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Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 100

Wed, 02/21/2018 - 10:12am

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

Evolution and Activism Celebrated in Darwin Day and Civic Day Events

CFI branches across the country have been celebrating Charles Darwin and his legacy. Two hundred and fifty people turned out to celebrate the life and legacy of Charles Darwin for CFI Austin’s annual Darwin Day event. The full day of presentations and activities included expert presentations on human evolution and adaptation as well as talks on primates, insects, biospheres, and even Darwin’s ideas as represented in the movie Avatar. Grown-ups also had the chance to show off their highly evolved brains with a trivia contest.

Kids probably had the best time of all, taking part in a fossil dig, a build-a-dino workshop, some useful training in how to walk like a dinosaur, microscopic looks at tiny creatures, arts and crafts, storytelling, and much more. And let’s not forget the cutting of the all-important birthday cake. Alas, Darwin isn’t around to enjoy it, so the kids happily took on that responsibility for him.

Attendees at CFI Tampa Bay‘s 16th Annual Darwin Day were engrossed by sociologist Jennifer Hancock, who discussed a key pillar of humanism: developing happiness in our lives. Secularism scholar Phil Zuckerman talked about his study of the secular populations of Nordic nations and how they are far happier and content than Americans overall, all without religion. Sociologist and professor Ryan Cragun served as master of ceremonies.

CFI Northeast Ohio held two events: in Cleveland they screened a selection of videos on evolution, and in Stow they heard a presentation from Lee Hall of Cleveland Museum of Natural History on sauropod dinosaurs. CFI Michigan heard a lecture on “Darwin and the soul” from Mark Reimers, Professor of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering at Michigan State University.

The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Studies also took part in the Darwin Day festivities. In a separate event in Tampa, Florida, TIES held a workshop for 45 teachers, facilitated by Kenny Coogan. In addition to Darwin Day activities, just last weekend TIES director Bertha Vazquez delivered a presentation on the program—“Evolution Education: A Success Story”— for the Central Florida Freethought Community. TIES also broke new ground with its first workshop in the state of Indiana at the Indiana Science Teachers Annual Conference in Indianapolis.

Speaking of Indiana, dire weather forecasts, slick roads, delayed flights, and rampant flu viruses could not stop CFI Indiana from carrying forward with its annual Civic Day, which boasted a truly impressive lineup of leaders, activists, and scholars, all with a mind to prepare attendees to make positive change in policy. (Don’t worry, the people with the flu stayed home.)

Held at the Indiana State Library, attendees of the event heard from experts representing organizations such as the ACLU of Indiana, Women4Change Indiana, the Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana Coalition for Public Education, and more, as well as CFI’s own legal director, Nick Little. After the presentations, folks headed to CFI Indiana’s headquarters for food and fellowship. Nature threw a lot at Civic Day 2018, but thankfully a truly meaningful and enlightening time was had by all.

 

Privileging Religion By Any Means

Amid the great tragedies and scandals of recent weeks, the Trump administration and its allies in Congress have gone under the radar to launch a flurry of new attacks on secular government by defending religiously based discrimination, taking cynical advantage of disasters, and undermining children’s education. Here are some of the issues CFI has been working on in February:

Religious Right Watchdogs at the DOJ: Earlier this month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions established a new policy requiring each U.S. Attorney’s office to assign a staffer to monitor all cases involving “religious liberty,” which is code for those instances when a religious individual or organization wants the freedom to discriminate against anyone who does not conform to their beliefs.

Career attorneys are instructed to bring these cases to political appointees so they can advance their agenda of privileging religious belief over equality and rule of law. If a business refuses service to LGBTQ Americans, if women seeking contraceptive services are turned away, or a transgender person is denied the use of a public bathroom, the Justice Department will defend those responsible for the discrimination in the name of religious liberty. “All Americans, including those of all faiths and those of no faith, should be able to rely on fair treatment from the Department of Justice,” said CFI Legal Director Nick Little in our statement. “By this policy, Jeff Sessions has handed the keys to his Department to the religious Right.”

Passing the Collection Plate to FEMA: To aid in rebuilding after hurricanes and wildfires caused incredible damage in several states, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides grants to private facilities that perform essential social services for the general public, such as community centers, homeless shelters, and senior citizen centers. But in its Bipartisan Budget Agreement, the U.S. Senate has declared “houses of worship” to be eligible for FEMA grants as well, allowing churches to use taxpayer dollars to improve their facilities.

“Houses of worship are already eligible to get government grants to cover damages incurred when serving their community,” CFI Director of Government Affairs Jason Lemieux pointed out. “If churches want protection against damage from natural disasters, that’s what insurance is for.” Jason was cited in Emma Green’s article on this issue for The Atlantic.

Public Funds for Private Indoctrination: Also stuffed into the Senate’s budget bill was a provision that would siphon taxpayer money away from public schools receiving disaster relief and into a school voucher scheme, diverting $2.7 billion in badly needed public funds toward private schools, the vast majority of which are religious. Jason Lemieux called out the Senate for “[using] disaster relief as a cover to divert taxpayer money to vouchers for religious schools that can discriminate against LGBTQ, disabled, and nonreligious children.”

Days later, the White House followed suit. In its 2019 budget request, the Trump administration seeks to allot $1 billion in taxpayer funds for voucher programs—four times the amount requested in the previous year. CFI spoke out against the funding of schools that are free to discriminate. “This administration is falling over itself to please the religious Right,” said CFI’s president and CEO, Robyn Blumner, “and this time it is to encourage parents to remove their children from pluralistic and secular public schools to enroll them instead in schools designed to indoctrinate children into religious beliefs.”

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

February is Black History Month, the perfect opportunity to learn more about African Americans throughout history whose humanism and skepticism not only helped establish the foundations of our secularist movement, but fought for and inspired monumental progress for civil and human rights, science, and the arts.

