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Rationally Speaking Podcast

Updated about 1 month ago

Rank #51 in Philosophy category

Society & Culture
Philosophy
Science
Read more

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.

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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.

iTunes Ratings

447 Ratings
Average Ratings
360
40
15
16
16

This is gold!

By my_wit_wont_fit - Oct 27 2019
Read more
The Stanford Prison Experiment episode blew my mind

Brilliant

By Cssbid - May 22 2019
Read more
Julia is a pleasure to listen to, she prepares for interviews and asks smart meaningful questions!

iTunes Ratings

447 Ratings
Average Ratings
360
40
15
16
16

This is gold!

By my_wit_wont_fit - Oct 27 2019
Read more
The Stanford Prison Experiment episode blew my mind

Brilliant

By Cssbid - May 22 2019
Read more
Julia is a pleasure to listen to, she prepares for interviews and asks smart meaningful questions!
Cover image of Rationally Speaking Podcast

Rationally Speaking Podcast

Latest release on Nov 30, 2019

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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.

Rank #1: Rationally Speaking #124 - Stoicism

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Did you miss International Stoic Week this year? Well, it's not too late to catch Massimo and Julia's analysis of the ancient philosophy of stoicism, which advocates (among other things) practicing mindfulness, accepting the things you can't change, and regulating negative emotions. Come hear the results of Massimo's experimentation with stoicism and listen to him and Julia debate several potential problems with the philosophy.

Dec 28 2014

1hr

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Rank #2: Rationally Speaking #144 - Bryan Caplan on "Does parenting matter?"

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Parents in the United States are spending more time and energy than ever to ensure that their children turn out happy, healthy, and successful. But what does the evidence suggest about the impact of their efforts? Economist Bryan Caplan (and the author of "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids") argues that, despite our intuition that parenting choices affect children's life outcomes, there's strong evidence to the contrary. Bryan and Julia discuss his case, and explore what that means for how people should parent and how many kids they should have.

Oct 04 2015

1hr 3mins

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Rank #3: Rationally Speaking #4 - The Great Atheist Debate Over the Limits of Science

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"Accommodationist" is a word that began to appear in recent months during public debates over science and religion. The derogatory term has been applied to atheists and rationalists like Eugenie Scott, at the National Center for Science Education, and Chris Mooney, science writer at Discover Magazine, who maintain that science and faith are not necessarily incompatible. Although the debate is frequently framed as a practical one, about what the tactics of the secular movement should be, it is also a philosophical one, hinging on the question of the epistemic limits of science. In this episode, we examine the arguments being made by and against the so-called "accommodationists," and ask: Can science disprove religious and supernatural claims?

Mar 14 2010

31mins

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Rank #4: Rationally Speaking #103 - Neil deGrasse Tyson on Why He Doesn't Call Himself an Atheist

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Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson returns for this episode of Rationally Speaking, with a particular question to discuss: Should he call himself an atheist? The impetus is a recent dust-up over Neil's appearance on Big Think, in which he explained that he avoids the label "atheist" because it causes people to make all sorts of unflattering (and often untrue) assumptions. Julia and Massimo reply with some counterarguments, and along the way delve into the philosophy of language.

Mar 09 2014

52mins

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Rank #5: Rationally Speaking #3 - Can History Be a Science?

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Our guest, Prof. Peter Turchin from the University of Connecticut, joins Massimo and Julia to discuss whether history can be studied and understood in a scientific manner. In an article in Nature (3 July 2008) on what he termed “cliodynamics,” he discusses the possibility of turning history into a science. In it, he proposes that history, contrary to what most historians might think -- is not just one damn thing after another, that there are regular and predictable patterns, from which we can learn and that we can predict. Of course, he is not the only scientist to have turned to history in an attempt to make that field more scientific, Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse immediately come to mind. And naturally, many historians vehemently object to what they perceive as a crude scientistic attempt at interdisciplinary colonization.

Feb 28 2010

28mins

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Rank #6: Rationally Speaking #239 - Saloni Dattani on "The debate over whether male and female brains are different"

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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.

