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.

Lancet Retracts Wakefield MMR Study PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Novella   

In 1998 Andrew Wakefield and 11 other co-authors published a study with the unremarkable title: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children. Such a title would hardly grab a science journalist's attention, but the small study sparked widespread hysteria about a possible connection between the mumps-measles-rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Following the press conference in which Wakefield raised concerns about MMR vaccine safety, vaccination rates with MMR dipped in the UK. After falling below what is generally considered to be the level of herd immunity, the UK began to see the return of measles outbreaks - mostly among the unvaccinated. MMR hysteria has since spread to the US, along with the return of measles and mumps outbreaks.

Point of Inquiry to Continue with New Hosts PDF Print E-mail
Written by D.J. Grothe   

Our friends at CFI have announced that Point of Inquiry will continue, which is good news — I would have been deeply saddened to see it cancelled due to my moving onto the JREF. We are also told that all of the previous 200+ episodes that I hosted will continue to be made available.

Point of Inquiry will proceed with three new hosts: Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow, and Bob Price, all three friends and colleagues of mine in skepticism and humanism. While I had offered to continue hosting Point of Inquiry gratis, because I knew the value of the show for advancing CFI's important mission, CFI's management decided it wasn't the best business decision for them to have the President of a separate organization hosting the show.

Jurassic Farce PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   

We've seen claims that people coexisted with dinosaurs. In fact, some say Jesus may have even ridden a dinosaur. And while anyone who is at all interested in science can laugh at such claims, some new evidence has just appeared on the scene. It's not evidence of humans and dinosaurs; it's even better. 

It's Jurassic Bigfoot.

Fault Line: Why Pat Robertson and his boosters are either ignorant, racist, or both. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brandon K. Thorp   

It was heartening to see the hand-wringing of the world’s religious apologists in response to the unfolding Haitian tragedy of the last two weeks: It meant that the believers still have the capacity to ask questions when the situation demands. More heartening still was the swiftness with which that behavior ceased. There were perhaps five or six days when it seemed every news organ in the universe felt compelled to address the role a deity might have played, or failed to play, in the earthquake and its aftermath. Then sleeves were rolled up, and the most bizarre plurality of people — basketball players, Reese Witherspoon, the hapless Pat Robertson — set about doing the good work no deity has yet attempted. (It has been suggested, here and there, that the human response was “God’s” work. If so, “God” isn’t very discriminating in choosing His implements.)

For the believers themselves, the hand-wringing may, in retrospect, prove at least a little embarrassing. Their sophistry had the look and feel of hasty improvisation. As Randi’s article about Bishop Sentamu of York demonstrated, serious tragedy has the ability to turn even the most erudite believers into little children. (Unless I am very much mistaken, Semantu’s argument was that the Christian god allows earthquakes to occur specifically so he may share in our suffering, thereby enjoying a bonding moment with his creatures. Counselors who work with battered women might have something to say about that relationship dynamic.) But that’s okay. Stress brings out the worst in plenty of people, and Bishop Semantu seems like an otherwise good guy. Perhaps the decent thing would be to let go of last week’s sillier theological questions and pious proclamations, and to write off Pat Robertson’s hateful early stance on the tragedy as a product of senile dementia. I’d like to — especially since I’m on vacation right now, and find thoughts of Pat Robertson inclement to the pursuit of R&R — but I can’t, quite, until someone points out two obvious facts. (Missed by both Robertson's critics and the small few who actually defended his stance.)

Hal Bidlack on CBS News Video PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jeff Wagg   


Monday night on CBS News with Katie Couric, Hal Bidlack discussed the recent arrest of Jim McCormick and "dowsing for bombs." Video is available here.

Click the image to watch the video.

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