Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 83
June 14, 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
Point of Inquiry Returns with Guests Elizabeth Kolbert and Carl Pope
Point of Inquiry, the flagship podcast of the Center for Inquiry, returned this month with a new host and two new episodes both confronting the realities of humanity’s responsibility for the warming of our planet.
On June 1, President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, focusing energy and attention on the issue of climate change like never before. (See CFI’s official response here, in which we condemn the president for turning the U.S. into a “rogue state.”) So the very next day, Point of Inquiry’s new host Paul Fidalgo spoke to leading environmental activist Carl Pope about what happens next. Formerly the executive director of the Sierra Club, Pope is the coauthor of the optimistic new book Climate of Hope, written with Michael Bloomberg, which makes the case that the window for stopping climate change has not yet closed, and that cities, states, and businesses can make enormous (and economically beneficial) strides toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving the planet.
Then, on the latest episode, Paul welcomes New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert to provide a very different perspective. As the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sixth Extinction, Kolbert has a deep understanding of what humans have wrought upon the Earth and its ecosystem, and the equally ugly politics that enable and obstruct meaningful action. Paul and Kolbert consider the ways we talk and think about climate change and how our society must come to grips with the inevitable disruptions in a world that will definitely get warmer. The question now is, can we stop it from getting worse?
As a special bonus, this episode also features a sort of “exit interview” with outgoing Point of Inquiry producer Nora Hurley. She and Paul chat about what the show has meant to them and what’s coming next for Nora, who, as she put it, is “packin’ my bags and movin’ to the Big City!”
After a busy start, the new Point of Inquiry plans for episodes to be released on a monthly basis. So, look forward to more, coming in July!
Attack of the Fire-Breathing Dinosaurs in Skeptical Inquirer
The latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer takes on the hot-button topic of fire-breathing dinosaurs. No, really!
For a young-Earth creationist, it’s very difficult to explain how the world could be a mere 6,000 years old when literally all evidence tells us for a fact that the world is about 4.5 billion years old. So creationists take the ample evidence of prehistoric beasts such as dinosaurs and claim that these creatures lived alongside human beings just before Noah’s flood. To lend credence to this absurd idea, some have speculated that myths and legends about dragons, which appear in cultures all around the world, are inspired by humans’ direct contact with dinosaurs. In fact, say some creationist thinkers, it may very well be that, like the dragons of stories, some dinosaurs were able to breathe fire. You see?
In Skeptical Inquirer’s cover feature, Fayetteville University paleontologist Philip J. Senter takes the creationists’ arguments on their merits to see if there is any physiological plausibility to the idea that fire-breathing dinosaurs could have ever existed. Maybe the dinosaurs ignited methane, emitted “pyrophoric gas,” or even had electrical organs like eels! Alas, simple scientific realities make it clear that any of these ideas only end very badly for the flame-throwing beast in question. But as ridiculous as it is, the exploration of how it might be done is both amusing and enlightening.
Also in the July/August issue, James Randi exposes the sham autism therapy of “facilitated communication”; Sébastian Point reveals the dangers of pseudoscientific “chromotherapy”; Matthew Nisbet critiques the politicization of the March for Science; and a whole lot more. Subscribe to Skeptical Inquirer today, in print or on your favorite mobile platform.
Religious Exemptions Go Too Far, from Walgreens to the White House
This month, the Center for Inquiry responded to two instances of women’s health and the rule of law being superseded by the religious beliefs of someone in a position in authority: one national, one local, and both unacceptable.
Two weeks ago, a draft regulation from the Trump administration was leaked, a regulation granting unreasonably broad exemptions to the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act, allowing any corporation—religious or not—to claim a religious exemption to providing contraception under employer-sponsored health insurance plans. This goes far beyond even the religious allowances granted by the poorly decided Hobby Lobby case, which was at least limited to “closely held” religious businesses and nonprofits. Now, any employer can claim this exemption from the law.
CFI Legal Director Nick Little said in our statement, “If this draft regulation goes into effect, the rights of women to receive much needed zero cost preventive care would depend on the religious whims of their employer.” And our President and CEO Robyn Blumner called out Trump for his blatant coddling of the extreme religious conservatives who helped elect him. “Allowing employers to impose their religious dogma through workplace rules is one way to payback the religious right.”