Sep 03 2019

48mins

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Rank #7: Rationally Speaking #156 - David McRaney on "Why it’s so hard to change someone’s mind"

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You're probably already aware that it's hard to change someone's mind with logical arguments and evidence, especially about emotionally charged topics. But are there exceptions? David McRaney, bestselling author of "You Are Not So Smart" (and host of the blog and podcast by the same name) 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, how individual mind-change mirrors scientific progress, and what happens when you confront Trump fans with facts that contradict their narrative.

Apr 03 2016

55mins

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Rank #8: Rationally Speaking #145 - Phil Tetlock on "Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction"

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Most people are terrible at predicting the future. But a small subset of people are significantly less terrible: the Superforecasters. On this episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia talks with professor Phil Tetlock, whose team of volunteer forecasters has racked up landslide wins in forecasting tournaments sponsored by the US government. He and Julia explore what his teams were doing right and what we can learn from them, the problem of meta-uncertainty, and how much we should expect prediction skill in one domain (like politics or economics) to carry over to other domains in real life.

Oct 18 2015

55mins

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Rank #9: Rationally Speaking #149 - Susan Gelman on "How essentialism shapes our thinking"

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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. Julia and Susan discuss why the discovery of essentialism in children was such a surprise to scientists, how the language we use affects the way we view reality, and whether essentialism is to blame for bad philosophy.

Dec 13 2015

47mins

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Rank #10: Rationally Speaking #120 - Nihilism

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Are you a nihilist? Forget about wearing all black and being indifferent to the rest of the world -- nihilism is a lot more complicated than most people think. In this episode of Rationally Speaking, 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.

Nov 02 2014

51mins

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Rank #11: Rationally Speaking #87 - Sean Carroll on Naturalism

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Astrophysicist and author Sean Carroll joins this episode of Rationally Speaking, to talk about "naturalism" -- the philosophical viewpoint that there are no supernatural phenomena, and the universe runs on scientific laws. Sean, Julia, and Massimo discuss what distinguishes naturalism from similar philosophies like physicalism and materialism, and what a naturalistic worldview implies about free will, consciousness, and other philosophical dilemmas. And they return to that long-standing debate: should scientists have more respect for philosophy?

May 19 2013

49mins

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Rank #12: Rationally Speaking #207 - Alison Gopnik on "The wrong way to think about parenting, plus the downsides of modernity"

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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 things. They also discuss Alison's reservations about Steven Pinker's book Enlightenment Now, and her concerns about potential downsides of modernity.

Apr 30 2018

1hr 3mins

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Rank #13: Rationally Speaking #194 - Robert Wright on "Why Buddhism is True"

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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, and its prescription that meditation can help us see more clearly. Robert and Julia discuss whether it's suspicious that a religion turned out to be "right" about human nature, what it means for emotions to be true or false, and whether there are downsides to enlightenment.

Oct 02 2017

50mins

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Rank #14: Rationally Speaking #133 - Sean Carroll on "The Many Worlds Interpretatioln Is Probably Correct"

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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 why he thinks the "Many Worlds Interpretation" (MWI) is the most plausible one we've got, and Julia explores his thoughts on questions like: Can MWI be tested? Is it "simpler" than other interpretations, and why? And does MWI threaten to destroy our systems of ethics?

Sean Michael Carroll is a research professor in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He is a theoretical cosmologist specializing in dark energy and general relativity.

May 03 2015

47mins

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Rank #15: Rationally Speaking #101 - Max Tegmark on the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis

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Those among us who loathed high school calculus might feel some trepidation at the premise in this week's episode of Rationally Speaking. MIT 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. Max, Massimo and Julia explore the arguments for such a theory, how it could be tested, and what it even means.

Feb 09 2014

52mins

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Rank #16: Rationally Speaking #135 - Robin Hanson on: "Most human behavior is signaling"

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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 process Robin and Julia discuss what makes a good theory: How to decide what you should (a priori) expect to see, and why simplicity is a virtue.

Robin Dale Hanson is an associate professor of economics at George Mason University and a research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute of Oxford University. He is known as an expert on idea futures and markets, and he was involved in the creation of the Foresight Exchange and DARPA's Future MAP project. he blogs at Overcomng Bias.

