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Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 94

Wed, 11/29/2017 - 8:59am

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

The Top Stories

Malaysian Officials Endanger Atheists

Earlier this summer, we were stunned to hear a high official in the Malaysian government say that atheists needed to be “hunted down.” This person was responding to a photo being shared over social media of a gathering of nonbelievers in Malaysia and found the sight of those smiling secularists to be unacceptable. He called for an investigation of the circumstances surrounding this meeting, particularly into whether any Muslims (or ex-Muslims) were involved. Many in Malaysia called for the atheists’ imprisonment and even execution.

At the UN Human Rights Council last month, CFI President and CEO Robyn Blumner took the opportunity to shine the spotlight on this overreaction to an innocent meeting and Malaysia’s hostility to atheists. “There is no room for this kind of religious persecution in a world community that honors freedom of conscience,” she declared.

Last week, another gauntlet was thrown when Malaysia’s deputy minister in charge of Islamic affairs, Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki, went a step further, calling atheism a “threat,” “unconstitutional,” and even “seditious.”

“Anyone who tries to spread ideologies and doctrines that promote atheism and similar beliefs which tarnish the sanctity of other religions, can be charged under the Sedition Act,” said Asyraf to the Malaysian parliament.

When this issue first arose in the summer, Robyn told the United Nations that it constituted a “human rights situation.” If atheists and ex-Muslims are indeed “hunted down,” treated as threats to the nation, and charged with sedition, this situation will have grown into a full-blown crisis.

Tweeting in response to the words of the deputy minister, CFI board member Richard Dawkins said, “Words fail me. How do you deal with such prodigies of stupidity and injustice?” And it is indeed baffling but hardly unique. It may not be long before CFI’s Secular Rescue program is activated to begin relocating Malaysian atheists, just as it has done for those in Bangladesh, Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

“We hear almost every day from atheists and secularists in majority-Muslim countries who are terrified for their lives, dealing with suffocating persecution and death threats, and we do all we can to help as many of them as possible,” said Robyn in our official statement. “The comments made by this Malaysian official have put innocent people in danger simply for raising legitimate questions about ingrained religious beliefs.”

 

Louis Appignani’s Quarter Million Dollar Challenge

Louis Appignani is back, challenging the supporters of reason and science to give our shared mission an end-of-year boost. But he’s not just asking; he’s participating. Louis has generously agreed to match every single donation to the Center for Inquiry all the way up to a quarter million dollars.

Louis will double the power of every contribution that comes in from now until the end of 2017. He’s giving all of us the opportunity to make a powerful impact in support of freethought, free expression, and free inquiry. With reality being twisted every day by the forces of superstition, conspiracy theories, and religious dogma, there’s never been a greater need for CFI to have the resources to confront these challenges.

Make no mistake; Louis Appignani is serious about this mission. For decades, he’s been a champion of secularism and the rights of the nonreligious.

Please don’t miss this amazing opportunity that Louis has presented. We can meet the Appignani Quarter Million Dollar Challenge and do more for our cause than ever before. Make your tax-deductible, matched donation right now.

 

News from the CFI Community

Conspiracies and Cults in CFI’s Flagship Publications

The November/December issue of Skeptical Inquirer centers on tall tales becoming several stories taller, as conspiracy theories, fake news, and wishful thinking spiral into myths and legends.

In the cover feature on conspiracy theories, sociologist Jeffrey S. Debies-Carl follows the infamous “Pizzagate” fake-scandal of the 2016 election, a right-wing conspiracy theory that asserted that the Clintons and their associates were operating a child-sex ring out of a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor.

“Legends, just like fake news, can lead to real-world consequences,” writes Debies-Carl, showing that Pizzagate is an example of a lie evolving into a full-blown legend, so much so that it led to “legend-tripping,” in which a person tries to enter into the legend itself. That’s just what happened when one of the legend’s adherents took it upon himself to grab an assault rifle and head to the pizza joint to “rescue” the fictional children.

This issue also includes Eric Wojciechowski on the phenomenon of already-accomplished people feeling the need to embellish their life stories into something fantastical; Bertha Vazquez and Christopher Freidhoff answering some key questions about the teaching of evolution; and Skeptical Inquirer Editor Kendrick Frazier marking the 70th anniversary of the Roswell UFO incident…plus a lot more.

The December 2017/January 2018 issue of Free Inquiry takes us from conspiracies to cults. Joanne Hanks escaped a life entrapped by the True and Living Church of Jesus Christ of Saints of the Last Days (TLC) seventeen years ago, and with the help of Steve Cuno muses on the properties of cults, which can range in destructiveness from Amway to Jim Jones. Primarily, Hanks offers a kind of tongue-in-cheek how-to for becoming susceptible to the call of the cult. “If your life’s dream is to become or to raise prime cult-bait, [this] is for you,” she says, clarifying, “I’m talking about the kind of cult that dictates your identity, what you will think, and how you will act, all to an absurd level of intrusion.”

This issue also features a remarkable and sobering look at the power of the John Templeton Foundation, which Free Inquiry Editor Tom Flynn reveals “cuts a mighty swath across fields from science to psychology, ethics to religion.” Documenting eighteen of the fund’s grants—which include projects having to do with diagnosing “what’s wrong” with nonbelievers, the “properties” of God, and critiques of scientific explanations for morality—Tom shows how “by its sheer scale, Templeton’s giving has a potentially pernicious effect on every field it penetrates.”

Also not to be missed is Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s call for a bond of friendship between science and philosophy, distinguishing philosophy as how we humans “get a handle on who we are.”

Subscribe now to Skeptical Inquirer and Free Inquiry, or check out their digital versions: Skeptical Inquirer is available in app stores across mobile platforms, and Free Inquiry now offers web-only subscriptions.

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution seeks insight from CFI Legal Director Nick Little in a multifaceted piece on the Johnson Amendment and church politicking.

The Chronicle of Higher Education profiles philosopher and Skeptical Inquirer contributor Massimo Pigliucci on his embrace of stoicism.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has led a political movement that trades reason for ideology and erodes the nation’s secular foundations. In Free Inquiry, James Haught looks back on the now-threatened legacy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Joe Nickell looks at the phenomenon he calls the “Roswellian Syndrome,” in which mythmaking around conspiracies about aliens surround UFO incidents subsequent to the seventy-year-old legend. In this case, the foil used in weather balloons is taken to be of extraterrestrial origin.

Joe also takes us back to the nineteenth century to see some of the popular treatments for babies’ teething pains, which came to be known as “baby killers” for including morphine sulfate among their ingredients.

Harriet Hall explores the ethical and practical pitfalls of sham surgeries as a way to scientifically determine the efficacy of a particular procedure. “One might just as well argue that not doing a sham surgery trial is more unethical, since it means that far greater numbers of patients will be harmed in the long run.”

In Free Inquiry, Shadia Drury tackles the particular problems of monotheism, writing, “Wittingly or unwittingly, monotheism divides the world into good and evil. The latter must be utterly destroyed if good is to prevail.”

Benjamin Radford uses the example of a construction worker and his gun-resembling tools to illustrate how expectations color our perceptions in a new piece at the Free Thinking blog.

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Upcoming CFI Events

CFI Austin

 

CFI Indiana

 

CFI Michigan

  • December 9: Secular Service time, helping out the nonprofit Kids’ Food Basket as they address childhood hunger through their Sack Supper program.
  • December 13: Solstice Dinner in Grand Rapids.
  • December 16: Solstice Dinner in Madison Heights.

 

CFI Western New York

 

Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


Fortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

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Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net. 



 

Categories: , Skeptic

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 93

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 9:53am

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

The Top Stories 

Biology Teachers Honor TIES’ Bertha Vazquez

Each year, the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT) honors individual teachers for their outstanding contributions to this important field of work. One of those awards is the Evolution Education Award, honoring the teacher whose classroom and community efforts have advanced the public’s accurate (and that’s important) understanding of evolution.

We are proud to tell you that the recipient of the 2017 Evolution Education Award was none other than Bertha Vazquez, the powerhouse middle school science teacher who heads the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES). Bertha was given the award at the NABT’s conference last week in St. Louis.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by such a wonderful organization, the National Association of Biology Teachers,” said Bertha. “The success of TIES is the result of the efforts of my fellow TIES Teacher Corps Members. We all recognize the importance of teachers helping teachers.”

As for TIES itself, it has kept up its incredible pace of activity and growth. TIES teacher Gemma Mora-Azuar recently ran a workshop in Houston that trained a record seventy teachers. That same weekend, TIES workshops took place in Columbia, South Carolina; Santa Barbara, California; and Panama City in Florida.

Congratulations to Bertha and all the great teachers powering the work of TIES.

