Massimo Pigliucci

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Massimo Pigliucci
Pigliucci in 2013
Born (1964-01-16) January 16, 1964 (age 60)
Monrovia, Liberia
Alma mater
EraContemporary philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolScientific skepticism, secular humanism, contemporary Stoicism
InstitutionsCity College of New York
Main interests
Philosophy of science
Philosophy of pseudoscience
Relationship between science and religion
Demarcation problem

Massimo Pigliucci (Italian: [ˈmassimo piʎˈʎuttʃi]; born January 16, 1964)[1] is an Italian-American philosopher and biologist who is professor of philosophy at the City College of New York,[2] former co-host of the Rationally Speaking Podcast,[3] and former editor in chief for the online magazine Scientia Salon.[4] He is a critic of pseudoscience[5][6] and creationism,[7] and an advocate for secularism and science education.[8][9]


Pigliucci was born in Monrovia, Liberia and raised in Rome.[1] He has a doctorate in genetics from the University of Ferrara, Italy, a PhD in biology from the University of Connecticut, and a PhD in philosophy of science from the University of Tennessee.[10] He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.[1]

Pigliucci was formerly a professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook University. He explored phenotypic plasticity, genotype–environment interactions, natural selection, and the constraints imposed on natural selection by the genetic and developmental makeup of organisms.[11] In 1997, while working at the University of Tennessee, Pigliucci received the Theodosius Dobzhansky Prize,[12] awarded annually by the Society for the Study of Evolution[1] to recognize the accomplishments and future promise of an outstanding young evolutionary biologist. As a philosopher, Pigliucci is interested in the structure and foundations of evolutionary theory, the relationship between science and philosophy, and the relationship between science and religion.[10] He is a proponent of an extended evolutionary synthesis to unify parts of biology not covered by the "modern synthesis" of the 20th century.[13]

Pigliucci has written regularly for Skeptical Inquirer on topics such as climate change denial, intelligent design, pseudoscience, and philosophy.[14] He has also written for Philosophy Now and maintains a blog called "Rationally Speaking".[15] He has debated "deniers of evolution" (young-earth creationists and intelligent design proponents), including young earth creationists Duane Gish and Kent Hovind and intelligent design proponents William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, on many occasions.[7][16][17][18]

His latest podcast Stoic Meditations[19] consists of readings from the ancient Stoics, followed by his commentary to interpret the reading and put it into context.[20]

Michael Shermer, Julia Galef and Massimo Pigliucci at NECSS 2013

Critical thinking and skepticism[edit]

Pigliucci is an atheist,[21] but does not believe that science necessarily demands atheism, because of two distinctions: that between methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism, and that between value judgements and matters of fact. He believes that many scientists and science educators fail to appreciate these differences.[9] Pigliucci has criticized New Atheist writers for embracing what he considers to be scientism (although he largely excludes philosopher Daniel Dennett from this charge).[22] In a discussion of his book Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life, Pigliucci told Skepticality podcast host Derek Colanduno, "Aristotle was the first ancient thinker to really take seriously the idea that you need both empirical facts, you need an evidence-based approach to the world and you need to be able to reflect on the meaning of those facts... If you want answers to moral questions then you don't ask the neurobiologist, you don't ask the evolutionary biologist, you ask the philosopher."[23]

Pigliucci describes the mission of skeptics, referencing Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World saying "What skeptics are about is to keep that candle lit and spread it as much as possible".[24] Pigliucci serves on the board of NYC Skeptics and on the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America.[8]

In 1998, he debated William Lane Craig over the existence of God at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.[25] Also in 2001 he debated Craig about the same topic.[26]

Massimo Pigliucci criticized the newspaper article by Pope Francis entitled, "An open dialogue with non-believers". Pigliucci viewed the article as a monologue rather than a dialogue and, in a response personally addressed to Pope Francis, wrote that the Pope only offered non-believers "a reaffirmation of entirely unsubstantiated fantasies about God and his Son...followed by a confusion between the concept of love and truth, the whole peppered by a significant amount of historical revisionism and downright denial of the ugliest facets of your Church."[27]


Pigliucci became a popularizer of Stoicism and one of the driving forces in Stoicism's resurgence in the United States in the early twenty-first century. His 2015 essay for The New York Times on the topic was one of the most shared articles to date.[28] Pigliucci said he always felt Stoicism was part of his Italian heritage, but he came to practice it after being disenchanted with Buddhism, though he finds both schools of thought to share similarities.