Take the time to visit CFI’s African Americans for Humanism website, and rediscover some of these pivotal historical figures, such as Frederick Douglass, anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, poets and novelists James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, actress Butterfly McQueen, and others.

New on CFI’s Reasonable Talk video series:

Ross Blocher is cohost with Carrie Poppy of the Oh No, Ross and Carrie! podcast. In his CSICon 2017 presentation, Blocher explains how his experiences with believers of all stripes taught him that the best way to make progress for reason is to prioritize friendship and understanding with those who don’t think like us.

Also from CSICon 2017, Teresa Giménez Barbat, a member of the European Parliament, discusses her efforts to denounce pseudoscience and defend a secular society, as well as her theories about how secularism is the keystone for peaceful coexistence among people of varying beliefs.

Skeptical Inquirer, CSICOP.org, and more

From Skeptical Inquirer’s important recent issue on racism, Sam Scott profiles the work Jennifer Eberhardt whose groundbreaking research has revealed “the long, pernicious reach of unconscious racial bias,” and psychology professor Terence Hines looks at the pseudoscience upon which white supremacists hang their pointy hoods and tells us why talking them out of their racism is so difficult.

Harriet Hall wants you to know that despite some spooking from the media, copper won’t kill you, whether it be in bracelet form or as a mug for your beverage. One take-home lesson: “Copper is good for you in small amounts but bad for you in large amounts. (Which is true of a great many things, even water.)”

Jonathan Jarry brings more CSICon video interviews, this time with “skeptical dentist” Grant Richey, who takes on dental pseudoscience, and CFI’s own super-investigator Joe Nickell. Plus, check out Joe’s review of the film Winchester. (It doesn’t fare well.)

Commander-in-chief of the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia project, Susan Gerbic, chronicled her month-long skeptic’s journey through Europe…in a five-part series! Here are parts one, two, three, and four, and part five is coming soon.

At Free Thinking, Ben Radford says that the pearl-clutching over the Fifty Shades movies, and claims that they are somehow dangerous to society (for reasons other than being terrible movies), are insufficiently warranted and fail to give women enough credit for being able to distinguish between reality and fiction.

 

Upcoming CFI Events

CFI National

  • March 8: Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Studies (TIES) online workshop, with John Mead discussing the discovery of the species Homo naledi.
  • March 16: TIES webinar with Kathleen McAuliffe, author of This is Your Brain on Parasites.


CFI Austin


CFI Indiana

  • March 18: The first of a three-part event celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s original novel Frankenstein.
  • March 27: Discussion on Frankenstein and today’s technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloning, and genetic modification. Panelists include Indiana University health and humanities professor Emily Beckman, Saint Louis University ethics professor Jason Aberl, and Rufus Cochran of the Indiana Science Communication and Education Foundation.


CFI Los Angeles

CFI Tampa Bay

  • February 24: Experts at the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) guide an exploration of the stars in a SkyWatch event.

  • March 8: Robert A. Levy of the Cato Institute debates James Michael Shaw, Jr. of the Greater Tampa Chapter of the ACLU on the Supreme Court case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.


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. 99

Wed, 02/07/2018 - 10:16am

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 Stories

Committee for Skeptical Inquiry Elects Six New Fellows

To be elected into a group that includes (or has included) such luminaries as Isaac Asimov, Francis Crick, Jill Tarter, Eugenie Scott, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan, and Carl Sagan is no small accomplishment, and six new scientists, scholars, and communicators have been elected to do just that. Six new fellows have been elected to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a program of the Center for Inquiry.

CSI fellows are elected for their distinguished service to science and skepticism, serving as advisors to CSI and its magazine, Skeptical Inquirer, and are invited to share their expertise and advice on the program’s issues and projects. Fellows are nominated and elected by CSI’s twelve-member Executive Council, and elections take place every several years.

This latest class of Fellows, elected at the end of 2017, are ready to be announced, and they include a mentalist, an expert on mass delusions, a “guerilla skeptic,” a GMO scientist, the editor of a UK skeptics’ magazine, and one of the world’s most respected climate scientists:

  • Banachek (aka Steve Shaw), a professional magician and mentalist who has collaborated with James Randi, Criss Angel, and Penn and Teller, has performed on over 225 TV episodes and over 300 radio programs. He directed the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge, has been the International Magicians Society Mentalist of the year and twice been APCA College Entertainer of the year.
  • Robert Bartholomew, introduced to Cause & Effect readers in December, is a sociologist and investigative journalist, currently teaching history at Botany College in Auckland, New Zealand. He has earned the respect of the skeptic community through his sociological studies on mass hysteria, moral panics, social delusions, folklore, and the paranormal. He is the author of many books, including American Hauntings: True Stories Behind Hollywood’s Scariest Movies (2015, with CSI’s Joe Nickell), Mass Hysteria in Schools: A Worldwide History Since 1566 (2014), The Martians Have Landed: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes (2012, with CSI’s Benjamin Radford), and the forthcoming American Intolerance: Our Dark History of Demonizing Immigrants (2018), among many others.
  • Kevin Folta is professor and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, is a leading voice for the evidence-based risks and benefits of genetic engineering in crops and medicine, and a defender against misinformation in food, farming, and other areas of science. He led the project to sequence the strawberry genome; trains scientists, students, farmers, and others in science communication; and hosts the evidence-based podcast Talking Biotech.
  • Susan Gerbic is founder and leader of the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) project (as well as the most comprehensive interviewer of CSICon speakers). The GSoW project has made a major contribution to the skeptic movement by ensuring that skepticism-related Wikipedia articles on topics, claims, and individual scientists/skeptics are accurate, thorough, and well cited. She has recruited and trained a large international group of Wikipedia editors knowledgeable about scientific skepticism and skeptical topics. She is also cofounder of Monterey County Skeptics and a frequent contributor to Skeptical Inquirer.
  • Deborah Hyde is a folklorist, cultural anthropologist, and editor in chief of the UK-based magazine The Skeptic. She writes and lectures extensively about superstition, cryptozoology, religion, and belief in the paranormal with special regard to the folklore, psychology, and sociology behind these phenomena. She introduced the Ockham Awards to reward successful skeptical activism and recently added the “Rusty Razor” award for the worst bit of pseudoscience of the year (won by Goop, of course). These awards have become a standard part of the QED annual conference in Manchester, U.K., and attract a great deal of media attention.
  • Michael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and director of the Earth Systems Sciences Center at the Pennsylvania State University. He is likely best known for introducing the visual conceptualization of the progress of climate change with the famous “hockey stick” chart, for which he has become a prime target of science deniers. He is the author of more than 200 peer-reviewed and edited publications, as well as author of three books: The Madhouse Effect (2016, with cartoonist Tom Toles), The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (2012), and Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming (2008). He has been a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments of climate science. He is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Congratulations and welcome to our new fellows! The full list of CSI fellows can be found on the inside cover of each issue of Skeptical Inquirer and on the CSI website.