 

The House GOP Budget’s Church-State Sneak Attack

The wall between church and state is the fortification that keeps our democracy from collapsing into theocracy, and the religious Right is always looking for ways the breach the wall where they think it weakest. The Johnson Amendment, to belabor this siege metaphor, is akin to a long-range weapon along the parapets of the wall, archers let’s say. It’s a part of federal law that forbids tax-exempt nonprofits (such as churches and the Center for Inquiry) from endorsing or opposing candidates for political office. Though it has proven to be a difficult law to enforce properly, the very presence of the archers has kept most of the enemy at bay.

That’s all changed. While those bows and arrows dissuaded most individual churches from engaging in electioneering (and indeed the majority of religious organizations support the Johnson Amendment), a well-funded and maniacally obsessed army of hard-right religious groups is not so easily spooked. Hurling massive payloads of political influence and lobbying dollars from their cross-shaped trebuchet, they aim to knock the archers of the Johnson Amendment from their perch. If they go down, the entire wall will not collapse, but gates of another kind would certainly fly open: the floodgates of political cash, flowing directly toward those churches that wish to become de facto political action committees for religious-Right candidates. (Sort of like a freelance cavalry? This metaphor may be going too far.)

A huge volley was flung toward the wall at the beginning of this month, when the House GOP released their proposed tax reform bill, which includes a provision revoking the restrictions of the Johnson Amendment for churches, allowing these institutions to openly support candidates for office. Donations to these churches would remain tax-exempt, and churches have tremendous leeway when it comes to what they use their donations for and how much they reveal about it to the public. That’s how these churches then become unofficial arms of a given candidate’s campaign.

Clergy, church employees, and members of congregations have never been prohibited from speaking their minds and supporting the candidates of their choice, despite the shouts and complaints of the religious Right and their allies in Congress and in the White House. The Johnson Amendment limits the activities of the institutions themselves, not individuals.

So it’s up to us to shore up this crucial part of the wall of separation. Luckily, most religious organizations and most of the American people agree with us: Churches shouldn’t meddle in elections. We put out an action alert to make it easy for you to contact your representatives and tell them that you want to keep those defenses strong.

Check out these great articles from Vox and ThinkProgress citing CFI’s new director of government affairs, Jason Lemieux.

 

News from the CFI Community

Paul Ryan’s Prayer Fallback: Sad!

After the horrific shooting massacre that left twenty-six dead in a Texas church, our leaders reverted to many of the same arguments and platitudes that almost always follow tragedies like these. While many are once again driven to take actions that would prevent further needless slaughters, others warn us that “now is not the time” and default to the now-cliched “thoughts and prayers.”

But as secularists and skeptics, we know that prayers are never enough. Certainly individuals can find comfort in their prayers, and we hope that everyone affected by these tragedies can find whatever means they can to help themselves and their loved ones heal. But prayer is not a solution to the crises that we face. It couldn’t possibly be.

But try telling that to the Speaker of the House of Representatives. On Fox News’s The Ingraham Angle, Speaker Paul Ryan berated those who have criticized him for solely relying on prayer and expressions of piousness whenever real-world problems overwhelm us. He proclaimed his “disappointment” with the “secular left,” saying how “sad” it is that we “don’t understand faith.” And then he told Ingraham:

And it is the right thing to do, is to pray in moments like this because you know what? Prayer works. And when you hear the secular left doing this thing, no wonder you’ve got so much polarization and disunity in this country when people think like that.

There’s a lot wrong with those sentences, not least of which was the idea that secular Americans who want reality-based solutions to our nation’s problems are somehow responsible for political polarization and division.

But more importantly, Ryan made the claim that “prayer works.” In our official statement, we reminded the Speaker that in fact there is no evidence that praying has any effect on earthly events, apart from an individual’s personal solace from the practice. Prayer certainly won’t fix the national emergency of gun violence.

As our president and CEO, Robyn Blumner, said, “Speaker Ryan’s imperative is to use his influence and power as our highest ranking legislator to create real, positive change that keeps all Americans safe while upholding our nation’s highest ideals. That he chooses this moment to belittle secular Americans, or Americans of any religious affiliation, is what is truly sad.”

Go check out our action alert and tell the Speaker that actions speak louder than prayer.

 

Some Justice—Maybe—for Avijit Roy

Four years ago, the Center for Inquiry formed a bond with a brilliant writer and science communicator in Bangladesh, Avijit Roy. Several atheist bloggers had been arrested at the time for “hurting religious feelings,” and we coordinated with Avijit to organize protests in locations around the world to demand their release.

In 2015, Avijit was murdered. He and his wife Rafida Bonya Ahmed were ambushed by Islamist militants at a book fair in Dhaka. Bonya suffered terrible injuries, and Avijit was hacked to death. It was a killing that heralded a wave of such murders in the months and years following, targeting secularist writers and activists. As a way to honor the memory of our friend Avijit Roy, and to support the cause of free expression, the Center for Inquiry established Secular Rescue, an initiative to provide assistance and relocation to activists whose lives are threatened by religious extremists. More than thirty people have been helped through this program so far.

Last week it was reported that one of the men believed to have participated in the attack on Avijit and Bonya has been arrested by Bangladeshi authorities. Abu Siddiq Sohel, allegedly a member of the al Qaeda–linked organization Ansar Ullah Bangla Team, reportedly told police that he had been a part of the attack.

We have no way of confirming the accuracy of these reports. However, we do have more than sufficient reason to be skeptical of any official news surrounding the murders of secularist activists, as the government of Bangladesh has been overtly hostile toward the victims of these attacks, blaming them for their own deaths and denouncing their writings. We declared the official response to the killings “appalling” and called upon the authorities to defend free expression rather than foment anger and hate.

For the sake of Avijit’s family and friends, secularist writers in Bangladesh, and for the sake of justice, we truly hope that all of Avijit’s killers will be apprehended and fairly tried. We’ll be watching these events closely as they develop.

 

Secular Rescue Success Story: Lubna Ahmed

Because of the nature of CFI’s Secular Rescue program, though we assist secularist writers and activists whose lives are threatened by extremists, it’s not always possible to publicly celebrate its successes. Even after someone has been relocated out of immediate harm’s way, it may be necessary for them to maintain a low profile for the sake of their own safety or that of their family.

How rewarding it is, then, when one of these brilliant and courageous people can step into the spotlight, tell their story, and continue to fight for their cause. On Monday, Lubna Ahmed, a human rights activist and chemical engineering student from Iraq, was the guest on The Rubin Report, where she eloquently described her struggle as an atheist living under threat in an ultra-conservative Islamic society.

“[The Center for Inquiry is] helping me, they supported me … They supported my case with the lawyers,” she told Rubin, when asked about the financial and legal assistance the Secular Rescue program provided. “I’m very grateful to Mr. Richard Dawkins. He takes his words into actions, not like others, because he sees that it’s very important to save people who are like me.”

We do believe in Lubna and all those who are striving to advance reason and secularism in the places most hostile to them. And we’ll keep doing all we can to help.

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

On Halloween, the Science Channel show Strange Evidence provided an example of how not to handle actual experts on the subject of extraordinary claims. CFI’s Joe Nickell and Tom Flynn were both asked to examine video purported to be evidence of Bigfoot, but as Joe explains in his post, the video he and Tom saw was not what they aired on the program, and in neither video was there proof of any Sasquatch to be found.

Joe has a lot more of substance to offer on this cryptozoological subject from his article in Skeptical Inquirer on the evolution of the Bigfoot myth, how it borrows and adapts from various cultures’ beliefs and legends, and has been molded by the “shrinking” of the planet.

Joe also recounts his visit to a Las Vegas–area saloon after CSICon last month, where legends tell of ghosts that haunt every part of the establishment, including the restrooms. As you could probably guess, Joe concludes, “There is only one kind of spirits at the Pioneer, the kind poured into a glass.”

Tamar Wilner does a true service for consumers of media, as she teases out the various strains of misinformation in the news media, most of which is being categorized as “fake news,” which she says “is a wooden mallet. It’s blunt. It can only smash, not carve, pluck, or hold up for inspection. The more we use it, the more dulled we all seem to its effects.”

Can chiropractors cure diabetes? No, but it makes for good marketing copy. William London looks at the various gimmicks that are bandied about to promote chiropractic, including the claim that diabetes can be “reversed” by chiropractors.

Consistently enlightening are Ben Radford‘s correspondences with those who vehemently disagree with his skeptical take. Here, he delicately engages in an exchange with someone who is sure that psychic powers exist (and something about Thomas Edison having been thought of as a “lunatic” in his day).

From Free Inquiry’s special issue on blasphemy in art, Bruce Adams tells of his own development as a blasphemous creative artist, and how his aim is to irreverently confront difficult issues through his art. The blasphemy is just a bonus.

