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Related Readings
  • Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life
    Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to A More Meaningful Life
    by Massimo Pigliucci
  • Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    by Massimo Pigliucci
  • Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science
    Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science
    by Massimo Pigliucci

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


RS29 - Q&A Live!

Release date: February 27, 2011

In a continuation of episode 28, Massimo and Julia sit down for a Q&A session in front of a live audience at the Jefferson Market Library in New York City. The audience's questions include whether economics and evolutionary psychology are really science, what's the deal with the placebo effect, the influence of corporate money on scientific research, and how can some scientists publish legitimate research and still believe in pseudo-science. Also, vegetarianism: is it about science, ethics, or both?


RS28 - Live! How To Tell Science From Bunk

Release date: February 13, 2011

Massimo and Julia sit down in front of a live audience at the Jefferson Market Library in New York City for a conversation about science, non-science, and pseudo-science. Based on Massimo's book: "Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk" the topics they cover include whether the qualitative sciences are less reliable than quantitative ones, the re-running of the tape of life, and who is smarter: physicists, biologists, or psychologists? Also, why are evolutionary psychologist so fixated on sex?

The live Q&A follows in episode 29


RS27 - The Perihelinox Episode, With Historian Timothy Alborn on Anniversaries

Release date: January 30, 2011

In honor of our first anniversary we invited Historian Timothy Alborn to help us understand the arbitrary nature of anniversaries, both those that mark events of personal significance and those that have a wider societal impact. We chose to record this episode on a very special "holiday": Perihelinox. If you've never heard of it it's because it was recently made up by our producer, Benny Pollak, to celebrate the night of the year when the earth is closest to the sun. Nothing is sacred in this episode, from Christmas to Kwanza, to Hanukkah, to Royal Jubilees. And, the Sex Pistols?

Timothy Alborn is a historian and the Dean of Arts and Humanities at the City University of New York Lehman College (and, incidentally, Massimo's boss). He has a Ph.D. in History of Science from Harvard University. His recent publications include "Regulated Lives: Life Assurance and British Society, 1840-1920" and "Conceiving Companies: Joint-Stock Politics in Victorian England."

Comment on the episode teaser.

Timothy's pick: "How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming"


RS26 - Is Anthropology Still a Science?

Release date: January 16, 2011

In a recent article in the New York Times, Nicholas Wade reported that the American Anthropological Association had decided “to strip the word ‘science’ from a statement of its long-range plan.” Is this just a reflection of the long standing division between physical and cultural anthropology or is there more here? The revised statement says that “the purposes of the association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects,” a wording that opens the possibility for cultural anthropologists to engage in public advocacy on behalf of cultures they are studying. So, what kind of discipline is  anthropology, after all? And, more broadly, should scientists cross the line from research into public advocacy?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "Stories of Your Life: and Others"
              "... pure idea porn ..."

Massimo's pick: The New York Times' "There Goes the Sun"


RS25 - Q&A With Massimo and Julia

Release date: January 2, 2011

Massimo and Julia answer listeners' questions, while trying to stay away from politics. In this installment the topics include: Is quantitative research more scientific than qualitative? Can philosophers really claim to have expertise on something? Is skepticism just another name for intelligence? How valuable is feminist philosophy? What is Bayesian reasoning? And what are M&J's anti-akrasia strategies?

Comment on the episode teaser.


RS24 - Memetics!

Release date: December 19, 2010

The term meme was introduced by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 bestseller "The Selfish Gene." Dawkins was trying to establish the idea that Darwinian evolution is a universal, almost logically necessary phenomenon. He couldn't, however, point to exobiological examples to reinforce the concept of universal Darwinism, so he turned to cultural evolution, renamed “ideas” as “memes” (in direct analogy with genes), and voilà, the field of memetics was born.

Despite staunch support by authors such as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett, among others, serious questions can be raised about memes and memetics as a viable concept and field of inquiry. To begin with, how is memetics different from classical studies of gene-culture co-evolution? Second, what exactly are memes, i.e. what is their ontological status? Third, how do memes compete with each other, and for what resources? Is it even possible to build a functional ecology of memes, without which the statement that the most fit memes are those that spread becomes an empty tautology? Could this explain why the "Journal of Memetics" closed shop, or is it that they discovered everything there was to discover about memes?

Comment on the episode teaser.

Julia's pick:  "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality"

Massimo's pick: The New York Times' "The Stone"