism should be. And Ken’s pick: “Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless…
#90 - On Wine, Water, and Audio
Jun 30, 2013 • 53 min
Connoisseurship — or snobbery, depending on your point of view, of wines, bottled water, and high-end audio equipment. Is there evidence on whether connoisseurs can really tell the difference between, for example, the $7 wine and the $700 one? Plus the…
#89 - Online Dating
Jun 16, 2013 • 51 min
M&J turn an analytical eye on the math and science of online dating sites like eHarmony and OKCupid. Also, what does cognitive psychology tell us about how this new choice context affects our happiness?
#88 - Mario Livio on Brilliant Blunders
Jun 3, 2013 • 43 min
Astrophysicist and author Mario Livio joins us to talk about his latest book, “Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein - Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe.”
#87 - Sean Carroll on Naturalism
May 19, 2013 • 49 min
Astrophysicist and author Sean Carroll discusses naturalism, the philosophical viewpoint that there are no supernatural phenomena and the universe runs on scientific laws. Also, what distinguishes it from similar philosophies like physicalism and…
#86 - Live From NECSS With Jim Holt On Why Does the World Exist?
May 5, 2013 • 65 min
Philosopher Jim Holt discusses his book “Why Does the World Exist?: An Existential Detective Story” in this live episode of Rationally Speaking, taped at the 2013 Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism in New York City.
#85 - Live From NECSS With Michael Shermer On the Role of Science in Morality
Apr 21, 2013 • 36 min
Massimo and Michael Shermer discuss whether science can tell us what is “moral.” This discussion comes after both men have tackled the question separately in their respective books and jointly in a recent debate on the Rationally Speaking blog.
#84 - Stephen Asma On the Myth of Universal Love
Apr 7, 2013 • 46 min
Philosopher Stephen Asma, author of “Against Fairness,” talks about what he thinks is wrong with the concept of fairness — and about certain traditional values he thinks are more important. Plus Stephens pick: “Affective Neuroscience: The Foundations of…
#83 - Samuel Arbesman On The Half-Life of Facts
Mar 24, 2013 • 45 min
Samuel Arbesman, applied mathematician and author of “The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an expiration Date”, joins us to talk about the hidden patterns underlying how fast our understanding of science is changing. Plus Sam’s pick: “The…
#82 - It’s Not Easy Being Green
Mar 10, 2013 • 52 min
Should you buy organic because it’s better for the environment or fair-trade because it’s better for foreign laborers? Well, It’s not clear cut how much good you’re accomplishing with your ethically minded purchases or whether you’re doing any good at all.
#81 - Live! Ben Goldacre on Bad Pharma
Feb 24, 2013 • 63 min
Medicine is broken warns Ben Goldacre, author of the Bad Science website. He talks about his new book, Bad Pharma, and how the evidence about pharmaceutical drugs gets distorted due to shoddy regulations, missing data, and the influence of drug companies.
