Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 23
January 23, 2015
Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible.
The Main Events
United in Inquiry: CFI Merges with CSI and Council
The new year begins with a new chapter for all of us at CFI, as we announced that our affiliate organizations the Council for Secular Humanism and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry have now officially merged with CFI, making the Center for Inquiry one, unified corporation. As we noted in our announcement, the Council and CSI aren’t going anywhere but will continue as programs as CFI. This merger is in large part a streamlining; it will increase internal efficiencies, reduce complexities, and generally give us more resources and flexibility to do the kind of work you want us doing: trying to make the world a better place by using reason and science. The merger also means a simplification of our membership system, which you can learn about here, and which now includes membership status for subscribers to Free Inquiry or Skeptical Inquirer!
More details will be coming soon. For now, it’s back to work, now as one unified and stronger CFI.
The World Begins to Speak Up for Raif Badawi
After years of relentless advocacy by CFI and other groups, the world has finally awoken to the plight of Saudi writer and activist Raif Badawi and the brutality that Saudi Arabia now subjects him to for the “crime” of running a liberal website and what they deem to be “insulting Islam.” In the past few days, world powers have spoken out (including the U.S. State Department and eight U.S. senators) to pressure the Kingdom to change course and cease its punishment of Badawi, upon whom Saudi officials have already inflicted the first 50 of the sentenced 1,000 lashes.
The past week also brought new developments, as the second installment of lashings was postponed for what was said to be medical reasons, and we learned that Badawi’s case was sent “for review” to the Saudi Supreme Court. It’s impossible to know at this point what might be changing, if anything, about Badawi’s situation, but as CFI Communications Director Paul Fidalgo told The Register, it’s clear that Saudi Arabia is aware of the world’s gaze on it, and that the pressure from the international community “needs to be more forceful.” With the death of Saudi King Abdullah, and conflicting reports about the state of Raif’s situation, much remains unknown and unpredictable.
One last thing: January 13 was Raif’s 31st birthday, and we wished him a happy one.
REASON FOR CHANGE: CFI’s International Conference in 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, to additional details and information about the program.
We’ve been posting news about the conference, as well as showcasing particular speakers and events, at the conference’s official website. You can follow all of it, just like a regular blog, on 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
Danish Cartoons, Charlie Hebdo, and Civil War Espionage, All on Point of Inquiry
On Point of Inquiry, CFI’s flagship podcast, Josh Zepps talks to Jytte Klausen, the woman who literally wrote the book on the infamous “Danish cartoons” of Muhammad that sparked protests and violence around the world but who wasn’t allowed to actually show the cartoons in her book. She talks about the parallels between that crisis of free expression from 2006 and the current protests and debates surrounding the attack on (and the content of) Charlie Hebdo.
This week, Lindsay Beyerstein spoke to author Karen Abbott about a subject that almost none of us learned about in U.S. history classes: The women recruited as spies during the Civil War. In her new book Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy, Abbott profiles four of these women, who went to extraordinary and terrifying lengths for their respective sides of the conflict, simultaneously smashing and taking advantage of stereotypes about what women were capable of.
A Chance to Advocate for Justice with CFI–Indiana’s Civic Day
Hoosiers will have a great opportunity to get aware, informed, and active, as CFI–Indiana holds its fourth annual Civic Day on February 7. It’s a fantastic chance to learn about the issues that affect the state and its freethought community, as well as how to advocate for your positions. This year’s theme will be “Advocating for Justice,” with discussions about bills currently before the Assembly, and presentations from CFI’s Ron Lindsay, CFI–Indiana’s Reba Boyd Wooden, and representatives from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Freedom Indiana, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU of Indiana. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Civic Day without the opportunity to directly meet with state legislators. Learn more here!
Northeast Ohio’s Secular Summit Creates Eager Activists
CFI-Northeast Ohio’s third Secular Summit was a huge success, yet again. Attendees toured the Ohio Statehouse, learned some tricks of the activism trade from CFI’s Michael De Dora, and lobbied nine state Senators and ten state Representatives on behalf of secular policies based on reason and evidence, not religion and dogma. Activists returned from their meetings with huge smiles and the satisfaction of being meaningfully involved in the political process. Having been so empowered, attendees began requesting that the next Secular Summit not wait for a whole year but take place within six months! (No promises, yet.) Group director Monette Richards was interviewed on Ohio Public Radio about the event.
