CFI-NYC eBulletin - April 2009

March 31, 2009

Upcoming Lectures

Voices of Reason: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Belief, Wednesday, April 22

The Center for Inquiry-New York City and the All Souls Unitarian Church are co-sponsoring a panel discussion on the evolutionary origins of religion. Why does religious belief persist? Is there a so-called ”God gene?” What is the relationship between biological and cultural evolution in the development of human religion? How does unselfish behavior fit into the evolutionary mix? Is there really such a thing as “free will,” a basic tenet of many religions? These are a few of the questions to be explored by a panel that includes Randy Thornhill , Distinguished Professor of Biology at the University of New Mexico, and David Sloan Wilson , Distinguished Professor of Biology at SUNY Binghamton. The panel will be moderated by Austin Dacey , a philosopher and author of The Secular Conscience , who writes frequently on issues at the intersection of ethics, religion, and  biology. Dacey is CFI’s representative to the United Nations.

Admission is free and open to the public. The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 8 p.m.

All Souls Unitarian Church is located at 1157 Lexington Ave. (and 80th St.)

Directions: take the 4 or 5 trains to 86th street and walk south down Lexington Ave., or the 6 train to 77th street and walk north.

Freethinkers Tour of New York City, Saturday, April 25

Our annual Freethinkers Tour is back, with an updated script by Susan Jacoby. We'll meet at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 25, in front of the Gramercy Park Hotel on the northwest corner of Lexington Avenue and 21st Street. Robert Ingersoll, "the Great Agnostic," lived in a townhouse on this site in the 1880s and 1890s. The walking tour will be led by professional guide Justin Ferate, and Ms. Jacoby, the author of The Age of American Unreason , will give readings at various points. We'll proceed to Union Square and Cooper Union, both sites of important freethought events in New York history. An added attraction of this tour will be a special exhibition on free speech at Cooper Union. As in the past, we will wind up in a bar to drink a toast to Thomas Paine in the West Village near the site of Paine's death.

This will be a walking tour from Gramercy Park to Cooper Union. Since the final stop is on Grove Street in the West Village, some of you may want to take a taxi instead of walking the last mile. Ms. Jacoby and Mr. Ferate will be there to end the tour with final thoughts on Paine's life and death.

We're almost out of space, so reservations are required. To defray the cost of a professional guide, we're charging $15, $5 for students. To RSVP, call 212-504-2937, or e-mail mdedora [at] centerforinquiry [dot] net.  Payment accepted by cash, check, or credit card.

Community Events

Debate: Does Religion Make People Better? Wednesday, April 1

On Wednesday, April 1, at 8 p.m., Rabbi Simcha Weinstein and philosopher Austin Dacey will debate whether religion makes people better. The two will argue the topic at hand, then, at the end of the debate, the question will be put to the audience for a vote.

Austin Dacey is a philosopher who writes on the intersection of science, religion, and ethics. He is the author of the highly acclaimed 2008 book The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life . Dacey serves as a representative to the United Nations for the Center for Inquiry. He is also on the editorial staff of Skeptical Inquirer and Free Inquiry magazines. Rabbi Simcha Weinstein is an internationally known, best-selling author. His first book Up, Up and Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero , received the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award for the best religion book of 2007. His second book, Shtick Shift: Jewish Humor in the 21st Century , was published in fall 2008.

Lolita Bar is located in Manhattan's Lower East side at 266 Broome St. (corner of Allen St.) The debate will be held in the basement; admission is free, and the bar takes cash only.

Directions: Lolita is near F, J, M, Z trains.

Dr. Chic Schissel on Wrong-Headed Causes and Ill-Informed Crusades, Saturday, April 4

The Secular Humanist Society of New York (SHSNY) will host nationally recognized debunker and authority on medical quackery, Dr. Chic Schissel , who will take on subjects as anti-fluoridation, anti-vaccination and other autism deceptions, and new-age nonsense like the "Precautionary Principle." Expect a lively Q&A session after the illustrated lecture, and then join some of your fellow humanists, rationalists and skeptics for late lunch (or early dinner) and continued conversation at Pongri Thai restaurant just across 7th avenue on 23rd street.

Admission is free and open to the public. The event will begin at 2 p.m. and end at roughly 3:30 p.m.