In celebration of the anniversary of Carl Sagan’s birth, Inverse highlights an excerpt from a piece written by Ann Druyan about her life with Sagan for Skeptical Inquirer in 2003. “I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again,” she wrote. “But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.”

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Upcoming CFI Events


CFI Austin


CFI Michigan

  • November 20: Interfaith Thanksgiving Service in Grand Rapids.
  • December 9: Secular Service time, helping out the nonprofit Kids’ Food Basket as they address childhood hunger through their Sack Supper program.
  • December 13: Solstice Dinner in Grand Rapids.
  • December 16: Solstice Dinner in Madison Heights.

CFI Western New York

 

Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


Fortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

       •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

       •  Like us on Facebook

       •  Encircle us on Google+

       •  Subscribe to us on YouTube.

 

Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net. 



 

Categories: , Skeptic

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 92

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 8:35am

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

The Top Stories

Skepticism, Enlightened and Enlivened, at CSICon 2017

This past weekend hundreds of members of the reality-based community from across the country (and some from around the world) gathered in Las Vegas for the biggest and best skeptics’ event, anywhere, CSICon. While this year’s conference took place in the same city and the same venue as CSICon 2016, the context of the two events could not have been more different.

One year ago, CSICon took place on the eve of the U.S. presidential election, when most people thought the outcome would be very different. CSICon 2017, however, opened with a shared acknowledgement of the new irrational, anti-scientific, and dangerous political environment. There was no getting around the fact that the biggest skeptics’ conference around was taking place while the White House was occupied by a president who represents and advances almost everything CFI and its Committee for Skeptical Inquiry stand against. How would we address this at what is in large part a celebratory event?

Well, you can have your boss dress up like Trump and deliver an opening monologue taunting the attendees by touting “his” intention to subvert all of us with his aggressive irrationality and science denial and admit, “I hope you fail.” Center for Inquiry President and CEO Robyn Blumner had broken the ice and identified the elephant in the room, and the conference took off from there.

And it really took off. The looming haze of Trump quickly dispersed, and attendees were treated to an incredible array of presentations, discussions, receptions, and even a film premier. There were special VIP talks, a crazy Halloween disco party, and, of course, an evening watching knights swing heavy, sharp weapons at each other. Richard Wiseman cracked wise with Richard Dawkins, Science Moms debuted their new documentary, Massimo Polidoro recounted amazing stories from the life of the Amazing Randi (who was unable to come due to health concerns), Lawrence Krauss unwove the fabric of the universe, Britt Hermes shined a spotlight on the fake medicine of naturopathy, Maria Konnikova was awarded for her great work, and George Hrab serenaded us with “thoughts and prayers.” And that’s just a sampling.

Almost everyone walked away from CSICon 2017 with a renewed sense of determination and optimism, because so many of the talks were anchored in one particular theme: that skeptics can make a difference one person at a time, one conversation at a time, even when national political power is stacked against us.

If you couldn’t be there yourself, or you want to refresh some inspiring memories, check out the almost-real-time blogging by Paul Fidalgo, CFI’s Communications Director, at CFI Live (centerforinquiry.live), with almost-real-time summaries and reactions to the event. You can also browse through Twitter with the hashtag #csicon.

And then save these dates: October 18–21, 2018. That’s when CSICon comes back to Vegas, this time at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. We’ll see you there.

 

CFI Indiana Director Honored with ‘Women of Achievement’ Award 

Reba Boyd Wooden is one of the most devoted and hardest-working activists you’ll ever meet, and it just so happens that among her many advocacy efforts, she is of course the executive director of CFI Indiana and director of CFI’s Secular Celebrant program. She is passionate and disciplined in her work for issues such as human rights, church-state separation, women’s health, and education, just to name a few. She is also the president of Indiana’s HAPA Coalition (Health And Privacy Alliance), a member of the boards of the Indiana ACLU and Indiana NOW, and has thirty-seven years of experience as a public school teacher. Whew!

Recognizing her incredible efforts, Ball State University’s College of Sciences and Humanities this month honored Reba with the Indiana Woman of Achievement Award. Applauding the choice of Reba for the award, CFI Board Chair Eddie Tabash said in a statement:

Ms. Wooden’s devoted and successful efforts to preserve equal rights for everyone regardless of viewpoint on matters of religion and regardless of sexual orientation, has been outstanding. She was instrumental in securing in Indiana the equal rights of non religious to perform marriage ceremonies. She has a clear and most enlightened vision of what an ideal society should look like when deeply rooted prejudices would be eliminated and overwhelming majorities of people would truly adopt a live-and-let-live attitude toward others.

In her acceptance speech, Reba said:

We Secular Humanists practice the Common Moral Decencies such as honesty, integrity, don’t hurt people, don’t harm other people’s property, be responsible, be benevolent—trustworthiness, dependability, justice and equality in society, and respect for the beliefs, values, and lifestyles of others. …

When I discovered Center for Inquiry, I found that this organization represented my values, and when I became Executive Director of their Indiana branch, it gave me a platform from which to be an activist on those values.

We support the first amendment on both freedom of religion and separation of church and state. Everyone has the right to believe and practice their chosen religion including the right to choose to practice no religion.

News of the award was covered in the Washington Times Herald and The Southsider Voice.

Congratulations, Reba! CFI is proud to have a leader like you on our side.

 

Richard Dawkins in Hartford, Conn., with Carl Zimmer Nov. 4 

On October 29, CFI Los Angeles hosted a great conversation between Richard Dawkins and critically acclaimed author Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Big Short). This Saturday, November 4, Dawkins comes to the Bushnell in Hartford, Connecticut, for a conversation with the New York Times’s science journalist Carl Zimmer, whose upcoming book is a fresh new perspective on the history and science of heredity, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: What Heredity Is, Is Not, and May Become. This is quite a fortuitous pairing for what is sure to be a very enlightening conversation, so get your tickets now.

As preview for the big event, Dawkins was interviewed by two of Connecticut’s major news outlets, talking to Christopher Arnott of the Hartford Courant and Colin McEnroe on his WNPR radio program.

Plus: On November 7, Richard hosts a special V.I.P. reception at the 2017 Carl Sagan Fest at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. These tickets are going particularly fast, so don’t wait.

 

News from the CFI Community

A Flurry of Activity for TIES

The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES), the Richard Dawkins Foundation program that helps middle school science teachers get the skills and knowledge they need to teach evolution, is having a very busy autumn. TIES’ indefatigable director, Bertha Vazquez, just completed a workshop at the Florida Association of Science Teachers Annual Conference in Orlando and a full day of workshops and discussions at Valdosta State University in Georgia (covered by the Valdosta Daily Times). The following week, Robert Shaw presented TIES workshops at the New Jersey Science Convention in Princeton, and Blake Touchet was in Biloxi to give a workshop at the Mississippi Science Teachers Association Annual Conference.

Many more workshops are on the horizon!

  • November 9, 2017: Bay School District Professional Development Day, Panama City, FL, presented by Nancy Dow
  • November 10, 2017: Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching, at the George R. Brown Convention Center Houston, TX, two sessions presented by Gemma Mora-Azuar
  • November 30 and December 1, 2017: Pennsylvania Science Teachers Association Annual Conference, State College, PA, two sessions presented by Robert Cooper
  • March 5, 2018: National Science Teachers Association National Conference, Science on My Mind, Atlanta, GA, presented by Kathryn Green Atlanta

TIES is a real jewel in the crown of CFI, and it’s having a real impact on the lives (and minds) of teachers and students across the country.

Plus: Check out Matt Nisbet’s Skeptical Inquirer article on the importance of introducing evolution education to students well before they get to college, especially when students are subject to a primarily religious education, as well as Scott O. Lilienfeld’s piece on the question of what is the best time to teach children about critical thinking.

 

CFI Michigan Celebrates 20 Years

CFI Michigan held their 20th Anniversary event with Julia Sweeney this past Saturday with eighty people in attendance for the main event and twenty-five attending the VIP Reception.

Executive Director Jeff Seaver told the story of CFI Michigan’s twenty-year history, as it grew from the Freethought Association of West Michigan to becoming one of the most active CFI branches. Julia Sweeney then sat down with Program Director Jennifer Beahan for a wide-ranging conversation on a variety of topics, including Sweeney’s deconversion from religious belief and stories of her adventures in secular parenthood.

CFI Michigan does tremendous good, both for the cause of science and reason and also for its local community, regularly engaging in service work to help those people and causes that need it most. Congratulations, CFI Michigan, and here’s to all that you’ll accomplish over the next twenty years.

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

When you need a skeptical angle on ghosts and hauntings in the run-up to Halloween, who you gonna call? The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, of course (even though that doesn’t quite fit with the song).

  • Daniel Kolitz at Gizmodo elicits explanations from experts in ectoplasm, including CFI’s own Ben Radford.
  • Terry Stawar at the News & Tribune looks to Joe Nickell and Skeptical Inquirer for answers about ghost sightings.
  • The Cape Cod Times cites CSI as the institution to look to for the skeptical take on hauntings.

