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.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Massimo's Picks

* Massimo debates Mike Treder over at bloggingheadstv on the questions of immortality and technological optimism.

* The latest Rationally Speaking podcast: The Great Atheist debate on the limits of science.

* Jon Stewart makes fun of the Texas Board of (mis)Education.

* Couples fight openly on Facebook, so that they can "share" their lives with friends and relatives. Are people just insane?

* Massimo reviews Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini's insane book, What Darwin Got Wrong.

* Skeptic challenges guru to kill him on live tv by just using his psychic powers. Guess what happened...

* Procrastination is not such a bad thing, at least in some respects.

* The unseen and unknowable have no place in science.

* A frank editorial about the Pope's involvement in cases of Vatican-condoned pedophilia.

* New York Times columnist David Brooks just makes up stuff as he goes to support his preconceived notions. And he is a reasonable conservative!

* Daylight "saving" is no such thing.

* Barry Lynn on the mess with Texas rewriting history books.

* What is "normal"? A philosophical take.

* Most Americans are convinced that God helps them make everyday decisions. Could it be that's why the country is in such a mess?

* Michael Ruse on What Darwin Got Wrong and why it ain't a good book.

* On April 24, make sure you don't miss the Center for Inquiry-Chicago conference on Dangerous Nonsense, I'll be there...


  1. Massimo, read your review of What Darwin Got Wrong.
    Hardly scathing as promised. More like a few paragraphs of an "If I wrote this I would have done it differently" argument. Excerpts as example:
    "First, they claim that biologists’ emphasis on ecological, or exogenous, factors is misplaced because endogenous genetic and developmental constraints play a crucial part in generating organic forms." (And:)
    "The first claim represents a distortion of the literature. The relative importance of natural
    selection and internal constraints has always
    been contended by biologists: molecular and
    developmental biologists tend to focus on
    internal mechanisms; ecologists and evolutionary
    biologists prefer to address external ones."

    Scathing? More like a copout on your part. At least the Boston Review piece took a hard shot at their exogenous factors criticism, even though they missed badly. You didn't even really try.
    And so the rest of your piece went as well. Disappointing to those of us Fodor fans who wanted to scathe back at you.

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  3. Artie,

    sorry to disappoint you, as usual...


    I'm not sure what it means to be in the "determinist" camp.

  4. Massimo,

    I am a fairly regular reader, though I seldom comment. I have been wondering about the characteristics of "normal", particularly as it plays out in the culture wars. To me, things that are within expected parameters, though they may be in the minority, for example, homosexuality or left handedness, can still be called normal. If something can be predicted, then it is hard to consider it outside of the norm.

    What do you think?

  5. How funny! Just last night I was listening to Julian Baggini's (sp?) podcast interview with this Fodor fellow, and I was thinking "mmmm I wonder what Massimo thinks of this?" Now I will soon know! Thanks.

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  7. Jimmy,

    yeah, the definition of "normal" is a fishy subject. But I suppose there is a good sense in which, statistically, "the norm" is simply the most frequent type in the population, which would of course exclude homosexuals, minorities, etc. But non-normal in a statistical sense does not carry any negative moral connotation.


    I don't think that humans are incidental to technology at all. At the moment there are no examples of self-propagating technologies.

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  9. Harry,

    now I get what you are referring to. I really don't think that my critique of transhumanism requires a deep understanding of philosophy of technology, but I'm willing to listen.

    As for observing technology w/out seeing its cultural influences or fiscal implications, if you watched the debate I don't think you can seriously accuse me of that.

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  12. Harry,

    first of all, gratuitous accusations of ignorance do not advance discourse. Second, you don't actually seem to disagree much with what I said during the debate. Third, where on earth did you get the idea that I'm a Marxist?? Search this blog for the entry entitled 'Surrounded by Marxists'...

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