Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Cause & Effect: The CFI Newsletter - No. 99

February 7, 2018

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

IMG_2411.jpgCommittee for Skeptical Inquiry Elects Six New Fellows

To be elected into a group that includes (or has included) such luminaries as Isaac Asimov, Francis Crick, Jill Tarter, Eugenie Scott, Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ann Druyan, and Carl Sagan is no small accomplishment, and six new scientists, scholars, and communicators have been elected to do just that. Six new fellows have been elected to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a program of the Center for Inquiry.

CSI fellows are elected for their distinguished service to science and skepticism, serving as advisors to CSI and its magazine, Skeptical Inquirer, and are invited to share their expertise and advice on the program’s issues and projects. Fellows are nominated and elected by CSI’s twelve-member Executive Council, and elections take place every several years.

This latest class of Fellows, elected at the end of 2017, are ready to be announced, and they include a mentalist, an expert on mass delusions, a “guerilla skeptic,” a GMO scientist, the editor of a UK skeptics’ magazine, and one of the world’s most respected climate scientists:

  • Banachek-0870.jpgBanachek (aka Steve Shaw), a professional magician and mentalist who has collaborated with James Randi, Criss Angel, and Penn and Teller, has performed on over 225 TV episodes and over 300 radio programs. He directed the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge, has been the International Magicians Society Mentalist of the year and twice been APCA College Entertainer of the year.
  • aRobert Photo WGN e.jpgRobert Bartholomew, introduced to Cause & Effect readers in December, is a sociologist and investigative journalist, currently teaching history at Botany College in Auckland, New Zealand. He has earned the respect of the skeptic community through his sociological studies on mass hysteria, moral panics, social delusions, folklore, and the paranormal. He is the author of many books, including American Hauntings: True Stories Behind Hollywood’s Scariest Movies (2015, with CSI’s Joe Nickell), Mass Hysteria in Schools: A Worldwide History Since 1566 (2014), The Martians Have Landed: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes (2012, with CSI’s Benjamin Radford), and the forthcoming American Intolerance: Our Dark History of Demonizing Immigrants (2018), among many others.
  • kfpicfrommontreal.JPGKevin Folta is professor and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, is a leading voice for the evidence-based risks and benefits of genetic engineering in crops and medicine, and a defender against misinformation in food, farming, and other areas of science. He led the project to sequence the strawberry genome; trains scientists, students, farmers, and others in science communication; and hosts the evidence-based podcast Talking Biotech.
  • aGerbic, Susan.jpgSusan Gerbic is founder and leader of the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) project (as well as the most comprehensive interviewer of CSICon speakers). The GSoW project has made a major contribution to the skeptic movement by ensuring that skepticism-related Wikipedia articles on topics, claims, and individual scientists/skeptics are accurate, thorough, and well cited. She has recruited and trained a large international group of Wikipedia editors knowledgeable about scientific skepticism and skeptical topics. She is also cofounder of Monterey County Skeptics and a frequent contributor to Skeptical Inquirer.
  • DeborahHyde.jpgDeborah Hyde is a folklorist, cultural anthropologist, and editor in chief of the UK-based magazine The Skeptic. She writes and lectures extensively about superstition, cryptozoology, religion, and belief in the paranormal with special regard to the folklore, psychology, and sociology behind these phenomena. She introduced the Ockham Awards to reward successful skeptical activism and recently added the “Rusty Razor” award for the worst bit of pseudoscience of the year (won by Goop, of course). These awards have become a standard part of the QED annual conference in Manchester, U.K., and attract a great deal of media attention.
  • AAUP_June2011.jpgMichael E. Mann is Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and director of the Earth Systems Sciences Center at the Pennsylvania State University. He is likely best known for introducing the visual conceptualization of the progress of climate change with the famous “hockey stick” chart, for which he has become a prime target of science deniers. He is the author of more than 200 peer-reviewed and edited publications, as well as author of three books: The Madhouse Effect (2016, with cartoonist Tom Toles), The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (2012), and Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming (2008). He has been a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments of climate science. He is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Congratulations and welcome to our new fellows! The full list of CSI fellows can be found on the inside cover of each issue of Skeptical Inquirer and on the CSI website.


