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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.

SWIFT October 26, 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Boring, A Matter of Education?, Trudeau Again, Nine Silly Rules, Krugel “Responds” – Sort Of, Sylvia In the Comics, Compounded Woo-Woo, Schoolboy Prank, Shudder…, Understandable, Good Decision, That Monster Again, No Argument Here, Correction, A Welcome Document, Definitions, Honest “Fakir,” and In Conclusion…

Last night, the highly-touted “Phenomenon show appeared on NBC-TV. It was right on time, but that’s about all that can be said for it.

Happily, Criss Angel maintained – as he’d told me he would – his decision to treat the matter logically, critically, and in a straightforward manner. It seemed as if Uri Geller didn’t have much to contribute except that tired old ESP-card audience-participation stunt that he’s pulled on TV all over the world, along with his presumptuous clenched-fist repeated shouting of “1, 2, 3!” like a desperate cheer-leader. Now, magicians have known for decades that when those five basic symbols – the circle, plus-sign, wavy lines, square, and star – are shown, particularly with the star in the second-from-left position, as Geller displayed them, the audience choice is heavily for the star. Geller certainly has always been aware of this, since every time he’s done this chestnut, he’s chosen the star as the one to “broadcast telepathically” to the audience… Duh… In any case, the star symbol barely won the day, scoring just one percent more than the runner-up, the circle symbol…

Toronto Star columnist Vinay Menon, writing in advance of last night’s show, asked the obvious question about Geller’s major claim to fame:

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SWIFT October 19, 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Phenomena Examined, Censorship in Germany, Yet More Dilution Delusions, A Martial Arts Parallel, Remarkable – And Probably Quite Real, Officially Categorizing Nonsense, Fremer Fumes, A Sterling Example, Selling Tap Water, The “Locator” Is Back, Attenborough Reacts, and In Closing

A recent article in The New York Times pointed out the current and continuing fascination that the public has with woo-woo – and how eagerly the media snap up every attractive possibility of using this delusion to provide entertainment and sell products. Perhaps the most naïve statement in the NYT article was this:

People used to believe in magic until science began proving them wrong.

No, people still believe in magic – even more than ever – because of the hyperbole, distortion, and bias provided by the media. And this sentence in the same article also got my attention:

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SWIFT October 12, 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Sounds Like Acceptance, Incredible, Freedom of Expression Triumphs, No Surprise at All, Correction, Evolution and Education, Coo-Coo Department, In Closing…

It’s not often that one of the noisy woo-woos out there actually accepts to take the JREF challenge, but we just may have such a one! It’s Michael Fremer, who signs himself as “senior contributing editor, Stereophile Magazine.” Now, we’ve sniped away at Stereophile many times here on SWIFT, and offered them the JREF million-dollar prize, repeatedly – with no response. But that may have changed. I must admit, I feel like a hungry lion who just had a flock of tasty lambs wander into his valley…!

In a rather “enthusiastic” and certainly colorful response to my taunting, Mr. Fremer chose to quote me from the November 17th, 2006, SWIFT, where I printed one of his more hilarious statements re demagnetizing vinyl LP recordings. No, that’s not a misprint, folks. Even though vinyl plastic can’t retain or even react to a magnetic field, Fremer – a scientifically-trained editor, remember, as opposed to my own meager educational background – seems to believe otherwise. He wrote:

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SWIFT October 5, 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Truth Is Actionable, Egg On Their Collective Faces, Now It Can Be Told, A Call for More Teeth In the Law, Ammunition for the Homeopaths, Making a Fuss, Giving Up the Ghost, And From Hungary, Yet More Cables, Consider This, New Laws, Old News, A Contrary Expectation, Watch This, A Small Hallelujah, and Robbins Strikes Again!

AdamEveSteve Bitterman, 60, was an instructor at Southwestern Community College in Red Oak, Iowa. Last week, he dared to tell his students that the Biblical story of Adam and Eve should not be literally interpreted. Truth is not much a part of Iowa curricula, it seems, so a handful of students who threatened legal action over his remarks in a Western Civilization class intimidated the faculty enough that the teacher was fired.

Bitterman objected, and rightly so:

I’m just a little bit shocked myself that a college in good standing would back up students who insist that people who have been through college and have a master’s degree… have to teach that there were such things as talking snakes or lose their job.

The Southwestern Community College president, Barbara Crittenden, said that Bitterman taught one course at Southwest, but declined comment on his claim that he was fired specifically over the Bible reference, claiming that it was a personnel issue. The teacher said that he uses the Old Testament in his Western Civilization course and always teaches it from an academic standpoint.

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SWIFT September 28, 2007 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

God Answers, Corrections Made, A Justified Complaint, More Cable Nonsense, Re Steiner Schools, This Is Law, Here it is, Randi the Movie, In Closing

Last week’s item at this link was followed by a notice that a response seems to have been sent in by the Defendant – God. Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha, Nebraska, had filed a lawsuit against God, and the court clerk of the Douglas County District Court has now reported that a document

…miraculously appeared on the counter. It just all of a sudden was here – poof!

Somehow, I doubt that probably-tongue-in-cheek assertion, but that’s the kind of curmudgeon I am. The mysterious document argues that the Defendant is immune from at least some Earthly laws and that, in any case, the court lacks jurisdiction over His home base. Says the document, in part:

I created man and woman with free will and next to the promise of immortal life, free will is my greatest gift to you.

 

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