2009 World Congress - April 9-12, 2009

January 21, 2009

The Center for Inquiry's 12th World Congress:

  Science, Public Policy, and the Planetary Community

April 9-12, 2009

Bethesda, MD Hyatt Hotel (just outside of Washington, DC)  

2009 marks the bicentennial of both Charles Darwin's and Abraham Lincoln's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. There can be no more fitting opportunity to discuss and consider the appropriate relationship between science and public policy. Please join us as scientists and scholars from around the world analyze the role of science, explain how it works, explore its connection to public policy, and examine its significance for the global community.  We hope you can join us for this historic World Congress!



John Mather

Dr. John C. Mather is a Senior Astrophysicist in the Observational Cosmology Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. His research centers on infrared astronomy and cosmology. As an NRC postdoctoral fellow at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (New York City), he led the proposal efforts for the Cosmic Background Explorer (74-76), and came to GSFC to be the Study Scientist (76-88), Project Scientist (88-98), and the Principal Investigator for the Far IR Absolute Spectrophotometer (FIRAS) on COBE. He and his team showed that the cosmic microwave background radiation has a blackbody spectrum within 50 parts per million, confirming the Big Bang theory to extraordinary accuracy. As Senior Project Scientist (95-present) for the James Webb Space Telescope, he leads the science team, and represents scientific interests within the project management. He is the recipient of many awards, including the Nobel Prize in Physics (2006) with George Smoot, for the COBE work.

James Randi is an internationally known magician and escape artist who currently devotes his work to investigating and demystifying claims of the paranormal and pseudoscience. Randi has pursued "psychics”, exposed the tricks of faith healers, and investigated homeopathic water "with a memory."  He is the author of numerous books, including The Truth About Uri Geller, The Faith Healers, Flim-Flam!, and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. His lectures and television appearances have delighted — and vexed — audiences around the world. He has received numerous awards and recognitions, including a Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1986.

Christopher Hitchens is a journalist, literary critic, and the author of several highly acclaimed books, including the bestseller God is not Great and the recently published The Portable Atheist. He has been a regular columnist at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, The Nation, Slate, and Free Inquiry. Born in England, he is a graduate of Oxford and Cambridge universities where he studied philosophy, politics, and economics.

Patricia Scott Schroeder is a former U.S. congresswomen and is president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), the national trade organization of the U.S. book publishing industry.  Rep. Schroeder left Congress in 1996 after representing Colorado for 24 years. As Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts and Intellectual Property she was a strong advocate for creating incentives for intellectual property development and its protection. She has been a leader in the cause of education and a champion of free speech. She is in the National Women’s Hall of Fame and the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame.  This year, Schroeder was presented the 2008 Winn Newman Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americans for Democratic Action.

Richard Wiseman, Ph.D. , is the Professor in the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK and has gained an international reputation for research into the psychology of deception, humor, luck and the paranormal. A passionate advocate for science, Wiseman is well known for his media appearances, and more than 1 million people have taken part in his mass participation experiments. He is the author of The Luck Factor – a best selling book exploring the lives and minds of lucky people and Quirkology , an exploration of the curious science of everyday life. He has been a keynote speaker in Britain and abroad, including to at The Royal Society for the Arts, Microsoft, and Caltech.

Lawrence Krauss, Ph.D. is Foundation Professor and Director of the Origins Initiative at Arizona State University. His research interests include the interface between elementary particle physics and cosmology.  He has published more than 200 scientific articles as well as a variety of general articles on physics and astronomy.  Krauss has also authored several celebrated books, including the best-selling The Physics of Star Trek. Krauss is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science's 1999-2000 Award for the Public Understanding of Science and Technology, the Julius Edgar Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society, the Andrew Gemant Award, the Oersted Medal, and the Joseph P. Burton Forum Award.  He was nominated for a Grammy award for his liner notes for a Telarc CD of music from Star Trek.

Michael Ruse, Ph.D. is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor & Director of History and Philosophy of Science Program at Florida State University. His research focus is on the philosophy of the biology, and he is well known for his work on the argument between creationism and evolutionary biology. He has authored or edited more then 30 books including Debating Design: Darwin to DNA , Mystery of Mysteries: Is Evolution a Social Construction? Stem Cell Research and The Philosophy of Biology.  Ruse is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Royal Society of Canada and has been a visiting professor at universities throughout Europe and North America. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy at the University of Bristol. 

Roger Bonnet, Ph.D. , is Executive Director of the International Space Science Institute in Bern Switzerland and a Professor of Faculty at Liège University, Belgium. He is President of the Committee on Space Research and former director of the Science Programme of the European Space Agency He has received numerous honors in astronomy and physics, including the World Technology Award for Space, the Prix Icare des Journalistes Scientifiques, and the NASA Public Service Medal. He is a member of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, The International Academy of Astronautics, The European Academy of Sciences Arts and Humanities, and The Académie Nationale de l'Air et de l'Espace.

