Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 21
December 19, 2014
Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible.
Editor’s Note: This is the last edition of Cause & Effect for 2014, which we launched in March of this year. Thanks so much to all those who’ve been reading and have let us know how much you enjoy it. There’s a lot more to look forward to in 2015, and we’ll continue to need your help to make it all happen. To all of our friends and supporters, whatever you choose to celebrate (or not to celebrate!), all of us at CFI hope you enjoy the season, and we wish you a safe and happy New Year.
The Main Events
The Media Takes Note as We Reclaim the Word “Skeptic”
In the last issue of Cause & Effect, we told you about a joint statement signed onto by 48 fellows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which called upon the news media to stop referring to those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change (such as Sen. James Inhofe, pictured here) as “skeptics,” and instead call them what they are: “science deniers.” Well, they heard us, and there’s been a swell of coverage of the statement, sparking analysis and debate throughout the media.
An excellent example is Abby Ohlheiser’s article in the Washington Post, which thoughtfully considers the meaning of the terms being debated and even checks in with Sen. Inhofe himself for his reaction. (He called us “extreme environmentalists,” which doesn’t make much sense.) Lawrence Krauss, one of the signatories, took to Slate to further the case. ThinkProgress did a front-page piece on the statement written by climate scientist Joe Romm, and National Journal noted the importance of the statement’s timing:
The letter arrives at a time when political battles over climate-change policy are escalating. One of the biggest fights will come when ascendant Capitol Hill Republicans—including Inhofe, who will be chairman of the Senate’s environment committee next year—launch efforts to thwart Obama administration greenhouse-gas regulations.
The statement did not go uncriticized, with swipes taken by the Wall Street Journal, Newsmax, The Federalist, and Forbes, but most coverage was entirely positive and really helped to move the conversation forward. Additional coverage, much of which hung on the fact that Bill Nye’s name was attached to it, also appeared in outlets such as Ars Technica, MarketWatch, Grist, The Australian, the Albany Times-Union, UPI, and Salon, which concluded its piece about the statement’s “smackdown” with a triumphant “BOOM.”
Ron Lindsay on Humanism, Secularism, and Religious Extremism
CFI’s president and CEO, Ronald A. Lindsay, recently authored a new book, The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can’t Tell Us What to Do, in which he argues that only by fully embracing secularism can societies enjoy meaningful democracy and hope for peaceful resolution of disputes. The past couple of weeks brought us some new opportunities to get to know more about Ron’s thinking on the subjects of secularism and humanism.
First, Ron is the guest on CFI’s podcast Point of Inquiry, where he and host Lindsay Beyerstein talk about the central ideas of his book. Additionally, we’ve just posted video of Ron’s presentation at the 2014 CFI Leadership Conference: “The Scope of Humanism.” This was a very highly regarded talk, which lays out Ron’s ideas for how we define humanism and what political and social pursuits fit within the humanist agenda—including why he thinks skepticism is encompassed in humanism’s scope. (More videos from the Leadership Conference are coming soon!)
Ron was also a guest on HuffPost Live, on a panel with atheist activist Faisal Saeed Al Mutar and political science professor Deina Abdelkader, which was moderated by Point of Inquiry’s other host, Josh Zepps. The topic of discussion was the often-precarious problem of criticizing particular tenets of Islam and the violence carried out in its name without unfairly tarnishing Muslims generally.
REASON FOR CHANGE: CFI’s International Conference Coming This June!
Our next major conference, “Reason for Change,” will take place June 11–15, 2015, in Buffalo, NY, with featured speakers that include Rebecca Goldstein, Susan Jacoby, and Richard Dawkins, among a whole host of brilliant experts, activists, and thinkers. New developments about the conference are happening all the time, from events being added, new speakers joining the lineup, or additional details and information about the program. To keep up with it all, you can follow the Reason for Change website on Tumblr, where we will post new information and news as it comes in. This past week alone, we’ve added five new speakers, announcing the news right on the conference Tumblr. You can stay up to date with all the action by clicking the “+ FOLLOW” button on the upper right of the website.