#80 - Dear Abby
Feb 10, 2013 • 51 min
The history and philosophy of advice. How do you rationally evaluate advice and how do you give rational advice? Also, some of Dear Abby’s snarkiest moments, the origins of the advice column in 1680, and some of the worst advice ever given. Plus the…
#79 - Chris Mooney on The Republican War on Science
Jan 27, 2013 • 50 min
Is there evidence to support Chris Mooney’s thesis that there is something about the psychology of Republicans that makes them inclined to reject the scientific consensus on topics like evolution and climate change? Plus Chris’s picks: “How to Think Like…
#78 - Intelligence and Personality Testing
Jan 13, 2013 • 51 min
The science and lack thereof of intelligence and personality testing. What’s your IQ? Are you an ENTJ or an ISFP? What are your Openness, Conscientiousness, and Neuroticism scores? And just how seriously should you take all those scores anyway? Plus the…
#77 - Victoria Pitts-Taylor on Feminism and Science
Dec 30, 2012 • 55 min
Sociologist Victoria Pitts discusses sociology and feminism and explains how feminists are dealing with results in neuroscience and evolutionary biology, especially regarding the question: How much inborn difference is there really between women and men?…
#76 - Crowdsourcing and the Wisdom of Crowds
Dec 16, 2012 • 50 min
What are crowdsourcing and the wisdom of crowds and what makes them work? Also, is crowdsoursing ever unethical? And what are the limits to the wisdom of crowds? Plus the hoist’s Picks: “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail-but Some…
#75 - When Scientists Kill
Dec 2, 2012 • 48 min
M&J discuss a recent case in Italy where scientists were sentenced to 6 years in jail for failing to warn the public of an earthquake that killed over 300 people. Was this fair? How should we decide where the boundaries of scientific accountability lie?…
#74 - Live! John Shook on Philosophy of Religion
Nov 18, 2012 • 48 min
Live from a Center for Inquiry symposium M&J join with John Shook to debate questions like: Should science-promoting organizations claim publicly that science is compatible with religion and is philosophy incapable of telling us anything about the world.…
#73 - Answers for Aristotle
Nov 4, 2012 • 73 min
Julia interviews Massimo about his new book, Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life. Massimo’s central idea is that a combination of science and philosophy, what he calls “Sci-Phi,” is the best guide to the…
#72 - Graham Priest on Paradoxes and Paraconsistent Logic
Oct 21, 2012 • 46 min
Philosopher and logician Graham Priest explains why we have to radically revise our notions of “true” and “false,” and why a statement can be simultaneously “true” AND “false.” Plus Graham’s picks: “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” and “Logic: A…
#71 - On Science Fiction and Philosophy
Oct 7, 2012 • 52 min
M&J discuss how science fiction functions like extended philosophical thought experiments. They also recall some of their favorite philosophically-rich science fiction and debate the potential pitfalls in using them to reach philosophical conclusions.…
#70 - Graham Priest on Buddhism and Other Asian Philosophies
Sep 23, 2012 • 46 min
Professor of philosophy Graham Priest offers a brief introduction to the philosophy of India, China, and Japan, and explains why he thinks it should be better known in the West. Plus Graham’s pick: “The Tristan Chord: Wagner and Philosophy”
#69 - James Ladyman on Metaphysics
Sep 9, 2012 • 61 min
Guest James Ladyman, discusses metaphysic. What is it, exactly, and where, in his opinion has it gone off the rails? What would a new, improved, metaphysics look like, and “Is the world real?” Plus James’s pick: Roger Penrose’s “The Road to Reality: A…
#68 - Applied Rationality
Aug 26, 2012 • 49 min
What has psychological research learned about “de-biasing,” the challenges involved, and the de-biasing strategies Julia is implementing at her organization, the Center for Applied Rationality. Plus the host’s picks: Dan Ariely and “Measuring the…
#67 - Freudianism as Pseudoscience, With Assorted Comments on Masturbation and Castration…
Aug 12, 2012 • 47 min
The pseudoscientific aspects of Freud’s theories. Also, what philosophy of science has to say about testing theories — and some of the similarities that Freudianism has with religion, new age mysticism, and psychic reading. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks:…
#66 - Matthew Hutson on The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking
Jul 29, 2012 • 47 min
Matthew Hutson discusses some common, innate forms of superstition that affect even the most ardent skeptics, and why the human brain is predisposed to magical thinking. Plus Matthew’s picks: “Believing in Magic,” “SuperSense,” and ”The Belief Instinct.”
#65 - Philosophical Shock Tactics
Jul 15, 2012 • 47 min
Why do philosophers sometimes argue for conclusions that are disturbing, even shocking? What can we learn from these shock tactics, the public reaction to them, and what role emotion should play in philosophy. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Graphing the…
#64 - Jesse Prinz on Looking Beyond Human Nature
Jul 1, 2012 • 46 min
Guest Jesse Prinz argues that human behavior is far more culturally determined than evolutionary psychologists would have you believe. Plus Jesse’s pick: the movie “Black God, White Devil.”
