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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.

Questioning Quackery PDF Print E-mail
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.

"20/20" Vision Less than Acute: Media Perpetuate Myths About Child Mental Health PDF Print E-mail
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; 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.

It's Not Just US PDF Print E-mail
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):

God's Thoughts PDF Print E-mail
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."

WOO IN REVIEW: Lost - 'Because You Left' and 'The Lie' (TIME TRAVEL CONTEST) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alison Smith   

WOO IN REVIEW TIME TRAVEL CONTEST - Lost: 'Because You Left' and 'The Lie'

This review contains information on the plots of 'Because You Left' and 'The Lie'. If you have not yet seen these episodes and do not want spoilers, read no further. The episodes are also available online here. HOWEVER, for those who HAVE NOT SEEN THE SHOW: YOU CAN STILL ENTER THE CONTEST. Scroll to the very bottom of this article and read numbers two and three for information on how to enter with no Lost knowledge whatsoever.lostintro

Lost, if you haven't seen it, is pretty impossible to explain – especially now that we've entered season five, and the lives of the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815 are so muddled with random eerie island crap that watching an episode in the middle is the equivalent of flipping open a Bible repeatedly, citing a single random word from each page, and then trying to moosh them together into a storyline that makes comprehensible sense.

Things happen so quickly during each episode that you may find yourself stranded on your own island of confusion. So, if you have never watched the show you may want to go ahead and rent the DVDs rather than tune in now. 

The series was created by J.J. Abrams, and Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse are the main writers for the show. I assume the whole group dropped acid a few moments prior to the show's creation, because that's the only way I assume a person could fathom of genetically altered polar bears that hang out on a tropical island and a smoke monster that shows you your past, judges you, and then either kills you or apparently gives you superpowers – or, at the very least, an uncanny ability to tell when it's going to rain, and an irrepressible urge to hold your hands skyward when you're right.

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