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Massimo Pigliucci's Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking

a monthly e-column by Dr. Massimo Pigliucci Live Author Chat Transcript     Rationally Speaking Blog

Massimo Pigliucci discontinued the Rationally Speaking column in August of 2005 and replaced it with a much more personal Blog. All of the below articles will remain available on our site. Click on the Join Discussion links to go directly to the discussion forum where we discussed each article.

Dr. Massimo Pigliucci is an Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where he teaches ecology and evolutionary biology. His research is on the evolution of genotype-environment interactions, i.e. on questions of nature vs. nurture.

Massimo's Rationally Speaking e-column articles are hosted on BookTalk to provoke thought and discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of BookTalk. Click on the "Join Discussion" links to comment. Information on his books by Massimo Pigiucci can be found at the bottom of this page.

Article Title
Join Discussion
July 2005
OK, I changed my mind (three times!)
June 2005
On Holy books
May 2005
Habemus Papa!
April 2005
Useless feats
March 2005
And they say liberals are whiny!
February 2005
God did it, or did He?
January 2005
Nonsense on stilts, an example
December 2004
Dude, this is your country!
November 2004
I, robot
October 2004
Abortion, a philosophical approach
Sept. 2004
Monty Python's guide to philosophy
August 2004
Changing our mind: a Bayesian Approach
July 2004
The neurobiology of regret
June 2004
Soldiers' Morality
May 2004
Liberal vs. illiberal democracy
April 2004
Intellectual Midwifery
March 2004
Open letter to Colin Powell
February 2004
What's wrong with the Palestinians?
January 2004
On tolerance vs. respect
December 2003
Israel, anti-semitism, and world peace
November 2003
Edward Teller, Dr. Stranglelove
October 2003
Bush, the Pope, and gay rights
Sept. 2003
Are you a bright?
August 2003
Are we afraid of the wrong things?
July 2003
Why skeptic doesn't mean cynic
June 2003
It's the fundamentalism, stupid!
May 2003
(Special Edition) Post-war
May 2003
On "being proud of"
April 2003
Whence animal rights?
March 2003
America, Europe, and the rest of the world
February 2003
Gays, in the military and outside of it
January 2003
Human Instincts and Virtue Ethics
December 2002
What do you mean,“rationally speaking”?
November 2002
Is the US the ultimate rogue nation?
October 2002
On intuition
Sept. 2002
Why bother? Why being liberal is not a lost cause
August 2002
Is God in our brains?
July 2002
Economic vs. Social health: it's not the economy, stupid!
June 2002
Ecology vs. ecophily: being reasonable about saving the environment
May 2002
The Meaning of Life
April 2002
Those who "understand" Bin Laden
March 2002
Darwin Who?
February 2002
Is Philosophy Useless?
January 2002
Mr. Bayes and the true nature of scientific hypotheses
December 2001
The Great Unicorn Debate
November 2001
/b Beer and circus in American education - pars construens
November 2001
/a Beer and circus in American education - pars destruens
October 2001
Heart disease and the myth of individual responsibility
Sept. 2001
(Special Edition) Of terror and insanity
Sept. 2001
The dark side of philosophy
August 2001
Frankenfoods vs. the neo-Luddites
July 2001
The Wedge: what happens if science is taken over by ideology?
June 2001
God on the highway
May 2001
The many faces of anti-intellectualism
April 2001
Red or Blue? What Kind of Life Would You Choose?
March 2001
Game Theory, Rational Egoism, and the Evolution of Fairness
February 2001
The Greatest Democracy in the World and the Unfairness of American Elections
January 2001
Split-Brains, Paradigm Shifts, and Why It Is So Difficult To Be a Skeptic
December 2000
Intelligent Design, the Modern Argument
November 2000
Intelligent Design, the Classical Argument
October 2000
Whence Natural Rights? - A Dialogue
Sept. 2000
The Place of Science
August 2000
The Rationalistic Fallacy

