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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.

Testing Spirit Writing PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Karen Stollznow   

writingSome people are given flowers, chocolates or socks as birthday gifts. Instead, I received a Ghost Writer Automatic Writing Kit...

I tested a "Spirit Writer" years ago and concluded that the practitioner's pages of "channeled" scrawl were a stream-of-consciousness style of writing that was about as paranormal as James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.

I should explain that there are two types of "spirit writing". One kind is where an uninvited spirit supposedly leaves a message on your wall, a threat written in lipstick on your mirror, or a rude word on your post-it notes. A classic claim is the infamous story of Borley Rectory the original "Most Haunted Home in England", as researched by the early paranormal investigator Harry Price. In this case, ‘victim' Marianne Foyster was supposedly haunted by ghosts and poltergeists, and received spirit writing pleas for "light mass prayers" and "please get help". It's now believed that Mrs Reverend Foyster faked the phenomena to divert attention away from her extra-marital affairs.

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How's Your Health, Skeptics? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Christina Stephens   

Medical literature frequently reports finding that strong religious belief or spirituality has a positive effect on health outcomes with regard to longevity, measures of mental health, recovery after illness, and other health measures. Generally, findings show that people who attend religious services once or more per week have fewer physical and mental illnesses, recover more quickly from illness, and have lower mortality rates than individuals who attend less frequently or not at all. [1-3]

Naturally, it is easy to infer from the abundance of literature linking religion to positive health outcomes that people who are less religious or nonreligious are less healthy and more mentally and physically ill, I.E. -that there is something wrong with us. Yet it is important to note exactly to whom these religious individuals are being compared.

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Review: The Ghost Map PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Naomi Baker   

"The probability of an outburst or increase during [calm, mild] weather, I believed to be heightened on holidays, Saturdays, Sundays, and any other occasions where opportunities were afforded the lower classes for dissipation and debauchery"  - unattributed quote by ‘expert' regarding how cholera disproportionally attacks the poor and other social underclasses, in Victorian London.

As strange as this seems to modern eyes, this statement was backed up by scientific evidence, or at least what passed for such in England of the mid-19th century.  During this time, the predominant theory for the spread of contagion and sickness was miasma (Greek for "pollution"), that is bad smells and foul air were the causes of disease.

The Ghost Map: the Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson (Riverhead Books) is the story of Dr. John Snow and Rev. Henry Whitehead's discovery of the water-born transmission of cholera, a disease which struck with terrifying regularity in London and other large cities.  The popular folklore is that Dr. Snow plotted cases of cholera deaths on a map, and deduced that the outbreak's source was a particular well in a poor section of London, and removed the handle to the pump, thereby halting the epidemic, and was hailed as a hero.

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That's My Kid Too PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Michael Goudeau   

tamyspeakerThe real science is obvious and overwhelming. Vaccines don't cause Autism. Mercury in vaccines didn't cause Autism. Jenny McCarthy's son was vaccinated after mercury was removed from the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. Autism rates haven't dropped as a result of mercury being removed from vaccines. Autism rates are the same in vaccinated and non-vaccinated kids. There are big studies around the world showing this to be true. They are the best science we have and science is our only hope in solving this. Chip Denman said it best, (Forgive my paraphrasing) "Science is not a smorgasbord. You don't pick and choose what you want to believe. You sit down and take what you're served."

Autism rates won't be changed by Jim Carrey or Jenny McCarthy but there will be dead and injured people as a result of their anti-vaccine campaign. Some people claim there already are: jennymccarthybodycount.com Read about measles, mumps and rubella and the damage they did before vaccines. We've forgotten the damage these diseases and others brought before vaccines. Ask your grandmother. If we stop the vaccines the Center for Disease Control thinks we'll have 2.7 million deaths worldwide annually from measles alone.

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Crop Circles Explained! (Again) PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   

drunktasAt the JREF, we don't talk about crop circles very much. They're still out there, in fact an interesting new one that depicts Pi was recently discovered. But ever since people started coming forward to admit that they'd created complex circles using no more than a board, two ropes, and the lines left by irrigation equipment, the scientific community has lost interest.

They may have done so prematurely. You see, there is new evidence that a non-human lifeform is responsible for at least some crop circles appearing recently in Tasmania, and it's not what you think.

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