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"Cause & Effect" Newsletter: Time to March for Science, CFI hosts UN dignitary, and more

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Issue #79 — April 19, 2017

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!

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The Main Events

csicon17lvsq.jpgSave the Date for CSICon 2017! 

Last year’s CSICon in Las Vegas, the biggest skeptics’ event in the U.S., was a major success. People had such a great time that they couldn’t wait to come back. The question was asked of us again and again: When’s the next CSICon???

Here’s the answer. Mark your calendars for October 26–29, because CSICon 2017 is coming back to Vegas. Registration and schedule information is coming soon, so watch this space!


cfimarch2little.jpgThis Saturday: March for Science with CFI 

The March for Science is almost here! This Saturday, April 22, join the Center for Inquiry in cities across the country as we speak out for evidence-based policy, the integrity of science education, and diversity and inclusion in science and engineering.

Staff, volunteers, members, and friends of CFI are working hard to make a strong showing on behalf of our community, not only at the main Washington, DC march, but in many of the cities and towns where local marches will be taking place.

But the only way to make that strong showing possible is for people like you to join us!

Click over to CFI’s March for Science signup page and RSVP to be a crucial part of this historic moment. By marching alongside CFI, you’ll be taking a firm stand in support of science and reason in public policy, and you’ll help to raise public awareness of CFI and our shared mission.

Sign up now to march along with us. You can choose one of the eleven CFI branches, or if you aren’t close enough to a local CFI branch, sign up to help represent CFI wherever you plan to march. (You’ll even get a free sticker.) If we stand together, we can send a powerful message that even the peddlers of misinformation and pseudoscience can’t deny.

IMG_3840.JPGCFI Hosts UN Religious Freedom Expert in Washington

The week of April 3, the Center for Inquiry was honored to host a visit from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, to Washington, DC for face-to-face meetings with government officials and activists. Shaheed came at the invitation of Michael De Dora, CFI’s main representative to the United Nations, our director of public policy, and president of the UN Non-Governmental Organizations Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief. Yes, his plate is very full.

On April 3, CFI worked with Freedom House to cosponsor a public event with Mr. Shaheed, with Michael delivering the opening address.

"Our goal in inviting Mr. Shaheed to DC was to promote awareness of his mandate and priorities amongst civil society actors and policymakers," said Michael in his report on the visit. "We also wanted to ensure Mr. Shaheed was connected to key figures and institutions who may be able to support his efforts."

CFI arranged for Shaheed to meet with organizations such as the International Religious Freedom Roundtable, Religious Freedom Institute, Freedom House, and the Pew Research Center, as well as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. Collaborating with the human rights advocacy organization Hardwired, meetings were arranged between Shaheed and the staffs of members of Congress, with Oklahoma’s Sen. James Lankford himself, and Garry E. Hall, Senior Director of the White House National Security Council for International Organizations and Alliances.

Also: Be sure to read Michael’s hard-hitting essay on Pakistan and its hypocrisy. As its diplomats make gestures toward human rights and religious tolerance, it continues to persecute dissidents and critics through its blasphemy law and “ blatantly flout their obligations to fully respect and implement the principles of a UN resolution that they themselves helped devise.”


News from HQ and the CFI Community

dawkchair.jpgThere’s Still Time to See Richard Dawkins on Tour 

It’s not too late to get your tickets to see Richard Dawkins, in live conversation with notable guests, as he comes to the U.S. for four special engagements that are not to be missed.

  • On May 18 in Los Angeles, Dawkins will be joined in conversation by satirist Adam Felber, best known for appearances on NPR’s Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! and as a writer for shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher.
  • In Boulder, CO, on May 22, Prof. Dawkins will take the stage with best-selling author and actress Annabelle Gurwitch.
  • On May 24 in Washington, DC, Dawkins joins another great mind of evolution, Jerry Coyne, best-selling author of Why Evolution Is True.
  • And in Miami on May 27, you can witness a meeting few would have predicted, as Dawkins sits down with Pulitzer Prize–winning humorist Dave Barry.

Whether you’ve seen Dawkins and his trademark wit and intelligence live on stage before or you’re going for the first time, these unscripted conversations will be four entirely unique experiences. Buy your tickets now.


goldsteinmiller-1.pngFinding Meaning Amid the Chaos on Point of Inquiry and Reasonable Talk 

Leave it to CFI to tackle the Big Questions. Recent episodes of Point of Inquiry and Reasonable Talk take on some of the biggest challenges and hardest problems we face as individuals, as a movement, and as a society.

