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Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, science and pseudoscience. Rationally Speaking was co-created with Massimo Pigliucci.

Current Episodes


Monday
Mar182019

RS 229 - John Nerst on "Erisology, the study of disagreement"

Release date: March 18th, 2019

John Nerst

This episode features John Nerst, data scientist and blogger at everythingstudies.com, discussing a potential new field called "erisology," the study of disagreement. John and Julia discuss why Twitter makes disagreement so hard; whether there's anything to learn from postmodernism; John's "signal and corrective" model that explains why disagreement persists even when people agree on the key facts; and how the concept of "decoupling" helps explains Sam Harris and Ezra Klein's debate last year about IQ.

Links 

John’s website

John’s Twitter

"Defenders of the Truth: The Sociobiology Debate" by Ullica Segerstrale

"The Signal and the Corrective"

"A Deep Dive Into the Harris-Klein Controversy"

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Monday
Mar042019

RS 228 - William Gunn and Alex Holcombe on "Is Elsevier helping or hurting scientific progress?"

Release date: March 4th, 2019

William Gunn and Alex Holcombe

In the wake of the University of California's decision to end their contract with Elsevier, the world's largest scientific publisher, a lot of people have been talking about the effect that publishers like Elsevier have on the progress of science. William Gunn, director of scholarly communications for Elsevier, and Alex Holcombe, cognitive scientist and open science advocate, discuss their differing perspectives on the question. The discussion includes: What are scientists' main complaints about Elsevier? What value does Elsevier add? Is the academic publishing market a functioning one? Can Elsevier be a force for innovation?

Links 

William Gunn's website and Twitter

Alex Holcombe's website and Twitter

Psychology in Open Access

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Monday
Feb182019

RS 227 - Sarah Haider on "Dissent and free speech"

Release date: February 17th, 2019

Sarah Haider

This episode features Sarah Haider, the president of Ex-Muslims of North America. Julia and Sarah discuss why it's important to talk about the challenges of leaving Islam, and why that makes people uncomfortable or angry. They also explore whether being intellectually honest helps or hurts your effectiveness as an activist; Sarah's concerns with the Intellectual Dark Web; and whether Sarah would draw any lines when it comes to giving offensive views a platform.

Links 

Sarah's Twitter

Ex-Muslims of North America

"Crises of The Republic" by Hannah Arendt

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Monday
Feb042019

RS 226 - Rob Wiblin on "An updated view of the best ways to help humanity"

Release date: February 4th, 2019

Rob Wiblin

If you want to do as much good as possible with your career, what problems should you work on, and what jobs should you consider? This episode features Rob Wiblin, director of research for effective altruist organization 80,000 Hours, and the host of the 80,000 Hours podcast.
Julia and Rob discuss how the career advice 80,000 Hours gives has changed over the years, and the biggest misconceptions about their views. Their conversation covers topics like:

Should everyone try to get a job in finance and donate their income?

The case for working to reduce global catastrophic risks

Why reducing risk is a better way to help the future than increasing economic growth

What percentage of the world should ideally follow 80,000 Hours advice?

Links 

Rob's Personal Page

Rob's Podcast: "80,000 Hours"

  • Episode #45 – Prof. Tyler Cowen's stubborn attachments to maximising economic growth, making civilization more stable and respecting human rights
  • Episode #10 – Dr. Nick Beckstead on how to spend billions of dollars preventing human extinction
  • Episode #29 – Dr. Anders Sandberg on three new resolutions for the Fermi Paradox and how to easily colonise the universe
  • Episode #6 – Dr. Toby Ord on why the long-term future matters more than anything else and what to do about it
  • Episode #15 – Prof. Tetlock on how chimps beat Berkeley undergrads and when it’s wise to defer to the wise

"Making Sense of Long-Term Indirect Effects" by Rob Wiblin

"Broad versus narrow approaches to shaping the long-term future" by Nick Beckstead

Calculator for whether it’s better to speed up or slow down growth: "Differential technological development: Some early thinking"

"On the Overwhelming Importance of Shaping the Far Future" by Nicholas Beckstead

"Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States" by James C. Scott

"Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?" by Graham Allison

"Science Is Getting Less Bang for Its Buck" by Patrick Collison and Michael Nielsen

"Why despite global progress, humanity is probably facing its most dangerous time ever" by Benjamin Todd

"Presenting the long-term value thesis" by Benjamin Todd

"The Aestheticising Vice," Paul Seabright's review of Seeing Like a State, by James Scott

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Jan202019

RS 225 - Neerav Kingsland on "The case for charter schools"

Release date: January 20th, 2019

Neerav Kingsland

This episode features Neerav Kingsland, who helped rebuild New Orleans' public school system after Hurricane Katrina, converting it into the country's first nearly-100% charter school system. Neerav and Julia discuss: why Neerav believes the evidence shows charter schools work better than regular public schools, his responses to the main arguments against charters, and what we know about how parents choose schools for their children.

Links 

Neerav's Blog: relinquishment

Jay Green's blog

"The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money" by Bryan Caplan

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts 

Sunday
Jan062019

RS 224 - Rick Nevin on "The long-term effects of lead on crime"

Release date: January 6th, 2019

Rick Nevin (Photo: The Washington Post)

This episode features Rick Nevin, an economist who is known for his research suggesting that lead is one of the main causes of crime. Rick and Julia discuss: how do we know the correlation between lead and crime is a sign of a causal relationship? Has the lead-crime theory made any successful predictions? And is it possible that getting rid of lead could reduce the crime rate down to zero?

Links 

Rick Nevin's website

"Lucifer Curves: The Legacy of Lead Poisoning" by Rick Nevin

"The Rising Curve" by Ulric Neisser

Edited by Brent Silk

Music by Miracles of Modern Science

Full Transcripts