Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 8
June 13, 2014
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
Pushing Back against Religion and Pseudoscience in Health Care
We launched a major new campaign last week to combat religious dogma and junk science in health care and to support a system based on humanist and scientific principles: Keep Health Care Safe and Secular! The campaign website is filled with news and information about the impact religion and pseudoscience are having on health care policy and ways you can take immediate action to stop them. We also want you to tell your own stories about times when religion or sham treatments have affected or interfered with your health or the health of those close to you. Our president and CEO Ron Lindsay wrote a blog post explaining the motivations behind the effort, saying, “By all means, getting God off our currency would be a good thing, but frankly, it’s more of a priority to get God out of our physicians’ offices and our hospitals.”
The campaign has already won high praise from prominent movement writers (see posts from Hemant Mehta, Ed Brayton, and Ophelia Benson) and was the subject of a great piece at ThinkProgress, where health care policy writer Tara Culp-Ressler says CFI is “connecting the dots” between religious intrusions and pseudoscientific chicanery in health and medicine. Public Health Watch calls the campaign “a much needed counterforce to anti-choice organizations.”
Stay tuned, because there’s a lot more coming from this campaign. Look for and post tweets hashtagged with #SafeandSecular!
Secular Groups Protest Pakistan’s Twitter Censorship
CFI helped lead a coalition of freethought groups on June 10 in protesting Pakistan’s use of its blasphemy laws to censor Twitter accounts and other social media. Our public policy director Michael De Dora lead the drafting of a joint letter to Pakistan’s ambassador to the United Nations, which was signed by a wide array of freethought groups. Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) spearheaded activity on Twitter itself, tweeting with the hashtag #TwitterTheocracy (and we made our own statement there too, with the poor little caged guy you see on the left). Notably, a petition started by EXMNA for the protest was blocked…in Pakistan.
Ingersoll Freethought Tour Sells Out! Tickets Still Available for Day 1 Conference
There is a hunger for freethought history that took even us by surprise! Not two weeks after formally announcing our two-day conference and tour, “Robert Green Ingersoll and the Reform Imperative,” the event sold out! But worry not, friends of the Great Agnostic. While the tour on the second day is full to capacity, you can still buy tickets to the first day of the conference on August 16, a day filled with fantastic presentations from brilliant writers and thinkers like Sally Roesch Wagner, Susan Jacoby, and our own Tom Flynn. Register now to be immersed in the history and wisdom of figures such as Ingersoll, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Matilda Joslyn Gage, and Frederick Douglass.
News from HQ
A Summer of Mind-Expanding Opportunities
The 2014 Leadership Conference will be held July 24–27 at CFI headquarters in Amherst, NY, with some of the best leadership and activism training available in the freethought movement. Student and community activists from across the continent will gather for four days filled with workshops, networking, educational presentations, entertainment, and more. No immediate payment is required for students to register, and information on travel grants is coming soon. So sign up now! (Non-student community leaders, we’ll have registration info for you soon.)
Camp Inquiry 2014 takes place August 3–9 with the theme “CI is DIY”! Held in Holland, NY, Camp Inquiry gives curious kids hands-on learning experiences and guidance from some of today’s brightest minds, helping them learn the skills they’ll need to apply creativity and critical thinking to the world they’ll one day be leading. Find out more at CampInquiry.org.
Grownups get to sharpen their wits with expert workshops at the 2014 Skeptic’s Toolbox, August 7–10 in Eugene, Oregon. This year’s Toolbox will focus on using model cases to better deal with dubious claims, and it’ll do that with hands-on training alongside experts like Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Harriet Hall, Lindsay Beyerstein, and Loren Pankratz. Register now and reserve your spot in the toolbox!
Brilliant Women Challenge Preconceptions on Point of Inquiry
Two pioneering women who are opening minds and demolishing stereotypes were the special guests on the latest episodes of our flagship podcast Point of Inquiry.
Trans rights activist Janet Mock joined Lindsay Beyerstein to discuss her new biography, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More, how trans people are challenging traditional concepts of gender, and the unnecessary suffering they must endure because of that challenge.
Josh Zepps welcomed Iranian-American comedian Negin Farsad, one of the Huffington Post‘s 50 Funniest Women, and one of the subjects of the documentary The Muslims Are Coming! about a comedy tour of Muslim comedians through America’s Red States.
Lobbying with the Secular Coalition
Yesterday (June 12) the Secular Coalition for America kicked off its Secular Summit & Lobby Day with appearances from influential Members of Congress, such as Reps. Rush Holt, Robert Scott, Zoe Lofgren, and Barbara Lee, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. Today, attendees embark on a day of hands-on training in lobbying and activism.
