Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 63

September 9, 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

11.01.16_Dawkins2016LA1000x600_UPDATED2_AsOf_08.24.16.pngSee Richard Dawkins on Tour This Fall  

Richard Dawkins is returning to the States on his first a U.S. tour since he suffered a mild stroke earlier this year. “An Evening with Richard Dawkins,” presented by the Center for Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, will feature Dawkins on stage in conversation with special guests in five cities: Los Angeles, Portland (OR), Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, and Philadelphia. 

There is an enormous amount of excitement over Dawkins’s tour, whose special guests will be such brilliant figures as neuroscientist Sam Harris, Saturday Night Live veteran Julia Sweeney, and Charles Simonyi, the technologist and philanthropist who endowed Prof. Dawkins’ chair at Oxford University. In fact, the Los Angeles event with Dawkins and Sam Harris on November 1 sold out almost immediately after being announced, so a second L.A. date on November 2 has been added to give even more people a chance to be inspired.

Get your tickets now for this unmissable opportunity.


RRa2016Sun-Laas-06052016_102-CFI.jpgMake Great Things Happen, Now on a Monthly Basis 

Earlier this year the Center for Inquiry introduced a fully revamped membership plan that made being a part of CFI and its mission better and simpler than ever, with easy-to-understand membership levels and improved benefits that apply everywhere (including discounts to CFI events like Richard Dawkins’ fall tour!). The response has been great.

But there is always room for improvement, so now it’s even easier to join the Center for Inquiry and sport one of those cool new membership cards. CFI has introduced monthly installments for memberships, in addition to yearly memberships, so anyone can choose the path to membership that suits them best.

CFI is working harder than ever to advance our shared mission, promoting critical thinking and the freedom of inquiry and fighting for secularism, science, and free expression. From the grassroots to the United Nations, from podcasts and videos to world-renowned publications and landmark international conferences, CFI is your advocate for a more enlightened world. 

Become a member now. Choose a “cosmic” membership level, and pick from either yearly or monthly installments. Together we can make great things happen.


wis4simple.jpgWomen in Secularism 4 Is Almost Here!

Women in Secularism 4 is just around the corner. In just a couple of weeks, September 23–25 in Arlington, VA, the most remarkable and courageous women of freethought will convene for what is sure to be an enlightening and inspiring event.

Speakers will include Rebecca Goldstein, Katha Pollitt, Maryam Namazie, Lindsay Beyerstein, Bonya Rafida Ahmed, Melanie Brewster, Wendy Kaminer, Emily Willingham, Kavin Senapathy, and many more. Expect a wide range of ideas and perspectives that will both enrich and challenge, covering topics such as the intrusion of religion into women’s lives in the United States, violence against women who dissent against religious oppression, the role of “safe spaces” within a movement that champions free expression, and so much more.

Plus, attendees can also register separately for in-person training to become a CFI Secular Celebrant. See the website for more information. 

CFI’s own Debbie Goddard was a guest last week on Freethought Radio, hosted by fellow Women in Secularism speaker Annie Laurie Gaylor, to talk about the conference and what we can look forward to.

It’s not too late! Register for this highly anticipated conference now.


News from HQ and the CFI Community

csiconsquareish.pngGoing One-On-One with the Speakers of CSICon Las Vegas

CSICon 2016 is getting closer, kicking off in Las Vegas on October 27. Over the past few weeks, some of the fantastic CSICon speakers have taken part in special interviews with notable members of the skeptic community. This week brings new interviews with two truly accomplished figures that challenge skeptics to question their own beliefs, reflect on their motivations, and challenge their own preconceptions.

Carrie Poppy, whose own investigative drive and wry humor has illuminated a wide variety of topics, interviews Maria Konnikova, a contributing writer for The New Yorker and author of the books Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes and The Confidence Game, which focuses on how con artists ply their craft. Konnikova discusses the sometimes uncomfortable truth that even skeptics, trained and hardened to think critically, can be conned. “I think they don’t realize that every single person has a point of vulnerability,” she says, “and the great con artist will find that point and exploit it.” 

Plus, Tim Binga interviews CFI’s own Joe Nickell, the world-renowned investigator of claims of the paranormal. Joe warns skeptics of adopting a “smarter-than-them attitude” of those who he says “would rather be right than effective.” The message of skepticism would be much better communicated, says Joe, if skeptics approached claims with an open and curious mind. 

