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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.

What If? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

I'm asked this often... "What if someone won the JREF $1,000,000 Challenge?"

Well, what if? Let's consider. In order for someone to win the challenge, one of two things would have to happen. Either someone would have to fool us into believing they had paranormal powers, or they'd actually have them.

The first situation is carefully guarded against. The claimant's protocols are reviewed by magicians and statisticians before approval, and a lot of effort is expended to ensure that a crafty conjurer can't get past us. Those who were at TAM 7 can testify that the situation was carefully controlled, and the audience was unaware of many other precautions that were in place. So far, so good—no one has fooled us yet!

The second situation is much more interesting.

Read more...
 
Show, Don't Tell PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

When it comes to homeopathy, a written or spoken explanation sometimes doesn't suffice. After explaining it to people, I'm often told "But no one would believe that... you must have it wrong." While I'm confident that I'm repeating exactly what Hahnemman believed, it just doesn't make sense.

Stephen Packard to the rescue. Stephen has create a visual guide to understanding homeopathy, loaded with humor, images, and most importantly... facts.

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A Chance Encounter PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

I was recently at a gathering of skeptics. There were about 3 dozen people there, some of whom I knew, but many more who were strangers to me. One of these stood out a bit, and when I first noticed him, I knew he was going to want to speak with me.

He was soft-spoken, friendly, and over-dressed for the occasion. After patiently waiting for me to finish a conversation, he introduced himself.

"Hello, I'm Dave. I'm clairvoyant."

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Why Do Just One Woo-Woo? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

In Phoenix, AZ, people are gathering in a pub for pizza and astrology. Joseph Anthony, a person who proclaims himself to have "extraordinary sensory perception," will give you a 10-minute astrological reading for $20 while you enjoy your pizza.

There's nothing newsworthy about this, and yet he's been in the news frequently, including this reference from the local ABC affiliate. You'll notice not much critical thought going on there.

It's interesting to note that he's a "psychic astrologer." What does that mean?

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MonsterTalk Genesis PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Blake Smith   

What's the value of skepticism? That's an easy question. There may be a lot of valid answers, but skepticism helps us discern truth from fiction. That can be the truth of which health-claims to trust, whether to be afraid of aliens violating us in the night, or whether to play that street card game. But what is the value of Skepticism? The movement, the self-identification, the world-view, the community?

I've met so many people who tell me a similar "origin story." It's a variant on this theme:

I used to believe in [mystery-X] and I read all about it and watched television shows about it. When a conference was near me I would go. But over time I began to realize that the claims of [mystery-X] were vague, and that there wasn't any hard evidence. And I began to doubt [mystery-X] and eventually I concluded that there was nothing there. And then I thought, hey - what about [mystery-Y]? - and again and again they failed to show me the evidence. Then one day I heard about Skepticism through a podcast and realized that these Skeptics were just like me.

That story is my story too. But before I found out about "capital-S" Skepticism, I had spent ten years doing my own investigations and research. Just for me. Just to answer that pressing question, "Is that real?" So when I found out there was a vibrant web community of Skeptics I got quite excited. I never felt welcome on most of the UFO, Ghost, Psychic and Cryptozoology sites I visited - and mostly was a reader, not a joiner.

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