Issue #89 — September 6, 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 Top Stories
A Trusted Source in an Age of Misinformation
In the era of social media, where we are drowning in news and rumor at all times of the day, information and opinion have been commoditized. When misinformation and uninformed assertions are as easy (or, more likely, easier) to spread as the truth, there is genuine value in being known for reason and honesty. Since its very beginnings four decades ago, the Center for Inquiry has built a firm reputation as a reliable source of information and commentary from all who seek it, and that particularly includes journalists.
Three thoughtful articles in recent weeks serve as excellent examples of how journalists who wish to cut through the noise of false news and “hot takes” know to turn to the people of the Center for Inquiry for trustworthy insight, analysis, and plain old facts—including CFI’s own advocacy and good works.
Last month, religion reporter Kelsey Dallas of the Deseret News took note of two issues affecting the secular community: political representation and religious freedom. CFI is well known as an advocate of true religious freedom, for believers and nonbelievers alike, and have worked passionately to defend those rights in the U.S. and around the world. But like many freethought organizations, we have lost the seat at the table we once had in the previous administration. CFI Legal Director Nicholas Little explains that the experiences and perspectives of nontheists must be a part of the wider struggle for religious freedom.
At The Daily Beast this weekend, reporter and religion scholar Brandon Withrow sought to explore the secular perspective on morality without God. Given the alarming results of a recent study on the ongoing bias against atheists, Withrow asked several key figures in freethought about their moral foundations. Among them were our own Richard Dawkins and, quoted at considerable length, Monette Richards, executive director of CFI Northeast Ohio. (Withrow also spoke to recent Point of Inquiry guest James Croft.)
Finally, this weekend in the Sunday Herald of Scotland, Russell Leadbetter published an important profile of CFI’s Secular Rescue program, our initiative to offer assistance to secular writers and activists whose lives are threatened by violent extremists in countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, and bring them to safety in other countries. Leadbetter looks at the origins of Secular Rescue and highlights some of the lives that the program has helped to save.
CFI Receives Grant for New Projects from James Hervey Johnson Foundation
The Center for Inquiry is honored to be the recipient of a significant grant from the James Hervey Johnson Charitable Educational Trust of San Diego, California. Totaling $112,456, the grant will support CFI’s work on four major projects in publishing, historical preservation and appreciation, and community building, all to further CFI’s mission to foster a secular society based on reason, science, and humanist values.
“This generous grant will help us give new life to deeply meaningful freethought institutions under our care,” said Robyn Blumner, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “Each of these four projects will serve to educate, enrich, and enlighten both longtime freethinkers and those who are just discovering our ideas and our community.”
The grant will be distributed between the following four initiatives:
- $45,000 will support the publication of The Truth Seeker, America’s oldest continuously published freethought periodical. Since 2014 The Truth Seeker has been owned and operated by the Council for Secular Humanism, publisher of Free Inquiry magazine and a program of the Center for Inquiry. Under its current editor, Roderick Bradford, The Truth Seeker has emerged as the leading publication exploring the history of the freethought and atheist movements.
- $32,456 will help fund a complete redesign of the Freethought Trail, a series of 112 historical sites in west-central New York State significant to the history of freethought, abolition, women’s suffrage, and other radical reform movements. This will include a full updating and redesign of the Freethought Trail website, adding enhanced searchability, mobile-friendliness, and new interactive features.
- $20,000 will underwrite a conference celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, to be held in Syracuse, New York, on August 18–19, 2018.
- $15,000 will fund necessary improvements to the new physical location for CFI’s active Los Angeles branch. CFI Los Angeles plans to relocate to its new facility in the fall of 2017.
The James Hervey Johnson Charitable Educational Trust was funded from the estate of James Hervey Johnson. Mr. Johnson was the fourth editor of The Truth Seeker, founded by D. M. Bennett in 1873. The Trust has supported the Center for Inquiry and its program the Council for Secular Humanism through multiple grants during the past two decades, this latest being among the largest yet bestowed.
