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James Randi Educational Foundation
Evidence That Homeopathy Works* PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   

*for some definitions of "evidence."

Swift reader Jeff (Yes, there is more than one of us) sent this article from the American Journal of Infectious Disease along in response to my Big Homeopathy piece from a few days ago. Take a look at the report, which is downloadable as a PDF.

I am not an epidemioligist, histologist, or a scientist of any type. I'm just a lay person with an interest in science, and at a glance, that article looks like science to me. It's in a professional science journal, on a site that warehouses scientific content, and it's in a format that matches my vague understanding of how scientific papers are presented.

And, in that brief glance, I can see their conclusion: "Ultradiluted belladonna could inhibit JE virus infection." In other words, this study backs up the claim that homeopathy works.

Bigpaw Sightings PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Giant Cat?I grew up in Salem, Massachusetts during the 70's. Salem is rather like a "Fisher Price" city, in that it has a little of everything. There's a downtown, some ocean front, a bit of woods, a train station, and on the outskirts, a few farms to round things out. Unlike most cities, Salem also has a history of witchcraft, UFOs and sea monsters.

None of those particularly concerned us, but all the kids knew about the monster that was killing 1000-pound pigs at the farm near Thomson's Meadow, a large forboding swamp.

There were actually two different incidents that I remember. One involved a very large dead pig, and tracks that resembed a "fishing cat." I learned that this was a cat from India, not to be confused with the "fisher cat" of the marten family, and that the theory was that some "Hell's Angels" had released one in the woods.

As a kid, I wondered why and how the Hell's Angel's would posses a large jungle cat. Did it ride in a sidecar? Several years later, another cat was supposedly sighted around the meadow. This time, however, I was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, and I went on a camping trip a few hundred yards from said meadow. I specifically remember being too scared to answer a night-time call of nature, and resolving to wait until daylight. I had a nightmare about being attacked by a giant cat, and woke to find that dawn had broken.  I unzipped the tent, and slowy crawled out into the campsite. Then I heard the distinctive call of a mountain lion. 

Putting Woo to a Good Use PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael A. Strieb   

As an educator I always had to be on my toes, not only to prevent undesirable behavior, but also to be aware of something much more elusive. Teachers are always on the lookout for something called a "teachable moment". They are tricky because they don't appear in your lesson plans, you have no idea where they will come from or when, and they may not even be on topic. Even trickier, you usually have a limited amount of time in which to take maximum advantage. Very often, the next thing you say determines whether or not you let that teachable moment slip by.

I was fortunate enough to capture one with my son just the other day. My father-in-law believes in all kinds of woo, and after talking with him my 9 year old son came to me very excited, his head full of stories about reincarnation, past life regression through hypnosis, and the possibility that after I die I'll come back as his child. Well, you can imagine how I felt. I opened my mouth, fully intending to say "Your grandfather has fed you a load of crap", when it hit me: this was a teachable moment. Instead of declaring those concepts bunk and leaving it at that, we had ourselves a dialogue.

James Randi Meets the Next Generation of Skeptics at Camp Inquiry PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Blanford   

DSC_0083_copyFor the last two years, I have had the great pleasure of being part of Camp Inquiry.  Camp Inquiry is the summer camp put on every July in Holland, New York by the Center For Inquiry.  The camp, for children aged seven to sixteen, offers the kind of activities that are found at most summer camps. You’ll see volleyball, water balloons, campfires, sing-alongs, and nature hikes, but there’s much more, and that’s what makes it so special. CI puts a special emphasis on helping children navigate the big questions that we all face: Who am I? Why am I here? What can I know? What ought I to do? This is done with the help of special guests including artists, writers, scientists, and public intellectuals who give lectures and workshops, but also share s’mores around the campfire and get into deep conversations  . After just five minutes at CI, it is obvious that this place is unique. This year’s guests included Jennifer Michael Hecht, Dale McGowan, Ben Radford, and of course, James Randi.

TAM 8 Reviews Galore! PDF Print E-mail
Written by JREF   

The 'net has been abuzz with reviews and comments about The Amaz!ng Meeting 8. Here's a round up of some interesting ones we've run across. This is by no means an exaustive list, but there's something of interest for everyone here.

Geo-Geek Rachael gives a nice, one-page summary of TAM 8 on her blog, 4.5 Billion Years of Wonder.

Hemant Mehta live-blogged all of TAM. If you'd like to experience TAM as though you were there, or relive the event through the words of Hemant, I recommend you check out his efforts on The Friendly Atheist

Dylan Keeburg of Woo Fighters gives an indepth daily review of TAM starting with some of the Thursday workshops.

Skeptreview's Karl also gave an indepth daily report, but with the added benefit of being Michael Goudeau's shadow. If you're a fan of Penn Jillette or Michael Goudeau, you'll want to read this one.

Daniel Loxton of Skeptic Blog expanded on some of the ideas presented at TAM with his thoughtful piece on The Reasonableness of Weird Things.

CSI's Joe Nickell discusses TAM 8, and also his "out of body" experience meeting Lance Burton for the first time.

Also writing for CSI, Karen Stollznow, points out the lasting effect of Amaz!ng Meetings, and how each of us carried home a little piece of the event to share with others.

The JREF thanks all these reviewers for taking the time to share their thoughts. For more reviews and comments, you can check out the Twitter hash tag #TAM8.

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