Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 78

April 4, 2017

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering the wide range of work that you help make possible. (Now on its new schedule, every other Wednesday.) Become a member today!

The Main Events

mfs170.pngStand with CFI at the March for Science 

The March for Science, taking place April 22, will stand for principles such as evidence-based policy, the integrity of science education, and diversity and inclusion in science and engineering.

This is right up our alley.

The Center for Inquiry shares these principles as part of its mission, so we couldn’t be more enthusiastic to help lead this effort to stand up for science.

CFI staff, volunteers, members, and friends will be marching proudly, not just in the flagship Washington, DC, march, but in cities across the country. We want you to join us. Go to the Center for Inquiry’s March for Science website and sign up to be a part of the CFI presence at one of several marches. You’ll be adding your voice in the support of science and reason, you’ll be a part of what will be a historic event, and you’ll be helping to spread the word about how CFI is working to realize the goals of the March for Science every day in countless ways.

So sign up now to join with us. Choose one of the eleven CFI branches you’ll be marching with, and if you aren’t close enough to a CFI branch, sign up to help represent us where you will be marching. Let’s not pass up this opportunity to resist the forces of alternative facts and science denial and make a real impact for true science and reason. We’ll see you there.


melco.png.jpgJerry Coyne and Adam Felber added to Dawkins U.S. Tour

Last month, we announced that Richard Dawkins was coming back to the U.S. for live appearances in four cities, engaging in fascinating, unscripted conversations with distinguished guests about science, culture, current affairs, and more. We were able to announce two of the guests who will join Prof. Dawkins, and now we can reveal the final two!

We previously told you that in Boulder, CO, on May 22, Prof. Dawkins will take the stage with best-selling author and actress Annabelle Gurwitch, and in Miami on May 27 he’ll sit down with Pulitzer Prize–winning humorist Dave Barry.

To complete the lineup, we can now announce that on May 18 in Los Angeles, Prof. Dawkins will be joined in conversation by satirist Adam Felber, best known for appearances on NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and as a writer for shows such as Real Time with Bill Maher.

And finally, on May 24 in Washington, DC, two great minds of evolution come together as Richard Dawkins meets with Jerry Coyne, best-selling author of Why Evolution Is True.

If you missed Richard Dawkins during his fall tour last year, this is your chance to make sure you experience his wit and insight in person. Even if you did get to see him last year, these conversations will be a whole new experience. Buy your tickets now.


siHELFAND.pngSurvive the Information Apocalypse with Skeptical Inquirer

You know that we are living through an era in which facts are smothered by falsehoods, rumors, and conspiracy theories. You know that it’s going to take a renewed effort to withstand the deluge of misinformation and defend the basic notions of truth and evidence. (You’re even going to March for Science, right?)

But in order to navigate this new landscape, you’re going to need a guide. A survival guide, as it were, to see through the deceptions, promote true facts, and avoid being what astronomer David Helfand calls “Google-fed zombies,” those whose false beliefs are constantly reinforced by their algorithmically curated media diets. Thankfully, Helfand has provided such a guide in the cover feature of the latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer...and really, what better place?

Helfand calls for a “counterinsurgency” for facts in this Misinformation Age, writing, “The power of science lies in its skeptical, rational, evidence-based approach to understanding the world. This power begins with facts, and in my experience, these facts are the best tools with which to start the revolution.”

Also lighting the way through the darkness of misinformation, the May/June 2017 issue of Skeptical Inquirer also includes “SkepDoc” Harriet Hall on the fabricated alarmism over statins; Bertha Vazquez on the important work of the Center for Inquiry’s Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES); Prof. Craig A. Foster and Second Lieutenant Sarenna Ortiz of the U.S. Air Force Academy on the pernicious and false claims about vaccines and autism; and much more.

Skeptical Inquirer is available on newsstands and in mobile app stores. For more information, visit


News from HQ and the CFI Community

samlondon.jpgCFI Summer Internships—Apply by April 10! 

The Center for Inquiry student internship program is truly win-win. Student leaders win with a unique opportunity to gain real-world experience in the freethought movement, learning valuable new skills and helping to advance reason, science, and secularism (plus a stipend!). CFI wins because we get the benefit of working alongside brilliant, dedicated, enthusiastic students, the current and future leaders of the freethought community who bring fresh ideas and energy to our organization.