Speaking of CSI, there’s a new trove of skeptical articles up at CSICOP.org:

  • James Randi recounts his experiences with pseudoscience-based polygraph tests. “If you agree to take one,” writes Randi, “you may be placing your reputation in the hands of an unwitting charlatan who can proclaim you to be guilty or innocent.”
  • In a Skeptical Inquirer cover feature, Jeanne Goldberg explores the history and harm of the politicization of science, calling it “a threat to our democracy.”
  • Joe Nickell looks at the legend of Bigfoot through the broader lens of mythology, examining how ideas about the creature evolved over time and what it says about the human need to believe we are “not alone.”
  • In skeptical reading, Harriet Hall takes a deep dive into human consciousness with Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds, and Robert Ladendorf lauds the collaboration between climate scientist Michael Mann and cartoonist Tom Toles in The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy.

More skeptical highlights:

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Upcoming CFI Events


CFI Transnational

CFI Austin

CFI Indiana

CFI Los Angeles

  • November 3: European Parliament member Teresa Giménez Barbat will discuss her efforts to combat pseudoscience and promote policy based on critical thinking.


CFI Michigan

  • November 8: Leadership coach M. Nora Bouchard introduces techniques for “Inclusive Listening” for bridging differences and hostilities.
  • November 12: Program Director Jennifer Beahan speaks about her personal journey to secular activism for the Mid-Michigan Atheists and Humanists in Lansing.
  • December 9: Secular Service time, helping out the nonprofit Kids’ Food Basket as they address childhood hunger through their Sack Supper program.

 

Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


Fortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

       •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

       •  Like us on Facebook

       •  Encircle us on Google+

       •  Subscribe to us on YouTube.

 

Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net. 



 

Categories: , Skeptic

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 91

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 10:25am

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

The Top Stories

Jason Lemieux Joins CFI as Director of Government Relations

The principles for which the Center for Inquiry stands—reason, science, humanist values, and the freedom of inquiry—are vital for a free and thriving society. It seems obvious to us that these values should be guiding leaders and officials at all levels of government in the formulation of public policy, but much too often it seems that many of them are averse to reality.

It’s serious business. On a wide range of important issues such as climate change, women’s autonomy, science education, LGTBQ rights, church-state separation, alternative medicine, and even so-called “fake news,” policy must be based on evidence and facts, not dogma and magical thinking.

Luckily, last month CFI welcomed a new leader to represent the reality-based community and reason-based policy, our new Director of Government Affairs, Jason Lemieux.

Jason’s background is one in which critical thinking fueled dedicated advocacy and problem solving, as the leader of a U.S. Marines intelligence team in Iraq, as a staffer for Members of the U.S. House and Senate, and as an advocate for the interests of veterans. He’ll be bringing that experience and those skills to fight for reason and science on Capitol Hill and at the grassroots level.

“We humans are connected to each other and to the cosmos by our relationship to the evidence revealed by a scientific worldview,” said Jason in our official announcement. “To be truly representative, governments must be guided by this evidence, and I look forward to advancing CFI’s work at this critical moment in history.” We’re looking forward to it, too. Welcome, Jason!

 

Time is Running Out to See Richard Dawkins This Fall! 

Time is running out for you to see and hear Richard Dawkins this fall, along with some very special guests, for unscripted conversations live on stage for “An Evening with Richard Dawkins.”

October 29: Hosted by CFI Los Angeles at the Alex Theatre, Richard will be joined on stage by renowned author Michael Lewis, whose highly acclaimed books include Moneyball, Liar’s Poker, The Big Short, Flash Boys, Boomerang, Losers, and many others, spanning the worlds of Wall Street, professional baseball, and presidential campaigns. You surely will not want to miss this chance to see the sparks and ideas fly between these two sharp, quick-witted, brilliant fellows. Get your tickets before they’re all gone!

November 4: Richard comes to the Bushnell in Hartford, Connecticut, for a conversation with the New York Times’s science journalist Carl Zimmer, whose upcoming book is a fresh new perspective on the history and science of heredity, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh: What Heredity Is, Is Not, and May Become. Dawkins and Zimmer are a perfect pairing, so buy your tickets now.


November 7: Richard hosts a special V.I.P. reception at the 2017 Carl Sagan Fest at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. These tickets are going particularly fast.

 

An Avalanche of Issues: Religious Exemptions, Discrimination, and More 

In the four weeks since the last edition of Cause & Effect, there has been a great deal of activity on many of the issues we care about. At both the national and the local levels, CFI has been tracking developments and working toward solutions on several cases.

Hobbling Health Care:

The Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was already very generous with religiously based exceptions to the Act’s contraceptive coverage mandate, and CFI worked to make sure that simply having a religious belief does not exempt one from the law, though the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case made those loopholes rather vast. 

Last week, those loopholes became chasms as Trump’s Health and Human Services department issued new rules stating that any employer, regardless of the nature of their business, can claim an exemption to the contraceptive mandate for religious or even “moral” reasons. 

“Giving employers the ability to dictate [health] benefits on religious grounds draws employees into their employer’s religion as a condition of employment,” said CFI President and CEO Robyn Blumner in our official statement. “This is bad for women and a pluralistic society.”

Sanctioning Discrimination:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo last week granting sweeping exemptions to antidiscrimination laws for religious organizations, even if those organizations receive federal tax dollars. This directive from the Department of Justice aims to broaden the definition of religious freedom from the right to belief and worship to a right to refuse compliance with laws that apply to everyone else. 

By making a “religious freedom” claim, government officials can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, business owners can refuse to provide services to any group they feel does not comport with their faith, and so on, no matter whether taxpayer funds are involved. Robyn accurately described this as “a recipe for social discord,” setting up people of differing beliefs against each other.

Punishing Protest:

Right alongside prohibitions against blasphemy are bans on protests of national symbols, and we’re seeing that crop up in two Louisiana high schools, where students are being subjected to punishment for refusing to partake in displays of patriotism. At Bossier Parish Schools, students are being informed that they will be disciplined if they protest during the National Anthem at school football games.

CFI joined a coalition of groups demanding that this rule be rescinded, as it is a clear violation of the students’ First Amendment rights, spelled out by the Supreme Court case of West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, which held that students are under no obligation to take part in patriotic displays. “Students don’t shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “Nor do they abandon those rights by putting on a football helmet.”

Classroom Double-Cross:

Finally, we have a small but important victory for church-state separation. A teacher at Westmar Middle School in Allegany County, Maryland, had displayed two large Christian crosses at the entrance to her classroom, a blatant act of proselytization by a government employee in a position of authority over children. After being informed of the crosses, CFI reached out to the Allegany County Board of Education, asking them to see to it that the crosses came down. They did so, and now the crosses are gone. 

Robyn said in our press statement, “CFI will continue to act as a watchdog to ensure our public schools serve their true purpose, whether that means challenging sectarian religious displays like these crosses, or defending the teaching of scientific fact such as evolution in the face of religious dogma.”

 

News from the CFI Community

Openly Secular Day: It’s Time to Be Counted!

Openly Secular Day is this Friday, October 20! It’s a call to action for those with a secular identity to encourage openness and dialogue about one’s identity and beliefs.

Here are a couple of great ways for you to get involved this year:

Tell Your Lawmakers That You Are Openly Secular 

 This is a great opportunity to let your elected representatives know that you are a Secular Values Voter who believes in freedom, inclusion, equality, and knowledge, and who asks that all Americans be represented equally regardless of their faith or lack thereof. To have an impact, we need as many of our supporters as possible to contact their representatives. Look for a new Action Alert this week asking you to contact your representatives. But if you want to make sure you don’t miss this as well as future important Action Alerts, you should definitely subscribe to them via text message. 

These exclusive alerts, delivered straight to your phone, are a convenient, easy, and effective way to stay informed and engaged. You can subscribe by texting the word “secular” to 52886.

Put Your Secular Values Into Action

 The Center for Inquiry has been a proud member of the interfaith Know Your Neighbor coalition since it launched in 2015 at the White House, and this year we’re using Openly Secular Day as an opportunity to help others understand what secular humanists and other secular people believe through community education and dialogue. This Openly Secular Day, we encourage you to take part in an interfaith activity so you can be a part of helping to foster a better understanding of your secular identity—and to better understand the religious identity of others.

To learn more about Openly Secular Day and see other ways you can get involved, check out the Openly Secular Day page.

 

Point of Inquiry is Not Saying it’s Aliens

Where are the aliens? Why won’t they talk to us? Would we even know what they were if we found them? Would they be a guest on Point of Inquiry?

