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.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Julia's Picks

* Belief in a higher power as a function of scientific education, summed up by SMBC comics.

* Episode #4 of the Rationally Speaking podcast is out: The Great Atheist Debate on the Limits of Science.

* In a controversial study, scientists rank all the common drugs according to how harmful they are.

* Our bodies intuitively find physical metaphors for abstract concepts.

* What a great idea for a new scientific journal -- the Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results (JSUR).

* An intriguing twist on the anthropic principle: the "entropic principle."

* Easy = True: a discussion of the hot-button psychological concept of cognitive fluency.


  1. - "* Episode #4 of the Rationally Speaking podcast is out: The Great Atheist Debate on the Limits of Science."

    Excellent, I've been waiting for this one. Hopefully it will bring some discussion. As I've made clear on this blog (as Luke and my full name Luke Vogel), my position is very much the same as Massimo's and Michael Shermer's.

    BTW, Massimo has a feature in the latest eSkeptic.

  2. The theoretically righteous morons never bother to consider that it might be an entropic anthropic principle in a single finite universe, but that is what we do best, and this is all that we observe.

    What is the difference between a flat yet expanding universe and I wide-open expanding universe?

    Entropic efficiency.

    A near static yet expanding universe wastes less energy to heat death, while disseminating energy more uniformly.

    So the AP is quite apparently an energy conservation law if you don't make unjustified assumptions about multiverses and other such cutting edge theoretical speculations.

    Which makes for a very sad statement about the way that physics is done today.

  3. My thoughts on the Rationally Speaking podcast:

    First, it was quite excellent and perhaps more important then you may realize.

    Second, In a way I would reverse the "accomodationist" and "purist" argument (I'm not disagreeing with the discussion presented, just a kind of thought experiment). Let me explain. To my thinking, Massimo Pigliucci, Michael Shermer, Eugenie Scott and many others are the "purist" in the dialogue and arguments as presented (I wouldn't count Mooney here for a couple reasons not worth mentioning at this time). All those mentioned have been deemed "accomodationist". However, a "purist" position would be the one that recognizes the mistake made by Jerry "The 900 Foot Jesus" Coyne and further to understand the proper roll of science and skepticism when faced with claims of the "supernatural".

    Coyne would be the "accomodationist" here since he holds that "supernatural phenomena" are within the realm of science and then professes what would convince him that a god existed (the burden of proof suddenly doesn't evaporate due to what Jerry believes - though his last rendition of his argument brought in James Randi to verify the 900 foot Jesus "LOL"). He is offering a rationalist type version of a potential god of the gaps argument.

    Third, I would have gone further in the problems confronted beyond "last thursdayism". Such as Shermer's last law which is a modification of Arthur C. Clark's three laws: "Any sufficiently advanced ETI is indistinguishable from God." To further this still would be questions such as how could we tell relative from absolute omniscience etc.

    That's good for now.

    Thanks for the podcast!

  4. Enjoyed the podcast.

    I also enjoyed Blackmore's book recommended by Julia. Massimo's take on qualia and consciousness, which is echoed by many in the book, seems, to me at least, to be the most plausible account of those problems.

    I felt a little uneasy or doubtful at some of Susan Blackmore's pressing for something deeper or extra within consciousness. Did anyone else feel that as well?


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