Eleanor Smeal, M.A. , currently serves as President of the Feminist Majority Foundation and has focused on strategies for recruiting and organizing women to run for political office. She has co-authored and co-produced award-winning videos to reframe the abortion debate and document its importance as a global public health issue. She launched the international Campaign to Stop Gender Apartheid in Afghanistan to counter the Taliban's abuse of women in 1997. The World Almanac named her as one of the most influential woman in the United States, and Time Magazine's included her in its "50 Faces for America's Future" cover story. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University, Smeal holds an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Florida and an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Duke University.

Barbara Forrest, Ph.D. , is a philosophy professor and public intellectual at Southeastern Louisiana University, where she has taught since 1981. Widely praised for her compelling expert testimony in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, she is a tireless defender of science education and the teaching of evolution in U.S. public schools. With Paul R. Gross, she is co-author of Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2004), which examines the goals and strategies of the intelligent design movement and its attempts to undermine the teaching of evolutionary biology. Forrest serves on the board of directors of the National Center for Science Education and the Board of Trustees of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Forrest received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Tulane University .

Philip Kitcher, Ph.D. is the John Dewey Professor of Philosophy and James R. Barker Professor of Contemporary Civilization at Columbia University, specializing in the philosophy of science, biology, and mathematics.  He is the author of several books including In Mendel’s Mirror: Philosophical Reflections on Biology, The Nature of Mathematical Knowledge, and Science, Truth and Democracy .  He has received the Lifetime Achievement and Distinguished Contribution awards from the American Psychological Association and, in 2006, was the inaugural winner of the Prometheus Prize for achievements in the philosophy of science. He has been awarded a 2008 Lannan Notable Book Award for Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith . He received his Ph.D. in History and Philosophy of Science from Princeton University.

Drew Shindell, Ph.D., is a recognized expert on climate modeling and a research scientist with NASA. His expertise is in understanding historical- and paleo-climates as well as natural modes of climate variability. In 2004, he received Scientific American’s “Top 50 Scientist’s Award”. In addition to authoring more than 75 peer-reviewed articles, Shindell has provided many government-sponsored assessments prepared in the interest of public policy formation. He is a lecturer in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and received his Ph.D. in physics from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Floris van den Berg is a philosopher and Co-Executive Director of Center for Inquiry /Low Countries (The Netherlands & Belgium). As a moral philosopher he searches for blind spots in morality. His areas of interest are animal welfare, environmental ethics and human rights. Regularly he publishes essays, holds interviews and reviews in journals and magazines. He is member of the board of Dutch Freethought Association De Vrije Gedachte, and one of the creators of the Virtual Museum of Offensive Arts. In 2008, he authored the publication How to Get Rid of Religion, and Why. An Inconvenient Liberal Paradox.

Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D. is Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine. She holds positions in the Departments of Psychology & Social Behavior, and Criminology, Law & Society. Loftus's research has focused on human memory, eyewitness testimony and courtroom procedure. She has been an expert witness or consultant in hundreds of cases, including the Hillside Strangler, the Rodney King beating, the Bosnian War trials in The Hague, and the Oklahoma Bombing case. Her book, Eyewitness Testimony, won a National Media Award from the American Psychological Foundation. Loftus has received numerous awards and honors for her research. Among them, she and was voted 58th, and the top ranked woman on the Review of General Psychology's 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20 th century. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University.

Austin Dacey, Ph.D. is a representative to the United Nations for the Center for Inquiry in New York City and former executive director of CFI's New York City center. As U.N. representative, he works on issues of secular values, science, and ethics. He is the author of articles in numerous publications including the New York Times and USA Today . He holds a doctorate in applied ethics and social philosophy. His latest book is The Secular Conscience, Why Belief Belongs in Public Life , published this year by Prometheus Books.

Ronald A. Lindsay, Ph.D., J.D. is Vice President and General Counsel for the Center for Inquiry. He has submitted amicus briefs in several prominent Supreme Court cases addressing constitutional law issues, including Marsh v. Chambers, Lee v. Weisman, Washington v. Glucksberg, McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky, Gonzales v. Oregon, and Hein v. Freedom from Religion Foundation. Lindsay is an honors graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and received his Ph.D from Georgetown University.  His scholarly work focuses on bioethics. His latest book, Future Bioethics: Overcoming Taboos, Myths, and Dogmas , will be released by Prometheus Books in June.    

