Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 62
August 26, 2016
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!
The Main Events
Democrats Must Stop Ignoring Atheists, Says Blumner in Miami Herald Op-Ed
Last month, high-level staff at the Democratic National Committee were revealed to have considered using suspicions about Sen. Bernie Sanders’s mistakenly presumed atheism against him in primary states with large blocks of religious voters. CFI made news when its leadership cosigned a statement not only condemning this bigoted idea but demanding the resignation of the DNC’s CFO, Bradley Marshall. The statement made news across the country, and eventually Marshall and some other staffers did indeed resign.
But Robyn Blumner, CFI’s CEO, was not about to let the larger issue of atheists’ marginalization get swept under the rug, ignored once again in the cacophony of a chaotic election. On Sunday, the Miami Herald published an important op-ed by Robyn, in which she takes the entire Democratic Party to task for turning its nose up at atheists (who reliably vote Democratic by huge margins) and, more broadly, the “nones,” which are Democrats’ largest belief-based voting bloc.
“Democrats in officialdom need to ask themselves why they fight for the dignity and respect for every other marginalized group—racial and ethnic minorities, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities—except atheists,” wrote Robyn. “If the answer is because they can, since the Republican Party shills for the Religious Right and liberal atheists have nowhere else to go, for shame.”
Robyn’s piece coincidentally comes just as the video of her speech from the 2016 Reason Rally, in which she encourages nonbelievers to make certain they are not ignored by anyone in the political class, goes online. “We can be dismissed by politicians with utter impunity. We can be insulted and we can be ignored and there is no political cost for it. And why is that? Because we are too quiet,” she said. The remedy? Atheists in America need “to make some noise.”
40 Years of Skeptical Inquirer Celebrated with Special Anniversary Issue
Skeptical Inquirer, the groundbreaking magazine that launched a movement for science and critical thinking in a world beset by pseudoscience and snake oil, is turning forty years old. To celebrate this landmark occasion, Skeptical Inquirer this month released a special 40th anniversary issue, in which some of the biggest names in skepticism turn their critical eyes inward to discuss what they see as the state of the skeptical union and offer their prescriptions for a stronger movement in the years to come.
Celebrities of science kick things off, with pieces from Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye, both emphasizing the necessity of critical thinking and an understanding of science to maintain a healthy democracy and to avert global catastrophe. This special issue also features essays from luminaries such as Lawrence Krauss, Steven Novella, and Richard Wiseman, and even pieces that are critical of the skeptic movement’s missteps and pitfalls, from thinkers such as Scott Lilienfeld, Sharon Hill, and Daniel Dennett.
Look for this issue on newsstands now or in your mobile device’s app store, and then take the advice of Skeptical Inquirer editor Kendrick Frazier: “Plunge into this intellectual, real-world thought-fest. Drink deeply. Think well.”
Vox Journalist to Receive Critical Thinking Prize at CSICon Las Vegas + New Interviews
CSICon 2016 in Las Vegas is going to be an amazing experience for myriad reasons, not least of which being the stellar lineup of speakers such as James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott, Elizabeth Loftus, Lawrence Krauss, Michael Mann, Maria Konnikova, and so many more.
But apart from basking in the intellectual glow of well-known luminaries, CSICon also presents the opportunity to welcome and celebrate the emergence of new talent and new voices of skepticism. And so it is that this week it was announced that the 2015 Balles Prize for Critical Thinking—which has previously honored the likes of Paul Offitt, Natalie Angier, Joe Nickell, and the producers of the new Cosmos—will go to Vox.com’s intrepid science reporter Julia Belluz.
Belluz’s work at Vox has been indispensable, directly challenging the most insidious claims of the peddlers of pseudoscience, from the anti-vaccine movement to alt-med, and from fad diets to guru-prophets like Dr. Oz and the “Food Babe.” The news-consuming public is wiser and safer thanks to Belluz’s reporting.
Plus: There are now two brand new interviews with CSICon speakers, both of whom are interviewed by people who themselves deserve profiles of their own.
First, it’s a meeting of two of the top leaders on the issue of climate change, as CSI Fellow Mark Boslough interviews climatologist Michael Mann, the figure who climate change deniers “love to hate” more than just about anyone else. After introducing the famous “hockey stick” graph, Mann says, “The Eye of Sauron was fixed on me. Rather than shrink from the battle, I chose to fight back.”
Then, computing pioneer and CFI Board Member Leonard Tramiel interviews the great Jill Tarter of SETI, where she addresses common misconceptions about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, makes the case for skeptics’ vested interest in that search, and tells how she of all people attempts to respond to true believers in alien encounters on Earth.
Julia Belluz will receive her award in person at CSICon Las Vegas, and of course Michael Mann, Mark Boslough, Leonard Tramiel, and Jill Tarter will be there too. Register now to be part of all that awaits you when the skeptics take over the city of illusions.
News from HQ and the CFI Community
Women in Secularism 4 is Coming Soon!
Few events in the freethought world have sparked as much conversation, debate, and inspiration as CFI’s Women in Secularism conferences. It’s been almost two years since the third conference, and the time has come to reconvene on this pivotal topic.