 

TIES Launches First Online Workshops

The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) is a truly groundbreaking program, providing middle school science teachers with the training and resources they need to feel confident and fully informed when teaching evolution, helping to spark a love of science in students. Now with thirty-five presenters, TIES has held seventy-five training workshops for middle school teachers in thirty-one states and provides free educational resources on its website. But for all the teachers who have benefited from the program so far, not everyone can be in the same place at the same time.

Last week, TIES took a huge step toward making this invaluable program available to teachers regardless of geography with the first of its online training workshops. The first webinar, “Evolution for Educators,” provided science teachers, homeschooling parents, and other curious participants with some of the most up-to-date concepts of natural selection, common ancestry, and diversity in order for them to confidently cover the topics in their classrooms and fulfill their curriculum requirements. It was facilitated by TIES Director Bertha Vazquez, herself a Miami-area middle school science teacher, who was recently honored with the Evolution Education Award by the National Association of Biology Teachers.

The next evening, TIES presented a special webinar featuring Michael Ryan, Clark Hubbs Regents Professor in Zoology at the University of Texas, Austin, and author of A Taste for the Beautiful: Evolution by Attraction. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Dr. Ryan discussed the astonishing story of how the female brain drives the evolution of beauty in animals and humans.

Initial feedback on these two online sessions has been extremely positive. Stay tuned because this is just the beginning.

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

In The Atlantic, Isabel Fattal reports on the development of the new atheism studies program at the University of Miami—brought into existence by freethinking philanthropist Louis Appignani—to be chaired by current Notre Dame philosophy of science professor Anjan Chakravartty.

Eugenie Scott’s full CSICon 2017 talk is now up on Reasonable Talk, CFI’s video series featuring the best presentations from CFI events, in which she discusses why it is that people disregard science and facts when they challenge their existing beliefs.

Also on Reasonable Talk, veteran skeptic Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, talks about four decades of experiences from his life and the moments that led him to become the celebrated skeptic and science communicator we know today.

At CFI’s Free Thinking blog, Benjamin Radford explains the many, many things that are wrong with the attempts made by the “ghost hunters” on the Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab to get a recording of Wild Bill Hickok’s restless spirit.

Great new video and articles at CSICOP.org:

  • Jonathan Jarry from the McGill Office for Science and Society brings two new video interviews with speakers from CSICon 2017 in Las Vegas:
    • Eugenie Scott discusses public attitudes toward science and what skeptics can do to improve the situation.
    • Alison Bernstein, a professor of translational science and molecular medicine, is one of the reality-based parents featured in the new Science Moms documentary, and she talks about the ways mothers are targeted with pseudoscience that preys on their fears.

  • Stuart Vyse looks back on the work of the transformative psychologist William James, whose fascination with the spiritual lead him to research the claims of psychics and a search for a “third way” between belief and skepticism.
  • For Skeptical Briefs, Sharon Hill dismantles the “sciencey-sounding” concept known as “stone tape theory,” in which the bedrock of a building is said to “record” the spiritual energy of hauntings or traumatic events. (Perhaps William James would have liked to have looked into this.)
  • Joe Nickell investigates the claims of a “witch’s grave” in Tallahassee, and he really has no patience for the slandering of a dead woman’s memory. “Everything we know of Bessie Graham speaks of the tragically brief life of a very good woman.”
  • Plus, Buffalo Rising touts the February 7 appearance of Joe as he headlines the University at Buffalo’s Science & Art Cabaret, discussing his investigations of the paranormal.

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

  • February 10: 8th Annual Civic Day with CFI’s Nick Little, Terri Jett from the ACLU of Indiana, Rima Shahid of Women4Change Indiana, and many more.
  • March 18: The first of a three-part event celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s original novel Frankenstein.
  • March 27: Discussion on Frankenstein and today’s technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloning, and genetic modification. Panelists include Indiana University health and humanities professor Emily Beckman, Saint Louis University ethics professor Jason Aberl, and Rufus Cochran of the Indiana Science Communication and Education Foundation.


CFI Michigan


CFI Portland

  • February 11: CFI Portland board member and biologist Jon Peters speaks at the Southminster Presbyterian Church about the evolution of whales for Darwin Day.

CFI Tampa Bay

  • February 24: Experts at the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) guide an exploration of the stars in a SkyWatch event.


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. 98

Wed, 01/24/2018 - 7:57am


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

The Atlantic Magazine Profiles CFI’s Secular Rescue

This week, The Atlantic introduced the world to a Center for Inquiry program that exemplifies our commitment to free inquiry and humanist values: Secular Rescue.