CFI’s national headquarters is currently accepting applications for its Summer 2017 internship program, but the deadline is coming up quick: Monday, April 10! Plus: CFI–Michigan has a number of great internship opportunities as well in advocacy, policy, event planning, and more in Grand Rapids. So if you or someone you know might be interested in joining us, apply now!


14424952_10154555455894868_5407960718100485573_o.jpgFree Speech and Checked Privilege: Tough Topics Tackled on Reasonable Talk and Point of Inquiry 

Reasonable Talk, CFI’s web video series of great presentations from Center for Inquiry events, has two new episodes from 2016’s Women in Secularism 4, and both focus on the very contentious topic of free speech.

First, writer and activist Soraya Chemaly explodes the myth of the Internet as a great equalizer, an unbiased marketplace of ideas. Instead, Chemaly says that the online space reflects the values of those who designed it: largely white males. When women face such hostility online simply for making their concerns heard, the Internet looks to Chemaly like a “safe space” for the denizens of Reddit.

Next is Wendy Kaminer, a veteran writer and social critic within the freethought movement, whose talk argues for a more purist approach to free speech in the public sphere. She is critical of the goals of social justice advocates on speech and “safe spaces,” contrasting their “goal-oriented” approach to that of civil libertarians, who she says are “process-oriented.”

Also, on CFI’s podcast Point of Inquiry, Lindsay Beyerstein is joined by Phoebe Maltz Bovy to tackle the equally thorny issue of “privilege,” the systemic advantages some groups of people have over others. Bovy discusses the necessity of being aware of one’s own blind spots due to privilege but cautions that constantly being advised to “check one’s privilege” can backfire and cause confusion and insult.


CFI Highlights on the Web and in the Media


  • 151104_2931476_Ghost_Hunters___Bonus_Scene___Is_Mr__Conrad__Here’s a good question you might not have thought of but now wish you had: Why do TV ghost hunters always do their investigations in the dark? Benjamin Radford calls it “the equivalent of tying an anvil to a marathon runner’s foot.”
  • The Associated Press and the Los Angeles News Group cite the Center for Inquiry in their pieces on Pakistan, Facebook, and the enforcement of blasphemy laws.
  • In a Free Inquiry op-ed, CFI President and CEO Robyn Blumner says the religiously unaffiliated must politically coalesce, writing, “We need to show them why this is an essential element of their identity.”
  • Benjamin Radford joins the panel on public radio’s Kojo Nnamdi Show to talk about the recent case of missing girls in Washington, DC, and the misinformation surrounding the event.
  • Massimo Polidoro presents a handy guide for would-be investigators, ten tips to help us get started inquiring into mysteries of all kinds.
  • While CFI’s Michael De Dora was at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, CFI cosponsored an event titled, “Facing Up to the Global Avalanche of Hate.” Video is now online.
  • Matthew Nisbet in Skeptical Inquirer sounds the alarm about the crisis of “superbugs,” bacteria that have adapted to become antibiotic-resistant, threatening much of what we take for granted in health care.
  • Susan Gerbic interviews Hemant Mehta about his work as the “friendly atheist,” reflecting on how he got to where he is and what we can learn from it.
  • Joe Nickell researches the life of H.N. Wheelock, known in the 19th century as “the magnetic healer.” Joe also has in his possession an actual business card of Wheelock’s, on which he boasts, “This Mode of Treatment is no Humbug.”
  • The latest update on the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) features this report from a North Dakota workshop leader who said, “I saw genuine relief for the support offered in this unit-based presentation you prepared.”
  • Andy Norman follows up his piece on “the mattering instinct” featured in a previous issue of Free Inquiry, focused on the concept begun by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. Says Norman, “A science of right and wrong is on our doorstep.”

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


Upcoming CFI Events


April 8:

April 11:

  • CFI–Michigan takes part in a panel discussion on medical care, faith, and the rising secular population. Panelists include Jennifer Beahan and Jeremiah Bannister of CFI–Michigan, as well as Rev. Doug VanDoren of the United Church of Christ and LMSW care advocate Vicki Poleni.

April 12:

April 15:

April 16:

April 17:

April 21:

April 22:

April 26:

  • Todd Williams of Grand Valley State University talks to CFI–Michigan about the role of existential anxiety in social and political judgement.

April 29:

May 7:

May 13:


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