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Questioning Quackery PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   
Monday, 26 January 2009 00:00

From reader Nathan Grange in New Zealand comes news that there is concern in New Zealand about more extensive government spending on what's now called "Complementary and Alternative Medicine" [CAM], a situation that is currently being reviewed, along with appropriate concerns about the efficacy of the treatments. The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) reports that it spent NZ$37 million [US$20 million] on CAM in the 2007-2008 year up from NZ$18.4 million [US$9.8 million] in 2003-2004. It was decided that there were "legitimate questions" about the effectiveness of some alternative treatments, and the issue is being looked at as part of a broader ACC review. In the past year, the ACC spent $14 million [US$7.4 million] on acupuncture alone, and NZ$12.7 million [US$6.8 million] on chiropractic treatment.

New Zealand doctors have wisely said that any treatment receiving government funding should be subject to the same rigorous standards as conventional medicine, though some alternative therapies for disability-allowance clients are approved by "registered medical practitioners," which includes chiropractors. One NZ MD, Dr. John Welch, said the idea of integrating conventional and complementary medicine was a

...fake proposition. There can only be one sort of medicine that's shown to be effective and works and should be publicly funded.

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Those Were the Days... PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Wednesday, 28 January 2009 00:00

No matter how much we write, lecture, or complain, it's easy to think that we've made little progress. Do you remember 1981? I do. I was as sophomore in High School, and I loved the occult. There was a little shop in Salem, MA where I grew up called Crow Haven Corner. It was run by the "Official Witch of Salem," Laurie Cabot. Yes, that Salem. I grew up near where the witches were hanged and attended Witchcraft Heights Elementary School.

They sold potions, amulets books, etc. It was the only shop of its kind in town, right across from the Witch House, which is the former home of Judge Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges during the witch trials.

Fast forward nearly 30 years, and Salem has become witch and psychic mecca. Crow Haven Corner has moved to a bigger location, and faces competition from a dozen or more similar shops.

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It's Not Just US PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Saturday, 24 January 2009 00:00

I was in Canada recently. I live in Vermont and Montreal is a short drive north, but even though we're right next door, Vermonters talk about how things are better in Canada. Affordable health care, less crime, less bigotry, more accessible higher education, more progressive politics, etc. Even their football fields are longer. All of those opinions are debatable, but I did notice a few things of interest.

In many ways, Canada really does seem more advanced. I'll give you one concrete example: traffic signals. All around Montreal, the familiar red, yellow and green traffic lights have been replaced with lights that have red squares, yellow triangles, and green circles. It looks like this (if they were all on):

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James Randi Speaks, Episode 3 PDF Print E-mail
James Randi Speaks
Written by Jeffrey Wagg   
Friday, 23 January 2009 12:00

James Randi is back with the second entry in his YouTube vlog. This week's entry, "Who Gets the Credit?" deals with living an honest life, and giving credit for "miracles" where it's due.

This, and all of the JREF's videos are available at our YouTube account. To see it larger or leave comments, click here.

 
God's Thoughts PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Friday, 23 January 2009 00:00

godsthoughtsI was at an open house at my oldest son's middle school tonight, and I saw this poster. There is much debate over Einstein's beliefs, and though it seems clear from his writings that he was not a Christian or practicing Jew, he did proffer quotes about "God" fairly often, and these are widely used by religious groups today. The full quote:

I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element; I want to know his thoughts; the rest are details.

This particular quote is intriguing, because I cannot find a definitive source for it. He supposedly said it to a young student, in the context of some experiment or other.

But what did he mean by it?

Einstein claimed to believe in Spinoza's God, which is basically "nature." This is an impersonal God, who has no more regard for humans than for birds, bacteria, or boulders. For Einstein though, this "god" was a puzzle for him to figure out. He wanted to learn what nature was, take it apart, determine how it was put together and why. Taken in this light, he was simply saying something akin to "I don't care about rainbows, I care about why they exist."

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