Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rationally Speaking - the official podcast of New York City Skeptics

Upcoming Episodes

RS15: Open Mic. With Massimo and Julia

Release date: 8.15.2010

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Related Reading
  • Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    by Massimo Pigliucci
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Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Join hosts Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef as they explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, likely and unlikely, science and pseudoscience.

Rationally Speaking is produced by Benny Pollak and recorded in the heart of New York City's Greenwich Village.

Don't forget to follow us on twitter and become fan of the RS Podcast on Facebook. You can also support Rationally Speaking by joining New York City Skeptics today!


Current Episodes

Saturday
Jul242010

RS14 - Jennifer Michael Hecht on Science, Religion, Happiness, and Other Myths

Release date: August 1, 2010


Author, science historian, philosopher, and poet Jennifer Michael Hecht discusses her views on science, religion, and skepticism.  She talks about her book "The Happiness Myth", showing how the very concept of happiness has changed dramatically both in time and across cultures, to the point that it may make little sense to simply ask “are you happy”? Also she makes her skeptical comments on the findings of science, for instance concerning eating and exercise habits, and how the skeptic community's reliance on science borders on religion.

Jennifer teaches at the New School in New York City. She is the author of "Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson" and of "The Happiness Myth: The Historical Antidote to What Isn't Working Today", among other books.

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Jennifers's pick: The websites "HiLoBrow" and Best American Poetry

Friday
Jul162010

RS13 - Superstition, Is It Good For You?

Release date: July 18, 2010


Is it possible that superstition is actually good for you? Well, it turns out that superstition may, at least some of the time, have beneficial effects.  A paper published in 2008 in Science for example, suggests that lacking control over a situation increases people’s propensity to see illusory patterns — the implication being that the latter (a typical component of superstition) ameliorates stress when we feel that things are out of hand.  Also, a recent study published in Psychological Science shows that superstition improves people’s performance on certain tasks, presumably by making them more self-confident than they would be otherwise. Add to this a recent article in Scientific American to the effect that people with Asperger’s syndrome are less likely to project agency onto life’s events (and hence tend to be less superstitious), and suddenly the skeptic might not feel so cocky about being skeptical.

Of course we're not advocating in favor of superstition on the sole ground that it may be psychologically helpful. Still, what happens when something that we devote so much time fighting against turns out not to be entirely bad after all?

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Julia's pick:  "How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like"

Massimo's pick: The Epistemelinks website

Thursday
Jun242010

RS12 - What About Thought Experiments?

Release date: July 4, 2010


Philosophers are often accused of engaging in armchair speculation, as far removed from reality as possible. The quintessential example of this practice is the thought experiment, which many scientists sneer at precisely because it doesn’t require one to get one’s hands dirty. And yet scientists have often engaged in thought experiments, some of which have marked major advances in our understanding of the world. Just consider the famous example of Galileo’s thought experiment demonstrating (rather counter intuitively) that two objects of different weight must fall at the same speed. And, perhaps more famously, Einstein's thought experiments on the nature of light.

And then, there are the other kind, like philosopher David Chalmers' famous thought experiment about zombies and the so-called "hard problem" of consciousness. Chalmers comes up with an (admittedly ingenious) little story, and we are supposed to deduce from it the momentous conclusion that there is more than matter/energy to the universe? Still, there are plenty of good thought experiments in philosophy, beginning with the so-called trolley dilemmas meant to probe our moral intuitions.

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Julia's pick:  "50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior"

Massimo's pick: John D. Norton Goodies

 
 

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