As we have seen far too many times, to be an outspoken atheist in certain parts of the world is to put your life at risk. With Secular Rescue, we assist freethinking writers and activists whose lives are in danger by helping them relocate to safety. Dozens of individuals have been saved through Secular Rescue, relocated from countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iraq, and now living safely and free to continue to shine the light of reason.

Writing for The Atlantic, David Robson spoke to CFI staff, academics and experts, and most importantly, one of the people who has been helped by Secular Rescue, the remarkable Lubna Yaseen. Targeted for her defiance of religion and the subjugation of women, militants in her conservative Iraq community threatened her life. “I disappeared—I left everything. I had to be always on the run, changing places and disguises,” she told The Atlantic. “I couldn’t feel anything except that I would end up being killed.”

Writes Robson, “Yaseen would still be at risk if it weren’t for the actions of Secular Rescue.”

Lubna goes into greater depth about her journey in her piece for Free Inquiry, “Resisting Radical Islam: My Escape to Freedom,” now available free online.

In the Atlantic article, Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of CFI, likens Secular Rescue to “an underground railroad for atheists,” from which the piece derives its title. Robyn acknowledges the inherent challenge in rallying support to the cause of saving atheists. “Part of the problem is that people don’t like atheists and it’s hard to protect a group you don’t like.”

Read the whole article here, and share it with your friends and social networks. Hopefully, it will awaken many more people to this crisis, and they will recognize that this kind of violence and persecution toward any group is unacceptable. Whether you like them or not.

 

HHS “Religious Freedom Division” Is a Health and Human Disservice

In Donald Trump’s version of the Environmental Protection Agency, administrator Scott Pruitt sees to it that the agency does anything but protect the environment. It follows, then, that the Trump Administration would find a way to make it so that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) takes steps to prevent humans from receiving health services, and as is so often the case, the magic words used to justify this reversal are “religious liberty.”

Last week, it was reported that the HHS’s Office of Civil Rights would create a “Conscience and Religious Freedom Division,” which will defend the religious privilege of health care providers who claim their beliefs conflict with particular procedures or categories of care, including but not limited to abortions and sex-reassignment surgery. Instead of protecting the civil rights of people to receive health care, this division will protect the civil rights of beliefs in order to stop people from receiving health care.

CFI Director of Government Affairs Jason Lemieux said in our statement that this office represents “an abdication of the department’s vital responsibility to the health of all Americans, placing the dogmatic beliefs of a few above the health and lives of the people they serve.”

Nick Little, CFI’s vice president and legal counsel, said, “Religious beliefs do not need the protection of the HHS and its Civil Rights Division. It is Americans’ fundamental civil right to safe and secular health care that needs the protection of the HHS.”

 

A New Season of Reason with Reasonable Talk

CFI’s Reasonable Talk, our video series showcasing the best of CFI’s conferences and events, is back for a fifth season, starting with three great talks from CSICon 2017 in Las Vegas.

First, academic psychologist Rob Brotherton delves into the mind of the conspiracy theorist, exploring what has only recently been learned about “suspicious minds” and how all of us might be wired to believe in them.

Britt Marie Hermes is a former naturopath who is now a whistleblower against the unscientific, unregulated, and unsafe practices of the naturopathic profession. As Hermes explains, while many naturopathic doctors (NDs) practice without any kind of licensure, it’s the officially sanctioned NDs that may be the most dangerous.

The genetic engineering of plants and animals can address some of the most pressing problems faced by people all over the world, providing food and medicine through sustainable means. But as we learn from Kevin Folta, this needs to be communicated to the broader public in order to tamp down the irrational and destructive fears people have of the dreaded acronym “GMO.”

You can also check out video interviews with both Hermes and Folta from CSICon by the McGill Office for Science and Society.

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

Robert E. Bartholomew, a new fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, writes a special report on the recent Senate hearing on an alleged “sonic attack” in Cuba. Despite the doubts of some of the senators, Bartholomew cautions against blanket dismissal. Of those who claim to have experienced the attack, he says, “most are normal, healthy people who are experiencing a collective stress reaction.”

At the CFI Free Thinking blog, Benjamin Radford checks out an attempt to revive the “Blue Whale Suicide Game” conspiracy theory, and looks at the various ways people try to explain away the baffling contradictory statements emitted regularly by President Trump.

From the Joe Nickell snake oil collection, we have Celerina, a cure-all based on cocaine, which, interestingly, was not too far off from the original form of Coca-Cola, “The Ideal Nerve and Brain Tonic.” Plus, Joe reviews The Greatest Showman, the film based on the life of P.T. Barnum.

An antiabortion group at Oxford holding an event on the impact of abortion on men rescinded invitations from two speakers, one of whom was none other than Vincent Rue, the right-wing fixer behind many cases of manufactured and pseudoscientific “expert testimony” in U.S. abortion court cases. Oxford outlet Cherwell quotes CFI’s Nick Little about what is so problematic about this fellow, and Rue himself seems to know who’s got his number, citing “the Dawkins Foundations’ accusations.”

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

  • February 10: Darwin Day 2018 with keynote presentations, kids’ science activities, and more.


CFI Indiana

  • February 10: 8th Annual Civic Day with CFI’s Nick Little, Terri Jett from the ACLU of Indiana, Rima Shahid of Women4Change Indiana, and many more.


CFI Michigan


CFI Tampa Bay

 

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. 97

Wed, 01/10/2018 - 8:47am

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

New Leadership for a New Year at Two CFI Branches

The new year begins with a new chapter for two of the Center for Inquiry’s vital and active local branches, as two dedicated members of the CFI family step into key leadership roles.

A decade ago, the Freethought Association of West Michigan had already been going strong for ten years when it merged with the Center for Inquiry, becoming CFI’s Michigan branch. At that time, CFI Michigan hired Jennifer Beahan as the assistant director, working with longtime Executive Director Jeff Seaver. Over the next ten years, CFI Michigan has hosted hundreds of lectures, organized civic events and family activities, and put their humanism into action with frequent “secular service” events.