I actually tried to study Buddhism for a bit, but the parts I managed to get exposed to felt too alien, couched in cultural, linguistic, and conceptual terms that did not resonate with me. By contrast, when I picked up Epictetus, or Marcus, or Seneca, I immediately felt at home.[29]


In 2021 Pigliucci announced[30] a shift of interest away from Stoicism and towards, as he said, "a new synthesis, something that I have called Neoskepticism, and which uses the combined insights of the ancient Skeptics and Stoics to craft a better way to think about and especially live one’s life."

On consciousness[edit]

Pigliucci has criticized David Chalmers' hard problem of consciousness, and he similarly is a critic of panpsychism. While he is a realist about consciousness, he thinks that claiming there is a distinction between the so called hard and easy problems of consciousness is a category error.[31]

Rationally Speaking[edit]

In August 2000 Pigliucci started a monthly internet column called Rationally Speaking. In August 2005, the column became a blog,[32] where he wrote posts until March 2014.[33] Starting in February 2010, he co-hosted the bi-weekly Rationally Speaking podcast with Julia Galef, whom he first met at the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism, held in September 2009.[34] The podcast is produced by the New York City Skeptics. The show has had many guests—scientists, philosophers—discussing matters of reason, skepticism and rationality. In 2010, Neil DeGrasse Tyson explained on the show his justification for spending large amounts of government money on space programs. He eventually printed the transcript of his performance as a guest on the show in his book Space Chronicles as a full chapter covering eight pages.[35] Another episode in which Tyson explained his position on the label "atheism" received attention on NPR.[36] Pigliucci left the podcast in 2015 to pursue his other interests. Galef continued to host the podcast solo.[37]



Cover of Philosophy of Pseudoscience
  • Schlichting, Carl; Pigliucci, Massimo (1998). Phenotypic evolution : a reaction norm perspective. Sunderland, Mass.: Sinauer.
  • Tales of the Rational (Freethought Press, 2000): A series of essays on atheism, straw-man arguments, creationism and the like.
  • Phenotypic Plasticity (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001): A technical volume on research concerning nature and nurture questions.
  • Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science. (Sinauer, 2002) ISBN 0-87893-659-9: This book covers the evolution-creation controversy, better science teaching, and why people have difficulties with critical thinking.
  • Phenotypic Integration (Oxford University Press, 2003) ISBN 0195160436: A collection of technical essays on the evolution of complex biological organs.
  • Making Sense of Evolution (with Jonathan Kaplan, University of Chicago Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-226-66837-6): A philosophical examination of the fundamental concepts of evolutionary theory and practice.
  • Evolution: The Extended Synthesis (with Gerd B. Muller, MIT Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0262513678)
  • Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk (University of Chicago Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-226-66786-7): This book presents a number of case studies on controversial topics in order to examine how science is conducted, how it is disseminated, how it is interpreted, and what it means to our society.
  • Answers for Aristotle: How Science and Philosophy Can Lead Us to a More Meaningful Life (Basic Books, 2012, ISBN 978-0-465-02138-3)
  • Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem (with Maarten Boudry, eds., University of Chicago Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0226051963)
  • How to Be a Stoic: Using Ancient Philosophy to Live a Modern Life (Basic Books, 2017, ISBN 978-0465097951)
  • The Stoic Guide to a Happy Life
  • A Handbook for New Stoics: How to Thrive in a World Out of Your Control – 52 Week-by-Week Lessons


The following are a select few of Pigliucci's articles. Some may be found at the Internet Infidels' Secular Web.

Additional articles can be found on his web sites (see "External Links" below).

Book reviews[edit]

Date Review article Work(s) reviewed
2013 "[Untitled review]". Books. Philosophy Now. 95: 44. March–April 2013. Woodruff, Paul (2011). The Ajax dilemma : justice, fairness, and rewards. New York: Oxford University Press.


