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Rationally Speaking

New York City Skeptics

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Rationally Speaking is the bi-weekly podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join hosts Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely from unlikely, and science from pseudoscience. Any topic is fair ...Show More
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53:17 | Aug 9th

It's common wisdom that spending a lot of time on your smartphone, or checking social media like Facebook and Twitter, takes a psychological toll. But is there any research to back that up? Julia discusses the evidence with professor Andy Przybylski.

48:52 | Jul 9th, 2018

This episode features neuroscientist Ed Boyden discussing two inventions of his that have revolutionized neuroscience: optogenetics and expansion microscopy.

48:04 | Sep 3rd

Several recent books have argued there's no difference between male and female brains. Saloni Dattani, a PhD in psychiatric genetics, discusses some of the problems with the argument, and what we really know so far about gender and the brain.

51:20 | Aug 20th

It's rare for public intellectuals to talk about things they've gotten wrong, but geneticist Razib Khan is an exception. He and Julia discuss a list of 28 things he's changed his mind about in the last decade.

52:01 | Jul 23rd

In this episode, economist Alex Tabarrok discusses his latest book, co-authored with Eric Heller, "Why are the Prices So D*mn High?," which blames rising costs on a phenomenon called the Baumol Effect.

59:38 | Jun 25th

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.

1:17:53 | May 28th

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.

57:36 | May 13th

Technology writer Clive Thompson discusses his latest book, "Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World."

1:04:14 | Apr 30th

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?

58:59 | Apr 16th

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.

53:19 | Apr 2nd

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.

1:04:44 | Mar 19th

This episode features John Nerst, data scientist and blogger at everythingstudies.com, discussing a potential new field called "erisology," the study of disagreement.

58:54 | Mar 5th

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 pub...Show More

58:16 | Feb 18th

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.

53:27 | Feb 5th

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.

47:36 | Jan 21st

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.

1:00:10 | Jan 7th

This episode features Rick Nevin, an economist who is known for his research suggesting that lead is one of the main causes of crime.

43:55 | Dec 17th, 2018

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.

57:36 | Dec 3rd, 2018

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.

47:12 | Nov 14th, 2018

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.

1:02:52 | Oct 28th, 2018

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.

55:50 | Oct 15th, 2018

In this episode, economist Jason Collins discusses some of the problems with behavioral economics.

48:16 | Oct 1st, 2018

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.

38:44 | Sep 16th, 2018

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.

46:08 | Sep 3rd, 2018

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..

43:00 | Aug 20th, 2018

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.

50:28 | Aug 6th, 2018

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?

1:06:03 | Jul 22nd, 2018

This episode features Professor Dean Simonton, who has spent his life quantitatively studying geniuses, from Einstein to Mozart.

42:10 | Jun 25th, 2018

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.

57:14 | Jun 11th, 2018

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.

51:54 | May 28th, 2018

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.

52:40 | May 13th, 2018

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.

1:03:12 | Apr 30th, 2018

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 t...Show More

49:29 | Apr 15th, 2018

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.

48:38 | Apr 2nd, 2018

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...Show More

53:00 | Mar 19th, 2018

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.

40:46 | Mar 5th, 2018

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.

47:59 | Feb 19th, 2018

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.

44:40 | Feb 5th, 2018

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.

44:21 | Jan 22nd, 2018

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?

42:46 | Jan 8th, 2018

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.

59:08 | Dec 11th, 2017

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...Show More

53:08 | Nov 13th, 2017

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."

1:05:45 | Oct 30th, 2017

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.

50:07 | Oct 15th, 2017

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 Everyth...Show More

50:33 | Oct 2nd, 2017

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.

1:04:37 | Sep 18th, 2017

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.

51:47 | Sep 3rd, 2017

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.

59:21 | Aug 21st, 2017

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.

46:29 | Aug 6th, 2017

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.

1:06:49 | Jul 23rd, 2017

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.

45:48 | Jul 9th, 2017

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."

1:02:16 | Jun 26th, 2017

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.

1:08:33 | Jun 11th, 2017

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.

53:27 | May 28th, 2017

Julia talks with political scientist Hans Noel about why the Democrats became the party of liberalism and the Republicans the party of conservatism.

