Reason for Change

Reason for Change

A CFI Conference in
Buffalo, New York

June 11–15, 2015

Registration Closed

Science, reason, and secularism can be positive forces for change, especially when guided by the values of skepticism and humanism and driven by the passion and creativity of a vibrant freethought community.

Join us at the Center for Inquiry for “Reason for Change,” an international conference where humanists, skeptics, and all those who value science and reason will meet to inform and inspire one another to be a positive force for change.

Critical thinking is not an end in itself. It is a means to effect positive change, to transform our world for the better. At “Reason for Change,” the Center for Inquiry’s 2015 international conference, we’ll bring the skeptic and humanist communities together to do just that.

And we’ll do it in a place that many consider to be “home” to the skeptic and humanist movements: Western New York and CFI’s headquarters in Buffalo. Fittingly, 2015 will be the 35th anniversary of Free Inquiry and the 39th anniversary (last party before 40!) of Skeptical Inquirer, the two foundational publications that helped start it all.

This conference will be truly special. It will be both a celebration of our accomplishments and a robust examination of the challenges we still face. It will be an invaluable opportunity to connect and collaborate with thinkers, activists, researchers, and other luminaries from around the world. It will honor the individuals who have made transformative contributions to the advancement of science, reason, and free inquiry while also highlighting the next wave of up-and-coming activists.

It will also be a chance to be enriched by all that Western New York has to offer, from the jaw-dropping natural spectacle of Niagara Falls to the architectural treasures of historic Buffalo to our movement’s deep historical roots found on the Freethought Trail. Plus, early attendees will have the opportunity to be trained as CFI Secular Celebrants!

For almost four decades, we’ve been pushing back against the forces of dogma and superstition that pollute public policy, obstruct progress, and suppress free expression and dissent. Together, we can build upon our achievements and make a better world for all of us. We both use and have “reason for change.”

Join us!

Speakers

Eric Adriaans

Eric Adriaans

Executive director, CFI–Canada

James Alcock

James Alcock

Professor of psychology and CSI fellow

Ophelia Benson

Ophelia Benson

Editor and author

Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Beyerstein

Investigative journalist and Point of Inquiry host

Mark Boslough

Mark Boslough

Physicist, writer, and CSI fellow

Bill Cooke

Bill Cooke

Director of transnational programs, CFI

Jan Dash

Jan W. Dash

Physicist, author, and editor

Michael De Dora

Michael De Dora

Director of public policy, CFI

Jerry DeWitt

Jerry DeWitt

Author and former minister

Catherine Dunphy

Catherine Dunphy

Founding member, the Clergy Project

Paul Fidalgo

Paul Fidalgo

Director of communications, CFI

Tom Flynn

Tom Flynn

Executive director, Council for Secular Humanism

Kendrick Frazier

Kendrick Frazier

Editor, Skeptical Inquirer

Debbie Goddard

Debbie Goddard

Director of outreach, CFI

David Gorski

David Gorski

Managing editor, Science-Based Medicine

Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall

Physician, author, and “SkepDoc”

Ray Hyman

Ray Hyman

Professor emeritus of psychology and founding member of CSICOP (now CSI)

Barry Karr

Barry Karr

Executive director, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Barry Kosmin

Barry Kosmin

Research professor and author

Stephen Law

Stephen Law

Author, lecturer, and provost, CFI–United Kingdom

Ronald A. Lindsay

Ronald A. Lindsay

CEO and president, CFI, CSI, and Council for Secular Humanism

Nick Little

Nicholas J. Little

Legal director, CFI

Leighann Lord

Leighann Lord

Stand-up comedian, writer, and actress

Scott Mandia

Scott Mandia

Author and professor

Stef McGraw

Stef McGraw

Campus and community organizer, CFI

Asif Mohiuddin

Asif Mohiuddin

Prominent Bangladeshi blogger

Joe Nickell

Joe Nickell

Author and senior research fellow, CSI

Steven Novella

Steven Novella

Founder of Science-Based Medicine

Anthony Pinn

Anthony Pinn

Professor and author

Morgan Elizabeth Romano

Morgan Romano

Vice president and director of international relations, Ateizm Dernegi (The Association of Atheism)

