Center for Inquiry


Cause & Effect - The Center for Inquiry Newsletter

Issue #111 — August 8, 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

Jeff Sessions’s Religious Privilege Force


The term “religious liberty” has been hijacked by the Religious Right to become shorthand for Christians’ freedom to discriminate against the groups they happen not to like, to opt out of laws that they find inconvenient, and to impose their religion on those they hold power over.

There has been a slew of “religious liberty” bills, laws, and regulations at the national and state levels, and now the Justice Department means to put a tip on that spear. Last week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions gleefully announced the formation of a Religious Liberty Task Force to enforce his vision of religious privilege. In our response, CFI warned that Sessions “plainly seeks to force women, LGBTQ individuals, atheists, and others to submit to the will of the Religious Right … further entrenching the Religious Right’s privilege to execute their bigotry in all areas of public life.”





FDA Decries ‘Vaginal Rejuvenation’ Pseudoscience


In June, the Center for Inquiry sued CVS Pharmacies for consumer fraud over their deceptive marketing and sales of homeopathic products (check out this fun, short video that explains the basics of our case), but that is just one battle in what has been a protracted war against the bamboozling of American consumers with fake medicine. A key focus of our lobbying efforts is the Food and Drug Administration.

Last week the FDA unexpectedly came out against another kind of pseudoscientific treatment, radio-based “vaginal rejuvenation” products, which the agency warned could harm women with “vaginal burns, scarring, pain during sexual intercourse, and recurring/chronic pain.” We applauded the Administrator Scott Gottlieb (pictured right) and the FDA’s action and urged them to stay on top of this issue and other instances of fake medicine being hawked to American consumers, such as, of course, homeopathy.





Branch Leaders Strategize at CFI HQ

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Over the weekend of July 27, staff and key volunteers from all around the Inquiry-verse gathered at CFI headquarters in Amherst, New York, for the annual Leadership Conference. A devoted group of thirty-five national staff, branch leaders, and active community members met to develop their skills, strategize for the future, and, perhaps most importantly, spend time in face to face conversation, sharing ideas (and meals) with their CFI colleagues from all across the country.

Over three days, CFI leaders took a deep dive into the organization’s long-term goals and the strategies for meeting those goals. National staff gave presentations to share the progress being made in the areas of advocacy, development, communications, and much more. Participants left with a renewed sense of clarity and purpose to fulfill CFI’s mission.

To find a CFI branch in your area, click the link below.





CSICon 2018: Not a Moment Too Soon!


The year 2018 may be the one that most demands the combined strength of the entire skeptic movement. Why? We have a few two-word answers to that question: climate deniers, creationist textbooks, fake psychics, UFO files, “ghost hunters,” conspiracy theories, GMO panic, anti-vax movement, homeopathic “medicine,” and one single-word answer: Goop.

When reason and science are rejected and the truth depends on which cable news station one watches, it’s time to get the skeptic community together to learn, inspire, collaborate, and let off a hell of a lot of steam. It’s time for CSICon 2018 in Las Vegas!

Here are some more two-word answers to why you need to be there. Stephen Fry, Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, Yvette d’Entremont, Kavin Senapathy, James Randi, Carl Zimmer, Adam Conover, Jen Gunter, Massimo Polidoro, and, why not one more Massimo, Massimo Pigliucci. And how about a one-word answer, too: Banachek. And that’s just a few of them!

Plus: Check out Susan Gerbic’s interview with CSICon speaker Abby Hafer, who finds success in science communication by delivering information in “small, straightforward bites” and with “a dark sense of humor.”

CSICon 2018 isn’t far off! Taking pace October 18–21 at the Westgate Resort and Casino, now is the time to reserve your spot and arrange your travel.





Print or Pixels? Get Skeptical Inquirer Wherever You Are

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Skeptical Inquirer is the premier journal of skepticism, for over forty years bringing reason, science, and critical thinking to questions of the paranormal, conspiracy theories, fake medicine, and more. The latest issue, just released, aims to tackle one of the biggest and most consequential questions faced by the skeptic movement: What makes religious belief so powerful and pervasive? Dr. James Alcock looks to the workings of the brain to reveal what needs are fulfilled by belief in the supernatural in his cover feature, “The God Engine.”

Did you know there are two ways you can enjoy this article, plus all the fascinating and enlightening content from Skeptical Inquirer? Of course you can subscribe to the print magazine, but for instant access Skeptical Inquirer is available as a digital subscription through the Pocketmags service. No matter what platform you prefer—iOS, Android, Windows, Mac, Chrome, or Amazon Fire—you can subscribe to Skeptical Inquirer and have it delivered straight to your device of choice.

Whether you prefer your reality-based articles in ink or in pixels, Skeptical Inquirer has you covered. If you’re feeling skeptical, go ahead and see for yourself.




A Humanist View of Suicide in Free Inquiry

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Free Inquiry magazine is known for its embrace of controversial opinions and for tackling subjects that no one else will. In the August/September 2018 issue, Free Inquiry takes on a topic with real life-and-death stakes: suicide. Lowrey R. Brown of the Final Exit Network argues for a humanist approach to the taking of one’s own life. “If we are to fully respect every human’s individuality and personhood,” she writes, “then we have to accept what someone tells us about his or her quality of life and his or her values, no matter how uncomfortable it might make us.” Subscribers and nonsubscribers alike can read it here.

This issue also features Valerie Tarico’s hard-hitting critique of the Bible as a piece of literature, a piece that had originally been published by Salon but was later taken down when believers complained. Free Inquiry proudly reproduces Tarico’s piece, newly revised and expanded.

There’s so much more. Subscribe to Free Inquiry (in print or digitally) below.





Richard Dawkins and Carolyn Porco in Conversation in Dallas and Nashville


Our own Richard Dawkins will be 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 are available now.




Latest Hot Takes and Longreads

Highlights from CFI magazines, online columns, blogs, and media appearances.

1920px-Joseph_Anton_Koch_006.jpgNew at Skeptical Inquirer:

CFI’s Free Thinking blogs:

  • Dr. Caleb Lack’s Separating Truths and Myths column examines the current understanding of the effectiveness of antidepressants. The findings are somewhat, well, depressing.

  • Benjamin Radford writes about the utterly frustrating and usually pointless task of pointing out errors or offering clarifications on social media, as doing so will often have you branded as a defender of something abhorrent.

  • Joe Nickell reflects on his investigations of the claims of religion over the years, noting the key role played by Paul Kurtz, as Joe puts it, in drawing Joe out of obscurity.

Don’t forget to keep up with news relevant to skeptics and seculars, peppered with dumb jokes, every weekday with The Morning Heresy by Paul Fidalgo. Get The Morning Heresy delivered to your inbox every weekday morning (more or less)! Subscribe by submitting your email address in the box on the right of this page.


Upcoming CFI Events


CFI Transnational

  • October 28: An Evening with Richard Dawkins, with Carolyn Porco, in Dallas, TX.

  • October 30: An Evening with Richard Dawkins, with Carolyn Porco, in Nashville, TN.

CFI West

CFI Austin

  • August 20: “How Do We Know…?” A series of illustrated stories about how we have learned about the universe around us.


CFI Michigan

  • August 8: Molly Patterson of Voters Not Politicians presents “Gerrymandering & The Case for an Independent Redistricting Commission In Michigan.”

  • September 5: Participation in the 2018 Interfaith Memorial Service.

CFI Northeast Ohio

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 

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