Last week, the ACLU took up the case of a mother and daughter who were discriminated against by a Walgreen’s pharmacist. Looking to have a valid birth control prescription filled, the pharmacist refused service, claiming that doing so would violate his religious beliefs. “A pharmacist’s job is to protect a patient’s health, not to concern themselves with a patient’s soul,” said Nick in our official response. “A community places its trust in the scientific integrity of a pharmacist’s counsel, but this pharmacist chose to reject their vital medical role and arrogantly assume the authority of clergy.”
News from the CFI Community
Employment Opportunity: Web Content Coordinator
CFI is looking to hire a Web Content Coordinator to develop, maintain, organize, and add content to its websites and migrate content to Wordpress. You may also be asked to work on web-based marketing campaigns. This is an entry-level, full-time position located at CFI–Transnational in Amherst, NY. (No remote workers or freelancers need apply.)
If you or someone you know is interested, visit the complete listing on our employment page for full details and how to apply!
Get Away from It All with a Secular Summer Retreat in Michigan
If there has ever been a time to blow off some steam, it’s the summer of 2017, and CFI Michigan has just the thing. (And you don’t have to be from Michigan to take part!) Enjoy group activities, great food, and the beautiful outdoors, all in the company of a lot of great people with the 2017 CFI Michigan Secular Summer Retreat, July 14–16!
Fun activities will include games, bonfires by the lake, a giant Slip-n-Slide, hiking, biking, canoeing, kayaking, and a whole lot more, all at the beautiful historic campground at the Long Lake Outdoor Center near Hastings, Michigan. Registration ends June 30, so sign up now!
Get Psyched for CSICon!
CSICon 2017, the biggest skeptics’ event of the year, is coming October 26–29 in the City of Illusions, Las Vegas! Have you registered yet?
The lineup of speakers is simply astounding, with luminaries such as 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 hilarious George Hrab.
All the action takes place at the fantastical Excalibur Hotel and Casino, where you’ll also experience a Tournament of Kings Joust Dinner, a magic show by Banachek, special lunch events with skeptic stars, a Halloween 70’s Disco Party, a Sunday Papers session, and more.
Now is the time for a conference dedicated to science and reason…one that will also be incredibly fun. Get registered now, and we’ll see you in Vegas.
CFI Highlights on the Web
- Robert Blaskiewicz examines the tangled web of rumors and lies that make up the conspiracy theories surrounding the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich. Robert says, “It seems clear that the right wing media would rather talk about anything other than the unfolding extinction event at the White House.”
- Benjamin Radford evaluates the claim that the mythical chupacabra monster has its roots in the real bird species of the same name, also known as the European nightjar...and it all revolves around the term goat-sucker.
- Is there any merit to the spinal manipulation therapy of chiropractors? “Skepdoc” Harriet Hall considers the question and offers sound, skeptical advice as to what to look for when seeking a professional to crack your back.
- Joe Nickell shows off another part of his collection of classic snake oil: Yet another cure-all called florida water, which was neither water nor a product of Florida. You can probably guess what it was: alcohol.
- Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia has an important dimension to their mission, collecting audio from skeptic events. Susan Gerbic explains the project and puts out the call for transcribers.
And of course, you can keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars every weekday with The Morning Heresy.
Upcoming CFI Events
- Neuropsychologist Mira Krishnan presents “Building Bridges Among LGBT, Progressive, Faith-Based, and Secular Communities” to CFI Michigan.
- CFI Michigan takes part in the Grand Rapids Pride Festival.
- CFI Austin hosts a presentation on all the things living inside us, “Planet U: What Lives on You and in You.”
- Philosophy professor Mark Pestana discusses the evolutionary origins of consciousness with CFI Michigan.
- CFI Michigan’s holds its annual Secular Summer Retreat at the Long Lake Outdoor Center.
- CFI Austin holds a Secular Summer Splash, “a poolside evening of BBQ, lounging, and of course, great conversation!”
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.