CFI-NYC eBulletin

November 28, 2008

Upcoming Lectures

Truth Uncorked: Dinner with Natalie Angier, Thurs., Dec. 11

Join the Center for Inquiry on Thursday, December 11 for a special Truth Uncorked wine and dinner event honoring the Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times science journalist Natalie Angier.   At this intimate dinner, Ms. Angier will be presented with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry's third annual Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking for her book The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science , published in 2007 by Houghton Mifflin.

Natalie Angier studied physics and English at Barnard College, where she graduated with high honors in 1978. From 1980 to 1984, Angier wrote about biology for Discover Magazine . She also worked as a science writer for Time Magazine . Among her other books are Natural Obsessions, The Beauty of the Beastly, and Woman: An Intimate Geography .  Her most recent book, The Canon , finds Angier charting a synoptic and exciting course through the sciences, from physics, to chemistry, to biology, to geology, to astronomy. She calls her book an attempt to unleash "the kinetic beauty of science to wow as it will." Palpable throughout is Angier's intelligence, wit, and passionate commitment to the scientific worldview. Angier's tour de force first chapter should be of particular interest to readers of Skeptical Inquirer as she takes the time to explore in a thoughtful manner what it means to think scientifically and the benefits of extending the scientific ethos to all areas of human life. 

The Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking is an award given to the author of the published work that best exemplifies healthy skepticism, logical analysis, or empirical science. Each year, CFI's Committee for Skeptical Inquiry selects the paper, article, book, or other publication that, in its judgment, has the greatest potential to create positive reader awareness of currently important scientific concerns.  The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the publisher of the Skeptical Inquirer , established the criteria for the prize, including use of the most parsimonious theory to fit data or to explain apparently preternatural phenomena.  This prize has been established through the generosity of Robert P. Balles, an associate member of CSI, and the Robert P. Balles Endowed Memorial Fund, a permanent endowment fund for the benefit of CSI.

Thursday, December 11, 7:30 p.m.

Gascogne ( ), 158 8th Avenue (at 18th Street)

SPACE IS LIMITED. RSVP REQUIRED . $95 admission includes dinner and wine.  For reservations or more information, contact nyc [at] centerforinquiry [dot] net, or call (212) 504-2935.

Meet The Author: Larry Beinhart, Author of "Wag the Dog" and "Salvation Boulevard," Tues., Dec. 9

Join CFI and the Secular Humanist Society of New York for a special Book Club "Meet the Author" event, featuring Larry Beinhart.  Beinhart is perhaps best known for American Hero (1994), the political novel that became the film Wag the Dog .  His latest novel, Salvation Boulevard , is an ambitious and splendid religious legal thriller.  When a Muslim scholarship student at the University of the Southwest confesses under duress ti the murder of an atheist philosophy professor, a Born Again Christian private investigator agrees to help a celebrated Jewish defense lawyer prove the innocence of the accused.  A thriller about death, faith, and God from one of America's best mystery writers. 

Tuesday, December 9, 6:00 p.m.

Shelter Studi Ammex, 939 8th Avenue (55-56 St.), 2nd Floor

Free and Open to the Public.

SAVE THE DATE: Truth Uncorked with Maggie Jackson, author of "Distracted," Thurs., Jan. 15

Join us on Thursday, January 15 for another Truth Uncorked wine and salon discussion with Maggie Jackson .   Jackson is an award-winning author and journalist known for her penetrating coverage of U.S. social issues. She writes the popular "Balancing Acts" column in the Sunday Boston Globe , and her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Gastronomica and on National Public Radio.  Her latest book, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age (Prometheus Books, 2008) details the steep costs of our current epidemic deficits of attention, while revealing the astonishing scientific discoveries that can help us rekindle our powers of focus in a world of speed and overload.  A former foreign correspondent for The Associated Press in Tokyo and London, Jackson has won numerous awards for her coverage of work-life issues, including the Media Award from the Work-Life Council of the Conference Board.

Thurs., Jan. 15, 6:30 p.m., location to be announced.

Space is Limited; RSVP recommended . $20 includes admission and wine. To RSVP, call (212) 504-2935 or e-mail nyc [at] centerforinquiry [dot] net.