News from the CFI Community
CFI Austin Providing Relief for Houston
The dedicated community of CFI Austin is stepping up to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Last weekend, they delivered relief supplies to fellow Texans in Houston, bringing food, clothing, pillows, sheets, blankets, and toiletries. This week they're calling upon the greater CFI community to show their support with monetary donations. So far, CFI Austin has raised $700!
You can make donations through PayPal using firstname.lastname@example.org.
They’ll make use of anything they get this week for a food bank in Houston or for flood refugees in Austin. The deadline to donate is Friday, September 8, at midnight.
The Tireless Teaching of TIES
The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES), our program for training middle school science teachers to improve their understanding and teaching of evolution, has had a very productive summer. For example, TIES Director Bertha Vazquez gave several training workshops for teachers at the Opening of Schools Science Teacher Professional Development Day in West Palm Beach, Florida. Plus, two new upcoming workshops have been added to the calendar, bringing TIES’s total up to seventy-three.
September 8, Alan Wasmoen will present at the Nebraska Academy of Sciences/Nebraska Association of Teachers of Science Fall Conference in Kearney, Nebraska. On November 18, Christopher Moran will give a workshop at the Virginia Association of Science Teachers Conference in Roanoke.
This vital and growing program is just getting started, and there’s always something new in the works. To keep up with Bertha’s TIES updates, see her column at CSICOP.org.
Countdown to CSICon 2017: October Cometh!
The leaves are just beginning to change color. Parents across the country are breathing deep sighs of relief as school begins again. Retail stores are (already) hawking Halloween costumes, decorations, and candy. You know what that means...it’s almost time for CSICon 2017!
How “almost” is it? Really almost. CSICon 2017 kicks off October 26 in Las Vegas at the fantastical Excalibur Hotel, going through the weekend to October 29. This year’s conference will feature brilliant and compelling speakers such as James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Cara Santa Maria, Michael Mann, Maria Konnikova, Richard Saunders (interviewed here by Susan Gerbic), Eugenie Scott, and so many more.
For a taste of what’s in store, check out the latest season of CFI’s Reasonable Talk video series, which is totally devoted to talks from CSICon 2016. But, trust us: a web video is no substitute for being there in person. After all, you want to be there to experience all of the amazing speakers, all the entertainment events, and all the fun and silliness at the Halloween disco party.
So get registered right now, before all the leaves fall and the kids go berserk from all that Halloween candy. See you in Vegas at CSICon 2017!
CFI Highlights on the Web
On the latest episode of CFI's flagship podcast Point of Inquiry, host Paul Fidalgo talks to Ethical Culture leader James Croft, grappling with the difficult questions and realizations sparked by the Charlottesville white supremacist violence, and discussing how humanists are called to lead the way in healing our national wounds.
- Despite being exposed as a peddler of pseudoscience by everyone from The New Yorker to the U.S. Senate, Dr. Oz carries on. At CSICOP.org, “SkepDoc” Harriet Hall takes aim at one more of Oz’s absurd regimens, the “grapefruit detox diet.” Harriet warns us, “Stay away from the land of Oz.”
Benjamin Radford considers what it seems many so-called “mediums” do not: ethics. As these conduits to the afterlife claim to be able to channel the words of the dead (often dead celebrities), they can never be verified and give little consideration to the impact they have on those still living.
As CFI’s resident expert on evil clowns, Ben also uses the release of the new film adaptation of Stephen King’s It to take the opportunity to look back on the history of Pennywise the clown.
- The popular obsession over the concept of “wellness” may be making some us feel rather, um, unwell. Kylie Sturgess interviews journalist Brigid Delaney about her experiments (on herself) with all manner of “wellness” products from around the world.
- In Skeptical Inquirer, Kyle Polich looks into the claims of mysterious disappearances from national parks in the “Missing411” series of books.
- What’s the big deal if academic and scientific journals move a decimal point? Stuart Vyse writes about the debate over whether these journals should change their standard for statistical significance from .05 to .005.
Joe Nickell pays tribute to H. David Sox, who died last month. Sox was a researcher who began promoting the veracity of the Shroud of Turin but came to realize it was a forgery. Writes Joe of his work, “I learned with what intelligence, integrity, and verve [Sox] approached that subject—and so many things that mattered.”
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.
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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.