Josh Rosenau

Josh Rosenau

Programs and Policy Director, National Center for Science Education

Steven Salzberg

Steven Salzberg

Professor and author

Amardeo Sarma

Amardeo Sarma

Founder and chairman of GWUP; CSI Executive Council member

Eugenie Scott

Eugenie C. Scott

Researcher, activist, and chair of NCSE Advisory Council

Michael Specter

Michael Specter

Author and journalist

Todd Stiefel

Todd Stiefel

Founder, Stiefel Freethought Foundation

Muhammad Syed

Muhammad Syed

Co-founder & executive director, Ex-Muslims of North America

Eddie Tabash

Eddie Tabash

Lawyer and chair, CFI Board of Directors

Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas

President of New Mexicans for Science and Reason; CSI fellow

Leonard Tramiel

Leonard Tramiel

Board member, CFI

James Underdown

James Underdown

Executive director, CFI–Los Angeles

Judith Walker

Judith Walker

CFI Institute fellow and CFI Board Member

Reba Boyd Wooden

Reba Boyd Wooden

Executive director, CFI–Indiana & CFI Secular Celebrant Program

Josh Zepps

Josh Zepps

Journalist and host of Point of Inquiry and HuffPost Live

Phil Zuckerman

Phil Zuckerman

Professor, researcher, and author

Updates

Conference speaker and secularism scholar Phil Zuckerman on Point of Inquiry!

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Allow us to direct your attention to an excellent episode of Point of Inquiry from a few weeks ago, in which Lindsay Beyerstein interviews Phil Zuckerman, who is among the world’s leading experts in the field of secular studies, and author of the highly acclaimed books Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions; Society without God; and Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion

More importantly, Zuckerman will be at the Reason for Change conference in person to discuss the perceptions people both within and without the forethought community have about secularism and its many incarnations. He’ll join a fantastic panel that will also feature Barry Kosmin (himself an expert on the demographic data of secularism) and CFI president and CEO Ron Lindsay, and moderated by communications director Paul Fidalgo.

Listen to this in-depth conversation on Point of Inquiry here.

Check out another Reason for Change episode of Point of Inquiry with Leighann Lord here

And don’t forget to register for Reason for Change if you haven’t already! Special conference hotel rates end May 21.

SciFri + CFI!

Tune your radios and podcatchers to Science Friday this week and next, because the Center for Inquiry will be supporting the show to spread the word about the Reason for Change conference (June 11-15 in Buffalo, if you didn’t know). We’re delighted to get this chance to let people know about this unmissable event and lend our support to a program that does so much for the public’s understanding and appreciation of science. It’s a total win-win.

Hey, SciFri plus CFI! Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

Leighann Lord, performing at Reason for Change, interviewed on “Point of Inquiry”

This week on a special episode highlighting the Reason for Change conference, CFI’s flagship podcast Point of Inquiry welcomes standup comedian Leighann Lord. Talking with show producer Nora Hurley, they discuss how the worlds of comedy and skepticism are not as distant as they seem. They explore the unique dynamic comedy creates for critical thinking, and how a good joke may just be the gateway to discourse and discussion.

Leighann will be preforming at the Reason For Change conference June 11th - 15th 2015. Learn more about seeing her live this summer at http://reasonforchange.org.

Champion of Science Eugenie Scott to Present on “Crank Anthropology”

Eugenie Scott is a genuine hero in the fight for science in education, and has long been a favorite speaker at CFI conferences. Recently retired from her post as executive director of the National Center for Science Education, Scott was honored at our 2013 CFI Summit with our Lifetime Achievement Award. Presenting her with the award, CFI’s president Ron Lindsay said:

In the person of Dr. Scott, science education has perhaps its greatest ambassador. In the media, in talks to audiences like this one, in court rooms, and person to person, she brings an enthusiasm for learning, a whip-smart sense of humor, an approachability that dispels stereotypes of scientists and secularists, and a generosity of spirit toward those with whom she disagrees. Eugenie Scott has been crucial for the cause of science education, and she is truly irreplaceable.

Luckily, we don’t have to replace her for the Reason for Change conference, because Dr. Scott will be there to deliver a presentation on “Crank Anthropology.” Here’s the summary description of her talk:

Anthropology, the science of humankind, deals with evolution, human biology, and archaeology, all in the context of the behavioral complexities of culture. Perhaps this breadth – and the fact that the subject is ourselves – is why there is such a huge amount of misinformation, misunderstanding, and just plain pseudoscience about human evolution and human nature. Anthropology is cursed with the Aquatic Ape theory, the Paleo Diet, Raelianism (of various kinds), theories of relict hominoids, the Killer Ape, Krishna Creationism, some very far out ideas about race and sex – and that’s just for starters. Being human, however, does not make one an expert on anthropology. What does the actual science of anthropology say about these popular, if incorrect, ideas?

To catch Eugenie Scott deliver this fascinating presentation, register now for Reason for Change. You can see the full schedule of events here.

