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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.

Ask The Skeptics: The Cottage Ghost, Global Warming PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brandon K. Thorp   

(Editor's Note: If you wish to contribute a question to Ask The Skeptics, please write an email to Swift@Randi.org. Questions may be edited for brevity, and frequently asked questions may be edited together so that the resulting query is representative. All questions shall be published anonymously. If you have an answer for this week's questioners, please supply it below.)

 

Dear Swift:

My mother has always been a hard-headed realist. (She does attend Methodist church off and on, but that's more a matter of upbringing than anything else.) She is a stubborn, no-nonsense lady and a hard worker, and she's always kept her wits about her. She is also twice-widowed - the first time when my father died in 1976 (sudden heart attack), and again when her second husband, Rupert, died in 2007 (another heart attack). Mother is 74 now and just beginning to slow down, and I'm concerned about a habit she's developed since Rupert's death.

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Crocopetard PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Martin A. Lessem, J.D.   

For the past few years, anyone who has been following the Creation vs. Evolution debate has come across the comment by Kirk Cameron, made on the The O'Reilly Factor, that there are no "transitional forms." His exact quote, which demonstrates his general misinformedness as to how evolution actually works, was:

"Plus, Darwin said in order to prove evolution, which is the number one alternative to God, you gotta be able to prove transitional forms. One animal transitioning into another, and all through the fossil record and life we don't find one of these. A croco-duck. There's just nothing like it. There is no one animal transitioning into another"

Not so fast, Cameron. The croco-duck has been found.

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The Sheldrake Kerfluffle PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Brandon K. Thorp   

A week and a half ago, we published a request for information regarding some quotes attributed to James Randi in a letter sent to Skeptic. (That's the English one, edited by Chris French, rather than Michael Shermer's American publication.) The letter was from Rupert Sheldrake, the éminence grise of "morphic fields" and psychic canines, and it's scheduled for publication in Skeptic's next issue. Thanks to a handful of good friends with impeccable record-keeping habits, we now have Sheldrake's infamous source document in our possession. The quote in question:

Becoming an expert is a pretty simple procedure; tell people you're an expert. After you do that, all you have to do is maintain appearances and not give them a reason to believe you're not.

The quote was culled from a handout distributed at a seminar at The Amaz!ng Meeting 3, entitled "Communicating Skepticism to the Public." It's accurate, as far as that goes. But Randi didn't write it.

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The Naked Emperor PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Hank Schlinger, Ph.D.   

(Author's Note: After sending an email to a CNN reporter about his story on Rom Houben, the Belgian man who was misdiagnosed as being in a coma for 23 years and who is now able to communicate about his experience via Facilitated Communication, I was contacted by someone from Campbell Brown about a possible appearance on the show to talk about why we should doubt the validity of the communications.

It turns out that they did not use me, and instead interviewed neuropsychologist Joseph Giacino, who they also interviewed the week before when the story first broke. After watching the segment, I penned the following, which I have slightly modified for Swift.)

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Fake Doctors With Real Drugs: The News From Canada PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Steve Thoms   

Dear Swift Friends:

My name is Steve Thoms and I'm the editor of the new pan-Canadian skeptic blog, Skeptic North. Thanks to some friendly promotional assistance from Phil Plait, Skepchick.org and many other sites to whom our team owes a debt of gratitude, you may have heard of us by now. If not, that's okay, because we've only launched on October 1st. We're a team of skeptical writers, professionals and activists from across Canada, brought together in one place for the first time. Our aim is to be the authority of all things related to skepticism in Canada, and it is with this last point in mind that I come to you all with an urgent call for action and assistance.

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