Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 80
May 3, 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!
The Main Events
Undeniable and Unstoppable: CFI Communities Help Lead the March for Science
In an unprecedented display of political will and enthusiasm, tens of thousands of people in more than 600 cities around the world took to the streets on April 22, Earth Day, to take part in the March for Science, and the Center for Inquiry was there. With science-denial and misinformation being spouted from the highest reaches of government power and the conspiracy-mongering corners of the Internet, these global protests pushed back against the poisoning of science in public discourse and policy.
Of course, CFI took part in the flagship march in Washington, D.C., coordinating with our friends at the Secular Coalition for America, the American Humanist Association, and American Atheists, working together to make a strong showing for the freethought movement. See some great photos from the D.C. march by CFI Board member Brian Engler and longtime friend of CFI Bruce Press, who also made a short highlight video.
Oh, and who was one of the headlining speakers of the main event? None other than Committee for Skeptical Inquiry fellow Bill Nye.
But of course, this event was about far more than just the D.C. march. Here are just a few examples of how CFI communities helped lead in this historic moment:
- In Lansing, Michigan, 6,000 people came out to march for science, where CFI–Michigan was the only official sponsoring organization, and the branch’s program director, Jennifer Beahan, was a featured speaker at the rally. You can watch her address to the crowd right here. “We face a critical branch point in history,” said Jen. “What we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendents.”
- CFI–Western New York, based at CFI’s headquarters in Amherst, played a leading role in the Buffalo March for Science, providing information to attendees and showing examples of some pseudoscience in the form of Power Balance bracelets. The evening before the march CFI–WNY hosted a sign-making event and a screening of a documentary about the impact of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, and also volunteered to be the first location to host a post-march science event, featuring Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein on May 25 in a talk about HPV vaccination.
- Reba Boyd Wooden, executive director of CFI–Indiana, led her branch’s participation in the Indianapolis March for Science, where she was also one of the featured speakers. It was estimated that 10,000 people attended this march.
- At the Los Angeles march, interest in CFI–Los Angeles was very high. Sean Carroll, another fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, was a featured speaker, and CFI–L.A. executive director Jim Underdown took to the stage to perform a special “psychic demonstration” that has been reported to have “reinvigorated the crowd” at the end of a long day of activity. Knowing Jim, we have no doubt this is true.
- Bertha Vazquez, director of CFI’s Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) program represented the Center for Inquiry at the Miami March for Science, and garnered the interest of hundreds of marchers. Additionally, TIES Teacher Corps member Blake Touchet took part in the march in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, wielding a sign saying, “ASK ME ABOUT T.I.E.S.” (See it at Bertha’s TIES update here.)
In the lead-up to the March for Science, CFI issued an action alert urging our community to contact their Members of Congress in support of the Scientific Integrity Act (H.R. 1358), a bill recently proposed by Rep. Paul D. Tonko (D-NY) that asserts that policy decisions should be fully informed by science, free from inappropriate politics, ideology, or financial conflicts of interest, and requires the establishment of scientific integrity principles for federal agencies that fund or conduct scientific research. Congress still needs to hear from you, so take action here.
Stuart Vyse presented his thoughts on the March for Science at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, writing, “I came away from the weekend believing we need to do much more of this.”
Register Now for CSICon Las Vegas 2017 (Finally!)
The very day after CSICon 2016 came to a close we started receiving messages from attendees needing to know when they could register for CSICon 2017! Not even twenty-four hours had passed since the end of the event, and already folks were clamoring for more.
Well, you asked for it. (An awful lot of you, actually.) Right now you can head to CSIConference.org and register for CSICon Las Vegas 2017, taking over the City of Illusions October 26–29!
The lineup of speakers is once again incredible. James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott, Cara Santa Maria, Michael Mann, Richard Wiseman, Lawrence Krauss, Massimo Polidoro, Carrie Poppy, and once again serving as master of ceremonies, the one and only George Hrab.
It’s all happening at the fantastical Excalibur Hotel and Casino. There will be another Sunday Papers session, and stay tuned for the detailed schedule of events. In the meantime, check out part one of Kendrick Frazier’s interview with James Randi from last year’s CSICon, just posted from Skeptical Inquirer.
In an age of unrelenting misinformation, and when scientists feel compelled to take to the streets to defend their discipline, there could not be a better or more crucial time for a conference dedicated to science and reason. That it will also be insanely fun is just icing on the cake. Get yourself registered now, and we’ll see you in Vegas.
News from HQ and the CFI Community
A Changing of Seasons for Point of Inquiry and Reasonable Talk
We have learned from television that season finales can be rather exciting with the promise of dramatic new developments to come; but also bittersweet, as we know, we’ll be without our favorite storyline for some time, and changes may be in the offing. This week brings two such “finales” to both of the Center for Inquiry’s “prestige” shows.
The first is genuinely a season finale, the end of the third season of Reasonable Talk, CFI’s video series of the best presentations from CFI events. Closing out a collection of talks from Women in Secularism 4, Reasonable Talk presents an important conversation on the threats to abortion rights with renowned poet, author, and journalist Katha Pollitt and FFRF copresident Annie Laurie Gaylor. Season 4 is coming soon!