104950720-GettyImages-71650006.530x298.jpgTIES Launches First Online Workshops

The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) is a truly groundbreaking program, providing middle school science teachers with the training and resources they need to feel confident and fully informed when teaching evolution, helping to spark a love of science in students. Now with thirty-five presenters, TIES has held seventy-five training workshops for middle school teachers in thirty-one states and provides free educational resources on its website. But for all the teachers who have benefited from the program so far, not everyone can be in the same place at the same time.

Last week, TIES took a huge step toward making this invaluable program available to teachers regardless of geography with the first of its online training workshops. The first webinar, “Evolution for Educators,” provided science teachers, homeschooling parents, and other curious participants with some of the most up-to-date concepts of natural selection, common ancestry, and diversity in order for them to confidently cover the topics in their classrooms and fulfill their curriculum requirements. It was facilitated by TIES Director Bertha Vazquez, herself a Miami-area middle school science teacher, who was recently honored with the Evolution Education Award by the National Association of Biology Teachers.

wwwUnttiesitled2.pngThe next evening, TIES presented a special webinar featuring Michael Ryan, Clark Hubbs Regents Professor in Zoology at the University of Texas, Austin, and author of A Taste for the Beautiful: Evolution by Attraction. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Dr. Ryan discussed the astonishing story of how the female brain drives the evolution of beauty in animals and humans.

Initial feedback on these two online sessions has been extremely positive. Stay tuned because this is just the beginning.


CFI Highlights on the Web

abenedictine.jpgIn The Atlantic, Isabel Fattal reports on the development of the new atheism studies program at the University of Miami—brought into existence by freethinking philanthropist Louis Appignani—to be chaired by current Notre Dame philosophy of science professor Anjan Chakravartty.

Eugenie Scott’s full CSICon 2017 talk is now up on Reasonable Talk, CFI’s video series featuring the best presentations from CFI events, in which she discusses why it is that people disregard science and facts when they challenge their existing beliefs.

Also on Reasonable Talk, veteran skeptic Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, talks about four decades of experiences from his life and the moments that led him to become the celebrated skeptic and science communicator we know today.

At CFI’s Free Thinking blog, Benjamin Radford explains the many, many things that are wrong with the attempts made by the “ghost hunters” on the Discovery Channel’s Ghost Lab to get a recording of Wild Bill Hickok’s restless spirit.

256px-Scott_2014.jpgGreat new video and articles at

  • Jonathan Jarry from the McGill Office for Science and Society brings two new video interviews with speakers from CSICon 2017 in Las Vegas:
    • Eugenie Scott discusses public attitudes toward science and what skeptics can do to improve the situation.
    • Alison Bernstein, a professor of translational science and molecular medicine, is one of the reality-based parents featured in the new Science Moms documentary, and she talks about the ways mothers are targeted with pseudoscience that preys on their fears.

  • Stuart Vyse looks back on the work of the transformative psychologist William James, whose fascination with the spiritual lead him to research the claims of psychics and a search for a “third way” between belief and skepticism.
  • For Skeptical Briefs, Sharon Hill dismantles the “sciencey-sounding” concept known as “stone tape theory,” in which the bedrock of a building is said to “record” the spiritual energy of hauntings or traumatic events. (Perhaps William James would have liked to have looked into this.)
  • Joe Nickell investigates the claims of a “witch’s grave” in Tallahassee, and he really has no patience for the slandering of a dead woman’s memory. “Everything we know of Bessie Graham speaks of the tragically brief life of a very good woman.”
  • Plus, Buffalo Rising touts the February 7 appearance of Joe as he headlines the University at Buffalo’s Science & Art Cabaret, discussing his investigations of the paranormal.

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

Upcoming CFI Events

4329416604_4937d7233f.jpgCFI Austin

CFI Indiana

  • February 10: 8th Annual Civic Day with CFI’s Nick Little, Terri Jett from the ACLU of Indiana, Rima Shahid of Women4Change Indiana, and many more.
  • March 18: The first of a three-part event celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s original novel Frankenstein.
  • March 27: Discussion on Frankenstein and today’s technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloning, and genetic modification. Panelists include Indiana University health and humanities professor Emily Beckman, Saint Louis University ethics professor Jason Aberl, and Rufus Cochran of the Indiana Science Communication and Education Foundation.

CFI Michigan

CFI Portland

  • February 11: CFI Portland board member and biologist Jon Peters speaks at the Southminster Presbyterian Church about the evolution of whales for Darwin Day.

CFI Tampa Bay

  • February 24: Experts at the Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) guide an exploration of the stars in a SkyWatch event.

CFI Western New York


Thank you!


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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