Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 95

December 13, 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 Top Stories

fea-delusions-composite.jpg.size.custom.crop.850x570.jpgRobert Bartholomew Elected to CSI Fellows

This month, CFI’s Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) welcomed its newest fellow, Dr. Robert Bartholomew of South Auckland, New Zealand. Nominated and elected by CSI’s twelve-member Executive Council, fellows are chosen for their distinguished contributions to science and skepticism, as well as their demonstrated ability to provide practical advice and expertise on various issues and projects of importance to CSI.

Robert Bartholomew has earned the respect of the skeptic community through his sociological work on topics such as mass hysteria, moral panics, and mass delusions, as well as the history of folklore and the paranormal. Bartholomew teaches history at Botany Downs Secondary College in South Auckland, New Zealand, and has degrees in sociology from The Flinders University of South Australia, the State University of New York at Albany, and James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.

51Ji6I2UosL.jpgHis books include American Hauntings: True Stories Behind Hollywood’s Scariest Movies (written with CSI’s Joe Nickell), A Colorful History of Popular DelusionsMass Hysteria in Schools: A Worldwide History Since 1566, The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America’s Loch Ness Monster, The Martians Have Landed: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes (written with CSI’s Benjamin Radford), and Panic Attacks: Media Manipulation & Mass Delusion, among many others.

As a fellow of CSI, Bartholomew joins a truly distinguished list of scientists, academics, writers, and activists such as astronomers Neil deGrasse Tyson and Jill Tarter; biologists Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson; Nobel laureate physicists or chemists Leon Lederman, Murray Gell-Mann, Steven Weinberg, and Sir Harry Kroto; philosophers Daniel C. Dennett, Susan Haack, and Mario Bunge; anthropologist Eugenie C. Scott; psychologists James Alcock, Ray Hyman, Steven Pinker, and Richard Wiseman; magician/author James Randi; science educator and television host Bill Nye; Cosmos creator/writer Ann Druyan; plus many prominent physicians and medical scientists who critique questionable medical claims.


Quarter-mail-6--A.pngA Quarter Million Reasons to Give Your Support

Louis Appignani is back, challenging the supporters of reason and science to give our shared mission an end-of-year boost. But he’s not just asking; he’s participating. Louis has generously agreed to match every single donation to the Center for Inquiry all the way up to a quarter million dollars.

Louis will double the power of every contribution that comes in from now until the end of 2017. He’s giving all of us the opportunity to make a powerful impact in support of freethought, free expression, and free inquiry. With reality being twisted every day by the forces of superstition, conspiracy theories, and religious dogma, there’s never been a greater need for CFI to have the resources to confront these challenges.

Make no mistake; Louis Appignani is serious about this mission. For decades, he’s been a champion of secularism and the rights of the nonreligious.

Please don’t miss this amazing opportunity that Louis has presented. We can meet the Appignani Quarter Million Dollar Challenge and do more for our cause than ever before. Make your tax-deductible, matched donation right now.


News from the CFI Community

Margaret-Sullivan-1.jpgMargaret Sullivan on Point of Inquiry: Reality-Based News Must Rise Again

CFI’s flagship podcast Point of Inquiry returns this month with a timely interview on the state of the reality-based news media. Margaret Sullivan, the Washington Post’s media columnist and former Public Editor of the New York Times, joins host Paul Fidalgo to discuss this most tumultuous moment for journalism, as news consumers must choose among not just different interpretations of current events but conflicting versions of reality.

Their wide-ranging conversation covers such topics as the recent revelations of sexual harassment at prominent news outlets, how the mainstream media must reckon with its mistakes leading up to the 2016 election, the failed efforts by a right-wing media operation to trick and embarrass the Washington Post, and even Sullivan’s own roots in Buffalo, New York, which also happens to be the home of the Center for Inquiry.

Listen and subscribe to Point of Inquiry on your podcast app of choice, or visit


Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 1.24.54 PM.pngSkeptical Inquirer on the Problem of Racism

We are living through a time of heightened racial tension and hostilities, particularly due to the aggression of white supremacists who have crept out from the shadows of society and onto the front pages. The issue of race is understandably impassioned, with conflicts driven by fear, anger, frustration, and resentment. That’s why now is the time for an exploration of America’s racial divides that is rational and evidence-based. This month, Skeptical Inquirer provides just that, a skeptic’s guide to the plague of racism.

In this latest issue, U.S. Air Force Academy psychologists Craig A. Foster and Steven M. Samuels write that the evidence-based tools of psychology and sociology must be brought to bear if racism is to be meaningfully reduced; Stuart Vyse argues for a new focus on the things that unite warring sides and seeks to accomplish shared goals together; Sam Scott highlights the groundbreaking work of Jennifer Eberhardt on how perceptions of racial groups badly distort justice; and Terence Hines compares the pseudoscientific justifications for white supremacy to the claims of astrology (though conceding that one never expects to see a group of astrologers “brandishing clubs and guns to attack a group of skeptics”).

Subscribe to Skeptical Inquirer today, in print or digitally on all major app platforms, and look for the January/February 2018 issue on newsstands now.


CFI Highlights on the Web

From Free Inquiry:

  • free-speech-identity.jpgCFI’s president and CEO, Robyn Blumner, revisits the conflict that arose over Richard Dawkins’ scheduled event at KPFA in Berkeley, cancelled by the radio station over complaints about Dawkins’s statements on extremist Islam. Looking at the state of free speech and identity politics, Robyn says her heart “broke a little” seeing results of a poll showing college students with shockingly misguided ideas about what the First Amendment does and does not protect.
  • Rebecca Newberger Goldstein reconciles philosophy and the hard sciences, making a powerful case that these two fields should be seen as complementary, writing, “The progress that the Enlightenment unleashed regarding the questions both of what is and what matters has carried us forward to this moment, when we can discourse knowledgably not only about the universal stochastic laws of quantum mechanics but also about universal human rights.”
  • Tom Flynn delves into the records of the Templeton Foundation, the institution known for richly funding pseudo-academic attempts to legitimize religion as on par with science. Tom characterizes one project, “Understanding Unbelief,” as “nearly three million dollars for sharper tools to help believers explain, clinically, what’s wrong with nonbelievers.”

From Skeptical Inquirer and

  • Vyse ART Posin with kitty.jpgStuart Vyse introduces us to Dan Q. Posin, a DePaul University physics professor who helped popularize science from the 1950s to ’70s, an “elfin mustachioed man” who told “fascinating stories about atoms, comets, galaxies, and space travel.”
  • Stuart also takes a look at the utility of superstitious beliefs. While superstition’s rituals certainly have no real supernatural power, might they have some other benefits?
  • Susan Gerbic once again pursues her white whale, “grief vampire” Tyler Henry (aka “The Hollywood Medium”). This time, she parses Henry’s tactics from a Today Show appearance…which happens be along with Matt Lauer, who is in the news for…other reasons.

At the CFI Free Thinking Blog:

  • bealtreasurehaunting.jpgJoe Nickell investigates the legend of a treasure protected by a ghost—a stash of gold that is said to have been revealed by the ghost himself to the patrons of Buford’s Tavern in Virginia.
  • Showing that things are not always as rife with conflict as they’re made out to be, Benjamin Radford critiques the reporting on an alleged racist backlash against an African American man playing Santa—a backlash that, happily, never really was.

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

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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