At the end of 2017, Jeff stepped down from his position at CFI Michigan, now in its twenty-first year, and as Jennifer takes on the role of executive director of CFI Michigan. As Jeff wrote in a message to branch members, “I have full confidence in her as a talented and able leader who is personally invested and committed to CFI Michigan’s important work.” All of us at CFI share Jeff’s confidence in Jen.

“As I transition into the role of executive director, I look forward to leading the charge in our fight to defend science, reason, free inquiry, and humanist values,” wrote Jen in her own message. “I am honored by the continued support of our community and grateful for the countless hours Jeff Seaver … and all of our volunteers and members have devoted to building this community over the past twenty years.”

We turn then to the Center for Inquiry’s transnational headquarters in Amherst, New York, which is not only the base of CFI’s operations around the world, but also the home of our thriving and close-knit local branch for Western New York. Volunteer Program Director John Barrett transitioned to becoming chair of the branch’s advisory board on January 1. Stepping up to becoming the branch’s new program director and its first paid staff member is Stef McGraw.

Stef began as an outreach intern in 2012 and was hired as a full-time staff member in 2014. Her devotion and considerable communication and leadership skills were obvious from the beginning. Now, Stef will be dividing her time between her outreach duties for the national organization and running CFI Western New York.

“CFI Western New York became my community group for secular activism and skeptical conversation,” wrote Stef in a message to branch members. “Now, I’m excited to have the opportunity to make this group even stronger so that it can serve even more humanists and skeptics in our region.” We have no doubt she will do just that.

 

CFI Michigan Celebrates 20 Years at Solstice Awards Ceremony

CFI Michigan hosted their annual Solstice Dinners in Grand Rapids and Madison Heights (in the Detroit Area) on December 13 and 16 respectively, with 120 combined attendees, despite the terrible snow storm.

Eddie Tabash, CFI’s Board Chair, was the special guest at both dinners, and spoke about the dangers our movement and our country are currently facing and how supporting CFI is crucial to confronting those challenges. He also facilitated the “passing of the torch,” as mentioned in the above news item, honoring Jeff Seaver for twenty years of dedicated work building CFI Michigan. Eddie also expressed his confidence, and that of the national CFI leadership, in Jennifer Beahan as she takes on her new role as executive director.

The Advisory Board honored Jeff with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Freethinker of the Year Award was presented to longtime member and supporter of CFI Michigan, Carl Bajema. Carl was a professor of biology at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) for more than forty years, with visiting professorships and fellowships at several institutions including Harvard. He has been a member of the branch since the early days of the Freethought Association, was responsible for first bringing Richard Dawkins to Michigan to speak at GVSU in 1997, and was a vocal supporter of evolution when other biology professors at GVSU were advancing creationism. He was responsible for authoring the Michigan Science Standards for teaching evolution.

The Volunteer of the Year Awards were presented to the Shel Lynn Hawthorne and Dave Jensen, an inseparable pair who have volunteered together for several years. Jennifer noted, “It has been a pleasure to watch them go from quiet, introverted attendees who would sneak out before the Q&A was finished so that they didn’t have to talk to people … to becoming regular attendees at the information and sales tables at our regular meetings. Shel has been a dedicated volunteer to video tape our meetings, in spite of battling serious illness for the past year. Their dedication and perseverance has made them incredibly valuable volunteers.”

 

Was Jesus a Man or a Myth? A Heated Debate in Free Inquiry

The assertion that a historical Jesus once walked the Earth is obviously of monumental consequence to billions of Christians, and the question of the historicity of Jesus Christ, whether or not such a person ever existed, has been a matter of heated debate for centuries. Perhaps surprisingly, a great deal of that heat is generated from the arguments among nonbelievers! And the latest issue of Free Inquiry, the magazine of CFI’s Council for Secular Humanism, is practically ablaze from the disagreement between freethought factions as to whether Jesus was a real person or a myth.

This special cover feature is framed as a response to two previous articles by historian and Free Inquiry Senior Editor Bill Cooke, “Why Secular Humanists Should Abandon the Myth Theory of Jesus” (December 2016/January 2017) and “The Mythical Jesus Argument: What’s the Key Issue?” (October/November 2017) Representing the mythologist position for this issue are Biblical scholar Robert M. Price; David Fitzgerald, author of two books on the subject; and NASA engineer Michael Paulkovich.

These writers hold nothing back in their fervent assault on the historicity position. “Jesus myth theory is Kryptonite for Christians. They can’t even enjoy a relaxed agnosticism about the mere possibility of mythicism being true,” writes FItzgerald. “They need Jesus not to be a myth. Unfortunately, he is a myth.”

“If Jesus was as famous as the Bible claims,” writes Paulkovich, “somebody during the first century—outside of the authors of the New Testament fantasies—would have written about him.”

Cooke himself gets the chance to respond in kind, characterizing the mythologist position as a mirror image of evangelical Christianity’s conception of Jesus, adding, “Mythicist scholarship ... bears some uncomfortably close similarities to conspiracy theorist thinking.”

This issue of Free Inquiry also includes a moving essay from Lubna Ahmed Yaseen, a remarkable woman who escaped persecution in Iraq with help from CFI’s Secular Rescue program, and a personal story from Nigerian activist Leo Igwe on his journey toward humanism and the fight against deadly superstitious beliefs in Africa. Plus so much more.

Free Inquiry is available on newsstands, and by print or web subscription at secularhumanism.org/fi.