Books by Dr. Massimo Pigliucci

Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science

Denying Evolution aims at taking a fresh look at the evolution–creation controversy. It presents a truly "balanced" treatment, not in the sense of treating creationism as a legitimate scientific theory (it demonstrably is not), but in the sense of dividing the blame for the controversy equally between creationists and scientists—the former for subscribing to various forms of anti-intellectualism, the latter for discounting science education and presenting science as scientism to the public and the media. The central part of the book focuses on a series of creationist fallacies (aimed at showing errors of thought, not at deriding) and of mistakes by scientists and science educators. The last part of the book discusses long-term solutions to the problem, from better science teaching at all levels to the necessity of widespread understanding of how the brain works and why people have difficulties with critical thinking.

Phenotypic Plasticity: Beyond Nature and Nurture (Syntheses in Ecology and Evolution)

For more than two decades the concept of phenotypic plasticity has allowed researchers to go beyond the nature-nurture dichotomy to gain deeper insights into how organisms are shaped by the interaction of genetic and ecological factors. Phenotypic Plasticity: Beyond Nature and Nurture is the first work to synthesize the burgeoning area of plasticity studies, providing a conceptual overview as well as a technical treatment of its major components. Phenotypic plasticity integrates the insights of ecological genetics, developmental biology, and evolutionary theory. Plasticity research asks foundational questions about how living organisms are capable of variation in their genetic makeup and in their responses to environmental factors. For instance, how do novel adaptive phenotypes originate? How do organisms detect and respond to stressful environments? What is the balance between genetic or natural constraints (such as gravity) and natural selection? The author begins by defining phenotypic plasticity and detailing its history, including important experiments and methods of statistical and graphical analysis. He then provides extended examples of the molecular basis of plasticity, the plasticity of development, the ecology of plastic responses, and the role of costs and constraints in the evolution of plasticity. A brief epilogue looks at how plasticity studies shed light on the nature/nurture debate in the popular media.

Tales of the Rational : Skeptical Essays About Nature and Science

Engaging, compelling, witty essays that put in perspective some of the most fascinating scientific and pseudo-scientific claims of the 20th century. Includes discussions of: atheism, straw-man arguments, creationism, debating creationists and theists, evolutionary biology, Christian apologetics, critiques of modern science, the search for extraterrestial life, the search for the origins of life, chaos theory, and much more.

Phenotypic Evolution: A Reaction Norm Perspective

Understanding the process of adaptive evolution of phenotypes is a fundamental problem in evolutionary biology. It has been approached from the point of view of population and quantitative genetics, optimality theory, or developmental biology. In the last decade, there has been an explosion of research on phenotypic plasticity (the environmentally induced production of different phenotypes by a single genotype) as well as on the molecular details of development, reflecting the increased recognition of their importance in shaping phenotypic evolution. However, the "hardening" of the neodarwinian synthesis in the '40s led to the largely independent investigation of genetic, developmental nad environmental bases of phenotypic expression. As a result, these different perspectives have not been integrated into a satisfying cohesive view of phenotypic evolution. Phenotypic Evolution explicitly recognizes organisms as complex genetic-epigenetic systems developing in response to changing internal and external environments. The book can serve as a text for graduate-level courses and seminars on phenotypic evolution or evolutionary developmental biology, and as a supplemental text for evolutionary biology. The extensive references provide links to a wide variety of studies examining the diversity of phenotypes. The book will also be of interest to organismal biologists in general, including ecologists, developmental biologists, and systematists. is a free book discussion group or online reading group or book club. We read and talk about both fiction and non-fiction books as a group. We host live author chats where booktalk members can interact with and interview authors. We give away free books to our members in book giveaway contests. Our booktalks are open to everybody who enjoys talking about books. Our book forums include book reviews, author interviews and book resources for readers and book lovers. Discussing books is our passion. We're a literature forum, or reading forum. Register a free book club account today! Suggest nonfiction and fiction books. Authors and publishers are welcome to advertise their books or ask for an author chat or author interview.

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