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, July 24, 2010

Michael's Picks

By Michael De Dora
* An old but still good column by Guardian journalist and author Gary Younge that relates to my last essay here: "To Engage the Birther Fantasists is Futile; to Dismiss Them, Reckless."
* One of the more intriguing essays I've read this year, "How Facts Backfire." According to the story, research shows that "facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite."
* An important Supreme Court ruling: people who sign petitions calling for public votes on controversial subjects (think: gay marriage) do not have the right to hide their names from the public.
* A new Pew poll shows 41 percent of Americans believe Jesus Christ will definitely (23 percent) or probably (18 percent) return to Earth by 2050.
* The Vatican now considers the attempted ordination of women and the actual sexual abuse of minors to be crimes of the same sort.
* New York Times columnist David Brooks on "moral naturalism."
* I just finished Massimo's recent book "Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science From Bunk."
A very informative and readable book that I highly recommend for anyone generally interested in the nature of science and critical thinking.
* Sharron Angle, who is trying to unseat House Majority Leader Harry Reid, says she doesn't approve of abortion because "God has a plan." But does she really believe that?


  1. "A new Pew poll shows 41 percent of Americans believe Jesus Christ will definitely (23 percent) or probably (18 percent) return to Earth by 2050."

    Economists judge people's actual preferences vs. their stated preferences by observing what they actually do (watch football) vs. what they say they do (go to church every Sunday).

    Something tells me these people are still saving for retirement.

  2. Regarding birthers and other conspiracy theorists, there's a classic Soviet joke about the presumption of guilt:

    A rabbit was running for his life through the desert. When asked by another rabbit what he was running from, he said a lion had threatened to eat any camel he met. "But we're rabbits!"
    "Yes, but when the lion catches you, just try to prove that you're not a camel!"

  3. The comparison between Palin and Angle was irrelevant, and consequently the mild protestation of rhetoric, laughable.

    Have a dog in this race do ya Michael?

  4. ianpollock: since when do people save for retirement?

  5. This Guardian article is so typical of those written by people who are either uninformed or uncaring.

    The article ignores some obvious evidence. Go to the factcheck website and look at the birth certificate. Then if you are under age 45 ask a older acquaintance for a look at theirs - any state will do. The language will be so different than what one sees on birth certificates in the late 60s and beyond. References to Father's Occupation but not the mother's, style with respect to the sections on race and religion, etc. will have changed noticeably.

    Go to Hawaii or talk to Hawaiians or those from 'secluded' states with a large immigrant population. Talk to those from Europe in the World War II years. The haves, or wanna-be haves, have not had a huge problem getting a birth certificate or any other documentation they desire given either the resources to pay for it, or the desire of certain authorities to assist in making it happen.

    The grandmothers' testimonies are damning - one grandmother says he was born in the States, the other says that he was not. Which one is not telling the truth and why?

    I don't know - I think Obama was born in Kenya but am not sure. Unlike those in the anti-Obama camp, I really do not care enough to change sides. I like this guy and still hope he gets reelected, knowing that there will be no serious court challenge to his citizenship as long as that certificate is considered legal.

    But I dislike the dishonesty of the surrounding machinery. To be sure of the facts as not reported by most is lunacy. But that's politics.

  6. @Ritchie: Hah, good point! Very well then, I assert that they think about it.


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