The Muhlenberg Library is located at 209 West 23rd Street (at 7th Ave.). The library has an elevator to the 3rd floor Community Room.

Directions: 1 train to 23rd St. & 7th Ave., F or V to 23rd & 6th, C or E to 23rd & 8th; #23 or #20 bus to 23rd & 7th. Parking garages at 170 and 101 West 23rd.

CFI-SHSNY Movie Night, Monday, April 13

Join us for another installment of the jointly-sponsored CFI-NYC / Secular Humanist Society of New York monthly Movie Night at Stone Creek Lounge at 7 p.m.

There is no room-rental charge at Stone Creek, but management expects us each to spend the equivalent of a "one drink minimum." Check out the menu and prices at . For more information, contact John Rafferty: john [at] rafferty [dot] net.

Stone Creek Bar & Lounge, 140 E 27th St. (Lex-3rd Aves)

CFI-Brooklyn "Philosophy and Fries," Tuesday, April 21

Join CFI-Brooklyn for the next installation of Philosophy and Fries : The Ethics of Vegetarianism and Non-Human Animals.

While many vegetarians forgo meat for health reasons, countless hold their stances for ethical reasons. However, most Americans -- in fact, most people around the world -- are still meat eaters. Why is this? Do vegetarian ethics not hold weight?

Admission to this discussion is free but limited; please RSVP here to attend.

The Park Plaza Restaurant is located at 220 Cadman Plaza W in Brooklyn. The diner has lots of space, fairly priced food, and beer, wine and cocktails.

Directions: A or C to High Street; 2 or 3 to Clark Street; or the 4, 5, M or R to Court Street, Borough Hall.

CFI-SHSNY Monthly Brunch, April 25

This month's brunch gathering will take place again at Fusia Asian Cuisine, 677C Lexington Ave (on 56th St. just east of Lex), at 12:30 p.m. Everyone interested in getting together with like-minded humanists and rationalists for good food, lively talk and humanist camaraderie is welcome.

Fusia is midtown-located, inexpensive and good pan-Asian. Order off the menu; individual checks. For the menu and prices, go to

CFI-Harlem April Discussion, Sunday, April 26

President Barack Obama will have been in office for 100 days by our April meeting. Let's evaluate his time in office so far. In his acceptance speech, he promised to reach out to ALL citizens, including non-believers. Has he fulfilled his promises? Has he respected the secularist? Are you inspired by his economic policies?  Are you disappointed? How can secularist hold President Obama's feet to the fire an organized manner? For background reading, click here to read New York Times' columnist Frank Rich's March 21 column, "Has a 'Katrina Moment' Arrived?"

The discussion is open to the public will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Harlem State Office Building, 163 W. 125th Street, 8th Floor.

Directions: Take the 2, 3, A, B, C, or D subways to 125th street.

CFI-SHSNY Book Club: John Brockman's "What Are You Optimistic About?", Thursday, April 30

The jointly sponsored Center for Inquiry/Secular Humanist Society of New York (SHSNY) Book Club will meet on Thursday, April 30, from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m. in the third floor community room of the Muhlenberg Library, to discuss What Are You Optimistic About? Today's Leading Thinkers on Why Things are Good and Getting Better , edited by John Brockman Following great anthologies such as "What do you believe but can't prove?" and "What are your most dangerous ideas?" Brockman's new collection offers the reader many succinct essays, often only a page or two, that have more stimulating insights than we might expect from entire books. Included are Jared Diamond's Good Choices Sometimes Prevail , Steven Pinker's The Decline of Violence , Carlo Rovelli's The Divide Between Scientific Thinking and the Rest of our Culture is Decreasing , and Lee Smolin's The Return of the Discipline of Experiment Will Transform Our Knowledge of Fundamental Physics .

Join us even if you haven't finished reading. The CFI/SHSNY Book Club is open to all ... and free! Every CFI/SHSNY Book Club Meet is a Book Swap, too. Bring the books gathering dust on your shelves and take your pick of other readers' castaways. The leftovers? Donated to the Muhlenberg.

The Muhlenberg Library is located at 209 West 23rd Street (at 7th Ave.). The library has an elevator to the 3rd floor Community Room.

