Center for Inquiry


Cause & Effect - The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Issue #103 — April 18, 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!

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The Top Stories

Carolyn Porco of the Cassini Mission to Join Richard Dawkins on Tour


There is a whole lot of enlightenment coming to Texas and Tennessee this fall.

Richard Dawkins is appearing at two very special live events: October 28 in Dallas and October 30 in Nashville. At both events, Richard will be joined live onstage for a conversation with the brilliant Carolyn Porco.

A world-renowned planetary scientist and science communicator, Carolyn Porco led the imaging science team for the Cassini mission to Saturn, a mission that provided humanity with some of the most awe-inspiring images ever seen. It ended only last year when the spacecraft made several passes through the rings of Saturn, completing its thirteen-year mission by burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere. She was also part of the imaging teams for the Voyager missions of the 1980s and the recent New Horizons mission to Pluto.

Don’t miss this meeting of these great minds. Tickets for the Dallas event are available now, and Nashville tickets will go on sale soon!



CFI Op-Ed: Stop the Raid on Impact Aid


The proponents of voucher schemes, such as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, are dead set on siphoning public dollars away from public education and redirecting that money to private and religious schools—schools that can discriminate in admissions based on religion and against kids with disabilities or special education needs.

The latest target for pillaging is a program called Impact Aid, which provides badly needed funding to public schools in areas where federal activities such as military bases result in a major loss of property-tax revenue for schools. Why would anyone want to take resources away from the children of our military families? CFI’s Jason Lemieux, our director of government affairs, served three tours in Iraq as a U.S. Marine infantryman, and he writes in a powerful op-ed for the San Antonio Express-News that explains why this voucher scheme would be so harmful to military families. “Service members make incredible sacrifices to keep our nation safe,” writes Jason. “Impact Aid helps ensure that a quality public education for their children isn’t one of those sacrifices.”





Secular Rescue Success Story


Secular Rescue is a program of the Center for Inquiry that identifies atheist writers, activists, and everyday citizens in countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Iraq who live under the threat of violence and death. Secular Rescue provides financial and diplomatic assistance to help these courageous freethinkers escape to safety so they can continue to write, work, and live. Earlier this year, The Atlantic profiled Secular Rescue and its successes, calling it the “Underground Railroad that rescues atheists.”

Secular Rescue has given relocation assistance to more than thirty-six people and their families who are now living new lives free from fear. Dozens of other cases are now under review.

This is the story of one man, describing in his own words the peril he faced for years as a secular activist in Bangladesh, the danger posed to his family, and how CFI’s Secular Rescue helped him navigate a path to safety.





TIES Update: Teachers Helping Teachers


The Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES) gives middle school teachers the tools they need to effectively teach evolution and answer its critics, or as its director Bertha Vazquez summarizes it: “It’s teachers helping teachers ... that’s what TIES is all about.”

On April 12, TIES held a special workshop for science teachers at the Connelly School of the Holy Child in Potomac, Maryland. Newly hired TIES teacher Jenna Sutton and special guest lecturer Dr. Karen Carleton, an evolutionary biologist, spoke to a small group of Catholic school science teachers who found the workshop extremely valuable. Jenna later told us the relatively small number of participants allowed her to make stronger connections with the teachers and learn more about their particular needs and concerns.

Bonnie Nieves led a TIES workshop on April 7 at the New Hampshire Science Teachers Spring Conference, held at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire, and two new online workshops have been scheduled for May 9 with Stephanie Keep of the National Center for Science Education and June 26 with Jonathan Tweet, author of the children’s book Grandmother Fish.



Reasonable Talk from CSICon Las Vegas

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The latest episodes of the Center for Inquiry’s video series Reasonable Talk present the best talks from CSICon 2017 in Las Vegas:

  • Surgical oncologist David Gorski, a contributor to Science-Based Medicine and our own Skeptical Inquirer, raises the alarm over the incursion of fake medicine into academia, as practices such as acupuncture, reiki, naturopathy, and homeopathy are being taken seriously by some major medical academic institutions.

  • Experimental psychology professor Sheldon Helms discusses the very real dangers of "gay conversion" therapy, and how anti-gay groups twist concepts in mental health to further their agenda.


Latest Hot Takes and Longreads


Art Bell, who died this week at the age of 72, was the former host of the famous paranormal enthusiasts’ radio show Coast to Coast. In its obituary for Bell, the New York Times noted the fraught connection between him and CFI. In 1998 the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry awarded Bell the “Snuffed Candle Award” for his promotion of belief in the extraordinary without evidence.

From Skeptical Inquirer and

  • Geologist Lorence G. Collins knows precisely why the Biblical flood of Noah could never have actually taken place. In fact, he has twenty-one ironclad reasons that the story is false, and explains them all in Skeptical Inquirer. This article so upset creationist Ken Ham that he railed against Collins, accusing him of giving intellectual ammunition to “skeptics and atheists.” Yes, it’s quite a scandal, isn’t it, Ken?
  • In a special feature for Skeptical Inquirer, scientific anthropologist H. Sidky surveys the battlefield upon which the war on science is being waged, noting the “unholy alliance” between religious fanatics, climate change deniers, theocrats, and enormous industrial polluters.
  • In Kavin Senapathy’s first “Woo Watch” column for, she considers the practice of "lotus birth," where the umbilical cord stays attached between mother and newborn until it falls away on its own. Senapathy concludes, "There is no need to legitimize a high-risk, no-benefit phenomenon that didn’t start until the 1970s."

From Free Inquiry:

  • unnamaaaaaed.jpgBestselling author Yuval Harari (SapiensHomo Deusengages in a written exchange with philosopher A. P. Norman to wrestle with Harari’s harsh characterization of humanism. “I think one of the great achievements of humanism,” writes Harari, “... is that humanism has the courage and wisdom to acknowledge its shadow and its mistakes.”

  • As the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum is about to mark its twenty-fifth anniversary with a conference in August, Free Inquiry editor Tom Flynn tells the tale of how the Ingersoll house came under the care of the Council for Secular Humanism, which began with a $7000 real estate purchase.

  • In a powerful op-ed, CFI’s president and CEO Robyn Blumner urges women who are tirelessly battling the misogyny and regressive policies of President Trump to remember that Trump is merely the instrument of a far more vast and destructive force against women: religion. She writes, “All Abrahamic religions are patriarchal and have stood in the way of women’s equality through the millennia.”

At the Free Thinking blog:

  • Joe Nickell does his due diligence in researching the recent reports of UFO sightings in Arizona and learns from his colleague James McGaha “the Arizona UFO is fully consistent with … a reflective, slowly drifting object at high altitude, very brightly lit by the sun.”

  • Also, Joe looks at the responses to his critiques of acupuncture, and notes the power of anecdotal testimonial, warning, “We are being enticed back to an era of quackery that science has been leading us from.”

Don’t forget to keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars, peppered with dumb jokes, every weekday with The Morning Heresy.


Upcoming CFI Events


CFI Austin

CFI Indiana

CFI Michigan

  • May 8: 2018 CFI Michigan Civics Day, with advocacy trainings and meetings with lawmakers, featuring CFI Director of Governmental Affairs Jason Lemieux and the Secular Coalition for Michigan’s Andrew Franks.

CFI Northeast Ohio

  • May 9: Mano Singham presents “Is the Distance from Earth to Jupiter the Same as the Distance from Jupiter to Earth? The Strange Behavior of Rulers and Clocks.”

CFI Tampa Bay

CFI Western New York

  • April 20: Dr. Timothy J. Redmond discusses how to cope with the torrent of fake news and tell fact from fiction.


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 

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