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Skeptical About Nearly Everything

photo: bistro at villiers

At first I thought 'Au Bois d'Acacia' was
a fancy-wood dealer.

Plus Two 'Official' Miracles

Paris:- Sunday, 14. February 1999:- It has been a week of mostly bad news - except for President Clinton handily beating his rap; thereby freeing up news resources for real stories. I will probably lose my free subscription to SkepticMag's 'Hotline' newsletter for the first story below, but I can always re-sign for it under a phoney name.

If you are not familiar with the magazine, the last issue's reminder of Charles Darwin's birthday on 12. February 1809 was particularly welcome. Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln share the same birthday, which may not be known to all US readers who have been celebrating the President's birthday this weekend.

"Some Thoughts On the Cosmos and Those Who Think We've Been Visited and Those Who Think We Will Never be Visited Because We are Alone" is a typical headline from this magazine which has plenty in it to think about.

Michael Shermer, the editor, says you can subscribe for free by visiting the magazine's Web site and I can confirm this. With features like 'How to Fake Your Own UFO Photos,' this magazine can be a lot of fun. Now back to our regular program:

Lourdes Marks Its 66th Miracle

Although 70,000 ill and infirm people visit Lourdes annually, only 66 have been 'officially' confirmed by the church as having being healed. The church experts have examined 6,500 cases since 1858 and rejected 6,434 of them.

The last previously confirmed 'miracle' was in 1976. The latest case developed as a result of a visit to Lourdesphoto: boulangerie near villiers in 1987 by a man paralysed with multiple sclerosis since 1984. 'Official' confirmation of the new 'miracle' was delivered last week, 12 years after the fact.

It's pure chance, having all these corner establishments in one issue. Here, a closed bakery.

Lourdes is very touchy about its reputation. It has its own doctors study the cases for a very long time. Temporary 'miracles' are never made 'official.' Asked to explain this particular 'miracle,' a doctor associated with medical office of the Lourdes Grotto said that medicine is not an 'exact science.'

A skeptical doctor said multiple sclerosis could go into remission for prolonged periods and there could even be 'exceptional' remissions. But he added, faith alone can not make infections or tumors go away or restore tissue forever lost by multiple sclerosis.

Dubious Statistics Department

What else to call the finding of a survey about living conditions in France that has reported that 80 percent of the French eat lunch at home? Who are all those people eating in restaurants and fastfood joints?

The survey results mentioned students, the retired, and part-time workers to justify their conclusions. Apparently, only manager types in the big cities have their midday meals in restaurants. Not quite so astonishing was the percentage of 84 for those who dine at home in the evenings.

The findings also showed regional differences, with the French in the north bolting their food down in 19 minutes, while those in the south-west took twice as long, mainly because of a greater number of courses.

More astonishing, according to the study, was the finding that time spent on breakfasts has increased from 16 to 18 minutes during the week, to as much as 21 minutes on the weekend.

If my toaster wasn't so slow, I bet I could slash my breakfast time to six minutes and still do its four courses.

Miraculous Air Collision

The 165 passengers of an Air France flight were really happy to get off an Airbus A320 at Montpellier last week, after it was hit by a glider while making its landing approach.

While the pilot was informing passengers of expeted turbulence on the flight path, a glider pilot was using the strong local updrafts to gain height. This is why the glider centre is there at Saint-Loup, but the glider wasn't supposed to be so high.

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