The Amazing Meeting 2014

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JREF Swift Blog
Swift, named for Jonathan Swift, is the JREF's daily blog, featuring content from James Randi, the JREF staff, and other featured authors.

All You Need is Love. (Pass it on.) PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   
skeptilovelogo

Recently, I was working out of the JREF offices in Ft. Lauderdale. Sean McCabe, Randi’s personal assistant, volunteered to drive me to the airport when my weekend of sandy beaches was over, and it was time to return to my home – land of sandy deserts (Las Vegas).

We had some time to kill before heading to the airport, and drove around in circles for a while. We passed a sign outside a building that said, simply, “Please Give Peanut Butter. Thank You,” and decided there was no better way to kill time than giving peanut butter to random people who asked for it. We drove to a gas station, picked up peanut butter, and headed back to the building to find someone to hand it to – not knowing what the building was, or what the peanut butter was even for.

I mean, perhaps it was like asking your neighbor for a cup of sugar when you’re baking cookies. Just more elaborate.

But, in fact, we found ourselves donating peanut butter to a Christian outreach group benefitting the homeless and impoverished in Ft. Lauderdale.

 
A Ghost Story PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Naomi Baker   

ghostyI saw a ghost.

Or maybe it was a spirit. I was a young teen, maybe 13.  In the dark of night, something caused me to waken.   Moonlight poured through a window covered only by thin yellow curtains, giving the room a honey-colored glow.  The house was built in the early 20th century, and like many small houses of that time, the room had doorways on either side, one leading into a living area and the other into an adjacent bedroom. My little brother was gently snoring on the adjacent bed.

My mother stood near the foot of the bed, wearing the simple cotton housecoats that she preferred in hot summers.  Her hand on her chest, she was muttering, or perhaps moaning. I could not tell if she was speaking words, but I sensed she was in distress, or pain.

 
Testing Spirit Writing PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Karen Stollznow   

writingSome people are given flowers, chocolates or socks as birthday gifts. Instead, I received a Ghost Writer Automatic Writing Kit...

I tested a "Spirit Writer" years ago and concluded that the practitioner's pages of "channeled" scrawl were a stream-of-consciousness style of writing that was about as paranormal as James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

I should explain that there are two types of "spirit writing". One kind is where an uninvited spirit supposedly leaves a message on your wall, a threat written in lipstick on your mirror, or a rude word on your post-it notes. A classic claim is the infamous story of Borley Rectory the original "Most Haunted Home in England", as researched by the early paranormal investigator Harry Price. In this case, ‘victim' Marianne Foyster was supposedly haunted by ghosts and poltergeists, and received spirit writing pleas for "light mass prayers" and "please get help". It's now believed that Mrs Reverend Foyster faked the phenomena to divert attention away from her extra-marital affairs.

 
How's Your Health, Skeptics? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Christina Stephens   

Medical literature frequently reports finding that strong religious belief or spirituality has a positive effect on health outcomes with regard to longevity, measures of mental health, recovery after illness, and other health measures. Generally, findings show that people who attend religious services once or more per week have fewer physical and mental illnesses, recover more quickly from illness, and have lower mortality rates than individuals who attend less frequently or not at all. [1-3]

Naturally, it is easy to infer from the abundance of literature linking religion to positive health outcomes that people who are less religious or nonreligious are less healthy and more mentally and physically ill, I.E. -that there is something wrong with us. Yet it is important to note exactly to whom these religious individuals are being compared.

 
Review: The Ghost Map PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Naomi Baker   

"The probability of an outburst or increase during [calm, mild] weather, I believed to be heightened on holidays, Saturdays, Sundays, and any other occasions where opportunities were afforded the lower classes for dissipation and debauchery"  - unattributed quote by ‘expert' regarding how cholera disproportionally attacks the poor and other social underclasses, in Victorian London.

As strange as this seems to modern eyes, this statement was backed up by scientific evidence, or at least what passed for such in England of the mid-19th century.  During this time, the predominant theory for the spread of contagion and sickness was miasma (Greek for "pollution"), that is bad smells and foul air were the causes of disease.

The Ghost Map: the Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson (Riverhead Books) is the story of Dr. John Snow and Rev. Henry Whitehead's discovery of the water-born transmission of cholera, a disease which struck with terrifying regularity in London and other large cities.  The popular folklore is that Dr. Snow plotted cases of cholera deaths on a map, and deduced that the outbreak's source was a particular well in a poor section of London, and removed the handle to the pump, thereby halting the epidemic, and was hailed as a hero.

 
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