A Goodbye to the “Purple Lady” Louise Monaco
Four-time CFI–Los Angeles Volunteer of the Year Louise Monaco, affectionately known as the “Purple Lady” for her obsession with wearing and owning anything purple, died Thursday after a battle with lung cancer. She will be honored with a “Purple Party” in conjunction with the L.A. Press Club, for whom she also volunteered, in place of CFI–L.A.’s usual Cafe Inquiry, on the evening of January 28.
CFI in the Media
● The right-wing media “watchdogs” at NewsBusters attacked the joint statement by fellows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (recently promoted by our allies at Forecast the Facts) asking the media to stop conflating genuine skeptics with climate change and science deniers. NewsBusters called us “alarmists,” referred to us as “Orwellian-sounding,” accused us of “bullying,” and went after CFI generally for its secular activism. So I think we can chalk this one up as a big win.
● CFI’s Paul Fidalgo serves as the “international correspondent” on the Atheist Foundation of Australia’s AtheistAus Podcast pilot, hosted by Kylie Sturgess.
● Letters to the editor in two different publications praise the work of CFI: Jane Roberts tells the Redlands Daily Facts in California that she agrees with Ron Lindsay’s book The Necessity of Secularism, writing, “Reason and common sense are better sources of morality, a morality that can be universally recognized and accepted.”
● Closer to CFI’s home, David F. Baker tells the Buffalo News, “I am a supporter of and involved with the Center For Inquiry, a group that does not use God or faith for answers. Common sense and science are the only prerequisites.”
Highlights from CFI on the Web
● When Pope Francis declared that religious beliefs were off-limits to mockery or “insult,” Ron Lindsay responded with a piece in the Huffington Post, explaining to the pope the difference between beliefs and actual human beings, and that “ridicule used judiciously can often be effective in puncturing inflated claims.” Such as those of the pope.
● CFI’s David Koepsell also reacts to the pope, as well as to the state crackdown on offensive speech in France, reminding us that “the harms caused by speech can be addressed in most instances with more speech.”
● In a world where “The Food Babe” gets to give pseudoscientific advice without regard to reality, Kylie Sturgess introduces us to “The Science Babe,” Yvette Guinevere, who brings actual science to YouTube and aims to be the “scientist as drinking buddy.”
● Ben Radford interviews cartoonist Celestia Ward about her craft, and touches on the Hebdo attacks, saying, “Caricaturists working in the political arena can face dangers similar to those that plague skeptics and debunkers in hostile territory.”
● Stephen Law refutes popular arguments against the publishing of the Hebdo cartoons in the news media. “Yes, there are good reason [sic] for not satirizing racial and other minorities and representing them as stupid or greedy or whatever. ... But there’s no such reason for not satirizing religious beliefs.”
● Stephen also looks at the arguments of William Lane Craig for the existence of God and poses the challenge that if an “evil God” can be ruled out, “why can’t we similarly rule out a good god on the grounds that the world isn’t nearly good enough?”
● Romeo Vitelli at Skeptical Inquirer recounts the 19th-century mystery of “the remarkable Nuremberg foundling,” Kaspar Hauser, whose wild stories of torment and intrigue made him a legend in his time.
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.
Upcoming CFI Events
● African Americans for Humanism DC makes a group visit to the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
● David Niose, Legal Director of the American Humanist Association, joins CFI–DC to discuss “The Attack on Reason”
● CFI–Tampa Bay holds a family outing at Paynes Creek Historic State Park.
● Gary Doherty, author of The Ignition Point, discusses his book with CFI–Indiana.
● Joshua Colby discusses antisocial behavior and psychopathy in a presentation for CFI–Michigan.
● UCLA’s Prof. Bob Goldberg presents on the future of agriculture to CFI–Los Angeles.
● CFI–Indiana holds its Fourth Annual Civic Day.
● CFI–Fort Lauderdale holds its Darwin Day celebration at Broward College North Campus Library.
● CFI–Michigan celebrates Darwin Day at Grand Rapids Community College’s Calkins Science Center.
● CFI–DC hosts a presentation by David J. Linden on the power of touch and how it shapes our experience of the world around us.
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.