#63 - Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
Jun 17, 2012 • 48 min
Will all knowledge eventually be united? And what does that even mean, anyway? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: 10 Facts about Portable Electronics and Airplanes, MeasureOfDoubt videos, and Predictions from Philosophy?
#62 - Patricia Churchland on What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality
Jun 4, 2012 • 55 min
Guest Patricia Churchland discusses what philosophy has to say about neuroscience, what neuroscience has to say about philosophy, and what both of them have to say about morality. Plus Patricia’s pick: “Language as a Cultural Tool”
#61 - Willpower
May 20, 2012 • 48 min
The science and philosophy of willpower: why don’t we do what we know is best for us? Also, some practical solutions to the problem. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: yourlogicalfallacyis.com and predictionbook.com.
#60 - Q&A With Massimo and Julia
May 6, 2012 • 63 min
M&J answer listeners’ questions, including: how work of actions affect people’s rationality, Bayesian vs. frequentist statistics, what is evidence, time travel, and whether a philosophically examined life is a better life.
#59 - Live at NECSS: David Kyle Johnson on the Simulation Argument
Apr 24, 2012 • 69 min
Guest David Kyle Johnson makes the case that it’s roughly 20% likely that we live in a computer simulation. Plus Kyle’s picks: The book “How To Think About Weird Things” and the band “Ethereal Collapse.”
#58 - Intuition
Apr 8, 2012 • 47 min
What do people mean by “intuition,” where does it come from, and when can intuition beat careful reasoning? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us” and “Information is Beautiful - Snake Oil?”
#57 - Peer Review
Mar 25, 2012 • 48 min
How does the peer review process work and how did it originate? Also, what’s wrong with it, how can it be fixed, and is the Internet changing the way we do research? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Download The Universe” and the game “Zendo.”
#56 - Howard Schneider on Science News Literacy
Mar 11, 2012 • 46 min
Guest Howard Schneider discusses how skeptics lay too much blame at the feet of the media for public misunderstandings and misconceptions about science. Plus Howard’s pick: “Press Freedom Online - Committee to Protect Journalists”
#55 - Spirituality
Feb 26, 2012 • 55 min
Massimo and Julia try to pin down what people mean when they call themselves “spiritual.” Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Buddhist Retreat - Why I gave up on finding my religion.” and “Critical Thinking - Why Is It So Hard to Teach”
#54 - The ‘isms’ Episode
Feb 12, 2012 • 52 min
M&J look at whether the fundamental nature of the world is knowable by science alone through the lenses of a series of related philosophical positions. Plus the hosts picks: “Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards” and “The Robot’s Rebellion.”
#53 - Parapsychology
Jan 29, 2012 • 57 min
Parapsychology: what is its scientific status, what is the best evidence for it, and what can we learn from it about the practice of science in general? Plus Massimo’s pick: “Be it Resolved” and Julia’s un-pick: “My Little Pony.”
#52 - Donald Prothero on the Holocaust-Deniers’ Playbook
Jan 15, 2012 • 49 min
Guest Donald R. Prothero discusses how the denial of scientific realities threatens our future and what we can do about it. Plus Donald’s pick: skepticblog.org/author/prothero/
#51 - Joseph Heath on Economics Without Illusions
Jan 1, 2012 • 46 min
Guest Joseph Heath discusses his book “Economics Without Illusions: Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism.” Plus Joseph’s pick: “The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism.”
#50 - Neurobabble
Dec 18, 2011 • 53 min
M&J discuss neurobabble: the phenomena of people and the media coming to the wrong conclusions when confronted with neuroscience evidence. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “hypothes.is” and “Rationality and the Reflective Mind.”
