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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.

JREF and Education PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Bart Farkas   

With the insertion of a new American President that actually wants scientists to be heard and (and to subsequently follow their advice), one can feel the winds of change blowing across the country and to a lesser extent, other countries as well. These breezes are bringing a breath of fresh realism to the people where science is no longer twisted or ignored to fit ideology, but rather it is being recognized as a legitimate source of information from which to base sound decisions.

 

Many skeptical organizations say that Education is the backbone of their activities, and if that’s true then now is the time for them to move out into the education frontier and start fighting the battles to win the minds of our youngest students.

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The Anti-Vax Movement and Swine Flu PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   

As we discussed in the Anti-Anti-Vax Panel at TAM7, scientifically illiterate activists are endangering our public health. Now they have a new target: the fast-track program to develop a swine flu vaccine in time to prevent a possible pandemic.

A correspondent in the Netherlands wrote me, forwarding this article a friend in the UK had sent him: http://www.globalhealthfreedom.org/?p=3081 Briefly, it says we are going to be offered a dangerous, inadequately tested swine flu vaccine for a nonexistent threat.

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More Evasion PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

This last Sunday I posted "We Should be Insulted," a commentary on the seeming endorsement of acupuncture by US agencies. Following that, I sent an inquiry to Ms. Cynthia Bass at the National Cancer Institute [NCI] - a division of the National Institutes of Health [NIH] - with this direct comment and question:

I have seen references in NCI literature to the use of acupuncture in cancer treatment, to relieve certain side-effects of chemotherapy. My question: Is there any scientific, double-blind research that shows acupuncture is effective?

Please note: I specified "double-blind" because many non-blinded tests of acupuncture have been done, with mixed results, but no such tests can be considered as evidential unless done that way, and I've never found any records of double-blinded tests of this claim. Ms. Bass did not answer the question. She referred me to a list of frequently-asked questions - and the official answers - on the NCI site; this is not unexpected, considering the volume of inquiries that the agency must receive. I have selected here those that almost respond to my inquiry.

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Religious Belief and College Attendance PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Christina Stephens   

Recently I read here that a study [1] had been conducted which looks at the trends between the study of certain subjects in college and religious observance. The study concluded that very religious high school students are more likely than less religious high school students to attend college.

This may surprise the skeptical world. I've heard many times that people with high levels of religiosity tend to be less educated and less intelligent whereas people with low religiosity tend to be more educated and more intelligent. Typically people cite an article published in nature as evidence for this phenomenon [2], if they cite an article at all. So why is this study saying that people who are more religious are more likely to attend college?

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We Should Be Insulted PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

The "complimentary and alternative medicine" business brings in some $34 billion a year in direct out-of-pocket spending from American consumers.  The budget of the US National Institutes of Health - a major Federal agency - is not available to the average person, it seems.  Looking in on the Internet for a simple dollar figure produces no results that I can find.  A direct search for a "$" sign reports no hits...

My attention has been brought to this strange situation since I recently came into possession of a 62-page full-color booklet produced and distributed by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. This comprehensive publication - in its "Words To Know" glossary, begins with a definition of what is possibly the only form of quackery that outranks homeopathy for idiocy: acupuncture. It reads:

Acupuncture (AK-yoo-PUNK-cher): The technique of inserting thin needles through the skin at specific points on the body to control nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.

Other literature issued by the NCI runs on and on about how ancient this idea is, that it is used in China, and how it's administered. Does it work?

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