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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.

Dowsing by...iPhone PDF Print E-mail
Written by Naomi Baker   

iphonedowseIn response to a post I saw on Twitter, I hustled over to the Apple iTune store to check the story out. Yes, indeed, there was a free application ("app") for a virtual dowsing rod (link opens in iTunes). When you launch the program, your screen shows two parallel rods over a background that looks like the ground, with grass and exposed dirt. As you tilt the phone, the rods spread or come together, and when you get a hit, the phone vibrates, buzzes, and a red light flashes. Apparently I have water in the keyboard of my Mac. Or maybe oil. I'll let you know how the drilling comes out, at which time I will be busy filling out my paperwork for the JREF Million Dollar Challenge.

Ok, so this a silly application. But I thought regular readers might get a kick out of the comments in the store.

I used this dowsing rod application when I was in the desert to find wter. An arch nemesis left me in the middle of the desert with only a bottle of motor oil, after he threw me out of the CEO position of my multi-national corporation.

Chinese Medicine for Endometriosis PDF Print E-mail
Written by Christina Stephens   

Media outlets are reporting that Chinese herbs may relieve symptoms of endometriosis, using a Cochrane review of 2 research articles. Headlines read "Chinese herbs show early promise for endometriosis" and  "Chinese Herbs May Relieve Endometriosis Symptoms, Review Finds".

Endometriosis is a medical condition in which some of the endometrial cells (typically found in the uterus under the fluctuating influence of female hormones) are found outside of the uterine cavity. Symptoms include many nonspecific complaints such as pelvic pain, infertility, nausea, unusual menstruation, chronic fatigue, mood swings, back pain, ovarian cysts, constipation, urinary tract infections, diarrhea, anemia, etc. Appropriate diagnosis is by laparoscopic biopsy - a doctor will use a laparoscopic instrument to remove suspected extrauterine endometrial cells and examine them.  Treatments vary and can include hormonal treatments or surgery to remove the cells. In China, treatment of this disorder with Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) is routine.

Lie Leaching PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   

tableIt was known as "Mystery Hill" for countless years until it was renamed "America's Stonehenge" in the 1980's. Mystery Hill is a more correct moniker, but the mystery is why people are so reticent to accept a mundane explanation for observed phenomena.

On a rocky hill in Salem, NH, giant stones have been placed in a circle by someone. Inevitably, many of these stones line up with astronomical events... it's rather hard to put stones in a circle and NOT have this happen, but for all I know they may have been placed that way on purpose.

This is part of the much larger story, but I'm going to focus on one specific element of America's Stonehenge: the "sacrificial stone."

Located next to a cave partially constructed of large slabs of granite, this stone table is large enough for a man to lie on. Around its edges are carved grooves which encircle the stone and lead off the edge into a spout that could pour into a bucket or other container. Should you wish to cut a man's throat on this stone, his blood would be collected very conveniently.

In Defense of Karma PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   

Karma, the belief that the actions in your life are somehow tallied and weighed for or against you, falls firmly in the realm of woo-woo. There is no evidence that such a "force" exists, or that there is any entity keeping track of your "sins" so that you may or may not get into some heavenly place.

And yet, I think the concept is useful and effective. Let me explain.

Love Thy Neighbor PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brandon K. Thorp   

This is a response to Jeff Wagg's month-old article on The Westboro Baptist Church. I'll dispense with the formal introductions - most Swift readers know about Westboro, and those who don't may inform themselves quickly by clicking here.

Jeff's article concluded with this paragraph:

Ignore these people. Their message is so over-the-top that they don't need debunking. Let them blow away and take their rightful place next to any of the thousands of other self-serving hypocrites pretending to have a calling from a higher power. Learn to be comfortable with the fact that there are lying, evil bastards out there who want your attention, and understand that you win when you don't give it to them. We all do.

Sentiments like Jeff's have been expressed by countless sensitive souls since the Westboroans began their protest ministry. But I disagree, on grounds both moral and practical. After all, no high-minded article could possibly inspire all people to ignore a group as loud and incendiary as The Westboro Baptist Church, and by ignoring them ourselves we only cede our place at their demonstrations to bullies with their own theological axes to grind - bullies who will engage the church far less thoughtfully than would, say, a public of even-tempered skeptics.

Many think such abandonment is right and proper. Even those without any sympathy for the Westboroan plight have surely been surprised at the rapidity with which good manners disappear whenever someone raises the subject. Otherwise peaceable people articulate murderous fantasies; otherwise tolerant people advocate gag laws. The Westboro Baptist Church, it seems, deserves whatever it gets, and no breach of civil liberties nor sudden lapse of decorum is too egregious so long as Fred Phelps and his brood are the targets.

Essentially, this is what we say when we suggest that the sane and secular give Westboro a wide berth. Let brutes deal with brutes.

It's a bad idea.

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