If you haven’t already, register right now!
News from HQ and the CFI Community
CFI and the Freethought Books Project, One Year Later
One year ago, CFI took over a wonderful program dedicated to getting books about science and secularism into the hands of prison inmates, offering an alternative to the overabundance of religious material they are often exposed to in the prison system. Today the Freethought Books Project is stronger than ever. Just this year, the program sent 500 books and magazines to 150 individual inmates in institutions in 28 states, with hundreds of books donated by authors and publishers, and the establishment of a pen pal program that now boasts 30 volunteers. See our program update for even more great developments.
This year, the goal is to make sure we get at least one book into the hands of every single inmate who requests one. You can help us make that happen by checking out the program’s Amazon wish list and donating books from the list or donating financially directly to the program. Click here for all the details.
CFI–L.A. Gets Plugged In
Paul Scott, cofounder of Plug In America and advocate for the manufacture of electric vehicles, joined the folks at CFI–Los Angeles for their “Feed Your Brain” lecture series, where he made an economic, environmental, and ethical case for electrifying personal transportation. Scott was featured in the 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? and consulted on its follow-up, Revenge of the Electric Car. (He also brought his electric motorcycle and let some folks try it out.)
Action Alerts for Ohio and Michigan!
Our Office of Public Policy is working against so-called “religious freedom” bills in two states that seek to privilege religion in many areas of public life, from public schools to health care. If you live in one of these states, there’s still time to help us stop them!
In Ohio, we’re fighting two measures, House Bills 303 and 304, which together allow students to overtly promote their beliefs, to use religion to win special exemptions from schooling and justify bullying, and to be able to do so with the sanctioned use of school facilities. Ohioans can learn how they can take action here.
In Michigan, the state House has already passed a measure that places religious beliefs above the law, allowing health care providers to deny services and child care providers to exempt themselves from regulations they feel conflict with their beliefs and give religious organizations receiving taxpayer funds the freedom to discriminate in hiring and in what groups of people businesses choose to serve. The state Senate has yet to vote on this measure, so folks in Michigan should reach out to their senators now.
Highlights from CFI on the Web
● On Point of Inquiry, Josh Zepps interviews former Evangelical fundamentalist Frank Schaeffer about the so-called “War on Christmas” and brings firsthand insight to the irrational fear within fundamentalism.
● On the other side, Rebecca Surroz at the Course of Reason blog has advice for those secular folks who do want to take part in the holiday, saying, “I love Christmas. I celebrate the hell out of it. … I just take Jesus out of the equation.”
● Our Office of Public Policy releases a statement of approval for the confirmation of Rabbi David Saperstein as Ambassador-at-Large for the Office of International Religious Freedom.
● Would $100,000 be enough to convince a reindeer to fly? Thanks to the intrepid Dan Geduld of the Independent Investigations Group, it looks like not.
● Secularism scored a win as the state of Kentucky opted not to use taxpayer funds to help with the construction of Ken Ham’s “Ark Encounter” creationist theme park, and CFI’s legal director, Nick Little, writes that rather than being an example of “anti-Christian” bias, it was “the constitutionally mandated duty of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”
● CFI Education Director David Koepsell explains why he feels that social justice “is at the heart of humanism.”
● Ben Radford critiques the “wild theories” about Yetis promoted by a Discovery Channel “documentary” on an incident in Russia that left nine skiers dead.
● CFI On Campus’s Affiliate Group of the Week is the Kettering Secular Skeptics.
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.
Upcoming CFI Events
● CFI–NYC takes part in Reasonable New York’s Winter Solstice Party.
● CFI–Western New York hosts a Winter Solstice Celebration at CFI Headquarters.
● CFI–Los Angeles holds its Solstice Potluck Party and Raffle Fundraiser.
● CFI–Indiana hosts a New Year’s Eve Game Night.
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 and the Council for Secular Humanism. The mission of CFI is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. CFI’s web address is www.centerforinquiry.net.