#49 - Eugenie C. Scott on Denialism of Climate Change and Evolution
Dec 4, 2011 • 47 min
Our guest Dr. Eugenie C. Scott discusses the National Center for Science Education’s new initiative to combat denialism of the science of climate change in the public sphere. Plus Eugenie’s pick: “SkepticalScience.com”
#48 - Philosophical Counseling
Nov 20, 2011 • 46 min
Our guest Lou Marinoff discusses the increasingly popular practice of philosophical counseling, used in many cases instead of traditional psychotherapy. Plus, Lou’s Pick: “The Philosophical Practitioner.”
#47 - SETI
Nov 6, 2011 • 54 min
Is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence really science? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside (Popular Culture and Philosophy)” and “Ask a Mathematician / Ask a Physicist”
#46 - The Varieties of Skepticism
Oct 23, 2011 • 52 min
No, skeptics are not cynics and, well, perhaps some things are knowable. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “On Bullshit” and “The Matrix as Metaphysics.”
#45 - Rebecca Newberger Goldstein on Spinoza, Göedl, and Theories of Everything
Oct 9, 2011 • 54 min
Guest Rebecca Newberger Goldstein on betraying Spinoza, the proofs and paradoxes of Kurt Gödel, and the limits of reason and objective reality. Plus, Rebecca’s pick: “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.”
#44 - Fluff that Works
Sep 25, 2011 • 51 min
Woo woo that works (at least some of the time.) Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Plato, Not Prozac!: Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems” and “Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training.”
#43 - Women in Skepticism
Sep 11, 2011 • 51 min
Is there a misogyny problem in the skeptic and atheist communities? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities” and “Paul Graham Essays”.
#42 - On the Limits of Reason
Aug 28, 2011 • 51 min
Is there an intrinsic limit to humans ability to reason? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “From Technologist to Philosopher Why you should quit your technology job and get a Ph.D. in the humanities” and “Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy.”
#41 - Robert Zaretsky on Rousseau, Hume, and the Limits of Human Understanding
Aug 14, 2011 • 50 min
Guest Robert Zaretsky discusses the quarrel between philosophers Rousseau and Hume, their different world views, and their contributions to the Enlightenment. Plus Robert’s pick: “How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at…
#40 - Q&A With Massimo and Julia
Jul 31, 2011 • 65 min
M&J answer listeners’ questions, including: teaching rationality, the ethics of profiteering, what is the purpose of our species, and is there are rational argument proving the divine origin of the bible?
#39 - The Science and Philosophy of Free Will
Jul 17, 2011 • 48 min
What can modern neuroscience and philosophy tell us about free will and how may the two approaches complement each other. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale : The Moral Limits of Markets” and “Fluid Concepts And…
#38 - Holden Karnofsky on Evidence-based Philanthropy
Jul 3, 2011 • 43 min
Guest Holden Karnofky, founder of “Givewell” discusses charities: how to evaluate them and whether they can or should be evaluated objectively. Plus Holden’s picks: “Core Economics”, “More Than Good Intentions”, and “Portfolios of the Poor”.
#37 - The Science and Philosophy of Happiness
Jun 19, 2011 • 48 min
What is happiness? What makes people happy, and can it be measured? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Flacking for Big Pharma” and “Discover Your Inner Economist: Use Incentives to Fall in Love, Survive Your Next Meeting, and Motivate Your Dentist”
#36 - Why Should We Care About Teaching the Humanities?
Jun 5, 2011 • 50 min
Is the ideal of a liberal education an antiquated leftover of bygones eras, or a necessary foundation for any open democratic society? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “The Philosophers’ Quarrel” and Livewell.org
#35 - What is Philosophy of Science Good for?