The prospect of discovering life on another world is, depending on your perspective, either extremely exciting or utterly terrifying, particularly if it’s intelligent life. But for all of our species’ attempts to scan the universe with our best and most far-reaching technology, we have yet to detect a definitive sign that there is anyone out there. If any extraterrestrials have become aware of us through our own communications, both intentional and not, they haven’t confirmed receipt.

With so much effort being directed at questions of alien intelligence, sending messages across the galaxy, and what we’ll do if we ever make first contact, it can be a little frustrating that we haven’t heard or seen anything yet. To better understand what is and is not happening, the latest episode of Point of Inquiry, CFI’s flagship podcast, features Scientific American journalist Lee Billings. Author of the 2013 book Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars, Billings talks to host Paul Fidalgo about this noble and quixotic quest to connect with our interstellar neighbors.

Also be sure to check out the previous episode, also on the theme of space exploration, with Loren Grush of The Verge.

 

CSICon 2017: It’s the Fiiiiinal Count-Dowwwwwn!!!

This is it! CSICon Las Vegas 2017, the biggest and most exciting skeptics’ event of the year, is just days away! If you haven’t registered and arranged your travel, it’s go time! It all happens Thursday, October 26 to Sunday, October 29 in the city of illusions itself, with an amazing lineup of speakers and events that will open your mind and sharpen your wits.

And what kind of CSICon promo would this be without speaker interviews by Susan Gerbic? Here’s three fresh new conversations with great skeptical minds:

  • How many Novellas can you fit into a skeptics’ conference? Well, at least three. Bob Novella, cofounder of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast (which will record an episode before a live CSICon audience), talks to Susan about his favorite interview subjects, living in a world of infinite iPhones, and something about Star Trek zombies.
  • Experimental psychologist Sheldon W. Helms talks about conferences past, including SkeptiCals, Amaz!ng Meetings, and of course CSICons. He also touches on the subject of his presentation, the insidious phenomenon of “gay conversion” therapy, as well as why people fall for psychics.
  • Finally, we have New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova, who will receive the Balles Prize in Critical Thinking at the conference this year for her book The Confidence Game. She discusses the topic of her next book, which is the game of poker, and how it relates to her previous work on biases, con artistry, and mindfulness.

Also in person at CSICon will be luminaries such as James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Cara Santa Maria, Michael Mann, Richard Saunders, Eugenie Scott, many more. It all happens at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, where there will also be spectacular entertainment events, magic shows, and even a Halloween disco party.

So hurry! Get registered, and we’ll see you next weekend in Vegas at CSICon 2017!

(Oh, and the band Europe will not be performing at CSICon, as far as we know.)

 

CFI Branches Give and Receive Honors for Great Humanist Work

For the dedicated people of CFI Michigan, volunteer service is a priority, an example of humanists living out their values in the real world. In August, CFI Michigan teamed up with the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan for the Get the Lead Out Initiative, canvassing homes in sections of Grand Rapids where lead contamination is a threat to residents. Volunteers received some training and then went door to door to educate residents about the lead in paint dust, which is particularly dangerous to kids and infants and to let them know what federal funds are available to have the lead safely removed from their homes. For this “secular service” work, the Foundation Beyond Belief named CFI Michigan its August Team of the Month.

Plus, CFI Michigan got the attention of ABC affiliate WZZM 13 last week for their National Coming Out Day event, with a screening of the documentary The Sunday Sessions and a panel discussion with Larry DeShane of the Grand Rapids Pride Center, psychologist Matthew Clark, a specialist in helping LGBTQ kids coming from Christian families, and of course CFI Michigan Program Director Jennifer Beahan.

This weekend, CFI Michigan will celebrate its 20th anniversary with actress and playwright Julia Sweeney!

Last month, CFI Northeast Ohio held its biennial Humanism Awards Banquet, where the award for 2017 was given to native Ohioan Frank Zindler for his lifetime of advocacy for secular, atheist, and humanist cause. Zindler has long been an outspoken nontheist, even back when very few dared to be, and since the 1970s he has also been active in supporting social causes such as women’s reproductive rights. In addition to hearing Zindler’s reflections on his life as a secular activist, attendees were treated to a recording of a piece of classical music that he composed for piano and cello.

The featured guest speaker for the banquet was Ali Rizvi, author of the much talked-about book The Atheist Muslim, which recently won the Forkosch Award from CFI’s Council for Secular Humanism. In Rizvi’s presentation, “The Journey of an Ex-Muslim Atheist,” he described the unique set of problems that Ex-Muslim nonbelievers face, both in the west and in countries far more hostile to freethought.

Congratulations on a great event, CFI Northeast Ohio!

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

CFI Board Chair Eddie Tabash, a veteran attorney and world-class debater, took the stage at Calvary Chapel in Anaheim, California, last month, going into the lion’s den to debate Calvary Chapel University theology professor Nick Keehus over the existence of God. And now, the full debate is available to view online. (You will not be surprised to know that the consensus is that Eddie won handily, but do see for yourself.) 

Nick Little, CFI’s Legal Director, talks to Ashley Feinberg at Wired in an important exposé of President Trump’s nominee for the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, Jon Adler, and his record of pushing the Church of Scientology’s pseudoscientific detox treatments. 

Richard Dawkins has a new video up at Big Think, discussing the possible evolutionary roots of religious belief, explaining why a human’s tendency to believe in the supernatural may not be too different from a moth’s inclination to flutter its way into a blazing fire. 

Despite their expressions of awe, TV Bigfoot hunters don’t actually have anything to get excited about when they see “glowing eyes” they assume to be from the Sasquatch, of course. Joe Nickell explains how they’ve mistaken many animals’ eyeshine for “red glowing,” and the basic biological facts behind it.

At CSICOP.org, Stuart Vyse looks at the casual armchair diagnoses of the man who shot and killed dozens of people from a hotel window this month, and observes, “More interesting than the shooter’s motive is our need to find a motive for him.” Also, Stuart looks at the superstitions about the number 13, and notes that the location of CSICon 2017, the Excalibur, does indeed boast a 13th floor.

Ben Radford recounts an especially blatant attempt to use the scary clown trope to conceal a murder in 1990, a crime that had not resulted in an arrest until just last month. Plus, Ben picks apart the marketing claims of what is clearly a pseudoscience book about “overturning Darwin” on evolution, or as Ben puts it, “creationist bullshit.” His words!

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Upcoming CFI Events

 

CFI Transnational

CFI Austin

CFI Indiana


CFI Los Angeles

  • November 3: European Parliament member Teresa Giménez Barbat will discuss her efforts to combat pseudoscience and promote policy based on critical thinking.


CFI Michigan

CFI Portland

CFI Tampa Bay

CFI Western New York

  • October 20: Dave Hahn, a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of Buffalo, delivers a presentation on conspiracy theories, how to define them, and the harms they can cause.

 

Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


Fortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

       •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

       •  Like us on Facebook

       •  Encircle us on Google+

       •  Subscribe to us on YouTube.

 

Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net. 



 

Categories: , Skeptic

CFI Welcomes Jason Lemieux as Director of Government Affairs

Wed, 10/04/2017 - 2:46pm

The Center for Inquiry is proud to welcome Jason Lemieux as its new Director of Government Affairs as of Monday, October 2. A veteran of both the U.S. military and Capitol Hill, Jason will lead CFI’s efforts in advancing public policy based on reason, science, and humanist values.

Jason comes to CFI with a breadth of experience. As a former U.S. Marine and serving three tours of duty in Iraq, Sgt. Lemieux led an intelligence and infantry team in Ramadi. Coming home, he served as a spokesperson and board member for Iraq Veterans Against the War.

After earning a master’s degree from Columbia University in International Affairs, Jason was a fellow in the congressional offices of Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY), and most recently served as a legislative correspondent for U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Jason’s written work has appeared in publications such as Time Magazine, New York Daily News, and Huffington Post, and he has been interviewed on outlets such as PBS Newshour, Al Jazeera English, and even Fox and Friends.

“Jason will be advocating for reason and humanist values in policymaking,” said Robyn Blumner, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “To cut through the thicket of science denial, and hostility toward atheists, we need someone sharp, tough, and persuasive. That someone is Jason Lemieux, and we are looking forward to having him at the helm of the Center for Inquiry’s domestic advocacy work.”

“It’s my honor to join CFI as the Director of Government Affairs,” said Lemieux. “We humans are connected to each other and to the cosmos by our relationship to the evidence revealed by a scientific worldview. To be truly representative, governments must be guided by this evidence, and I look forward to advancing CFI’s work at this critical moment in history.”

# # #

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net.

 

Categories: , Skeptic

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 90

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 8:34am

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

Note: This newsletter will be taking a one-issue break, so look for Cause & Effect No. 91 on October 18. The Richard Dawkins Foundation Newsletter will continue on schedule as usual.