Eddie Tabash is a constitutional lawyer in Beverly Hills, California.  He is member of the board of directors of the Council for Secular Humanism and Chairs the Council's First Amendment Task Force.  He is considered a leading expert in First Amendment law as it applies to free speech and to the separation of church and state.  He is also one of the primary debaters for the worldview that God does not exist.  Eddie Tabash has debated such eminent Christian philosophers as Peter Van Inwagen, William Lane Craig, Gregg Bahnsen, and noted Oxford professor Richard Swinburne.   Eddie Tabash has also been the most active individual man in the abortion rights movement in California.  He is a member of the First Amendment Committee of the ACLU of Southern California

Norm Allen is the Executive Director of African Americans for Humanism (AAH), an educational organization primarily concerned with fostering critical thinking, ethical conduct, church-state separation, and skepticism toward untested claims to knowledge. He is the editor of the groundbreaking book African-American Humanism: An Anthology, AAH Examiner , and an Associate Editor of Free Inquiry magazine. Mr. Allen has traveled and lectured throughout North America, Europe, and Africa. Mr. Allen’s writings have appeared in such books as Culture Wars and the National Center for Science Education’s Voices for Evolution.

Toni Van Pelt is Vice President and Director of Government Affairs for the Center for Inquiry Office of Public Policy, headquartered in Washington, D.C. prior to her reassignment to Washington, Toni was the first Executive Director for the Center for Inquiry/Florida. She is the former Florida state president of National Organization and a longtime activist in women's rights issues. With the development of the CFI Travel Club, she has successfully married her past career in travel and business with building the secular community and promoting education.

Ibn Warraq, MA is a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry specializing in Koranic criticism. In 1996 he published the groundbreaking work, Why I am not a Muslim . He went on to edit a serious of anthologies: What the Koran Really Says: Language, Text, and Commentary; The Quest for the Historical Muhammed; The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam's Holy Book; Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out; and Which Koran? Variants, Manuscripts, and the Influence of Pre-Islamic Poetry . His latest book is Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism

Paul Kurtz, Ph.D. is known as the father of secular humanism and the modern skeptical movement. He is the founder of the Center for Inquiry/Transnational, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. He is editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry magazine, serves on the editorial board of the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, and has author more than 45 books. Paul Kurtz is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Ren Fujun, PhD

Ren Fujun, PhD is executive director of the Chinese Research Institute for the Popularization of Science (CRISP), and research fellow of the Center for Inquiry in Beijing.

Mona Abousenna is co-director of the Center for Inquiry-Egypt, Secretary General of the Afro-Asian Philosophy Association, and also Secretary General of the International Ibn Rushd and Enlightenment Association. She is head of the English Department, Faculty of Education, and Director of the Centre of Developing English Language Teaching, Faculty of Education at Aim Shams University, Egypt. She is co-editor of Averroes and the Enlightenment .

Mourad Wahba is professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Ain Shams in Cairo, Egypt, and the founder and honorary president of the Afro-Asian Philosophy Association.

Joe Nickell

Joe Nickell, PhD is Senior Research Fellow at CFI and the world's only full-time professional investigator of historical, paranormal, and forensic mysteries, myths and hoaxes; "Investigative Files" writer for Skeptical Inquirer magazine; an examiner of questioned rare documents; and an academic, focusing on literary investigation and folklore. Joe is the author of some two-dozen books, including Pen, Ink, and Evidence, Detecting Forgery, Adventures in Paranormal Investigation, Relics of the Christ, and Secrets of the Sideshows .

Pervez Hoodboy

Pervez Hoodbhoy, Ph.D. has been a faculty member at the department of Physics, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad since 1973 and is chairman of Mashal, a non-profit organization that publishes books in Urdu on women's rights, education, environmental issues, philosophy, and modern thought. Dr. Hoodbhoy has written and spoken extensively on topics ranging from science in Islam to education issues in Pakistan and nuclear disarmament. He produced a 13-part documentary series in Urdu for Pakistan Television on critical issues in education, and two other major television series aimed at popularizing science. He is author of Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality . Hoodbhoy received his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the MIT.

Leo Igwe is Chairman of the Center for Inquiry/Nigeria and the Nigerian Humanist Movement. He is one of the most dynamic leaders of humanism and skepticism on the African continent. He has led opposition to witch killings, the use of alternative medicine, intelligent design, sexism, homophobia, the killing of albinos and other ritual killings. In 2001, he and the Council for Secular Humanism organized the first major humanist conference in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2008, he organized the first major Darwin Day celebration in sub-Saharan Africa. He has appeared in media throughout Nigeria, and has appeared on the BBC and MSNBC News. His articles have appeared in such books as The Black Humanist Experience: An Alternative to Religion , edited by Norm R. Allen Jr., and Toward a New Political Humanism , edited by Barry F. Seidman and Neil J. Murphy

Stephen Law

Stephen Law, Ph.D. , is a philosopher and professor at Heythrop College at the University of London. He also edits the journal THINK , a source of philosophy aimed at the general public and affiliated with The Royal Institute of Philosophy. In 2000, he published The Philosophy Files , an introductory philosophy book aimed at both adults and children. The book aims to introduce the reader to thinking philosophically about some of the “Big Questions” of life: Does God exist? Is there life after death? and: How do I know my parents aren’t virtual? The book has been so popular that it has been translated into 11 languages. The follow up book is called The Outer Limits . He attended Trinity College, Oxford, and was a Junior Research Fellow at The Queen's College, Oxford, where he obtained a doctorate in Philosophy.

