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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.

An unvaccinated child has died from a preventable disease PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Phil Plait   

This story is so sad, and what makes it worse is that it was preventable.

The Centers for Disease Control has put out an alert: in Minnesota in 2008, there were five confirmed cases of Haemophilus influenzae type b (or Hib) among children younger than five years old. Of these five cases, three of the children were unvaccinated, one had started the series of vaccines but did not complete the series due to shortages, and the fifth -- who had been fully vaccinated -- had an immune deficiency.

Five cases may not sound like a lot... until you learn that one of the unvaccinated children died. This was a baby, just a seven-month-old infant.

Read more...
 
Questioning Quackery PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

From reader Nathan Grange in New Zealand comes news that there is concern in New Zealand about more extensive government spending on what's now called "Complementary and Alternative Medicine" [CAM], a situation that is currently being reviewed, along with appropriate concerns about the efficacy of the treatments. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) reports that it spent NZ$37 million [US$20 million] on CAM in the 2007-2008 year up from NZ$18.4 million [US$9.8 million] in 2003-2004. It was decided that there were "legitimate questions" about the effectiveness of some alternative treatments, and the issue is being looked at as part of a broader ACC review. In the past year, the ACC spent $14 million [US$7.4 million] on acupuncture alone, and NZ$12.7 million [US$6.8 million] on chiropractic treatment.

New Zealand doctors have wisely said that any treatment receiving government funding should be subject to the same rigorous standards as conventional medicine, though some alternative therapies for disability-allowance clients are approved by "registered medical practitioners," which includes chiropractors. One NZ MD, Dr. John Welch, said the idea of integrating conventional and complementary medicine was a

...fake proposition. There can only be one sort of medicine that's shown to be effective and works and should be publicly funded.

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"20/20" Vision Less than Acute: Media Perpetuate Myths About Child Mental Health PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jean Mercer   

childdevThe ABC program 20/20 did the public no service in its recent myopic support of pseudoscience. Aired in late November, 2008, the presentation "The Toughest Call" emphasized common "alternative" approaches to adoption issues, rather than citing excellent empirical research from investigators such as Sir Michael Rutter. "The Toughest Call" (Nov. 28, 2008, Parts 1-5; http://abcnews.go.com/2020) encouraged the public to accept myths about adoption, including the idea that adopted children have many unpredictable mental health risks. The program suggested that the children they discussed were cases of Reactive Attachment Disorder, a legitimate diagnosis-- but in fact the symptoms described were not those conventionally considered for diagnosis of this disorder, but another, more frightening set of behaviors advertised by the cult-like "Attachment Therapy" community.

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It's Not Just US PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

I was in Canada recently. I live in Vermont and Montreal is a short drive north, but even though we're right next door, Vermonters talk about how things are better in Canada. Affordable health care, less crime, less bigotry, more accessible higher education, more progressive politics, etc. Even their football fields are longer. All of those opinions are debatable, but I did notice a few things of interest.

In many ways, Canada really does seem more advanced. I'll give you one concrete example: traffic signals. All around Montreal, the familiar red, yellow and green traffic lights have been replaced with lights that have red squares, yellow triangles, and green circles. It looks like this (if they were all on):

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God's Thoughts PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

godsthoughtsI was at an open house at my oldest son's middle school tonight, and I saw this poster. There is much debate over Einstein's beliefs, and though it seems clear from his writings that he was not a Christian or practicing Jew, he did proffer quotes about "God" fairly often, and these are widely used by religious groups today. The full quote:

I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element; I want to know his thoughts; the rest are details.

This particular quote is intriguing, because I cannot find a definitive source for it. He supposedly said it to a young student, in the context of some experiment or other.

But what did he mean by it?

Einstein claimed to believe in Spinoza's God, which is basically "nature." This is an impersonal God, who has no more regard for humans than for birds, bacteria, or boulders. For Einstein though, this "god" was a puzzle for him to figure out. He wanted to learn what nature was, take it apart, determine how it was put together and why. Taken in this light, he was simply saying something akin to "I don't care about rainbows, I care about why they exist."

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