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Rationally Speaking Podcast

Rationally Speaking is the bi-weekly podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join host Julia Galef and guests as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely from unlikely, and science from pseudoscience. Any topic is fair game as long as we can bring reason to bear upon it, with both a skeptical eye and a good dose of humor!
We agree with the Marquis de Condorcet, who said that in an open society we ought to devote ourselves to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them."Rationally Speaking was co-created with Massimo Pigliucci, is produced by Benny Pollak, and is recorded in the heart of New York City's Greenwich Village.

Deaths of despair / Effective altruism (Angus Deaton)

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 360 views
  • over 1 year ago
  • 01:04:06

Economist and Nobel Laureate Angus Deaton discusses the rise in “deaths of despair” in the U.S. – deaths from drugs, alcohol or suicide. What's causing it, and how do we know? Also, Julia and Angus debate whether effective altruism can help the poor.

Are Boomers to blame for Millennials' struggles?

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 300 views
  • over 1 year ago
  • 59:51

Rationally Speaking returns from hiatus with a look at a clash between two generations: Millennials, and their parents' generation, the Baby Boomers. Faced with stagnant wages and rising costs of education, rent, and health care, Millennials have a tougher path to economic security than Boomers did. And a growing number of millennial writers argue that their situation is the result of misguided and irresponsible policy choices made by the Boomers themselves.  Are they right? Are Boomers to blame for Millennials' current economic struggles? To answer this question, Julia gets three different perspectives: Jill Filipovic, author of OK Boomer, Let's Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind, Joseph C. Sternberg, author of The Theft of a Decade: How the Baby Boomers Stole Millennials' Economic Future, and Patrick Fisher, author of Demographic Gaps in American Political Behavior.

Rationally Speaking #244 - Stephanie Lepp and Buster Benson on "Seeing other perspectives, with compassion"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 290 views
  • over 2 years ago
  • 42:14

This episode features a pair of interviews on a similar topic: First, Stephanie Lepp (host of the Reckonings podcast) discusses what she's learned from interviewing people who had a serious change of heart, or "reckoning," including a former Neo-nazi and a former sex offender. What causes a reckoning? Second, Buster Benson (author of Why Are We Yelling? The art of productive disagreement) shares his tips for coming away from a disagreement feeling more alive -- for example, don't just focus on the literal arguments the other person is making; drill deeper. Buster and Julia debate whether there's a downside to approaching disagreements emotionally, rather than intellectually.

Rationally Speaking #243 - Bryan Caplan on "The Case for Open Borders"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 270 views
  • over 2 years ago
  • 49:20

The idea of open borders -- letting people move freely between countries, taking a job wherever they can find a job they want -- is still a pretty fringe position, politically speaking. But economist Bryan Caplan makes a compelling case for it in his new graphic nonfiction book, "Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration," illustrated by cartoonist Zach Weinersmith. In this episode, Julia questions Bryan about several aspects of his case.

Rationally Speaking #242 - Keith Frankish on "Why consciousness is an illusion"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 270 views
  • over 2 years ago
  • 43:26

Philosopher of mind Keith Frankish is one of the leading proponents of "illusionism," the theory that argues that your subjective experience -- i.e., the "what it is like" to be you -- is a trick of the mind. It's a counterintuitive theory, but Keith makes the case for it in this episode, while explaining the other leading theories of consciousness and why he rejects them.

Rationally Speaking #241 - Thibault Le Texier on "Debunking the Stanford Prison Experiment"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 350 views
  • over 2 years ago
  • 54:58

The Stanford Prison Experiment is one of the most famous psychology experiments in history. For decades, we've been told that it proves how regular people easily turn sadistic when they are asked to role play as prison guards. But the story now appears to be mostly fraudulent. Thibault Le Texier is a researcher who dug into the Stanford archives and learned that the "prison guards" were actually told how to behave in order to support the experimenters' thesis. On this episode, Thibault and Julia discuss his findings, how the experimenters got away with such a significant misrepresentation for so long, and what this whole affair says about the field of psychology.

Rationally Speaking #240 - David Manheim on "Goodhart's Law and why metrics fail"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 210 views
  • almost 3 years ago
  • 59:09

If you want to understand why things go wrong in business, government, education, psychology, AI, and more, you need to know Goodhart's Law: "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to become a good measure." In this episode, decision theorist David Manheim explains the dynamics behind Goodhart's Law and some potential solutions to it.