The Top Stories

Blasphemy in the Eye of the Beholder: Free Inquiry on the Blasphemous Arts

Get ready to experience moving, provocative, and often hilarious expressions of religious doubt in the latest issue of Free Inquiry, the leading journal of secular humanist thought, published by CFI’s Council for Secular Humanism.

September 30 is International Blasphemy Rights Day, an occasion established in 2009 by the Center for Inquiry to highlight the global struggle to defend dissent and celebrate the fundamental human right to question, criticize, and even ridicule any idea, belief, or ideology. To mark the occasion, Free Inquiry highlights the blasphemous arts with contributions from two artists, painter Bruce Adams and performance artist Pat Oleszko, as well as some very thought-provoking cover art, with a special (non)appearance from a certain prophet.

For more insight on blasphemy, there is also some heretical fiction from award-winning author John Roberts and a reflection on the utility and ethics of blasphemous speech from ex-Muslim journalist Sara Ali.

All this, plus the second part of the magazine’s “symposium in print” on secular humanism and philosophy, in the October/November 2017 issue of Free Inquiry. Get it on shelves now or by print and digital subscription at secularhumanism.org/fi.

 

Jeff Sessions and the Junk Science of the Polygraph 

According to recent reporting, Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who is unsure whether secular Americans can have an “understanding of the truth”) intends to subject National Security Council staff to a lie detector. But despite what you might see in movies, on television, or even in a local police department, lies cannot be reliably detected by a polygraph test. Federal courts no longer accept their results as evidence, and today they serve an almost theatrical purpose, often used more to frighten than to detect deception.

So last week the Center for Inquiry put out a statement urging the Attorney General to change course. Citing the work of Skeptical Inquirer contributors on the myth of the lie detector, we explained that the polygraph is based on junk science with an error rate of more than 52 percent, no better than a coin toss.

Morton E. Tavel, MD, wrote that the use of the polygraph is “a perversion of science” with the potential to do incredible harm to those falsely determined to be engaged in deceit. Physicist Alan P. Zelicoff called the polygraph “a ruse,” primarily “a tool of intimidation.”

Whether or not Sessions goes through with his threat, it is important that Americans know that the polygraph has no place at the highest levels of government power, and certainly should not be determining who is fit to keep our country safe.

 

News from the CFI Community

New Richard Dawkins Live Events in L.A., Hartford, and Pittsburgh

We have three brand new opportunities for you to see and hear Richard Dawkins in person this fall, as he engages in unscripted conversation with special guests live on stage for “An Evening with Richard Dawkins.”

October 29: Richard will be hosted by CFI Los Angeles at the Alex Theatre, and he’ll be joined on stage by renowned author Michael Lewis, whose highly acclaimed books include Moneyball, Liar’s Poker, The Big Short, Flash Boys, Boomerang, Losers, and many others, spanning the worlds of Wall Street, professional baseball, and presidential campaigns. You surely will not want to miss this chance to see the sparks and ideas fly between these two sharp, quick-witted, brilliant fellows. Get your tickets right now, before they’re all gone!

November 4: Richard takes a quick trip to the other side of the country for an engagement in Hartford, Connecticut, at the Bushnell. His guest for the evening will be announced soon, but you can still buy your tickets now.

November 7: Tickets will go on sale soon for Richard’s appearance in Pittsburgh at Carnegie Mellon University. Stay tuned!

 

An International Response to the Murder of Gauri Lankesh

Few in the United States had heard of Gauri Lankesh, a respected journalist in India, editor of the Patrike, and fierce activist for free expression and freedom of the press. She strongly opposed the “Hindutva” policies of the Hindu nationalist government led by Narendra Modi, and she organized various conflicting factions to protest caste discrimination.

Lankesh was murdered on September 5, just outside of her home in Bengaluru. The identity of her killers is not yet known, but it is widely believed she was killed for her political advocacy and outspoken criticism of the government. Her murder is frighteningly similar to that of renowned Indian skeptic Narendra Dabholkar in 2013, as well as that of other dissenters in India.

This tragedy brought the Center for Inquiry together with the European Council of Skeptical Organizations (ECSO) for a joint statement to condemn the murder (of course) and to urge more affirmative action by the United States, Canada, and the European Union to defend free expression around the world.

“We’ve lost far too many friends and allies to the violence of religious and ideological extremists around the world,” said Barry Karr, executive director of CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in the statement. “But we can’t let the perpetrators get the last word. They want to silence dissent, but we will never be quiet about the fundamental human rights to free expression and inquiry.”

 

Countdown to CSICon 2017: The Alternative to Alternative Facts

CSICon Las Vegas 2017, the biggest and most exciting skeptics’ event of the year, is almost here! Taking place October 26–29 in the city of illusions itself, with a slate of speakers and events so impressive, you might think we’re just feeding you #fakenews. We understand. It’s hard to tell these days.

Which is exactly why we need CSICon: your alternative to alternative facts.

To keep the anticipation and excitement going, the indefatigable Susan Gerbic brings us two fresh new interviews with CSICon speakers, which are also not #fakenews.

  • First, science communicator and Forbes contributor Kavin Senapathy talks to Susan about her problem with the pseudoscience-hawking “The Food Babe,” her efforts to demystify GMOs, and how Buffy the Vampire Slayer led the creation of the documentary she’ll be debuting at CSICon with Natalie Newell, Science Moms.
  • Then, we hear from Evan Bernstein, one of the co-hosts of the popular Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe (SGU) podcast, who discusses the power of radio and podcasts to help foster a community, and previews the special SGU recording happening live on stage at CSICon.

And what else is so great about this CSICon? It will feature brilliant and compelling speakers such as James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Cara Santa Maria, Michael Mann, Maria Konnikova (pictured at left), Richard Saunders, Eugenie Scott, and so many more. And since it’s all happening at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, there will be spectacular entertainment events, magic shows, and even a Halloween disco party. (That last one really does sound like #fakenews, but it’s not.)

So get registered right now, and we’ll see you in Vegas at CSICon 2017!

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

Even though CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry successfully convinced news outlets such as the Associated Press to stop calling science deniers “skeptics,” misuse of the term persists. So CFI Los Angeles director Jim Underdown helped the LA Times understand the difference in his letter to the editor. 

Speaking of science deniers, right-wing news outlet The Federalist criticized CFI’s Joe Nickell for his positive review of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel. Joe, sharply and with considerable class, responds by exposing the myriad holes in their “argument.”

* Benjamin Radford, CFI’s expert on scary clowns, comments on the Juggalo March on Washington, an event for fans of the Insane Clown Posse. Is there any evidence that Juggalos are a “criminal organization”? Do they know how magnets work?

Jack Jenkins at ThinkProgress reports on the GOP’s passage of an amendment intended to kneecap the Johnson Amendment, allowing churches to more or less become super-PACS for candidates. As before, he cites CFI’s Legal Director Nick Little.

* Susan Gerbic once again takes on “grief vampire” Tyler Henry, this time for the claim that he predicted the death of Alan Thicke by talking to Thicke’s dead relatives. The claim is not convincing.

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Upcoming CFI Events

CFI Transnational

CFI Austin

CFI Indiana

CFI Los Angeles

CFI Michigan

  • September 23: Service Day: Habitat for Humanity in Flint.
  • September 27: Zana Zangana discusses his journey away from Islam and the importance of questioning religion in a presentation on his book, Where Was God Hijacked? Violence and Human Rights in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism.

CFI Northeast Ohio


CFI Tampa Bay

CFI Western New York

  • October 20: Dave Hahn, a PhD candidate in philosophy at the University of Buffalo, delivers a presentation on conspiracy theories, how to define them, and the harms they can cause.

 

Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


Fortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

       •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

       •  Like us on Facebook

       •  Encircle us on Google+

       •  Subscribe to us on YouTube.

 

Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net. 



 

Categories: , Skeptic

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 89

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 9:28am

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

The Top Stories

A Trusted Source in an Age of Misinformation 

In the era of social media, where we are drowning in news and rumor at all times of the day, information and opinion have been commoditized. When misinformation and uninformed assertions are as easy (or, more likely, easier) to spread as the truth, there is genuine value in being known for reason and honesty. Since its very beginnings four decades ago, the Center for Inquiry has built a firm reputation as a reliable source of information and commentary from all who seek it, and that particularly includes journalists.

Three thoughtful articles in recent weeks serve as excellent examples of how journalists who wish to cut through the noise of false news and “hot takes” know to turn to the people of the Center for Inquiry for trustworthy insight, analysis, and plain old facts—including CFI’s own advocacy and good works.

Last month, religion reporter Kelsey Dallas of the Deseret News took note of two issues affecting the secular community: political representation and religious freedom. CFI is well known as an advocate of true religious freedom, for believers and nonbelievers alike, and have worked passionately to defend those rights in the U.S. and around the world. But like many freethought organizations, we have lost the seat at the table we once had in the previous administration. CFI Legal Director Nicholas Little explains that the experiences and perspectives of nontheists must be a part of the wider struggle for religious freedom.