 

Latest Point of Inquiry Podcast is Non-Organic and Artificially Sweetened

Will sugar really kill you? Or will it be artificial sweeteners that do you in? Is it really better to eat organic, or is it more of a status symbol? Point of Inquiry host Paul Fidalgo is, like many folks, confused about all of the conflicting health and nutrition information swirling around. That’s why on the latest episode of CFI’s flagship podcast, he’s got two brilliant and hilarious guests to help sort through it all: skeptic activists and writers Yvette d’Entremont, also known as the “SciBabe,” and Kavin Senapathy, who also appears in the new documentary Science Moms.

These three spend an hour clearing up myths, discussing their own journeys into science and reason, and laughing at their own jokes. A lot. It’s a great way to kick off a year of critical thinking, so go get the latest Point of Inquiry now at Apple Podcasts, Google Play, TuneIn, or wherever you get podcasts.

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

Climate scientist Mark Boslough, a fellow of CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, has for four years in a row challenged climate change deniers to prove their case and put up $25,000 to make it interesting. He started in partnership with CFI back in 2015. No one has taken him up on the challenge yet, but Mark is at it again, as he explains at HuffPost.

New from Skeptical Inquirer:

Like so much else in our culture, the new year brings with it its own myths, particularly about dieting. Some of these are addressed and deflated by Benjamin Radford at the CFI Free Thinking blog.

Also at the blog, Joe Nickell shows off a new acquisition, a pre-Civil War bottle for Sands’s Sarsaparilla: “It purifies, cleanses, and strengthens the fountain springs of life, and infuses new vigor throughout the whole animal frame.” Sounds like it could be sold by Goop.

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

 

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.

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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. 96

Wed, 12/27/2017 - 12:02pm

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

The Anti-Claus Works on Christmas, Raises Thousands for Secular Rescue

For the vast majority of those reading this newsletter, Christmas Day was a day off of work. (If you’re a parent of young kids, you were likely still doing a great deal of work but not being paid for it.) The same is true for the Center for Inquiry (CFI), for though we are one of the world’s leading secularist and skeptic organizations, we also understand and appreciate the meaning and significance of this time of year for so many non-Christians, religious and nonreligious alike. In fact, The Columbus Dispatch just spoke to Monette Richards, executive director of CFI Northeast Ohio, about this very phenomenon, wherein Christmas is a primarily secular holiday, the religious roots of which are incidental.

But one member of our CFI family is having none of it, and that’s of course the “Anti-Claus” himself, Tom Flynn. Apart from being executive director of CFI’s Council for Secular Humanism and editor of Free Inquiry magazine, Tom is also the author of The Trouble with Christmas, and in accordance with his outright rejection of the holiday, every year on Christmas Day Tom comes into the office and works a normal day.

And so he did this year as well, but rather than toil away in solitude, Tom found a way to bring his special brand of yuletide defiance to the world and even help a very good cause.

On Christmas Day (or, as Tom thought of it, last Monday) Tom livestreamed his workday online. While “doing editor stuff” at his desk, he took questions from viewers, explained some of the weirder aspects of the Santa mythos (if you want to feel really unsettled about Santa legends, go look up his buddy Black Pete), and most importantly, helped raise money for CFI’s Secular Rescue program.

Secular Rescue is the CFI initiative that seeks to lend assistance to those secularist writers and activists whose lives are threatened by religious extremists in places such as Bangladesh, Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere. Dozens of freethinkers have been brought to safety thanks to Secular Rescue, and they are once again free to speak their minds and serve as courageous examples to others around the world.

At the end of Tom’s marathon broadcast, CFI Vice President for Philanthropy Martina Fern announced that viewers pitched in over $2500 for Secular Rescue, and with the help of some very generous supporters, those donations were matched, bringing in more than $5000.

So whether or not you celebrate Christmas or any other holiday, even Tom agrees that doing this kind of good deed is a really wonderful gift.

You can still watch the recording of the livestream right here, in case you need seven hours worth of Tom Flynn to keep you company. Maybe next year, Tom will livestream through all eight days of Hanukkah. We’ll ask.

 

A One-Two Punch to Homeopathy

Two salvos were launched against the deceptive and dangerous marketing of homeopathic fake medicine last week, both thanks to the Center for Inquiry’s relentless pursuit of stricter regulation of these baseless treatments.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it would begin to take a tougher stance against the manufacturers of those homeopathic products that pose the greatest risk to consumers’ health and safety. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said, “We respect that some individuals want to use alternative treatments, but the FDA has a responsibility to protect the public from products that may not deliver any benefit and have the potential to cause harm.”

We cautiously applauded this news, noting that CFI has been pushing for these changes for many years and in 2015, was invited to deliver testimony to the FDA on homeopathy. Gizmodo even gave CFI credit for this new development. But still in all this time, very little has changed, so we will be watching closely to see whether the FDA follows through.

A few days later, CFI filed a complaint against CVS Health in the DIstrict of Columbia’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. We warned that CVS is both deceiving and endangering the health of its customers by marketing homeopathic products as though they are scientifically proven treatments (which they are most certainly not) and displaying those products alongside real, evidence-based medicine.

“CVS is deliberately creating the false impression that homeopathic products are as safe and effective as scientifically-proven medicine,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel, in our statement. “By obscuring the crucial distinction between genuine and sham treatments, CVS is unscrupulously abusing the trust of its customers while putting their health and even their lives at risk.”

Stay tuned as this reinvigorated push against fake medicine proceeds.

 

Policy Update: Johnson Amendment and CDC’s Seven Words

The religious Right has been relentless in its efforts to dismantle the Johnson Amendment, the law that bars tax-exempt nonprofits (such as churches and the Center for Inquiry) from endorsing or advocating against candidates for political office. The amendment has taken blows from executive orders and sneaky legislative schemes since Trump came to office, and the end of the amendment truly seemed nigh when its repeal was included in the GOP’s major tax-cut bill.

Well now there’s good news, whatever one might think of the tax overhaul itself. Thanks in large part to the pressure exerted by you and all those who spoke out against this repeal, religious and nonreligious alike, by the time of final passage the scrapping of the Johnson Amendment was no longer part of the bill. This is certainly not going to be the last time the religious Right tries to kill the Johnson Amendment, but we can be proud that as of now the law still stands.