Rationally Speaking #239 - Saloni Dattani on "The debate over whether male and female brains are different"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 200 views
  • almost 3 years ago
  • 48:04

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.

Rationally Speaking #238 - Razib Khan on "Stuff I've Been Wrong About"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 180 views
  • almost 3 years ago
  • 51:20

It's rare for public intellectuals to talk about things they've gotten wrong, but geneticist Razib Khan is an exception. He recently published list of 28 things he's changed his mind about in the last decade, not just in genetics, but in other fields of science, politics, society, and religion. Julia interviews Razib about some of the items on the list -- why did he change his mind, and what lessons does he feel he's learned from his past errors?

Rationally Speaking #237 - Andy Przybylski on "Is screen time bad for you?"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 190 views
  • almost 3 years ago
  • 53:17

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. It makes us depressed, insecure, anxious, and isolated -- or so people say. But is there any research to back that up? Julia discusses the evidence with professor Andy Przybylski, director of research at the Oxford Internet Institute.

Rationally Speaking #236 - Alex Tabarrok on "Why are the Prices So D*mn High?"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 190 views
  • almost 3 years ago
  • 52:01

Over the last two decades, the prices of consumer goods like toys and electronics have gone way down, but the prices of health care and education have gone up roughly 200%. Why? 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.

Rationally Speaking #235 - Tage Rai on "Why people think their violence is morally justified"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 170 views
  • about 3 years ago
  • 59:39

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? That's the thesis of the book Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships. Author Tage Rai debates his book's thesis with Julia. Plus: What does The Iliad teach us about changing attitudes about morality over time?

Rationally Speaking #234 - Dylan Matthews on "Global poverty has fallen, but what should we conclude from that?"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 220 views
  • about 3 years ago
  • 01:17:52

The global poverty rate has fallen significantly over the last few decades. But there's a heated debate, between people like psychologist Steven Pinker and anthropologist Jason Hickel, over how to view that fact. Is it a triumph for capitalism? Should we celebrate it, or lament the fact that rich countries aren't doing more to close the poverty gap faster? Vox journalist Dylan Matthews explains the disagreement. He and Julia discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each side's argument.

Rationally Speaking #233 - Clive Thompson on "The culture of coding, and how it’s changing the world"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 180 views
  • about 3 years ago
  • 57:36

Technology writer Clive Thompson discusses his latest book, Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World. Topics Clive and Julia cover include: - Why coders love efficiency so much - Are there downsides to efficiency? - Do coders have particular blindspots when it comes to human nature? - What is a "10x Coder," and why do people disagree about whether they exist? - Does Clive still agree with his older book, "Smarter Than You Think," which argued that technology is making us smarter?

Rationally Speaking #232 - Tyler Cowen on "Defending big business against its critics"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 180 views
  • about 3 years ago
  • 01:04:14

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? How much are corporations to blame for wage stagnation, climbing cost of living, or the slow response to climate change? Tyler and Julia also explore their various disagreements: on how to communicate, whether people should bet on their beliefs, and whether we should increase public optimism about technology.

Rationally Speaking #231 - Helen Toner on "Misconceptions about China and artificial intelligence"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 180 views
  • about 3 years ago
  • 58:59

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. Helen and Julia discuss, among other things: How do the views of Chinese and American AI scientists differ? How is media coverage of China misleading? Why the notion of an "AI arms race" is flawed Why measures of China's AI capabilities are overstated Reasons for optimism and pessimism about international cooperation over AI

Rationally Speaking #230 - Kelsey Piper on “Big picture journalism: covering the topics that matter in the long run”

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 200 views
  • over 3 years ago
  • 53:19

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. Kelsey and Julia discuss some of her recent stories, including why people disagree about AI risk, and how she came up with her probabilistic predictions for 2018. They also discuss topics from Kelsey's personal blog, including why it's not necessarily a good idea to read articles you strongly disagree with, why "sovereignty" is such an important virtue, and the pros and cons of the steel man technique.

Rationally Speaking #229 - John Nerst on "Erisology, the study of disagreement"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 200 views
  • over 3 years ago
  • 01:04:44

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.

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

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 150 views
  • over 3 years ago
  • 58:54

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?

Rationally Speaking #227 - Sarah Haider on "Dissent and free speech"

Rationally Speaking Podcast

  • 190 views
  • over 3 years ago
  • 58:16

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.