May 31 2015

47mins

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Rank #17: Rationally Speaking #97 - Peter Singer on Being a Utilitarian in the Real World

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Few philosophers have as wide of an impact on the general public as ethicist Peter Singer, this week's guest on Rationally Speaking podcast. Singer's 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 have won him widespread fame -- and notoriety -- over the last few decades, and launched multiple movements. Tune in to hear his discussion with Massimo and Julia about why he's a utilitarian, and how his views of utilitarianism have recently changed (and find out how he influenced Massimo's life years ago).

Nov 25 2013

47mins

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Rank #18: Rationally Speaking #143 - Scott Aaronson on "The theorem that proves rationalists can't disagree"

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Can rational people disagree? This episode of Rationally Speaking features guest Scott Aaronson. Scott is a professor of computer science at MIT and has written about "Aumann's Agreement Theorem," which is related to Bayesian probability theory and seems to imply that two people cannot rationally disagree after they've shared their opinions and information with each other. Julia and Scott discuss how to reconcile Aumann's theorem with real-world disagreements, and explore the disconcerting question: Why should you favor your own beliefs, just because they're yours?

Sep 20 2015

51mins

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Rank #19: Rationally Speaking #6 - Fluffy Thinking

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Fluffy Thinking is a peculiar type of uncritical thinking that sounds sophisticated, and is next to impossible to criticize frontally both because it barely has anything to do with empirical evidence, and because it is hard to articulate what, exactly, these people are saying. These people include scientific luminaries like Freeman Dyson and Paul Davies. Also, Karen Armstrong, author of "The Case for God", and Krista Tippett, author of "Einstein's God" and host of National Public Radio's "Speaking of Faith", where scientific notions are regularly distorted and mixed up with barely intelligible mystical “insights” that are put forward as profound truths.

The question is not only whether there is anything interesting in what these people are saying, but rather the much more difficult issue of why it is that smart individuals, who make their living thinking and writing about science and philosophy, are attracted by fluffy thinking.

Apr 10 2010

33mins

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Rank #20: Rationally Speaking #5 - Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Need for a Space Program

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Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson joins Massimo and Julia to discuss the need for a space program. Many scientists (and most people in the skeptic community) simply assume that funding outlets like NASA are a good idea. But, can scientists justify the enormous expense involved, not just in terms of their personal curiosity, but as a matter of tangible and intangible benefits to society at large? Should we go back to the Moon and establish a permanent base? Is it worth the expense and likely risk to human life to attempt a mission to Mars? What is a space station for, anyway?

Dr. Tyson is an astrophysicist by training and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. He is also the host of PBS's science NOW. His latest book is “The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet.”

Mar 28 2010

33mins

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

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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.

Nov 30 2019

42mins

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

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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.

Nov 12 2019

49mins

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

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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.

Oct 29 2019

43mins

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

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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.

Oct 15 2019

54mins

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

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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.

Sep 17 2019

59mins

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

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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.

Sep 03 2019

48mins

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

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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?

Aug 20 2019

51mins

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

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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.

Aug 06 2019

53mins

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

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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.

Jul 23 2019

52mins

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

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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?

Jun 25 2019

59mins

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

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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.

May 28 2019

1hr 17mins

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

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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?

May 13 2019

57mins

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

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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.

Apr 30 2019

1hr 4mins

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

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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

Apr 16 2019

59mins

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

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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.

Apr 02 2019

53mins

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

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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.

Mar 19 2019

1hr 4mins

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

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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?

Mar 05 2019

58mins

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

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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.

Feb 18 2019

58mins

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

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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?

Feb 05 2019

53mins

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Rationally Speaking #225 - Neerav Kingsland on "The case for charter schools"

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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.

Jan 21 2019

47mins

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iTunes Ratings

447 Ratings
Average Ratings
360
40
15
16
16

This is gold!

By my_wit_wont_fit - Oct 27 2019
Read more
The Stanford Prison Experiment episode blew my mind

Brilliant

By Cssbid - May 22 2019
Read more
Julia is a pleasure to listen to, she prepares for interviews and asks smart meaningful questions!