At The Daily Beast this weekend, reporter and religion scholar Brandon Withrow sought to explore the secular perspective on morality without God. Given the alarming results of a recent study on the ongoing bias against atheists, Withrow asked several key figures in freethought about their moral foundations. Among them were our own Richard Dawkins and, quoted at considerable length, Monette Richards, executive director of CFI Northeast Ohio. (Withrow also spoke to recent Point of Inquiry guest James Croft.)

Finally, this weekend in the Sunday Herald of Scotland, Russell Leadbetter published an important profile of CFI’s Secular Rescue program, our initiative to offer assistance to secular writers and activists whose lives are threatened by violent extremists in countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, and bring them to safety in other countries. Leadbetter looks at the origins of Secular Rescue and highlights some of the lives that the program has helped to save.

 

CFI Receives Grant for New Projects from James Hervey Johnson Foundation 

The Center for Inquiry is honored to be the recipient of a significant grant from the James Hervey Johnson Charitable Educational Trust of San Diego, California. Totaling $112,456, the grant will support CFI’s work on four major projects in publishing, historical preservation and appreciation, and community building, all to further CFI’s mission to foster a secular society based on reason, science, and humanist values.

“This generous grant will help us give new life to deeply meaningful freethought institutions under our care,” said Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “Each of these four projects will serve to educate, enrich, and enlighten both longtime freethinkers and those who are just discovering our ideas and our community.”

The grant will be distributed between the following four initiatives:

  • $45,000 will support the publication of The Truth Seeker, America’s oldest continuously published freethought periodical. Since 2014 The Truth Seeker has been owned and operated by the Council for Secular Humanism, publisher of Free Inquiry magazine and a program of the Center for Inquiry. Under its current editor, Roderick Bradford, The Truth Seeker has emerged as the leading publication exploring the history of the freethought and atheist movements.
  • $32,456 will help fund a complete redesign of the Freethought Trail, a series of 112 historical sites in west-central New York State significant to the history of freethought, abolition, women’s suffrage, and other radical reform movements. This will include a full updating and redesign of the Freethought Trail website, adding enhanced searchability, mobile-friendliness, and new interactive features. 
  • $20,000 will underwrite a conference celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, to be held in Syracuse, New York, on August 18–19, 2018. 
  • $15,000 will fund necessary improvements to the new physical location for CFI’s active Los Angeles branch. CFI Los Angeles plans to relocate to its new facility in the fall of 2017.


The James Hervey Johnson Charitable Educational Trust was funded from the estate of James Hervey Johnson. Mr. Johnson was the fourth editor of The Truth Seeker, founded by D. M. Bennett in 1873. The Trust has supported the Center for Inquiry and its program the Council for Secular Humanism through multiple grants during the past two decades, this latest being among the largest yet bestowed.

 

News from the CFI Community

CFI Austin Providing Relief for Houston

The dedicated community of CFI Austin is stepping up to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Last weekend, they delivered relief supplies to fellow Texans in Houston, bringing food, clothing, pillows, sheets, blankets, and toiletries. This week they’re calling upon the greater CFI community to show their support with monetary donations. So far, CFI Austin has raised $700!

You can make donations through PayPal using membership@cfi-austin.org.

They’ll make use of anything they get this week for a food bank in Houston or for flood refugees in Austin. The deadline to donate is Friday, September 8, at midnight.

 

The Tireless Teaching of TIES

The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES), our program for training middle school science teachers to improve their understanding and teaching of evolution, has had a very productive summer. For example, TIES Director Bertha Vazquez gave several training workshops for teachers at the Opening of Schools Science Teacher Professional Development Day in West Palm Beach, Florida. Plus, two new upcoming workshops have been added to the calendar, bringing TIES’s total up to seventy-three.

September 8, Alan Wasmoen will present at the Nebraska Academy of Sciences/Nebraska Association of Teachers of Science Fall Conference in Kearney, Nebraska. On November 18, Christopher Moran will give a workshop at the Virginia Association of Science Teachers Conference in Roanoke.

This vital and growing program is just getting started, and there’s always something new in the works. To keep up with Bertha’s TIES updates, see her column at CSICOP.org.

 

Countdown to CSICon 2017: October Cometh!

The leaves are just beginning to change color. Parents across the country are breathing deep sighs of relief as school begins again. Retail stores are (already) hawking Halloween costumes, decorations, and candy. You know what that means…it’s almost time for CSICon 2017!

How “almost” is it? Really almost. CSICon 2017 kicks off October 26 in Las Vegas at the fantastical Excalibur Hotel, going through the weekend to October 29. This year’s conference will feature brilliant and compelling speakers such as James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Cara Santa Maria, Michael Mann, Maria Konnikova, Richard Saunders (interviewed here by Susan Gerbic), Eugenie Scott, and so many more.

For a taste of what’s in store, check out the latest season of CFI’s Reasonable Talk video series, which is totally devoted to talks from CSICon 2016. But, trust us: a web video is no substitute for being there in person. After all, you want to be there to experience all of the amazing speakers, all the entertainment events, and all the fun and silliness at the Halloween disco party.

So get registered right now, before all the leaves fall and the kids go berserk from all that Halloween candy. See you in Vegas at CSICon 2017!

 

CFI Highlights on the Web
  • On the latest episode of CFI’s flagship podcast Point of Inquiry, host Paul Fidalgo talks to Ethical Culture leader James Croft, grappling with the difficult questions and realizations sparked by the Charlottesville white supremacist violence, and discussing how humanists are called to lead the way in healing our national wounds.
  • Despite being exposed as a peddler of pseudoscience by everyone from The New Yorker to the U.S. Senate, Dr. Oz carries on. At CSICOP.org, “SkepDoc” Harriet Hall takes aim at one more of Oz’s absurd regimens, the “grapefruit detox diet.” Harriet warns us, “Stay away from the land of Oz.”
  • Benjamin Radford considers what it seems many so-called “mediums” do not: ethics. As these conduits to the afterlife claim to be able to channel the words of the dead (often dead celebrities), they can never be verified and give little consideration to the impact they have on those still living.
  • As CFI’s resident expert on evil clowns, Ben also uses the release of the new film adaptation of Stephen King’s It to take the opportunity to look back on the history of Pennywise the clown.
  • The popular obsession over the concept of “wellness” may be making some us feel rather, um, unwell. Kylie Sturgess interviews journalist Brigid Delaney about her experiments (on herself) with all manner of “wellness” products from around the world.
  • In Skeptical Inquirer, Kyle Polich looks into the claims of mysterious disappearances from national parks in the “Missing411” series of books.
  • What’s the big deal if academic and scientific journals move a decimal point? Stuart Vyse writes about the debate over whether these journals should change their standard for statistical significance from .05 to .005.
  • Joe Nickell pays tribute to H. David Sox, who died last month. Sox was a researcher who began promoting the veracity of the Shroud of Turin but came to realize it was a forgery. Writes Joe of his work, “I learned with what intelligence, integrity, and verve [Sox] approached that subject—and so many things that mattered.”
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Upcoming CFI Events

 

CFI Transnational

 

CFI Austin

 

CFI Indiana

 

CFI Los Angeles

 

CFI Michigan

CFI Northeast Ohio

CFI Pittsburgh

 

CFI Portland

 

CFI Tampa Bay

 

CFI Western New York

 

Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


Fortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

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Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net. 



 

Categories: , Skeptic

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 88

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 8:16am

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

The Top Story

Confronting Hate with a Humanist Heart 

The violence, hatred, and vile bigotry that erupted in Charlottesville earlier this month served as both a shock to the American conscience and as a moment of national moral clarity. White supremacists, including members of the Ku Klux Klan and avowed neo-Nazis, many heavily armed, vented their racist grievances and protested their imaginary persecution by the light of torches while engaging in senseless violence that resulted in the shocking and brutal murder of peaceful counter-protester Heather Heyer.

It was upsetting, to say the least, to discover that even when given several opportunities, our president was unable or unwilling to place full responsibility for the mayhem on the white supremacists, insisting on the fiction that “many sides” or “both sides” were to blame and that many among the neo-Nazis and Klansmen were “very fine people.” It echoed the hollow and infuriating calls to “teach the controversy” about creationism and climate change that secularists are so familiar with, but it was more stunning in its defense of the indefensible. It revealed something dark and dangerous about our country’s current leadership.

Also revealing were the torrent of declarations and condemnations from public figures. Officeholders across the political spectrum were forthright in their denunciations of the white supremacists, with no less than Attorney General Jeff Sessions declaring the violence to be an act of domestic terrorism and promising a significant response from his agency. Business leaders and other high-profile figures walked away from the president’s advisory boards in protest of his false equivalencies, forcing their shuttering.