The second is a finale of a more dramatic kind, as Josh Zepps hosts his final episode of CFI’s flagship podcast Point of Inquiry. Josh, along with cohost Lindsay Beyerstein, has been with Point of Inquiry since October of 2013, and the two have brought us hours of fascinating conversations with remarkable people. Lindsay’s last episode aired last month, an interview with religion journalist Sarah Posner. For Josh’s finale, and the last of the Beyerstein-Zepps era, he speaks to the brilliant Jill Tarter, the force behind SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. She and Josh discuss the possibilities for life beyond our world, the risks involved if we happen to find it, and why the search is meaningful to begin with.
We wish Josh and Lindsay nothing but success in their new endeavors and look forward to working with them much more in the future (Lindsay is already slated to be a speaker at CSICon Las Vegas in October!). The next phase of Point of Inquiry starts this summer. Stay tuned.
Get Your Tickets Now to See Richard Dawkins on Tour This Month
There’s still time to get your tickets to see Richard Dawkins, in live conversation with notable guests, as he comes to the United States for four special engagements, now just days away!
- On May 18 in Los Angeles, 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.
- In Boulder, CO, on May 22, Prof. Dawkins will take the stage with best-selling author and actress Annabelle Gurwitch.
- On May 24 in Washington, D.C., Dawkins joins another great mind of evolution, Jerry Coyne, best-selling author of Why Evolution Is True.
- And in Miami on May 27, you can witness a meeting few would have predicted, as Dawkins sits down with Pulitzer Prize–winning humorist Dave Barry.
Time and tickets are running out. Don’t miss your chance to witness these unscripted conversations with one of the greatest scientific minds of our time. Buy your tickets now.
CFI Highlights on the Web and in the Media
- At Religion News Service, CFI’s Michael De Dora and Nick Little coauthor an op-ed challenging the idea that the free exercise of religion is our “first freedom,” when in fact the real first freedom in the U.S. Constitution is, in fact, freedom from established religion.
- Brandon Withrow at The Daily Beast explores how different religious groups are responding to the new data from Pew Research that suggests the world’s Muslims will soon outnumber Christians, and that secularization may be on the decline. For the secular perspective, he turns to CFI’s Paul Fidalgo.
- CFI President and CEO Robyn Blumner is the guest for the hour on the Mythinformed podcast, discussing the wide range of issues and causes covered by the Center for Inquiry.
- Benjamin Radford uses an episode of Kindred Spirits as a case study in how not to perform a ghost investigation.
- Joe Nickell looks into the mystery of ghostly orbs coming from a Rhode Island barn, and reviews the new film The Lost City of Z.
There is a trove of great new articles now available from Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptical Briefs, including:
- Richard Dawkins revisits The Selfish Gene on its 40th anniversary in a Skeptical Inquirer cover feature.
- James Randi, in his new regular column for Skeptical Inquirer, unpacks the misinformation that created the false vaccines-autism link.
- Paul Offit surveys the dark history of painkiller abuse and the medical profession’s enabling role. Offit is also interviewed by Felipe Nogueira about myths surrounding vaccines and vitamin supplements.
- Massimo Pigliucci suggests more humility, competence, and a system of peer review from the skeptic community in order to be more conscientious in our work.
- Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson show how skepticism can be sacrificed when our minds are faced with uncomfortable dissonance.
- Joe Nickell investigates the claims of 18th century Georg Wilhelm Steller about his alleged discovery of a “sea ape.”
- Mentalist Mark Edward discusses the pitfalls of serving as a media expert on the paranormal and how the faux-investigators are filling the need for talking heads.
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.
Upcoming CFI Events
- CFI–Michigan holds a service day at the Long Lake Outdoor Center.
- Eddie Tabash, chair of the Center for Inquiry Board of Directors, comes to CFI–Portland to discuss the threats to church-state separation.
- Ronald Aronson speaks to CFI–Los Angeles about “Social Hope in the Time of Trump.”
- CFI–Indiana screens the film The Brainwashing of My Father.
- Panel discussion for CFI–Michigan on critical thinking with Ed Brayton, Jeremy Beahan, and Justin Schieber.
- Secular Celebrant training in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
- History professor Bruce Hunt talks to CFI–Austin on the topic of “Fear of Nuclear Annihilation: From the Cold War to Today.”
- “An Evening with Richard Dawkins” in Los Angeles with special guest Adam Felber.
- Physics professor Will Kinney talks to CFI–Western New York about the implications for life in an ever-expanding universe.
- Author and actress Annabelle Gurwitch, who will be on stage with Richard Dawkins in Boulder on May 22, joins CFI–Los Angeles and CFI–Orange County to talk about her new book, Wherever You Go, There They Are.
- “An Evening with Richard Dawkins” in Boulder, CO, with special guest Annabelle Gurwitch.
- Marissa Postler, member of the Wyoming City Council, speaks to CFI–Michigan.
- “An Evening with Richard Dawkins” in Washington, D.C., with special guest Jerry Coyne.
- Dr. Gale Burstein speaks to CFI–Western New York about HPV vaccines in an event with the Buffalo March for Science.
- Kathie Dello, Associate Director of the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute, speaks to CFI–Portland about climate change and the impact of the Trump administration’s policies.
- “An Evening with Richard Dawkins” in Miami, FL, with special guest Dave Barry.
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 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.