Directions: 1 train to 23rd St. & 7th Ave., F or V to 23rd & 6th, C or E to 23rd & 8th; #23 or #20 bus to 23rd & 7th. Parking garages at 170 and 101 West 23rd.


CFI-NYC Hires New Executive Director: Introducing Michael De Dora Jr.

CFI-NYC is pleased to announced the recent hiring of a new Executive Director: Michael De Dora Jr.  Mr. De Dora graduated from SUNY Albany in 2005 with a B.A. in Rhetoric and Communication, and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Political Science at Brooklyn College.  Prior to joining CFI, Mr. De Dora worked for The City University of New York as a writer and editor.  He also organized CFI's Brooklyn activities, where he has helped achieve impressive results in recent months. 

CFI-NYC's outgoing Executive Director, Derek C. Araujo, was recently named Vice President and General Counsel.  Mr. Araujo will direct CFI's legal activities from CFI-NYC's Manhattan offices.

Center for Inquiry World Congress: "Science, Public Policy & the Planetary Community," April 9-12, 2009, Bethesda, MD

2009 marks the bicentennial of both Charles Darwin's and Abraham Lincoln's birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. There can be no more fitting opportunity to discuss and consider the appropriate relationship between science and public policy. Please join us as scientists and scholars from around the world analyze the role of science, explain how it works, explore its connection to public policy, and examine its significance for the global community.

Speakers already confirmed include NASA climatologist Drew Shindell, Roger Bonnet from the International Space Science Institute, author and intellectual historian Susan Jacoby , acknowledged authority on evolutionary biology Michael Ruse , skeptical investigators James Randi and Joe Nickell , renowned psychologist Elizabeth Loftus , and many others.

For sign-up and more information, visit

CFI Travel Club Adventure: The Western Carribean, Nov. 12-20, 2009

We are happy to announce the 6th Annual Center for Inquiry Travel Club Event.   Please join your host, Paul Kurtz, and staff sailing on Carnival Miracle®.

Enjoy 8 days of conversation, camaraderie and fun with like-minded folks. Sailing from Ft. Lauderdale, visit the countries of Costa Rica, Panama and Belize. Savor 4 days at sea, stretching your mind and body, participate in challenging presentations and pleasant on-board activities.  November 12-20, 2009.

For more information and registration, visit  Everything, including all times, itinerary and pricing, is subject to change at any time.

CFI-NYC Launches Capital Campaign

CFI-NYC's current rented space at 80 Broad Street has many limitations. We have barely enough room for staff to function efficiently. We have no room for skeptics and secular humanists to gather. The next step of CFI-NYC's development is to take its place as a leading cultural institution. To this end, we are seeking to purchase a 5,000+ square-foot property in Manhattan (hopefully with room for expansion) to serve as the headquarters for our growing staff and to become a permanent home for reason, science, and secular values in New York.

We are challenging our friends - humanists, skeptics, and freethinkers in the New York area - to help us exceed our goal of raising $6.25 million. Our goal is based on the amount considered necessary to purchase and renovate a building that will suit our needs.

Our capital campaign brochure is available for download on our website at .To request a hard copy of our brochure, or to inquire about making a contribution, call Sherry Rook, Vice President of Development, at (800) 818-7071.

Show Your Commitment to Reason, Science and Secular Values

In the contemporary marketplace of ideas, one can find responsible, objective, and evidence-based information on everything from foreign policy to hormone replacement therapy. Yet when it comes to some of our most fundamental questions--about human values, the transcendent, or the borderlands of science--one often only hears from partisans of traditional religion, New Age practitioners, or anti-science movements.

With its network of scientists and other thinkers, its grassroots advocacy and public education organizations, and its popular and scholarly publications, the Center for Inquiry fills this gap, lending a credible voice to critical inquiry and the scientific outlook.

Help CFI promote and defend science, reason, and freedom of inquiry by becoming a Friend of the Center. Friends of the Center receive:

  • Free or discounted admission to CFI events
  • 10% discount for national events sponsored by CFI and its affiliates CSH and CSI
  • 15% discount on selected Prometheus Books titles
  • A colorful CFI vinyl decal
  • An enamel CFI lapel pin (Contributor level or higher)
  • Invitations to special events and private receptions (Benefactor level and donors of $1000 or higher)

Join the Center for Inquiry by becoming a Friend of the Center.