May 22, 2011 • 48 min
What role does philosophy play in science? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “The End of Discovery: Are We Approaching the Boundaries of the Knowable?” and “10 Important Differences Between Brains and Computers”
#34 - Celebrities and the Damage They Can Do
May 8, 2011 • 50 min
Celebrities: why do so many people listen to some of the nonsense they spew. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Science Fiction and Philosophy: From Time Travel to Superintelligence,” and “Proust Was a Neuroscientist”
#33 - Live at NECSS: New Dilemmas in Bioethics
Apr 24, 2011 • 64 min
Live from NECSS, guests Jacob Appel and Jennifer Michael Hecht discuss dilemmas in bioethics.
#32 - Value-free Science?
Apr 10, 2011 • 49 min
Is science all about objective facts or are values inevitably an integral part of science? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: Slate’s “What John Tierney Gets Wrong About Women Scientists” and “What Is History?”
#31 - Vegetarianism
Mar 27, 2011 • 3110 min
Vegetarianism: what are its different forms, is it healthy, and what is the ethical case for it? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: The website “PhilPapers” and “WARNING: Physics Envy May Be Hazardous To Your Wealth!”
#30 - Cordelia Fine on Delusions of Gender
Mar 13, 2011 • 49 min
Guest Cordelia Fine rebuts what currently passes as the science behind sex differences. Plus Cordelia’s picks: “Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal.”
#29 - Q&A Live!
Feb 27, 2011 • 66 min
Massimo and Julia do their best to answer skeptical questions from a live audience.
#28 - Live! How To Tell Science From Bunk
Feb 13, 2011 • 49 min
Massimo and Julia sit down in front of a live audience for a conversation about science, non-science, and pseudo-science. All based on Massimo’s book: “Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk.”
#27 - The Perihelinox Episode, With Historian Timothy Alborn on Anniversaries
Jan 30, 2011 • 47 min
Guest, historian Timothy Alborn on the arbitrariness of anniversaries and holidays. Plus Timothy’s pick: “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.”
#26 - Is Anthropology Still a Science?
Jan 16, 2011 • 46 min
Should anthropology be considered a science and what should be the role of advocacy in science. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: The New York Times’ “There Goes the Sun” and “Stories of Your Life and Others.”
#25 - Q&A With Massimo and Julia
Jan 2, 2011 • 63 min
Massimo and Julia do their best to answer listeners’ skeptical questions.
#24 - Memetics!
Dec 19, 2010 • 47 min
Memes, good science or confusing metaphor? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: The New York Times’ “The Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality.”
#23 - Carol Tavris on Everybody Making Mistakes, Except Us…
Dec 5, 2010 • 48 min
Guest Carol Tavris discusses why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts. Plus Carol’s picks: “Delusions of Gender”, “Brain Storm”, and “Not by Chance Alone.”
#22 - Steven Novella on Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science
Nov 21, 2010 • 47 min
Guest Steven Novella on the state of medical research and on Science vs. Evidence based medicine. Plus Steven’s pick: AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
#21 - Joshua Knobe on Experimental Philosophy
Nov 7, 2010 • 45 min
Guest Joshua Knobe on experimental philosophy. And no, not actually an oxymoron! Plus Joshua’s picks: “The genealogy of morals”, “You Must Go and Win: Essays”, and the video “Experimental Philosophy Anthem.”
#20 - Q&A With Massimo and Julia
Oct 24, 2010 • 63 min
Massimo and Julia do their best to answer listeners’ skeptical questions.
#19 - Brendan Nyhan on False Beliefs that Refuse to Die
Oct 10, 2010 • 30 min
Guest Brendan Nyhan on False Beliefs that Refuse to Die. Plus Brendan’s picks: “True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society”, “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts”, and “The Macro…
#18 - Evolutionary Psychology
Sep 26, 2010 • 31 min
Evolutionary Psychology: does it makes sense to apply evolutionary principles to the study of human behavior? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “A Short Course in Intellectual Self-Defense” and “Stumbling on Happiness”
#17 - Transhumanism
Sep 12, 2010 • 33 min
Transhumanism: What’s so great about being human, anyway? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Being Wrong” and “Expert Political Judgment”
#16 - Deferring to Experts
Aug 29, 2010 • 34 min
When, and how much, should we take someone’s expertise into account in considering his claim? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: “Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar …” and “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”
#15 - Q&A With Massimo and Julia
Aug 15, 2010 • 62 min
Massimo and Julia do their best to answer listeners’ skeptical questions.
