Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 76

March 10, 2017

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!

Update for Our Readers
Starting next week, subscribers to Cause & Effect will now get one newsletter each week. As you know, Cause & Effect already comes every other week, keeping you up to date on the important work being done by the Center for Inquiry and all of its programs and publications—all of which you help make possible! And now on the “off-weeks,” you’ll also receive the Richard Dawkins Foundation Newsletter.

Each edition brings you fascinating news and content about the issues you care about from great sources all around the web. That means news about religion and secularism, breakthroughs in science, insightful commentary, fun and enlightening videos, politics and advocacy updates, and more.

You don’t have to do anything. You’ll start getting the Richard Dawkins Foundation Newsletter in your inbox next week. It’s just one more great benefit of the merger of CFI and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.


The Main Events

CHq;oeihq'w.pngForkosch Awards Honor the Best in Secular Humanist Writing 

Since 1988, CFI’s Council for Secular Humanism has presented the Morris D. and Selma V. Forkosch Awards, honoring the books and Free Inquiry articles that best represent and advance the values and ideals of secular humanism. Last week, the winners for 2015 and 2016 were bestowed upon a truly brilliant collection of works that range from the scholarly and academic to the deeply personal.

The 2016 Morris D. Forkosch book award was given to Ali A. Rizvi for The Atheist Muslim: A Journey from Religion to Reason, in which he both recounts his own story of doubt and discovery, and seeks to reconcile a cultural Islam with a modern, progressive world. Rizvi took to Twitter to express his gratitude, calling CFI “an amazing organization.” (Rizvi was just the subject of a profile in a recent article at The Atlantic.) Sociologist Phil Zuckerman, head of secular studies at Pitzer College, won the Selma V. Forkosch article award for his Free Inquiry piece “Secularism and Social Progress.”

The book award for 2015 went to Mark A. Smith for Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, a look at how religion has been compelled to adapt with the times, even more so than it has defined those times. Leah Mickens was the winner of the 2015 award for best Free Inquiry article for “Theology of the Odd Body: The Castrati, the Church, and the Transgender Moment,” which considers the Catholic Church’s sixteenth-century reliance on castrated male singers, contrasted with its current rigid notions of gender conformity.

Our congratulations to all the winners, with an eager eye to the next award-worthy works of secular humanist thought.


dawkins-tour-2017-aaaaa.jpgRichard Dawkins and Friends Coming to Four U.S. Cities in May

Last fall, Richard Dawkins brought his one-of-a-kind intellect and insight to select cities in the U.S. on an extremely successful tour presented by the Center for Inquiry. Thousands of fans and admirers had the chance to hear him in person, in live conversation with notable luminaries, and one question we heard most from audience members and from those who couldn’t make it out to see him was, “When is Richard coming back?”

We’re happy that we’re now able to say that the answer is very soon. This week, we announced a spring tour of “An Evening with Richard Dawkins” for four U.S. cities: Los Angeles (May 18); Boulder, CO (May 22); Washington, DC (May 24); and Miami, FL (May 27).

Prof. Dawkins will once again take part in live, unscripted conversation with a special guest for each engagement. In Boulder, Prof. Dawkins will be joined by actress and author Annabelle Gurwitch, whose upcoming book Wherever You Go, There They Are: Stories About My Family You Might Relate To, will be released April 18. And in Miami, Prof. Dawkins will talk with Pulitzer Prize–winning humorist Dave Barry. Guests for the Los Angeles and Washington events will be announced soon.

Seats filled up very quickly last time around, so don’t wait. Tickets for all events are available now!


News from HQ and the CFI Community

9008583-large.jpgCFI-Backed Secular Celebrant Bill Introduced in Ohio State Senate

The Center for Inquiry trains and certifies Secular Celebrants because we know that a wedding officiated by a celebrant who shares the couple’s life stance can’t be something enjoyed exclusively by the religious. We’ve fought for this right where it’s denied and have had two landmark successes to show for it: in Indiana in 2014 and earlier this year in Illinois, both crucial court victories ensuring Secular Celebrants are now authorized to solemnize marriages.

