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.
Is cash the best way to help the poor? (Michael Faye)
The idea of giving poor people cash, no strings attached, is "very unappealing" for most donors, admits economist Michael Faye -- but it's still one of the best ways to help the poor. Michael and Julia discuss the philosophy behind his organization (GiveDirectly), the evidence we have so far about cash transfers as an anti-poverty intervention, and the various concerns people have about it: How long-lasting are the effects? Does it make recipients less likely to work? Does it cause inflation?
Humanity on the precipice (Toby Ord)
Humanity could thrive for millions of years -- unless our future is cut short by an existential catastrophe. Oxford philosopher Toby Ord explains the possible existential risks we face, including climate change, pandemics, and artificial intelligence. Toby and Julia discuss what led him to take existential risk more seriously, which risks he considers underrated vs. overrated, and how to estimate the probability of existential risk.
Dangerous biological research - is it worth it? (Kevin Esvelt)
Kevin Esvelt, a scientist at MIT, argues that research intended to prevent pandemics is actually putting us in a lot more danger. Also discussed: Kevin's own research on engineering wild animal species. Are the risks worth the benefits?
Why we're polarized (Ezra Klein)
Ezra Klein explains how Republican and Democrats in the US became so different from each other, ideologically and demographically, and why that trend + our institutions = political gridlock. Questions covered include: Is polarization necessarily bad? Has the left polarized more than the right? And what should we make of polls that seem to show Republicans and Democrats used to agree on immigration policy?
The genetic lottery (Kathryn Paige Harden)
Kathryn Paige Harden, author of “The Genetic Lottery: Why DNA Matters for Social Equality” explains what scientists have learned about how our genes affect our educational success. Why is this research so controversial? And is it worth doing anyway?
How to reason about COVID, and other hard things (Kelsey Piper)
Journalist Kelsey Piper (Future Perfect / Vox) discusses lessons learned from covering COVID: What has she been wrong about, and why? How much can we trust the CDC's advice? What does the evidence look like for different drugs like Fluvoxamine and Ivermectin? And should regular people really try to evaluate the evidence themselves instead of deferring to experts?
I hope this podcast returns! Julia is a great host, and the guests are all knowledgeable.
Great with a few bumps
I'd rate this 4 stars, but I suspect anything less than 5 is considered harsh.
Surprisingly good. Topics are good, good length, solid guests. And surprisingly, no politics; at least for the 5 episodes I've listened to. One strong recommendation. When I look at the list of shows, I see the title and episode number then the guest's name, then a word or two on the topic "Are ideas ...". I already know it's Rationally Speaking and don't care what the episode number is. But it's hard to find the topics but having to drop in to the podcast, listen to the same greeting, find out I'm not interested, then go out again.
It's not perfect. Some endless debate over the definition of terms. One recent one, the speaker said Gain of Function was not accurate and Julia fell over herself to make sure she used some term that he probably invented. A tip: no term is perfect. There are not fluffy clouds in cloud computing but everyone is ok with the term. And sometimes the guests are far too academic. One (can't remember the episode) spent ages talking about the problem and when asked for the solution, said it's very complex. But all in all, very good.
I thought her voice would bug me. I've always found the vocal fry to be annoying and makes me think I'm listening to a teenager. But Julia's doesn't bother me much; maybe I'm growing up.
My favorite podcast
Julia always asks the best questions and plays the best devil’s advocate. She is so thoughtful and funny and kind and introduces the most interesting topics. It isnt a regular show, but when the next episode is uploaded I listen immediately. Love it!