#14 - Jennifer Michael Hecht on Science, Religion, Happiness, and Other Myths
Aug 1, 2010 • 33 min
Guest Jennifer Michael Hecht discusses whether we take science too seriously and perhaps we should look more at poetry. Plus Jennifer’s picks: hilobrow.com and The Best American Poetry Blog.
#13 - Superstition, Is It Good For You?
Jul 18, 2010 • 29 min
In this episode we tackle superstition, It would be bad luck to talk about anything else, it is episode 13 after all! Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: Epistemelinks and How Pleasure Works.
#12 - What About Thought Experiments?
Jul 4, 2010 • 33 min
Are thought experiments in science and philosophy just armchair speculation? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: John Norton Goodies and Great Myths of Popular Psychology.
#11 - Guest Eugenie Scott on the Status of the Creationism and ID Wars
Jun 20, 2010 • 37 min
Guest Eugenie Scott updates us on the status of the intelligent design wars. Plus Eugenie’s “un-pick”: The website of the Institute for Creation Research.
#10 - Nonsense on Stilts
Jun 6, 2010 • 31 min
A conversation about Massimo’s book: “Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk.” Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: philosophypathways.com/questions and “Historians’ Fallacies : Toward a Logic of Historical Thought ”
#9 - When Smart People Endorse Pseudoscience
May 23, 2010 • 31 min
Why is it that smart people who make it a point of being skeptical and of promoting critical thinking fall for notions that are barely more defensible than astrology, or criticize well established scientific notions. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks:…
#8 - The Anthropic Principle
May 9, 2010 • 33 min
Is the universe finely tuned for human life to exist? Does the Anthropic Principle add anything to our understanding of the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everyhing? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: andphilosophy.com and “House.”
#7 - Peter Woit discusses whether string theory is “not even wrong”
Apr 25, 2010 • 33 min
Columbia Univ.mathematical physicist Peter Woit discusses whether is string theory “not even wrong.” Plus our guest’s pick: the book “The End of Science.”
#6 - Fluffy Thinking
Apr 10, 2010 • 33 min
Fluffy Thinking: a peculiar type of uncritical thinking that sounds sophisticated. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: the “Omnipotence Paradox” and “The Book of Genesis Illustrated.”
#5 - Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Need for a Space Program
Mar 28, 2010 • 33 min
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson discusses the Need for a Space Program. Will we ever go back to the Moon or to Mars? Plus Dr. Tyson’s surprising “un-pick”: The movie Avatar
#4 - The Great Atheist Debate Over the Limits of Science
Mar 14, 2010 • 31 min
The atheist debate between the “accommodationist” and the “rationalists” on the epistemic limits of science. Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: The book “Conversations on Consciousness” and the website of the National Center for Science Education
#3 - Can History Be a Science?
Feb 28, 2010 • 28 min
Guest: Prof. Peter Turchin of the U. of Conn. discusses whether history can be studied and understood in a scientific manner. Plus our guest’s pick: Victor Lieberman’s book “Strange Parallels”
#2 - Love, a Skeptical Inquiry
Feb 14, 2010 • 33 min
Will science ever really be able to explain love? Should it try? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: The book “What is this thing called science” and the NY Times article “Making College ‘relevant’.”
#1 - Why be rational?
Jan 20, 2010 • 32 min
Are rationality and emotion at odds, and is it ethical to promote rationality? Plus Massimo and Julia’s picks: Wikipedia’s List of Paradoxes and the Fallacy Files.