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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.

The Pain of Reflexive Skepticism PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by George Hrab   

tamyspeakerhrabYou see a lot, doctor. But can you point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don't you – why don't you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you're afraid to.”

 

Agent Clarice Starling, as played by Jodie Foster, delivered this memorable line in the most subtle musical of all time: The Silence of the Lambs.

(Sorry to so quickly interrupt myself preterpluparenthetically, but I find that with all good science-based essays, an early reference to homicidal, cannibalistic serial killers tends to put readers’ minds at ease, thereby allowing the general thesis to go down one’s mental gullet as if accompanied by a nice Chianti. Enjoy.)

 
Patricia Putt MDC Test: Protocol Failure? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

puttsubjectPatricia Putt, a woman from the United Kingdom who believes she is psychic, was recently tested for the JREF One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge by Professor Richard Wiseman and Professor Christopher French at Goldsmiths University.

For the test, Putt was presented with ten volunteers - all Caucasian females aged 18-30 - and asked to write page-long psychic readings about each of them.  The volunteers were asked, after all the readings were completed, to identify the one that applied best to them. The concept for the protocol was sent to Putt on 18 July 2008.On 6 May 2009, the test was conducted.

As previously agreed upon by the JREF and Putt, a successful demonstration would contstitute a minimum of five of the ten volunteers choosing their own profiles. After the test, though, none of the volunteers picked their own reading. Putt’s score was zero out of ten.

I contacted Putt to find out why she believed she had failed the preliminary test, and what she had thought of the Challenge in practice.

"I'm not in the least disappointed that the results did not go my way.  I was stunned at first but when normal thought re-entered my head I realised that I was never going to win the barriers presented in the protocol were too much even for me to surmount," Putt said in an e-mail on 8 May 2009.

 
The Spinal Trap Strikes Back PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Naomi Baker   

On April 19, 2008, The Guardian published a piece by Simon Singh, called “Beware the Spinal Trap”.  (It was subsequently pulled, although I found it archived on the internet. He gives a brief overview of the procedures and claims of chiropractic, as well as statistics about the number of people who have been seriously harmed or killed by chiropractic treatment). In the article, he said:

The British Chiropractic Association (BCA) claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence.  This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments. (emphasis added)

 
Quacking Like a Duck PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

duckOne of the oft heard complaints about modern medicine is that it's dominated by "big pharma," that is greedy, soulless corporations who lie to us and suppress less expensive and more effective treatments for monetary gain. While it's true that corporations are out for monetary gain, and there have been irregularities as with any big business, let's take a look at the pot that's calling the kettle greedy here.

Consider a single product: Oscillococcinum.

Their site never actually says that the "FDA regulated drug" does anything... really, read carefully. It doesn't. They do claim it is a "Flu Medicine." And they claim studies have shown its effectiveness in reducing flu symptoms. We'll save examining the studies for another time, for the purpose of this article, let's focus on the ingredients.

 
Patricia Putt Million Dollar Challenge Test Results In! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

Patricia Putt, who claims she is psychic, took the preliminary test for the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge today. The test was conducted by Professor Richard Wiseman and Professor Christopher French. In order to pass her challenge test, Mrs. Putt was required to pen psychic readings for ten volunteers who were then asked to identify their own readings from the group. At least five volunteers would have had to correctly identify their own reading.

None did. Mrs. Putt's readings were correctly identified by zero out of ten volunteers.

 
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