1:06:17 | May 14th, 2017

This episode features economic historian Gregory Clark, author of A Farewell to Alms and one of the leading scholars of the industrial revolution.

52:36 | Apr 30th, 2017

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.

52:07 | Apr 16th, 2017

This episode features mathematician and social entrepreneur Spencer Greenberg, talking about how he's taking advantage of the Internet to improve the research process.

54:16 | Apr 2nd, 2017

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.

48:00 | Mar 20th, 2017

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.

48:44 | Mar 6th, 2017

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?

50:16 | Feb 20th, 2017

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?

44:53 | Feb 5th, 2017

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.

51:32 | Jan 22nd, 2017

Julia chats with professor Jason Brennan, author of the book "Against Democracy," about his case for why democracy is flawed -- philosophically, morally, and empirically.

57:38 | Jan 8th, 2017

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.

45:55 | Dec 11th, 2016

John Ioannidis and Julia discuss how Evidence-Based Medicine has been "hijacked," by whom, and what do do about it.

39:16 | Nov 27th, 2016

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 t...Show More

48:13 | Nov 13th, 2016

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.

55:34 | Oct 30th, 2016

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.

50:27 | Oct 16th, 2016

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.

49:36 | Oct 2nd, 2016

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.

47:18 | Sep 18th, 2016

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."

50:48 | Sep 4th, 2016

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.

53:36 | Aug 21st, 2016

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.

56:12 | Aug 7th, 2016

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?

50:28 | Jul 24th, 2016

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.

59:38 | Jul 10th, 2016

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.

50:25 | Jun 26th, 2016

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."

49:28 | Jun 12th, 2016

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.

1:07:06 | May 29th, 2016

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.

55:38 | May 15th, 2016

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?

47:22 | May 1st, 2016

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.

51:40 | Apr 17th, 2016

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.

55:41 | Apr 3rd, 2016

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.

59:58 | Mar 20th, 2016

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?

53:11 | Mar 6th, 2016

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.

47:50 | Feb 21st, 2016

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.

53:41 | Feb 7th, 2016

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?

49:26 | Jan 24th, 2016

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.

47:33 | Jan 10th, 2016

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.

47:26 | Dec 13th, 2015

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.

45:35 | Nov 29th, 2015

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.

52:41 | Nov 15th, 2015

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?"

50:04 | Nov 1st, 2015

This episode of Rationally Speaking features Jesse Richardson, a creative director who has been using his advertising background "for good and not for evil," as he puts it -- by building skeptic sites that go viral. Jesse's most famous creation is "Y...Show More

55:44 | Oct 18th, 2015

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.

1:03:26 | Oct 4th, 2015

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 ha...Show More

50:16 | Sep 20th, 2015

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 y...Show More

52:10 | Sep 6th, 2015

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.

56:15 | Aug 23rd, 2015

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.

54:31 | Aug 9th, 2015

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 rational...Show More

48:10 | Jul 26th, 2015

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...Show More

54:56 | Jul 12th, 2015

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...Show More

44:48 | Jun 28th, 2015

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 pos...Show More

42:51 | Jun 15th, 2015

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 Foundat...Show More

47:17 | May 31st, 2015

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 proces...Show More

46:28 | May 17th, 2015

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,...Show More

47:44 | May 3rd, 2015

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 wh...Show More

1:01:46 | Apr 21st, 2015

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 ...Show More

48:18 | Apr 5th, 2015

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 h...Show More

48:56 | Mar 22nd, 2015

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 p...Show More

51:52 | Mar 8th, 2015

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?

1:09:24 | Feb 26th, 2015

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 announcem...Show More

49:41 | Feb 8th, 2015

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 e...Show More

43:42 | Jan 25th, 2015

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 an...Show More

49:56 | Jan 18th, 2015

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 b...Show More

45:56 | Dec 28th, 2014

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 problem...Show More

45:56 | Dec 14th, 2014

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.

50:49 | Dec 1st, 2014

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 ...Show More

50:59 | Nov 16th, 2014

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.

51:38 | Nov 2nd, 2014

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.

46:38 | Oct 22nd, 2014

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 mechanis...Show More

1:50:08 | Oct 5th, 2014

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?"