  1. ^ a b c d "Massimo Pigliucci – Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 6, 2011.
  2. ^ "Cuny – City College – Philosophy Department". July 5, 2015. Archived from the original on August 20, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  3. ^ "Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics – Current Episodes". Archived from the original on January 28, 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  4. ^ "Scientia Salon". March 18, 2014. Archived from the original on August 20, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  5. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo; Boudry, Maarten, eds. (2013). Philosophy of Pseudoscience: Reconsidering the Demarcation Problem. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0226051963. Archived from the original on April 16, 2021. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  6. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo (October 10, 2013). "The Dangers of Pseudoscience". The New York Times. Archived from the original on August 20, 2020. Retrieved November 8, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Pigliucci, Massimo (2002). Denying evolution: Creationism, scientism, and the nature of science. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates. ISBN 978-0878936595.
  8. ^ a b "Secular Coalition for America Advisory Board Biography". Archived from the original on November 22, 2015. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  9. ^ a b Pigliucci, M. (2005). "Science and fundamentalism". EMBO Reports. 6 (12): 1106–1109. doi:10.1038/sj.embor.7400589. PMC 1369219. PMID 16319954.
  10. ^ a b "Massimo Pigliucci – Short Bio" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 6, 2011.
  11. ^ "Massimo Pigliucci – Selected Papers". Archived from the original on August 5, 2012.
  12. ^ "Society for the Study of Evolution – Description of Awards". Archived from the original on October 25, 2015. Retrieved June 6, 2009.
  13. ^ Wade, Michael J. (2011). "The Neo-Modern Synthesis: The Confluence of New Data and Explanatory Concepts" BioScience 61: 407–408.
  14. ^ "Massimo Pigliucci". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Archived from the original on November 21, 2015. Retrieved October 1, 2013.
  15. ^ "Rationally Speaking". Archived from the original on August 20, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
  16. ^ "Evolution Debate – Pigliucci vs Hovind". Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. January 31, 2007. Archived from the original on June 11, 2013. Retrieved December 16, 2012.
  17. ^ "CV of William Dembski". Archived from the original on January 26, 2015. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  18. ^ "Evolution and Intelligent Design: Pigliucci vs Wells". Uncommon Knowledge. January 14, 2005. Archived from the original on March 8, 2008. Retrieved July 17, 2008.
  19. ^ "Stoic Meditations • A podcast on Anchor". Anchor. Archived from the original on August 20, 2020. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  20. ^ "The Best Stoicism Podcasts". August 14, 2020. Archived from the original on August 20, 2020. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  21. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo (August 18, 2008). "Excommunicated by the Atheists!". Archived from the original on August 20, 2020. Retrieved June 5, 2009.
  22. ^ Pigliucci, M. (2013). "New Atheism and the Scientistic Turn in the Atheism Movement" (PDF). Midwest Studies in Philosophy. 37 (1): 142–153. doi:10.1111/misp.12006. Archived (PDF) from the original on August 20, 2020. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  23. ^ Colanduno, Derek (February 13, 2013). "Should You Answer Aristotle?" (Audio). Skepticality Podcast. Skeptic Magazine. Archived from the original on August 20, 2020. Retrieved May 14, 2014.
  24. ^ Richard Saunders (September 24, 2010). "The Skeptic Zone #101" (Podcast). Event occurs at 32:50. Archived from the original on May 9, 2014. Retrieved July 20, 2014.
  25. ^ ‘The Craig-Pigliucci Debate: Does God Exist?’, Leadership University, accessed 17 October 2021, Archived 2021-10-17 at the Wayback Machine.
  26. ^ Moreland, J.P. (2013). Debating Christian Theism. US: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199755431.
  27. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo (September 20, 2013). "Dear Pope". Rationally Speaking. Archived from the original on September 27, 2013. Retrieved September 26, 2013.
  28. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo (February 2, 2015). "How to be a Stoic". New York Times. Archived from the original on August 1, 2019. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  29. ^ "How to be a Stoic: an Interview with Massimo Pigliucci". Daily Stoic. May 9, 2017. Archived from the original on August 1, 2019. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  30. ^ "Beyond Stoicism? An ongoing spiritual-cognitive journey | by Philosophy as a Way of Life | Medium". Archived from the original on November 30, 2021. Retrieved November 30, 2021.
  31. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo. "What Hard Problem?". Philosophy Now. Archived from the original on August 1, 2019. Retrieved August 1, 2019.
  32. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo (August 1, 2005). "Welcome, everyone!". Archived from the original on November 10, 2017. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  33. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo (March 20, 2014). "So long, and thanks for all the fish". Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  34. ^ Stiefel, Todd; Metskas, Amanda K. (May 22, 2013). "Julia Galef" (podcast). The Humanist Hour. Episode 083. The Humanist. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2015.
  35. ^ Culp, Jennifer (2014). Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Great Science Writers Series. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 74. ISBN 978-1477776926.
  36. ^ Lombrozo, Tania (December 8, 2014). "What If Atheists Were Defined By Their Actions?". NPR. Archived from the original on February 27, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  37. ^ Pigliucci, Massimo and Galef, Julia (February 27, 2015). "RS128 – 5th Anniversary Live Show". Rationally Speaking (Podcast). New York City Skeptics. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved October 20, 2015.{{cite podcast}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]