Tarek Fatah

Tarek Fatah , is a secular Muslim Canadian political activist, writer and TV host. He is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State . He was one among the several founders of the Muslim Canadian Congress. Fatah's advocacy for a separation of religion and state, opposition to Sharia law, and advocacy for a liberal, progressive form of Islam have been met with considerable criticism from various Canadian Muslim groups, such as the Canadian Islamic Congress. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Fatah was a student leftist-radical in the 1960s and 1970s. A biochemist by training, Fatah entered journalism as a reporter for the Karachi Sun in 1970, and was an investigative journalist for Pakistani Television .

Tom Beauchamp

Tom Beauchamp, Ph.D. , is a professor of philosophy and a senior research scholar at Georgetown University's Kennedy Institute of Ethics. In 1976, he joined the staff of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. There, he was a lead author on The Belmont Report , which lead to the legal establishment of basic ethical principles and conduct of biomedical and behavioral research. His areas of expertise include ethical theory, professional ethics, bioethics, and philosopher David Hume. He attended Yale University and received his Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University.

David Contosta

David Contosta, Ph.D. , is a professor of history at Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, and author of the newly released Rebel Giants: The Revolutionary Lives of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin . Contosta is an expert on the history of presidential elections and their relevance in the current political realm. In his 15 previous books, he has covered a wide range of topics: studies of higher education, urban and suburban history; architecture and landscape; historic preservation, and a variety of topics in social, cultural, and intellectual history. One of his titles, Frontier Town to Edge City , was adapted for Public Television and broadcast as Seeds of Americana during 2001 and 2002.

Armadeo Sarma

Amardeo Sarma is an engineer and Senior Manager at NEC Laboratories Europe, Heidelberg. He is founder and Chairman of the German Society for the Scientific Investigation of Para-Sciences (GWUP), Chairman of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations (ECSO) and Fellow and Executive Council member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. He has written, lectured and debated on dowsing, methods of investigation, the Shroud of Turin, homeopathy and on the goals of skeptical organisations. His current focus is on the attempt by parasychologists and by supporters of alternative medicine to change the rules of science to suit their needs. Amardeo received CSI's (then CSICOP's) Distinguished Skeptic award in 1998. He is a senior member of the IEEE and a member of the ACM.


Doc Scantlin

Doc Scantlin and the Imperial Palms Orchestra
Called the “best band in America” by some, these entertainers create an evening of unsurpassed sophistication, excitement, and fun. From royalty to retro dancers, corporations to cotillions, young rockers to world leaders, Doc and his ensemble have crowds on their feet from the first note. From the 1920's speakeasy numbers to the romantic 1930's of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and the swing era of Benny Goodman, there is music for every one and every age. Doc, Chou Chou, and the Coconut Girls entertain even those with two left feet. Don’t miss this! For more info go to docscantlin.com . Open to the public.

Richard Einhorn

Composer Richard Einhorn
The Saturday Awards Banquet will feature a performance of composer Richard Einhorn’s The Origin, his new oratorio based on the life of Charles Darwin. The piece debuts in February 2009 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of this ground-breaking scientist’s birth. Einhorn has received national media attention for his composition Voices of Light: The Passion of Joan of Arc, a vocal and musical accompaniment to Carl Dreyer’s 1927 silent film. The critically-acclaimed event of music theater brought sold-out houses to their feet at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Avery Fisher Hall, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and in dozens of major concert halls across the country. It has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR’s All Things Considered, and in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Einhorn's unique music has been described as "hauntingly beautiful," and "overwhelming in its emotional power." For more info go to richardeinhorn.com . Open to the public.

*All times, events and programming subject to change at any time.


Registration Options

Registration Options Price Price with Friends of the Center Discount

Total Package Price

Standard registration fee and all events

$465 $435.50

Standard Registration Fee

Includes: Thursday evening reception, presentations Thursday through Sunday. Does not include: Friday lunch, Friday dance, or Saturday awards banquet

$295 $265.50

Student Registration Fee

Includes: Thursday evening reception, presentations Thursday through Sunday. Does not include Friday lunch, Friday dance, or Saturday awards banquet

$95 --
Friday Lunch with Paul Kurtz $35 $35
Friday Big Band Dance with Doc Scantlin and the Imperial Palms Orchestra $40 $40
Saturday Night Awards Banquet $95 $95

Optional Awards Banquet dinner table for ten

$1050 tax-deductable

$2000 $2000