SAVE THE DATE: The 2009 Annual Thomas Paine Memorial Lecture featuring Joe Conason, Wed., Jan. 21

CFI-NYC's 2009 annual Thomas Paine Memorial Lecture —always one of the highlights of our year—will be delivered by author and columnist Joe Conason. Conason, the author of numerous books and a regular contributor to The New York Observer and , is an investigative reporter and outspoken political commentator in the tradition of Paine. His most recent book, It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush , is now available in paperback. His talk, which is scheduled for the day after the presidential inauguration, will provide a broad view of Paine's political and economic ideas and their relevance to American society, politics and government today.

Wednesday, January 21, 6:30-8:00

General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen, 20 W 44th St.

Advanced registration is recommended. Lecture admission is $10 (free for Friends of the Center; call 212-504-2935 to RSVP). You may purchase in advance by credit card (call 212-504-2935), or by check (made payable to the Center for Inquiry-New York City; mail to 80 Broad St, 5th Fl., New York, NY 10004). Alternatively, you may pay at the door by cash, check, or credit card.

Community Events

Theatre Club: Cambell Scott in "The Atheist", Saturday, Dec. 6

Join the CFI / SHSNY Theatre Club for a special performance of The Atheist, starring Campbell Scott.   Discount tickets are available for $36 (regular price $45).

Campbell Scott (whose numerous film credits include The Secret Lives of Dentists, Roger Dodger, and ABC's Six Degrees ) returns for a limited time only as Augustine Early in The Atheist , on the heels of a sold-out run at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.  Tickets for the sneak-peek performance at Culture Project in May sold out in just one week!  In this hilarious play, Campbell Scott plays a crooked journalist who will do anything to make news.  When Augustine turns a prominent local politician's tawdry tastes into a front page headline, the scandal backlashes with shocking consequences.  Don't miss the chance to see Campbell Scott in this smash hit performance!

The Atheist was written by Ronan Noone, named Best Young Playwright by Boston Magazine .

Saturday, December 6, 4:00 p.m.
Barrow Street Theatre
27 Barrow Street (between W. 4th St. and the intersection of Bleecker St. and 7th Avenue South)

SPACE IS LIMITED; RSVP REQUIRED. To reserve tickets, call (212) 504-2935 or e-mail nyc [at] centerforinquiry [dot] net.  Payment by check or by credit card is accepted.

Monthly Brunch: Sunday, Dec. 21

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 individuals 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 .

Brooklyn "Philosophy and Fries" Meetup: Tues., Jan. 13

Join CFI's Brooklyn Meetup for the next installation of Philosophy and Fries .  What do we know about belief? As it stands, we still have not gathered why exactly our brain takes some propositions as true, and others as false. Yet this does not mean belief is a pointless topic of discussion.

One definition for belief we can use here is given by author Sam Harris in his 2004 book End of Faith . Harris states that "beliefs are attempts to represent states of the world." So, for instance, I would believe a proposition such as "the wine glass in front of me is empty" if I could indeed see the wine glass in front of me, and see that it is empty. My belief is thus a consequence of the way the world is.  This, Harris argues, must leave a person open to new evidence. Therefore, wine being poured into the glass must change my belief about the amount of wine in that glass. This means that "if there were no conceivable change in the world that could get a person to question his beliefs, this would prove that his (Harris argues religious, in this case) beliefs were not predicated upon his taking any state of the world into account. He could not claim, therefore, to be representing the world at all."  Is Harris right? Are beliefs "attempts to represent states of the world"? Or is there another, better definition? What sorts of beliefs exist in the world today? Must they be falsifiable? Must they logically cohere? And where does knowledge -- defined by ancient Greeks as "justified true belief" -- come into play?

As you can see, there is much more to discuss. In the coming weeks, I will post a lengthier essay on belief to help us prepare for the discussion. Then, on Jan. 13, armed with evolutionary biologist and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci, we will discuss all of this, and more. This will be the second meeting of Philosophy and Fries, one event of many from CFI-Brooklyn.

The Park Plaza Restaurant is a Brooklyn Heights-located diner with lots of space, fairly priced food, and beer, wine and cocktails. To get there:

Park Plaza Restaurant, 220 Cadman Plz W
A or C to High Street
2 or 3 to Clark Street
4, 5, M or R to Court Street, Borough Hall

Learn more here:

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.