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Last Week In Science-Based Medicine PDF Print E-mail
Newsflash
Written by Harriet Hall, MD, The SkepDoc   
Tuesday, 02 March 2010 12:32

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 in medicine.

 

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A Week With Joe Nickell PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Christina Stephens   
Monday, 01 March 2010 00:00

 

The JREF is proud to have begun a fellowship and learning program with the Center for Inquiry, the first of which is recounted below by Christina Stephens, the first participant in the program. Additional arrangements with other organizations are being explored, as well. Check back at randi.org in the months ahead for more opportunities for similar week-long study in paranormal investigation and skeptical inquiry.

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a week getting to know all of the amazing and talented people at the Center for Inquiry in Buffalo, New York. I spent most of my time with Joe Nickell, working on various skeptical investigation projects and picking his brain for information on the ethics and process of skeptical investigations. I would like to thank Joe Nickell, the James Randi Educational Foundation and the Center For Inquiry for an enlightening and educational experience.

I consider myself an academic researcher. When I do research, it takes this form: Ask a question. Do an extensive literature review. Ask more questions. Make a hypothesis. Write an experimental protocol. Conduct an experiment with many subjects. Report on the results. This type of research is somewhat different from that of Joe Nickell, who, in common with James Randi, is a full time professional paranormal investigator. Rather than attempting to find a mystery, Joe’s detective work is geared toward solving mysteries.

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Touched! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Penn Bullock   
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 18:08

In the 1980s, Jean Baudrillard, an obtuse but occasionally lucid postmodernist, wrote a book called America in which he noted some eerie goings-on. “This is a culture,” he wrote with alarm, “which sets up specialized institutes so that people’s bodies can come together and touch.” I remembered Baudrillard’s remark as I toured the Touch Research Institute in Miami, with its goal of eradicating strife and sickness globally.

For an organization that intends to save the world through massage, its facilities are small. Headquartered in a building on the University of Miami’s School of Medicine campus, the Institute occupies a single tiny office crammed with mazy grey cubicles. I went there for a tour. Tiffany Field, the head of the Institute, greeted me at the door wearing a lab coat and a warm smile. She looked to be in her 50s, but wouldn’t disclose her age. She had long brown hair down her back, deeply tanned skin, and thick racetracks of eyeliner around her eyes.

The Touch Research Institute was founded in 1992 on the whimsy of the CEO of Johnson & Johnson, Jim Burke. At the time, he sat on the board of 30 other corporations, a feat worthy of titans like JP Morgan and John Rockefeller. But he was no heartless, top-hatted capitalist. In fact, he had a bizarre and heartwarming utopian vision: to “cure the world of war and disease” through touch.

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For Good Reason: "Mistakes Were Made" with Carol Tavris PDF Print E-mail
Latest JREF News
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Wednesday, 24 February 2010 15:00

Carol Tavris describes dissonance theory and how self-justification and self-deception often keep people from changing their minds even in the light of compelling contrary evidence, because the evidence is often dissonant with one’s self-image. She details the implications of dissonance theory for the persistence of psychic charlatans and other peddlers of the paranormal, and how it may explain how someone like Sylvia Brown can live with herself, and also how it may explain how believers remain so gullible about such unsupportable claims. She describes confirmation bias as a component of dissonance theory. She talks about how dissonance theory applies to the skeptic movement, both in terms of suggesting the best strategies for engaging the credulous, and in terms of fostering skepticism about one’s own skeptical views. And she argues that skepticism should be affirmative rather than destructive in its approach, and focused on both critical thinking and creative thinking alike.

Also in this episode, The Honest Liar, Jamy Ian Swiss, talks about who psychics really see when they look in the mirror.

Listen at ForGoodReason.org.

 
Notes from the Highway PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Tuesday, 23 February 2010 09:18

road1As some of you may know, I'm moving from the idyllic hillsides of Vermont to the fantasy-land of Las Vegas, NV. I'm writing this from a Motel 6 in St. George, Utah: my last way point.

Along the nearly 3,000 mile trek, I've observed a number of interesting and disparate things, and I thought I'd share them with you. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • While GPS are wonderful tools, and I literally never leave home without one, they do not always make the best choices. A mere 20 minutes into my journey, I found myself lost. Yes, I was still in Vermont, and yes, I was only about 10 miles from where I'd lived for the last 7 years, but at one point I had to stop the truck and trailer to laugh. I was on a single track dirt road, near an abandoned covered bridge, and had no idea if I should somehow turn around or keep going the way the GPS said. A lone dairy cow observed this and seemed non-plussed. In the end, I did keep going as the GPS said, but by the time I was done my newly-washed rig was covered with mud, a road-kill skunk was dangling from one of my trailer chains, and I'd spent over an hour going about 7 miles.

 

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