And to read more from Scott herself, check out our two previous interviews with her, one before the CFI Summit, and another for CSIcon 2 in 2012.

Complete Conference Schedule is Now Available!

Right now, it’s snowing in Buffalo, so it’s easy to forget that June is just around the corner, and with it comes the Reason for Change conference! What makes it feel all the more real now is that the complete schedule for the conference has just been posted. Every presentation, panel discussion, and entertainment event, as well as all of the great “extras” such as Secular Celebrant training, tours of Niagara Falls and Buffalo, and social events. Are you registered yet?

Click over to the schedule section of the website, and where once there were bullet points and a broad outline, now there is a session-by-session, hour-by-hour description of the entire four days. There’s so much going on!

There are presentations from people like Rebecca Goldstein, Susan Jacoby, Richard Dawkins, Michael Specter, Phil Zuckerman, and more. Panels on subjects such as global activism, alternative medicine, social justice, and leaving religion behind. There’s even a comedy show by the hilarious Leighann Lord. And that’s just some of it.

So even though it might be cold and snowy outside where you live, the summer sun is on its way, and Reason for Change awaits. Don’t miss your chance to register and be part of this amazing conference!

Schedule

Note: This schedule is subject to change.

Thursday

June 11, 2015

9:00AM–5:00PM

Secular Celebrant Training

Learn how to officiate for nonreligious marriage and commitment ceremonies, funerals and memorials, and other celebrations of the milestones of life. The demand for secular ceremonies is growing fast, so this is the perfect time to build your skills and get certified.
Trainer: Reba Boyd Wooden, executive director of CFI–Indiana.

Noon–5:00PM

Registration

Noon–5:00PM

FREE Tours of Center for Inquiry

Shuttle buses will run continuously between the Marriott and CFI headquarters, one mile away. Tour the offices and the world’s largest humanist and skeptical libraries, meet staff members, and return when you like. Shuttles leave from Marriott main entrance.

5:00–7:00PM

Development Reception (Invitation only)

7:00–9:00PM

Conference Reception Cash bar (Open to all registrants)

Welcoming remarks by members of CFI management

Friday

June 12, 2015

7:30–8:30AM

Registration

8:30–11:20AM

Plenary Session (Open to all registrants)

8:30–9:00AM

Opening Session

Moderator: Barry Karr
Marking thirty-five years of Free Inquiry, almost forty years of Skeptical Inquirer, and the merger of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism with the Center for Inquiry.
Presenters: Tom Flynn, Kendrick Frazier

9:00–9:50AM

GMOs: Why Reason Doesn’t Matter

Lecture by Michael Specter

9:50–10:00AM

BREAK

10:00–11:20AM

CFI Around the World Panel Discussion

Moderator/Presenter: Michael De Dora
Panelists: Bill Cooke, Asif Mohiuddun, Morgan Romano

11:30AM–1:00PM

Luncheon and Keynote Address (Open to ticketed registrants)

Keynote Speaker: Rebecca Goldstein

1:00–2:40PM

Plenary Session (Open to all registrants)
The Humanist Movement and Social Justice Issues
A Moderated Conversation

Led by Debbie Goddard and Ronald A. Lindsay
Panelists: Ophelia Benson, Anthony Pinn, Todd Stiefel, Eric Adriaans

2:40–3:10PM

BREAK Book Signing: Rebecca Goldstein and Michael Specter

3:10–5:00PM

Breakout Sessions (Open to all registrants)


Skeptic Track

3:10–3:40PM

Why People Fall for Dubious Claims: The Lessons From a Life of Skepticism

Lecture presentation by skeptical pioneer Ray Hyman

3:40–5:00PM

Alternative Medicine Panel

Moderator: Leonard Tramiel
Panelists: Harriet Hall, David Gorski, Steven Novella


Humanist Track

3:10–3:40PM

The Impact of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

Lecture presentation by Nicholas J. Little

3:40–5:00PM

Leaving Religion Panel

Moderator: Reba Boyd Wooden
Panelists: Catherine Dunphy, Muhammad Syed, Jerry DeWitt


6:00–7:00PM

Reception and Cash Bar
(Banquet registration required)

6:30PM

Book Signing: Susan Jacoby

7:00–10:00PM

Reception, Banquet, Awardee Lecture by Susan Jacoby
(Separate registration required)

Presentation of the Balles Prize and the Forkosch Awards

Awardee Lecture: The Secular Conscience by Susan Jacoby

Comedy by Leighann Lord

Saturday

June 13, 2015

8:30–9:00AM

The Ongoing Threat of the Religious Right and Pseudoscience: Why Society Needs CFI More Than Ever