Speaking of Joe, don’t miss his special article in Free Inquiry, where he explores the alleged miracles that cleared the path for sainthood for Mother Teresa. Joe takes a close look at each of the two miracles with which she is associated and finds them at best flimsy and easily explained by entirely natural means and at worst examples of a “contempt for science and reason” by the Catholic Church.

Check out all the other great interviews at the CSICon website. And don’t forget to register, so you don’t miss out on your chance to hear from these fantastic speakers, plus luminaries such as James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott, Elizabeth Loftus, Lawrence Krauss, Julia Belluz, Massimo Polidoro, and so many more.


poiem.pngDeath Deceptions and Marijuana Myths on Point of Inquiry

Have you ever thought about faking your own death? Author, essayist, and writing professor Elizabeth Greenwood became so fascinated by the idea that she tried it herself, and the result is a new book, Playing Dead, and a great conversation on Point of Inquiry with host Lindsay Beyerstein about what she discovered was the bizarre subculture and robust infrastructure of death fraud.

Lindsay also spoke to science writer Emily Willingham about the debate over the use of cannabis for medical purposes, particularly in regard to autism. They discuss how the stigma about marijuana and the severe government restrictions on cannabis make genuine research on its usefulness difficult and make it all too easy for the anti-vaccination crowd to make baseless claims. Emily Willingham and Lindsay will also be among the great speakers at this month’s Women in Secularism 4 conference!


Jim moderating at Cafe 2.jpgCafé Inquiry Celebrates 40 Years of Skeptical Inquirer in L.A. 

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Skeptical Inquirer and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, CFI–Los Angeles Executive Director Jim Underdown recounted the origins of the organization, which was established to scientifically examine claims of the paranormal and pseudoscience. He also showed off copies of The Zetetic, the predecessor to Skeptical Inquirer magazine, as well as copies of the magazine from throughout the decades. Jim described specific investigations conducted by CFI’s top paranormal investigator, Joe Nickell, and CFI–L.A.’s Independent Investigations Group, which was started by Jim. Attendees shared stories and observations about how they became interested in the movement well into the evening. 


Highlights from CFI on the Web and in the Media


● CFI Legal Director Nick Little considers the “burkini ban” in force in some French cities and the small victory of a court overturning the ban in one case. “A ban on burkinis doesn’t integrate French Islamic women into society,” writes Nick, “but instead seems likely to force them further out of it.”

● Secretary of State John Kerry recently visited Bangladesh, and CFI’s Michael De Dora had some important ideas about what Kerry should say to the government’s leadership.

● The Daily Beast profiles people who believe the government is controlling their minds and checks in with Ben Radford for some skeptical perspective. Ben is also the guest on the Bob Breakenridge radio show to discuss his work on “scary clowns.” 

● At the Free Thinking blog, Ben points out all that is wrong with the homeopathic headache remedy HeadOn, including its insidious, repeating tagline.

● David Koepsell considers Daniel Dennett’s recent comments that philosophy has become “self-indulgent” and makes the horrifying observation that “Donald Trump is more influential than any philosopher alive.”

● Stuart Vyse writes about the controversy over the work of MIT’s Suzanne Corkin and her work with memory-loss patient Henry Molaison (“H.M.”) and the pitfalls of relying on consensus.

● Stephen Law examines the claims of “best available explanation” to back up conspiratorial or paranormal beliefs.

And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Upcoming CFI Events


September 14:

●   Mythology expert Dave Fletcher speaks to CFI–Michigan about the history of tricksters and how they’ve shaped our world.

September 17:

●   CFI–Northeast Ohio holds its Biannual Conference.

September 18:

●   CFI’s public policy chief Michael De Dora and legal director Nick Little deliver presentations to CFI–Los Angeles and CFI–Orange County on CFI’s work throughout the world.

September 19:

●   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.

September 23-25

●   Women in Secularism 4 in Arlington, VA.

October 2:

●   Mathematical physicist David Klein speaks to CFI–Los Angeles to discuss scenarios for the future based on climate science and what solutions might exist to mitigate climate change.


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 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