48:47 | Sep 21st, 2014

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...Show More

28:52 | Sep 7th, 2014

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” scienc...Show More

33:24 | Aug 24th, 2014

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.

51:32 | Aug 10th, 2014

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?

52:22 | Jul 27th, 2014

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.

48:20 | Jul 13th, 2014

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.

55:12 | Jun 29th, 2014

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?

55:38 | Jun 15th, 2014

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.

50:38 | Jun 1st, 2014

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.

55:00 | May 18th, 2014

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?

48:31 | May 4th, 2014

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 educatio...Show More

1:02:40 | Apr 20th, 2014

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.

59:24 | Apr 6th, 2014

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.

48:04 | Mar 24th, 2014

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.

52:54 | Mar 9th, 2014

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) assumpti...Show More

50:38 | Feb 23rd, 2014

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."

51:08 | Feb 9th, 2014

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.

1:19:10 | Jan 27th, 2014

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!

43:42 | Dec 22nd, 2013

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.

53:36 | Dec 8th, 2013

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.

47:00 | Nov 25th, 2013

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.

52:26 | Nov 10th, 2013

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.

56:04 | Oct 27th, 2013

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 comp...Show More

1:00:24 | Oct 3rd, 2013

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.

55:20 | Sep 29th, 2013

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 predict...Show More

45:20 | Sep 15th, 2013

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.

49:26 | Sep 1st, 2013

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 Mindl...Show More

53:04 | Jun 30th, 2013

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 ...Show More

51:02 | Jun 16th, 2013

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?

43:10 | Jun 3rd, 2013

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."

49:04 | May 19th, 2013

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 mat...Show More

1:05:11 | May 5th, 2013

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.

36:18 | Apr 21st, 2013

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.

46:14 | Apr 7th, 2013

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 Foundation...Show More

45:04 | Mar 25th, 2013

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: "T...Show More

52:48 | Mar 10th, 2013

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 a...Show More

1:03:02 | Feb 24th, 2013

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 compa...Show More

51:06 | Feb 10th, 2013

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 ...Show More

50:50 | Jan 27th, 2013

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 ...Show More

51:38 | Jan 13th, 2013

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 ...Show More

55:06 | Dec 30th, 2012

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...Show More

50:44 | Dec 16th, 2012

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...Show More

48:04 | Dec 2nd, 2012

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 l...Show More

48:04 | Nov 18th, 2012

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 wo...Show More

1:13:42 | Nov 4th, 2012

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 t...Show More

46:42 | Oct 21st, 2012

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:...Show More

52:56 | Oct 7th, 2012

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...Show More

46:26 | Sep 23rd, 2012

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"

1:01:47 | Sep 9th, 2012

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 Realit...Show More

49:46 | Aug 26th, 2012

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 Evo...Show More

47:20 | Aug 12th, 2012

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 ...Show More

47:56 | Jul 29th, 2012

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 Instin...Show More

47:42 | Jul 15th, 2012

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: "Graphi...Show More

46:29 | Jul 1st, 2012

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."

48:44 | Jun 17th, 2012

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?

55:13 | Jun 4th, 2012

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"

48:22 | May 20th, 2012

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.

1:03:24 | May 6th, 2012

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.

1:09:22 | Apr 25th, 2012

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."

47:20 | Apr 8th, 2012

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?"

48:18 | Mar 25th, 2012

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."

46:45 | Mar 11th, 2012

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"

55:06 | Feb 27th, 2012

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"

52:06 | Feb 12th, 2012

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."

57:13 | Jan 30th, 2012

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."

49:18 | Jan 16th, 2012

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/

46:49 | Jan 1st, 2012

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."

53:22 | Dec 18th, 2011

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."

47:00 | Dec 4th, 2011

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"

46:01 | Nov 20th, 2011

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."

54:23 | Nov 6th, 2011

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"

52:21 | Oct 23rd, 2011

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."

54:24 | Oct 9th, 2011

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."

51:02 | Sep 25th, 2011

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."

51:03 | Sep 11th, 2011

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".

51:13 | Aug 28th, 2011

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."

50:10 | Aug 14th, 2011

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 Attempt...Show More

1:05:11 | Jul 31st, 2011

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?

48:12 | Jul 17th, 2011

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 ...Show More