Also, you may have noticed the outcry over news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reportedly “banned” the use of the following words in its reports: “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.” If true, this would have indicated a whole new level of Orwellian Newspeak.

But now it looks like the truth was that experts readying the budget proposal for the science and diversity-hostile GOP Congress suggested that these words might raise red flags and complicate their efforts. Either way, we released a statement telling the CDC to stand firm, advising them “to reject this aggressive strain of ignorance and hostility which seeks to make ‘science’ a dirty word. The CDC cannot stay above the fray of politics by choosing to serve some Americans at the expense of others.”

 

A Few Days Left to Make an Enormous Impact

Louis Appignani is helping us to start 2018 stronger than ever, challenging the supporters of reason and science to give our shared mission the resources we need to make even greater progress. 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, but that’s just a few short days away!

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 opportunity. 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.

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

UFOs have been top-of-mind lately after the New York Times reported on secretive military projects intended to investigate sightings of unknown craft. Looking to get a rational look at belief in aliens and UFOs, Alexandra Ossola at Futurism spoke to CFI’s Joe Nickell. They discussed the importance of scientific rigor in the evaluation of UFO claims and why believing in UFOs doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.

Joe’s vast knowledge of the paranormal was also sought by the UK’s The Sun, where he brought the skeptical perspective to reports of spontaneous human combustion.

Religious Right commentator Dennis Prager runs an online fake-university (it’s really just a YouTube channel) called “PragerU,” and in one such “course,” an article by Peter Schenkel in Skeptical Inquirer is invoked to help prove the existence of God. Not so fast, says YouTuber potholer54, who lays out exactly how our magazine was misquoted and misconstrued.

At CFI’s Free Thinking blog, Benjamin Radford backs up the principle of due diligence in reporting, responding to some of the backlash he saw from his piece on the exaggerated reports of displeasure over a black Santa.

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

  • January 30: At “Books, Booze, and Brains,” computer scientists Matt Powers and George Takahashi discuss Ready Player One.

CFI Western New York

  • January 19: CFI’s new Director of Government Affairs, Jason Lemieux, presents a talk on his experience as a congressional staffer and what it’s taught him about getting through to public officials.


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

“Anti-Claus” Tom Flynn to Livestream Work Day on Christmas for Life-Saving Charity

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 9:52am

On December 25, you can bear witness to a one-man War on Christmas, as Tom Flynn (aka “The Anti-Claus”) broadcasts a merry act of yuletide defiance, livestreaming his very ordinary work day, answering real-time questions, and doing some good for persecuted nonbelievers on the other side of the globe.

From 10am to 5pm ET on Christmas Day, Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry magazine, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, and author of The Trouble with Christmas, will do as he always does: work his regular office 

hours. (After all, it’s not the birthday of anyone he knows.) But this year, Tom will share his solitary workday with the world with a livestream from the headquarters of the Center for Inquiry (CFI) in Amherst, New York.

While he works, alone in an empty Center for Inquiry building, Tom will answer select questions from viewers and solicit donations to CFI’s Secular Rescue program, which helps bring to safety those secularist writers and activists in countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iraq, whose lives are threatened by religious extremists.

To make it more fun, and a little more nerve-wracking for Tom, viewers can donate into one of two columns: Christmas Spirit or Lump of Coal. If enough donations come through the Christmas Spirit column, Tom promises to do something Christmassy like trim a tree. (“Oh, I cringe when I even think of that,” says Tom.”) And if sufficient donations come into the Lump of Coal column, Tom will blaspheme against the holiday, such as tossing said tree off a loading dock.

Plus, those who give to Secular Rescue during the livestream will be eligible for special prizes, such as a framed piece of embroidery bearing the words “Santa Can Suck It.” It’s all a chance for some light-hearted and snarky fun, all for a vital cause for free expression and the lives of persecuted dissidents around the world.

Tom Flynn the Anti-Claus will begin the livestream on December 25 at 10am ET, going until this very ordinary day’s close of business at 5pm ET. Viewers everywhere, whether they love Christmas or hate it, can tune in at centerforinquiry.net/christmas.

# # #

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

No Johnson Amendment Repeal in GOP Tax Bill

Fri, 12/15/2017 - 10:45am

Today, Congress’ final tax reform bill is revealed to the public. We’re pleased to let you know that the bill does not contain language to attack the Johnson Amendment. Churches will continue to be banned from endorsing candidates for office. There won’t be any new tax deductions for contributing to a theocratic super PAC. 

CFI supporters like you helped to make a positive change. The separation of church and state is a pillar of our constitutional democracy, and your advocacy helped protect our system of government from the influence of religion.

This doesn’t mean that our fight is over. As we speak, the religious right searches for a new legislative vehicle through which to implement their theocratic agenda. We need to stay vigilant and prepare to speak out again. And with your support, CFI will be right there in the halls of Congress, working with our allies to keep the U.S. free and secular.  

Once again, thank you for making your voice heard. When we act together, we hold our elected government accountable to the ever-rising percentage of secularists, nonbelievers, and skeptics in American society.

Jason Lemieux
Director of Government Affairs
Center for Inquiry

P.S. From now until December 31, Louis Appignani is matching every donation to CFI up to a quarter million dollars. There’s never been a better time to be a part of our movement for science and reason. Make your matched donation today and double your impact.

# # #

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. 95

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 10:36am

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

Robert Bartholomew Elected to CSI Fellows

This month, CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) welcomed its newest fellow, Dr. Robert Bartholomew of South Auckland, New Zealand. Nominated and elected by CSI’s twelve-member Executive Council, fellows are chosen for their distinguished contributions to science and skepticism, as well as their demonstrated ability to provide practical advice and expertise on various issues and projects of importance to CSI.