Among the few remaining at the president’s side continuing to defend his “both sides” fiction about the so-called “alt-left” was President Trump’s cadre of evangelical advisors, such as Jerry Falwell, Jr. The religious right’s unwillingness to fully distance itself from this series of moral outrages is telling, and it serves as a powerful contrast to the responses from the vast majority of faith communities, as well as, of course, our community of nonbelievers.

Attempting to calm a panicked Romeo in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the well-meaning Friar Laurence promises to “give thee armor” to defend himself from his distress: “Adversity’s sweet milk, philosophy—To comfort thee….” After the tragedies in Charlottesville, the Center for Inquiry released not just a condemnation of the white supremacists but also some secular humanist “armor,” the “sweet milk” of secular humanist thought on the evils on display.

We provided a crucial reminder to our community that modern secular humanist thinking, particularly from CFI founder Paul Kurtz, arose as a direct response to Nazism and the horrors of the Holocaust. “Nazism has shown the depths of brutality of which humanity is capable,” Kurtz and collaborator Edwin H. Wilson wrote in Humanist Manifesto II in 1973. Throughout the document they make clear, “We [secular humanists] deplore racial, religious, ethnic, or class antagonisms,” envisioning a world in which all human beings are “a citizen of a world community.”

Modern secular humanism, then, is an affirmative lifestance that in its very foundational documents seeks to ennoble all members of the human species, rejecting racism and discrimination outright. It is the opposite of what was espoused by the bigots in Charlottesville, and an unmistakable line in the sand against hate, whereas our current president has swept the line into a formless blur.

In 2015, Eddie Tabash, a veteran champion of civil rights and church-state separation and chair of the board for the Center for Inquiry, wrote a deeply moving piece for Free Inquiry magazine on his experiences as the son of a survivor of Auschwitz. His mother suffered unimaginably at the hands of the Nazis, and the horrors she witnessed are almost unthinkable. Eddie tells her story and how her trauma informed his own moral thinking, contributing to his conclusion that what his mother endured “is inconsistent with what we can justifiably expect from an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent deity.”

There is no room on Planet Earth for that kind of evil, and there can be no tolerance for its latter-day resurgence. It is a moral stance we take as secular humanists and as citizens of the world. And we are reminded of the words of Carl Sagan, who, gazing in awe at the tiny speck that is our home planet engulfed in a sea of blackness, said, “To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

 

News from the CFI Community

Public School Board Meetings Are No Place for Prayer

In 2014, much to our disappointment, the Supreme Court ruled in broad favor of prayers at public legislative meetings at all levels of government in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway, a decision the Center for Inquiry vehemently protested as a blatant violation of the Establishment Clause. With this as precedent, the battle over government-endorsed religion moves to a venue fraught with even more tension: the public education system.

This week, in a brief filed on behalf of a coalition of secularist organizations, the Center for Inquiry petitioned the Supreme Court to take up the case of American Humanist Association v. Birdville Independent School District, in which the point of contention is whether school board meetings fall under the same rubric as city councils and legislatures when it comes to public prayer, or does a school board’s place in the educational system make prayer untenable.

As you might imagine, our position is that prayer clearly has no place in any government setting, but it is particularly problematic for school board meetings, because the participants in these sessions are not just members of the board but teachers, parents, and even students, all of whom have a crucial role in the shaping of educational policy. Sectarian prayer at such a meeting is plainly coercive and marginalizing to all those who do not subscribe to the particular faith being represented.

“The United States is becoming more religiously diverse with each passing year, and America’s young people even more so,” said CFI’s Nicholas Little, who authored the brief along with CFI Chair Eddie Tabash. “School boards should be concerned with enriching the minds of those students and encouraging them to learn from each other’s differences. The prayers can wait until the business of education is done.”

 

Skeptical Inquirer: The Slanting of Science and the Fallacy of Fallacies

In the cover feature of the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer, Jeanne Goldberg explores the roots of anti-science attitudes in American politics and the consequences we face as science and facts become malleable according to partisan interests.

Goldberg explains how the average American can feel intimidated and overwhelmed by science, alienated by the fact that some of our most hot-button issues can be fully understood by distant “elites.” This makes it all the easier for complicated scientific topics of global importance to be twisted into political and tribal signifiers. Writes Goldberg, chillingly, “This constitutes a form of authoritarianism that can be used to impede scientific progress and, in the long run, cause a government to fail.” But it can’t happen here…right?

Also of particular interest, this issue includes a powerful critique of one of skeptics’ most common sets of tools: logical fallacies. Philosopher Maarten Boudry is wary of skeptics’ over-reliance on the “gotcha” tactic of pointing out a logical fallacy in someone’s argument, so he thoroughly unpacks the assertions and implications within many of our community’s favorite go-to fallacies. Boudry reveals many holes in arguments that skeptics often perceive as impermeable, warning, “By carelessly throwing around labels and crying foul at every turn, defenders of science and reason may actually harm their own cause.”

What’s to be done about this overplaying of the fallacy card? Says Boudry, “I’ve now come to believe that this whole idea should be thrown overboard.”

The September/October 2017 issue of Skeptical Inquirer is available now in print and on your favorite mobile platform.

 

Countdown to CSICon 2017: James Randi’s Amazing Life and Times

As summer begins to wind down, the excitement for CSICon 2017 starts to build exponentially. Taking place October 26–29 in Las Vegas, truly a city of illusions, CSICon is the biggest skeptics event anywhere. This year’s conference will feature speakers such as Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Cara Santa Maria, Joe Nickell, Eugenie Scott, and so many more.

Joining them for the second year running will of course be James “The Amazing” Randi. Last year at CSICon 2016, Randi took the stage with Skeptical Inquirer Editor Kendrick Frazier for a live and lively conversation about Randi’s truly remarkable life and times, his adventures in magic, skepticism, and activism, and his hopes for the future of the movement.

You can see the whole conversation right here, as the “season finale” of CFI’s Reasonable Talk video series.

(You can also read Randi’s recent column for Skeptical Inquirer on the extremely dubious practice of “facilitated communication” with severely autistic patients.)

Of course, a web video is no substitute for the real thing. So make your plans to get to Vegas right now and register for CSICon 2017. You’ll see Randi in person, the huge roster of great speakers, fun entertainment events, and even a Halloween disco party. Not kidding.

See you in Las Vegas for CSICon 2017!

 

CFI Highlights on the Web
  • Richard Dawkins is the special guest on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, where he and Bill discuss KPFA’s cancellation of their event with him, CFI’s Secular Rescue program, and his foundation’s Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES).
  • Did you get a chance to see the eclipse? In a web exclusive for Free Inquiry, Gregory J. Paul looks at how this celestial spectacle, despite the claims of some believers, has no bearing on the question of God’s existence.
  • The JonBenet Ramsey murder was never officially solved, even though alleged psychics claimed to put their best paranormal efforts toward it. In Skeptical Inquirer, Joe Nickell shows not only how the psychics blew it but what probably actually happened to JonBenet.
  • Daniel Dennett opens the discussion in the most recent Free Inquiry’s symposium-in-print on the importance of naturalism in secular humanism, describing philosophy as an intellectual Las Vegas. “What happens in philosophy stays in philosophy, by and large, and a good thing it does, too.”
  • The Center for Inquiry’s president and CEO, Robyn Blumner, heralds the increase in academic scholarship and scientific research to explain the roots of religious belief. “By understanding the cognitive components that make religion so intractable,” she writes, “we may develop social and psychological tools to loosen its grip.”
  • Also in Free Inquiry, Sarah Haider critiques what she describes as the “noble lies” told by progressives who seek to shield Muslims from abuse but wind up excusing or obscuring the harmful and violent aspects of extreme versions of Islam.
  • In Skeptical Inquirer, Gary Posner takes to task “Psychic Detective” Noreen Renier and her responsibility for the false hopes of a grieving family that placed its trust in her alleged abilities to find the missing Kimberly McAndrew.
  • Stuart Vyse and his Skeptical Inquirer article on unintended consequences is central to an op-ed by Rich Elfers of the Courier-Herald in Washington state.
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Upcoming CFI Events

 

CFI Transnational

 

CFI Austin

 

CFI Indiana

 

CFI Los Angeles

 

CFI Michigan

 

CFI Northeast Ohio

 

CFI Portland

 

CFI Tampa Bay

 

CFI Western New York

 

Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.  Donate today!


Fortnightly updates not enough? Of course they’re not.

       •  Follow CFI on Twitter.

       •  Like us on Facebook

       •  Encircle us on Google+

       •  Subscribe to us on YouTube.

 

Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to both the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at www.centerforinquiry.net. 



 

Categories: , Skeptic