The Amazing Meeting 2014

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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.

JREF Gets Mail: Randi's Response to a Catholic Priest PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by JREF Staff   
1798440 10152219191390856 1668558611 nWe get mail: a Catholic Priest in the Archdiocese of Chicago recently sent a veritable love letter to Randi for his decades of good work exposing supernatural fraudsters. It ends with an appeal for JREF staff to convert to Catholicism immediately. he included two objects with the letter: 1. An "Image of the Divine Mercy" (which we are told Jesus gave to St. Faustina Kowalska in pre-WWII Poland) and 2. a medal that he says the Blessed Mother gave to St. Catherine Laboure in LaSallette, France in 1832.
 
The priest's big point: "The Lord created the you without your consent, but he will not save you without your consent." 
 
Especially interesting was the talk of Randi's age and how right now is surely the best time for him to finally convert: "Mr. Randi, you doubt so much that I know you must want to believe!"
 
He also provides some helpful instruction: "Go into a nearby Catholic Church, sit before the Tabernacle (which Catholics believe the Risen Lord Jesus IS Truly, Really, Substantially Present in the Eucharist Host) and open your heart, saying "Lord Jesus, if You are real, give me the grace to believe." Then we are told we can "enter into the Divine Life of the Blessed Trinity!"
 
Our question is Since when have Catholics become so evangelizing?
 
We thought you might enjoy reading Randi's response: 
 
Spirits in the Pub PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Dr. Karen Stollznow   

Bar staff at one of Britain’s oldest pubs believe they have captured a ghost on their surveillance cameras. The footage, which shows flickering lights and a shadowy figure, was filmed at the Ye Olde Man and Scythe in Bolton. The pub dates back to 1251, and is reputedly haunted by the Seventh Earl of Derby, James Stanley.

Manager Tony Dooley checked the CCTV one morning and discovered that they had stopped recording at 6:18am. “I came down and saw a glass smashed on the floor so I was instantly suspicious and went to check the CCTV and found it has stopped working. We checked the footage and it revealed this figure,” he said to the Manchester Evening News. “To be honest I was a bit concerned - I'm a bit of a sceptic when it comes to ghosts but you become more of a believer when you see things like that.”

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t investigate the video; it only retells the history of the pub in an attempt to support the haunted claims. Here is the video of the alleged ghost.

 
That old time religion: This week in Doubtful News for February 25, 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Sharon Hill   

It was a really rough week to be a true believer. Here is a rundown of the faith-based and fantasy news courtesy of Doubtful News.

A deranged woman attempts to kill her mother thinking she is the anti-Christ.

Another deranged woman tells police she killed 22 people as a member of a Satanic cult. The Satanists disavow all connections.

 
Last Week In Science Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Harriet Hall   

Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo-woo in medicine.

The Canadian National Breast Screening Study ignites a new round in the mammography wars (David Gorski) - This large study compared mammography plus clinical breast exams to usual care in women aged 40-49 and mammography plus clinical breast exams to breast exams alone in women aged 50-59. It found that mammography did not reduce breast cancer mortality; the benefits were offset by overdiagnosis. Nevertheless, Dr. Gorski thinks it would be prudent to stick to current guidelines with perhaps more of a personalized approach to women between the ages of 40 and 49. 

Tylenol May Not Be As Safe and Effective As We Thought  (Harriet Hall) - Britain’s National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued a 600 page report analyzing the published evidence about Tylenol (acetaminophen or paracetamol) for the relief of pain in osteoarthritis. They initially warned that it should not be used because of serious side effects and low efficacy. After clinicians protested that eliminating acetaminophen would mean using more dangerous drugs, they revised their draft to recommend it as a first-line treatment for osteoarthritis. Tylenol is safer than other pain relievers, but this controversy is a good reminder that all drugs can have side effects.

 
We’ve come a long way, baby … uh, wait. What? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jamy Ian Swiss   

My date-for-life, Kandace, is taking a psychology course and sent me this quote from her textbook:

“Earlier in this chapter, we saw how Descartes’ radical new idea separating the spiritual mind from the physical body enabled scientists to start identifying biological bases for behaviors, thus challenging the pseudoscientific ‘common sense’ that attributed certain behaviors to mysterious spiritual forces. Today, psychology continues to dispute the unfounded claims of pseudoscience, which range from palm reading to psychic predictions to use of crystals to heal physical ailments.

“What makes psychology different from these pseudopsychological approaches to understanding people? Not one of them has survived trial by the scientific method, which is a way of testing ideas against observations. Instead, pseudopsychology is based on hope, confirmation bias, anecdote—and human gullibility.”

– Psychology: Core Concepts (7th Edition) by Philip G. Zimbardo, Robert L. Johnson and Vivian McCann

The separation that Descartes proposed allowed science to look at essentially biology and behavior independent of spirituality and mysticism, and therefore free of the medieval church’s control and influence over such subjects, and the authors of course go on to explain that contemporary science has reunited these metaphorically separate elements into the single biological entity we know as the brain. (Albeit mind/body debates still occur in some quarters, among the religious, the spiritual, and philosophers – you may insert your philosopher joke here, but I will leave ticking off philosophers to my friend Lawrence Krauss for the time being.)

While running some errands earlier today, I was considering this historic breakthrough in thinking and the accompanying debt we owe to Descartes – meanwhile stopping by an outlet of the large retail chain, “The Sports Authority.” As I entered the shop I passed a two-sided display that caught my eye. Have a look:

 
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