Robert Bartholomew has earned the respect of the skeptic community through his sociological work on topics such as mass hysteria, moral panics, and mass delusions, as well as the history of folklore and the paranormal. Bartholomew teaches history at Botany Downs Secondary College in South Auckland, New Zealand, and has degrees in sociology from The Flinders University of South Australia, the State University of New York at Albany, and James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.

His books include American Hauntings: True Stories Behind Hollywood’s Scariest Movies (written with CSI’s Joe Nickell), A Colorful History of Popular DelusionsMass Hysteria in Schools: A Worldwide History Since 1566, The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America’s Loch Ness Monster, The Martians Have Landed: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes (written with CSI’s Benjamin Radford), and Panic Attacks: Media Manipulation & Mass Delusion, among many others.

As a fellow of CSI, Bartholomew joins a truly distinguished list of scientists, academics, writers, and activists such as astronomers Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jill Tarter; biologists Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson; Nobel laureate physicists or chemists Leon Lederman, Murray Gell-Mann, Steven Weinberg, and Sir Harry Kroto; philosophers Daniel C. Dennett, Susan Haack, and Mario Bunge; anthropologist Eugenie C. Scott; psychologists James Alcock, Ray Hyman, Steven Pinker, and Richard Wiseman; magician/author James Randi; science educator and television host Bill Nye; Cosmos creator/writer Ann Druyan; plus many prominent physicians and medical scientists who critique questionable medical claims.

 

A Quarter Million Reasons to Give Your Support

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

Margaret Sullivan on Point of Inquiry: Reality-Based News Must Rise Again

CFI’s flagship podcast Point of Inquiry returns this month with a timely interview on the state of the reality-based news media. Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist and former Public Editor of the New York Times, joins host Paul Fidalgo to discuss this most tumultuous moment for journalism, as news consumers must choose among not just different interpretations of current events but conflicting versions of reality.

Their wide-ranging conversation covers such topics as the recent revelations of sexual harassment at prominent news outlets, how the mainstream media must reckon with its mistakes leading up to the 2016 election, the failed efforts by a right-wing media operation to trick and embarrass the Washington Post, and even Sullivan’s own roots in Buffalo, New York, which also happens to be the home of the Center for Inquiry.

Listen and subscribe to Point of Inquiry on your podcast app of choice, or visit pointofinquiry.org.

 

Skeptical Inquirer on the Problem of Racism

We are living through a time of heightened racial tension and hostilities, particularly due to the aggression of white supremacists who have crept out from the shadows of society and onto the front pages. The issue of race is understandably impassioned, with conflicts driven by fear, anger, frustration, and resentment. That’s why now is the time for an exploration of America’s racial divides that is rational and evidence-based. This month, Skeptical Inquirer provides just that, a skeptic’s guide to the plague of racism.

In this latest issue, U.S. Air Force Academy psychologists Craig A. Foster and Steven M. Samuels write that the evidence-based tools of psychology and sociology must be brought to bear if racism is to be meaningfully reduced; Stuart Vyse argues for a new focus on the things that unite warring sides and seeks to accomplish shared goals together; Sam Scott highlights the groundbreaking work of Jennifer Eberhardt on how perceptions of racial groups badly distort justice; and Terence Hines compares the pseudoscientific justifications for white supremacy to the claims of astrology (though conceding that one never expects to see a group of astrologers “brandishing clubs and guns to attack a group of skeptics”).

Subscribe to Skeptical Inquirer today, in print or digitally on all major app platforms, and look for the January/February 2018 issue on newsstands now.

 

CFI Highlights on the Web

From Free Inquiry:

  • CFI’s president and CEO, Robyn Blumner, revisits the conflict that arose over Richard Dawkins’ scheduled event at KPFA in Berkeley, cancelled by the radio station over complaints about Dawkins’s statements on extremist Islam. Looking at the state of free speech and identity politics, Robyn says her heart “broke a little” seeing results of a poll showing college students with shockingly misguided ideas about what the First Amendment does and does not protect.
  • Rebecca Newberger Goldstein reconciles philosophy and the hard sciences, making a powerful case that these two fields should be seen as complementary, writing, “The progress that the Enlightenment unleashed regarding the questions both of what is and what matters has carried us forward to this moment, when we can discourse knowledgably not only about the universal stochastic laws of quantum mechanics but also about universal human rights.”
  • Tom Flynn delves into the records of the Templeton Foundation, the institution known for richly funding pseudo-academic attempts to legitimize religion as on par with science. Tom characterizes one project, “Understanding Unbelief,” as “nearly three million dollars for sharper tools to help believers explain, clinically, what’s wrong with nonbelievers.”

From Skeptical Inquirer and CSICOP.org:

  • Stuart Vyse introduces us to Dan Q. Posin, a DePaul University physics professor who helped popularize science from the 1950s to ’70s, an “elfin mustachioed man” who told “fascinating stories about atoms, comets, galaxies, and space travel.”
  • Stuart also takes a look at the utility of superstitious beliefs. While superstition’s rituals certainly have no real supernatural power, might they have some other benefits?
  • Susan Gerbic once again pursues her white whale, “grief vampire” Tyler Henry (aka “The Hollywood Medium”). This time, she parses Henry’s tactics from a Today Show appearance…which happens be along with Matt Lauer, who is in the news for…other reasons.

At the CFI Free Thinking Blog:

  • Joe Nickell investigates the legend of a treasure protected by a ghost—a stash of gold that is said to have been revealed by the ghost himself to the patrons of Buford’s Tavern in Virginia.
  • Showing that things are not always as rife with conflict as they’re made out to be, Benjamin Radford critiques the reporting on an alleged racist backlash against an African American man playing Santa—a backlash that, happily, never really was.
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

 

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. 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.

       •  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. 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