On Reasonable Talk, our online video series featuring major Center for Inquiry events, CFI’s own Stef McGraw moderates a panel discussion from Women in Secularism 4 on the place of secularism and humanism within and throughout other movements, such as LGBTQ rights, racial justice, feminism, and science advocacy. Diane Burkholder, Hypatia Alexander, Kaberi Kar Gupta, and Kayley Whalen discuss.

Also, Rebecca Goldstein engages in conversation with Ashley Miller to discuss the concept of “mattering” (which you can read more about in Goldstein’s essay for Free Inquiry) and why it’s not just a topic for philosophers but for everyone to ponder.

Josh Zepps on Point of Inquiry interviews Paul Offit, a leading voice for evidence-based medicine, to discuss the threats to science in the age of Trump, warning that rejection of science could lead to an age of darkness.

And last but certainly not least, Lindsay Beyerstein signs off of Point of Inquiry with her last show with the program. Her guest is religion journalist Sarah Posner, and the two discuss—what else?—Trump and how he managed to hijack the religious right without any piety of his own.

Catch Lindsay on her new podcast, The Breach.


celebrantBecome a CFI Secular Celebrant 

As part of the Center for Inquiry’s ongoing efforts to secure equal rights for the nonreligious throughout the United States, we proudly offer training and certification for Secular Celebrants to officiate milestone life events, and we have achieved major legal victories for the right of nonreligious couples to have their marriages solemnized by Secular Celebrants.

In celebration of these victories and to provide opportunities for more people to become Secular Celebrants, we are hosting two new Secular Celebrant trainings in the coming weeks in Illinois and Michigan.

The first training is on April 29 in Bloomington, IL, and the second will be hosted at the CFI–Michigan offices in Grand Rapids, MI on May 13. The deadlines for registering are fast approaching, so reserve your spot soon!


Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 11.16.29 AM.pngTIES Inspires Teachers Across the Country

The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES), which works to help middle school science teachers become more familiar and confident teaching evolutionary science, has held a number of workshops in recent weeks. In Michigan, Rhode Island, North Dakota, North Carolina, and at the annual National Science Teachers Association Conference in Los Angeles, presented by Nicoline Chambers. Workshops were also held at zoos, such as the Santa Barbara Zoo and the Capron Park Zoo in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

This weekend, Kathleen Warnock will present a workshop at the Kansas Association of Science Teachers Annual Conference (KATS Kamp) in Wichita. And many more are planned throughout 2017.

Bertha Vazquez, the powerhouse that runs CFI’s TIES program, posts regular updates at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website, and she has a new article in the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer.


CFI Highlights on the Web and in the Media

  • Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 11.19.40 AM.pngAction alert for Ohio: If you live in the Buckeye State, we need you to contact your legislators and tell them you want them to support SB 52, a bill that would allow Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages.

  • Four scholars and scientists join forces to coauthor a piece for Skeptical Inquirer, as Stephan Lewandowsky, Michael E. Mann, Nicholas J.L. Brown, and Harris L. Friedman offer guidance on how scientists and science supporters can “navigate the contested waters” of polarized debate over science issues.

  • When Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Senate on April 7, CFI responded with Legal Director Nick Little saying, “Judge Gorsuch’s history on the federal bench is replete with hostility towards the rights of Americans without religious faith.”

  • Craig Foster opines in Skeptical Inquirer about the need for skeptic activists to make the case for critical thinking across political divides.

  • Facebook’s Safety Check feature, where users can let people know their whereabouts in cases of disasters or emergencies, is well intentioned, but is it useful? Ben Radford takes a skeptical look.

  • In Skeptical Inquirer, Stephen Hupp, Amanda Stary, and Jeremy Jewell review various myths about child psychology, looking at which myths are the most pernicious and need to be addressed.

  • The myths surrounding the couple whose alleged experiences served as the basis for The Conjuring films are beginning to unravel, and Joe Nickell—who has investigated the claims himself—looks at the competing claims.

  • Susan Gerbic interviews Karl Withakay and CFI board member Brian Engler about their photography at CSICon and other freethought events.

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


Upcoming CFI Events


April 21:

April 22:

April 26:

  • Todd Williams of Grand Valley State University talks to CFI–Michigan about the role of existential anxiety in social and political judgement.

April 29:

May 7:

May 10:

May 13:

May 18:

May 21:

May 22:

May 24:

May 27:


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!

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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 

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