The Council for Secular Humanism is a member organization of the SCA.
CFI Community News
On June 1, CFI–Western New York marched in the Buffalo Pride Parade for the second year in a row. CFI staff, interns, and local members participated in the event, handing out rainbow stickers with the words “atheist,” “freethinker,” “secular humanist,” and “skeptic” to parade-goers and holding signs showing our support for LGBT equality. You can see photos from the parade here.
CFI–DC announced a real coup of an event coming this fall: On September 10, they’ll welcome Sam Harris to discuss his new book Waking Up and his new initiatives in mindfulness and “secular spirituality.” Interviewing Harris for the event will be the Washington Post’s religion reporter Michelle Boorstein. If you’re in the DC area, you can’t miss this one.
Author William Poundstone spoke to a full-house audience at CFI–Los Angeles, where he discussed how an ESP experiment on the radio inspired the science of human predictability. He explained psychologist Louis Goodfellow’s determination that the public’s guesses about random mental targets were not random but predictable. Since his new book, Rock Breaks Scissors: A Practical Guide to Outguessing and Outwitting Almost Everybody, could not be sold before its publishing date, he was kind enough to give a few copies away. (CFI–L.A. also had its theater lobby used on Tuesday as a polling place for three precincts for the California primary.)
CFI in the Media
● The U.S. Senate passed by unanimous consent a bill that would allow for a prayer plaque to be placed at the World War II National Memorial—a bill that we opposed. Our own Michael De Dora responded to the Senate passage (and likely enactment) of the bill here in the Washington Post. Our opposition is also referred and linked to, but not mentioned by name, in a piece critical of us in the conservative American Spectator.
● Gwyneth Paltrow’s embrace of the pseudoscience of Masaru Emoto, who asserts that water can be affected by your feelings and by how you treat it emotionally, has gotten some attention lately. As a result, not one but two outlets have highlighted a piece by Carrie Poppy at Skeptical Inquirer, in which Carrie attempts to replicate the Emoto experiment. Check them out at Vox and Boing Boing.
● Our Director of Outreach Debbie Goddard was the Richard Dawkins Foundation’s Secular VIP of the Week and they have a great interview with her where she talks about her own background, the state of the movement, and good ways for people to get involved.
● At The Christian Post, our position paper on religion and atheism in the U.S. military by James Parco is cited as a counterpoint to the assertions of Rep. John Fleming (R-UT), who would like to see a GOP-dominated Senate “force the military’s hand” on enacting unnecessary “religious freedom” measures.
● Ben Radford goes on the Rob Breakenridge radio show to talk about strange and dangerous obsessions with Slender Man.
Highlights from CFI on the Web
● Kylie Sturgess interviews Richard Wiseman about his book Night School for Skeptical Inquirer, where they discuss his delves into the strange science of sleep and dreaming.
● Joe Nickell reviews the film Heaven Is For Real and might be the only such reviewer to use heavy citations of the source material, dismissing its central assertion as based on “nothing more than anecdotal evidence.”
● Sharon Hill at Skeptical Inquirer looks at what progress has been made, if any, in the research of psychic powers, writing, “The excuses have piled up high: The displacement effect, psi-missing, decline effect, scientific prejudice and pathological disbelief by skeptics—oh, come on!”
● Two great Skeptical Inquirer print articles go live online: One by Joe Nickell, an investigation of the “weeping” Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Fatima; the other a cover feature by Stefano Bigliardi on the world of Islamic creationism and its very prolific figurehead, Harun Yahya.
● In honor of the full “honey moon” on Friday the Thirteenth, we bring back a classic Skeptical Inquirer piece from 1985: “The Moon Was Full and Nothing Happened.”
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.
Save the Date! Upcoming Events
• Linda LaScola of The Clergy Project joins project alumnus Jerry DeWitt in conversation for an event at CFI–DC.
• Florida State University religion and history professor Amanda Porterfield presents on “The Rise of the Nones” to CFI–Tallahassee.
• Bob Blaskiewicz presents to CFI–Los Angeles on his and other skeptics’ efforts to expose the truth about Stanislaw Burzynski and his dubious cancer cures. (Read his article on this topic at Skeptical Inquirer.)
• CFI–Northeast Ohio hosts a debate on the existence of God between Dr. Mano Singham and Pastor Joe Puckett at the Northwest Church of Christ in Canton at 6 pm.
• CFI–Michigan welcomes Rev. Julie Nemecek, who’ll present on “The Rapid Rise of Transgender Awareness in Society (And What That Means).”
• International humanist activist Leo Igwe will speak to CFI–Indiana.
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.