Now our focus turns to another state, and through another (and better) means: Ohio. CFI–Northeast Ohio and the CFI Office of Public Policy have been diligently working to support legislation that would allow Secular Celebrants to solemnize marriages in the Buckeye State.

State Sen. Michael Skindell has introduced SB 52, which would reword the current law governing marriage officiants to allow anyone, regardless of religious affiliation, to register with the Secretary of State and receive the authorization to solemnize marriages. The bill is cosponsored by Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni and Sen. Cecil Thomas.

“We’re confident Ohio legislators will see the victories CFI has had in Illinois and Indiana and decide passing the bill is the right thing to do,” said CFI–Northeast Ohio Executive Director Monette Richards in our statement, “saving the citizens of Ohio the expense and long wait of a fruitless court battle.”

If you’d like to become a CFI-certified Secular Celebrant, we have two new training opportunities coming up: on April 29 in Bloomington, Illinois, and on May 13 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


kraussengel.pngPoint of Inquiry Clears Up the Incomprehensible with Lawrence Krauss and David Engel

This week the Point of Inquiry podcast was proud to welcome Lawrence Krauss, the renowned theoretical physicist and science communicator, and not-incidentally an honorary member of CFI’s Board of Directors. Krauss will soon release a follow-up to his bestselling, mind-blowing book A Universe from Nothing titled The Greatest Story Ever Told… So Far, and he joins host Josh Zepps to discuss what we now know about what reality itself is actually made of and how we came to know it. (Krauss will give a presentation to CFI–Los Angeles on March 26.)

The show also sheds light on a subject even more complex and counterintuitive than quantum physics: the law. Lindsay Beyerstein welcomes David M. Engel, professor of law at the University at Buffalo and author of The Myth of the Litigious Society: Why We Don’t Sue. Despite the stereotype that paints Americans as quick to launch lawsuits at the slightest provocation, the reality is quite different. Engel explains why we’re actually quite reticent to sue and what we can do to address genuine grievances.


CFI Highlights on the Web and in the Media

  • Douglas_Preston.jpgIn a special interview for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, Benjamin Radford talks to bestselling author Douglas Preston about his extraordinary adventure to rediscover the Lost City of the Monkey God in the Honduran jungles of Central America, the subject of his latest book. “Everything in the book is accurate, nothing is made up, everything has been very carefully vetted,” says Preston, “But it is exciting, this is a sensational discovery…. As for using language like the ‘lost city,’ well it is a city and it is lost!”
  • Ben also appeared on WNPR’s Colin McEnroe Show, joining a panel of experts and journalists to discuss Americans’ never-ending fascination with UFOs.
  • Michael De Dora, currently representing CFI at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, was the guest on Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge to talk about the decision of prosecutors in Denmark to charge someone with violation of the country’s blasphemy law—the first time they have done so since 1971.
  • Susan Gerbic continues her work profiling the many faces of CSICon 2016, speaking with Katie Dyer, who presented a paper on critical thinking education, and U.S. Air Force Academy behavioral sciences professor Craig Foster, who said CSICon “gave me a particularly strong spark” to encourage further skeptical work.
  • As part of Skeptical Inquirer’s look back on the past forty years, former editor of UK’s The Skeptic, Wendy M. Grossman, reflects on how skepticism as a movement has wisely broadened its focus to combat anti-scientific claims beyond the paranormal; and Benjamin Radford notes the breadth of expertise that strengthens the movement. “I have yet to have a person name an occupation or hobby that doesn’t have some angle into pseudoscience or paranormal claims.”

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


Upcoming CFI Events


March 15:

March 18:

  • Joe Cohn of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) speaks to CFI–Portland about threats to free speech on college campuses.

March 19:

March 20:

  • Dr. Karen Garst delivers her presentation “Serpent: From Goddess to Devil to Doctor” for CFI–Austin.

March 22:

March 24:

March 26:

March 31:

April 8:

April 22:

  • The March for Science: “A celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community.”

April 29:

May 13:


Thank you!

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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