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"Cause & Effect" Newsletter: Evolution education under threat in Arizona, and more.

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Issue #106 — May 30, 2018

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

TIES Director Answers Arizona’s Attack on Evolution Education


Arizona’s state superintendent has presented draft science standards for public schools that betray an agenda for wedging creationism into science classes. The draft standards call into question the fact of evolution by describing it as merely a “theory,” and the word evolution is crossed out several times and replaced with terms intended to confuse and dilute the truth.

That’s why Bertha Vazquez, director of the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science and an award-winning middle school science teacher, spoke out against these changes and formally submitted her objections to the Arizona Department of Education. “Those who seek to weaken [evolution’s] teaching are doing so to insert religious ideas into science classrooms,” writes Bertha, “an effort that has been rejected by the courts as contrary to America’s constitutional principles.” Bertha’s statement was cited in an op-ed in the Arizona Republic.




TIES is a program of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science that gives middle school teachers the tools they need to effectively teach evolution and answer its critics. TIES has two new workshops scheduled:

  • June 2, 2018: Workshop at the Southwest Georgia Regional Educational Service Agency Science Conference in Camille, GA, presented by Patti Howell.

  • November 9, 2018: Cheryl Hollinger presents “Tell Us About TIES” at the National Association of Biology Teachers Annual Conference in San Diego.


A New Horizon for Point of Inquiry with Alan Stern and David Grinspoon


In July of 2015, a spacecraft called New Horizons gave humankind its first close-up view of a small, misunderstood world called Pluto. It took almost 10 years for New Horizons to soar across more than 3 billion miles of space and give us our first meeting with Pluto and its family of moons. But that journey is just a small part of a much bigger and more harrowing story of how New Horizons came to be, and came very close to never happening at all.

CFI’s flagship podcast, Point of Inquiry, returns (finally) with two very special guests who are now telling this incredible story in the new book Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto. Joining host Paul Fidalgo on this episode are Alan Stern, the principle investigator of the New Horizons mission, and his co-author, David Grinspoon, an astrobiologist, author, and advisor to NASA who witnessed the New Horizons saga as it unfolded and helped to bring its story to life.





CFI Tells Federal Court to Reject Anti-Atheist Discrimination by House Chaplain

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CFI is fighting an instance of anti-atheist discrimination at the U.S. Capitol after an atheist was rejected by the House Chaplain to deliver an invocation to the House of Representatives. Joined by American Atheists, we have submitted an amicus brief to a federal appeals court in the case of Dan Barker v. Patrick Conroy. Barker, an atheist and ordained minister, was nominated by a sitting Member of Congress and contends that he was rejected by Father Conroy for his lack of religious belief.

“Certainly, Father Conroy is aware that Catholics like himself once faced this kind of discrimination,” said CFI Vice President and General Counsel Nick Little. “We trust that the courts will agree that he must not be allowed to use his position to perpetrate such discrimination himself.”




CFI also spoke out against two negative developments in the fight for freedom of and from religion: the enactment of a new Oklahoma law that gives religious adoption agencies a right to discriminate and the appointment of Family Research Council president and Christian supremacist Tony Perkins to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.


Join the 2018 Secular Summer Retreat with CFI Michigan!

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Summer is almost here, and that means it’s time for fun, food, fresh air, friends, and freethinkers at CFI Michigan’s 2018 Secular Summer Retreat! Registration is now open to join members of the CFI Michigan community at the Long Lake Outdoor Center, where you’ll explore the historic campground and enjoy the beauty of the Michigan summer. The retreat is fun for all ages, with delicious food prepared onsite by CFI members, group discussions, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, group games and sports, art and science activities, hiking, biking, and more. If you’re in the area, sign up now.



Meet Two Awesome People, CFI’s New Outreach Interns 


Everyone at the Center for Inquiry is excited to welcome the 2018 CFI Outreach Interns, EJ Sorrell from the University of Texas at Austin and Kayla Bowen from Morehead State University. Next week they’ll be joining the outreach team at CFI headquarters in Amherst, NY. 
Before they arrive, we’ve asked them to introduce themselves to the wider CFI community.

Read what they have to say about their religious backgrounds, their experiences with the freethought movement, and why they’re excited to intern at CFI. As Kayla writes, “I’m excited to intern at CFI because I get to meet all kinds of new, awesome people like me.” 





A Glowing Review for CFI Secular Celebrants (and a Chance to Become One Yourself)


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.

To understand just how meaningful the experience can be, here is what we heard from someone who enlisted a CFI Secular Celebrant for a memorial service:

During a highly emotional time we had to find someone who understood what we needed, not an easy task. From our first conversation we could tell that she was exactly what we were looking for. She listened to our story, added suggestions, and guided us during the lead up to the day of the service. She delivered a beautiful, poignant, and lighthearted service. She even pulled some humorous stories from the speakers and interjected those back into her final words. We had several friends and family ask where we found her as they would like her to perform the service at their own funeral!

The demand for secular ceremonies is growing fast, making this the perfect time to build your skills and get certified! The Center for Inquiry will be hosting a Secular Celebrant training in Minnesota prior to the Secular Women Work conference in St. Paul on August 24.





See Richard Dawkins with Carolyn Porco on Tour


Our own Richard Dawkins will be appearing at two very special live events: October 28 in Dallas and October 30 in Nashville. At both events, Richard will be joined live onstage for a conversation with the brilliant Carolyn Porco.

A world-renowned planetary scientist and science communicator, Carolyn Porco led the imaging science team for the Cassini mission to Saturn, a mission that provided humanity with some of the most awe-inspiring images ever seen. It ended only last year when the spacecraft made several passes through the rings of Saturn, completing its thirteen-year mission by burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere. She was also part of the imaging teams for the Voyager missions of the 1980s and the recent New Horizons mission to Pluto.

Don’t miss this meeting of these great minds. Tickets are available now.





Michigan’s Senate Legitimizes Quackery


Practitioners of naturopathy have no actual medical credentials and rely on a hodgepodge of baseless, pseudoscientific remedies such as homeopathy, “electromagnetic” therapy, and musculoskeletal manipulation to treat patients. Nonetheless, the State Senate of Michigan decided to legitimize these fake doctors with the passage of SB 826, a bill that would grant state licensure to naturopaths and give them the authority to prescribe medications, perform lab tests, give physical exams, and even treat wounds.

CFI Michigan Executive Director Jennifer Beahan said in our formal statement that SB 826 “would give the state’s blessing to unqualified practitioners of pseudoscience and their baseless remedies, meaning more people will waste their money and risk their health by pursuing quack treatments.” And Dr. Harriet Hall reminds us that naturopaths “discourage evidence-based preventive measures like vaccination and water fluoridation.”




Latest Hot Takes and Longreads


Don’t forget to keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars, peppered with dumb jokes, every weekday with The Morning Heresy


Upcoming CFI Events


CFI Transnational

  • October 28: An Evening with Richard Dawkins, with Carolyn Porco, in Dallas, TX.

  • October 30: An Evening with Richard Dawkins, with Carolyn Porco, in Nashville, TN.


CFI Michigan

  • June 13: A presentation by “Wolfgang” in Grand Rapids called “Secular Perspective On Heteronormative Monotheistic Sexuality Vs. Secular Hedonism.”


CFI Northeast Ohio


CFI Tampa Bay

  • June 24: Philosopher and novelist Ron Cooper discusses the historicity of Jesus.


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!

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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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