About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself 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." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Massimo's picks

* The Feds will seize creationist Kent Hovind's "dinosaur park" to help pay for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he owes the Government. Hovind claimed that God doesn't pay taxes, the courts disagreed.

* Recommended book: Aristotle for Everybody, by Mortimer Adler.

* An insightful essay in the New York Times about what we mean by happiness.

* A short cartoon video on the concept of open-mindedness, with some interesting examples of dialogue between a skeptic and a true believer.

* An op-ed by philosopher Julian Baggini on the perils of shielding ideas, any ideas, from criticism.

* Book review on a new take concerning the Roman emperor-philosopher Marcus Aurelius. Was he perhaps a bit more mundane than most people think?

* Does dowsing make sense? Not scientifically, and yet essayist Michael Brooks wish it did.

* Nice investigative piece by Rachel Maddow on the corruption surrounding the debate on health care.

* The somewhat oxymoronically named Christian Civil Liberties Union wants to burn books...

* A hilarious and yet absolutely maddening piece by Jon Stewart on just how stupid US Senators can be. Needless to say, it's on health care.


  1. Mundane life or not, the first thing that came to mind for me as I watched footage presented by Rachell Maddow in another segment on the rising thuggish nature of health care protests about an executive from the astroturf group Conservatives for Patients Rights say that health care reform was Obama's first step towards his own "final solution" was the following quote from Meditations:

    "There is but one thing of real value - to cultivate truth and justice, and to live without anger amdist lying and unjust men."

  2. Here you go ... I follow almost all of that stuff on a daily basis, and I have to repeat that Aurelius quote like a mantra to keep my sanity.

  3. Oops, my mistake. I got my astroturf groups mixed up. It was Americans for Prosperity that made the Holocaust comparison, not CPR.

  4. I loved the Senator with the Sir Taxalot cartoons (however frightening it is to think this person has some power), but the piece shows how carefully you should check your sources. Doesn't the presenter talk about the goose that laid the golden eggs as an Aesop's fable? And is it?

  5. Just a little comment to say that I really like your Blog!! It's always a pleasure to read your posts and thanks for that!!

  6. Hi Massimo,

    I wanted to share this article tip for either your gullibility site or for your top pics.

    Basically, people need to be more skeptical about the forensic sciences and its use in court rooms. So here is the link to an article I am presently reading that deals with that.

    CSI Myths: The Shaky Science Behind Forensics.



    "On television and in the movies, forensic examiners unravel difficult cases with a combination of scientific acumen, cutting-edge technology and dogged persistence. The gee-whiz wonder of it all has spawned its own media-age legal phenomenon known as the “CSI effect.” Jurors routinely afford confident scientific experts an almost mythic infallibility because they evoke the bold characters from crime dramas. The real world of forensic science, however, is far different. America’s forensic labs are overburdened, understaffed and under intense pressure from prosecutors to produce results. According to a 2005 study by the Department of Justice, the average lab has a backlog of 401 requests for services. Plus, several state and city forensic departments have been racked by scandals involving mishandled evidence and outright fraud.

    But criminal forensics has a deeper problem of basic validity. Bite marks, blood-splatter patterns, ballistics, and hair, fiber and handwriting analysis sound compelling in the courtroom, but much of the “science” behind forensic science rests on surprisingly shaky foundations. Many well-established forms of evidence are the product of highly subjective analysis by people with minimal credentials—according to the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, no advanced degree is required for a career in forensics. And even the most experienced and respected professionals can come to inaccurate conclusions, because the body of research behind the majority of the forensic sciences is incomplete, and the established methodologies are often inexact. “There is no scientific foundation for it,” says Arizona State University law professor Michael Saks. “As you begin to unpack it you find it’s a lot of loosey-goosey stuff.”


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