Women in Secularism 4 is taking place September 23–25 in Arlington, VA, and there is a lot to talk about: The intrusion of religion into women’s lives in the United States, including how it prevents access to abortion and contraception; violence against women around the world who are religious dissidents or who refuse to let dogma relegate them to second-class status; the role of “safe spaces” within a movement that champions free expression; and so much more.
Appearing at the fourth Women in Secularism conference are such brilliant speakers as Rebecca Goldstein, Katha Pollitt, Johnetta Elzie, Lindsay Beyerstein, Bonya Rafida Ahmed, Melanie Brewster, Wendy Kaminer, Kavin Senapathy, and many more.
Plus, attendees can also register seperately for in-person training to become a CFI Secular Celebrant. See the website for more information.
Don’t wait. Register for this highly anticipated conference now.
Canines, Cupping, and Conspiracies on Point of Inquiry
During the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, the whole world was united for one brief, shining moment, as billions around the globe all thought at the very same time, “What the heck are those big circles all over those swimmers’ bodies?” And thus the great discussion on “cupping” and other alternative and “traditional” treatments began. To help sort it all out, Josh Zepps speaks to surgical oncologist and science-based medicine advocate Dr. David Gorski on Point of Inquiry.
Also, Lindsay Beyerstein talks to one journalist who has recently focused her efforts on two very different areas of myth and misinformation. Her guest, Bronwen Dickey, is the author of the new book Pit Bull: The Battle Over an American Icon, which seeks to dispel the bad rap against this famous breed. But Brownen was also brave enough, as a skeptical journalist, to go aboard the bizarre Conspira-Sea Cruise, a voyage at sea filled with the biggest names in outrageous claims. She discusses all of it on Point of Inquiry.
Public Health Expert Blasts So-Called “Health Freedom” Movement at CFI–L.A.
Professor, health writer, and Skeptical Inquirer online columnist William London delivered a wide-ranging talk at CFI–Los Angeles and CFI–Orange County on numerous public health issues. Criticizing the promoters of health superstitions and pseudoscience, London said that “health freedom” advocates favor legislation that excuses those who offer health products and services from having to meet professional standards and from being accountable to consumers.
London also noted that consumers have the illusion of freedom of choice when they are given misleading or false information, emphasizing the importance of robust consumer protection. Quoting Jarvis and Barrett’s observation about product quackery, London concluded: “Victims of disease do not demand quack treatments because they want to exercise their ‘rights,’ but because they have been deceived into thinking that they offer hope.” He continued: “Second, the laws against worthless nostrums are not directed against the victims of disease but at the promoters who attempt to exploit them.”
CFI Speakers Bureau Gets a Refresh
Looking for an engaging speaker on topics such as atheism, activism, skepticism, and science? Look no further than the CFI Speakers Bureau.
It’s a collection of scholars, writers, and activists who are dedicated to stimulating public discussion on issues that concern nontheists, humanists, and freethinkers. If you’ve been to the Speakers Bureau before but haven’t looked in a while, now’s the time to revisit it—we’ve added dozens of new profiles for speakers such as human rights activist and Women in Secularism 4 speaker Maryam Namazie; popular atheist podcaster David Smalley; and CFI’s own legal director, Nick Little.
You can check out all these profiles and more at centerforinquiry.net/speakers.
Highlights from CFI on the Web and in the Media
● After one study showed that ISIS recruits seem to know little about the finer points of Islam, CFI President Ronald Lindsay writes in Huffington Post to counter the notion that this somehow means that their religion “has nothing to do” with their violence. “It doesn’t matter whether the person knows the details of The One True Belief as long as they are committed to The One True Belief.”
● Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia is among those who introduced that Freedom of Religion Act of 2016, which prohibits a religious test for immigrants and refugees to the U.S. CFI endorses this bill and asked you to support it as well. In a recent Medium piece, he thanks CFI, along with other allied groups, for that support.
● In 1912, the “Piltdown Man” fossil was purported to be the missing link between apes and humans, and then was revealed to be a hoax by the 1950s. Joe Nickell, who has researched this extensively, reports that a new study reveals that the forger and the “discoverer” of Piltdown Man were one and the same: Charles Dawson.
● Kylie Sturgess interviews Tara Moss, author of Speaking Out: A 21st Century Handbook for Women and Girls, about the importance of critical thinking for women and their participation in public life.
● George Ongere, head of CFI–Kenya, reports on the ongoing efforts of his organization to provide education and assistance to orphans and to dispel deadly myths about things such as HIV/AIDS and witchcraft. Writes George, “When you pick a child who is giving up and see that face that was once dull bright again, I will never forget such a great human experience!”
● Season 2 of CFI’s Reasonable Talk video series continues, with presentations at CFI–Transnational by Matt Dillahunty on having meaningful discussions about belief and Aron Ra on the efforts by the Christian Right to take over Texas education.
● David Koepsell considers what the future of humanism will be like for those “born godless,” among a generation far more removed from religion than generations past.
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.
Upcoming CFI Events
● CFI–Northeast Ohio holds its Biannual Conference.
● Comic-musician Roy Zimmerman performs “This Machine” for CFI–Indiana.
● University of Texas-Austin Professor of Government Eric McDaniel talks to CFI–Austin about the role of religion in American politics and in black political movement in particular.
● Women in Secularism 4 in Arlington, VA.
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 will soon be home to 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.