Special presentation by CFI Board Chair Eddie Tabash

9:00AM–Noon

Plenary Session (Open to all registrants)
Views of Secularism
Panel Discussion

Moderator: Paul Fidalgo
Panelists: Ronald A. Lindsay, Phil Zuckerman, Barry Kosmin

10:20–11:00AM

Crank AnthropologyDescription ▸

Lecture presentation by Eugenie Scott

11:00–11:15am

BREAK Book Signing: Ronald A. Lindsay and Phil Zuckerman

11:15–11:55am

Taking Atheism to the General Public

Lecture presentation by Eddie Tabash

Noon–1:30PM

Speaker Luncheon (Open to ticketed registrants)

Lecture presentation by Joe Nickell

1:30–5:00PM

Plenary Session (Open to all registrants)

1:30–2:30PM

LIVE: Point of Inquiry Podcast with co-host Lindsay Beyerstein, interviewing Asif Mohiuddun

2:30–3:25pm

Bad Medicine: How Alternative Medicine Has Infiltrated U.S. Medical Schools

Lecture Presentation by Steven Salzberg

3:25–3:40PM

BREAK Book Signing: Joe Nickell

3:40–5:00PM

Climate Change Panel chaired by Mark Boslough

Moderator: Kendrick Frazier
Panelists: Scott Mandia, Jan Dash, Joshua Rosenau

5:00PM

See You At the Reason Rally promotional video shoot

Be in an online video promoting Reason Rally 2016. Takes only 5 minutes! Location TBA.

6:00PM

Book Signing: Richard Dawkins

7:00–9:00PM

Don C. Dangler Memorial Event
Richard Dawkins in a live, unscripted interview with Point of Inquiry co-host Josh Zepps

Sunday

June 14, 2015

9:00–10:00AM

Plenary Session (Open to all registrants)
Lecture Presentation by Stephen Law

10:00–10:10AM

BREAK

10:20–11:30AM

Breakout Sessions (Open to all registrants)


Skeptic Track

10:20–11:30AM

CSI Executive Council Panel

Moderator: Barry Karr
Panelists: James Alcock, Kendrick Frazier, Harriet Hall, Ray Hyman, Scott O. Lilienfeld, Amardeo Sarma, Eugenie C. Scott, Steven Novella, Dave Thomas, Leonard Tramiel


Humanist Track

10:20–11:30AM

We Are Awake Already: Secular Humanists Reply to Sam Harris

Moderator: Stef McGraw
Panelists: Judith Walker, Eddie Tabash


11:30AM–Noon

The Future of CFI

Presentation by Ronald A. Lindsay

Noon

END OF FORMAL CONFERENCE PROGRAM

12:30PM

AFTERNOON TOURS (Optional at additional cost)

CHOOSE EITHER:

Historic Architecture of Buffalo Tour (returns 7:00PM)

Buffalo is home to some of the greatest American architecture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. See the mansions of Buffalo’s glory days, established and emerging historic districts, and the landmark buildings of downtown Buffalo. Motor-coach tour with professional guide ends with an elegant dinner at the historic Lafayette Hotel.

Niagara Falls, Canada, Tour

Explore one of the natural wonders of the world from its most impressive vantage point: Canada! In addition to the Falls, this motor tour includes a visit to the Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory and dinner at the world famous Skylon Tower Revolving Restaurant, a full 775 feet above the water.
(This tour will enter Canada. Valid passport or Enhanced Driver’s License required.)

1:00-4:00PM

FREE Tours of Center for Inquiry

Shuttle buses will run continuously between the Marriott and CFI headquarters, one mile away. Tour the offices and the world’s largest humanist and skeptical libraries, meet staff members, and return when you like. Shuttles leave from Marriott main entrance.

Monday

June 15, 2015

7:30AM–9:30PM

Finger Lakes Freethought Tour

Visit the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum (Dresden, New York) and Freethought Trail sites in Rochester, including the Susan B. Anthony House and significant sites from the life of Frederick Douglass. Led by Ingersoll Museum director Tom Flynn (morning) and Susan B. Anthony House director Deborah Hughes (afternoon).

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Policies

FREE Child Care Available! Throughout the conference, free child care will be available for attendees' children, ages 4 - 12. Childcare is provided by Just for Kids and includes supervised, age-appropriate games, activities, crafts, and entertainment. All staff are background-checked and insured. Reserve child care in advance when registering for the conference.

The Center for Inquiry values full participation at all of its events, including participation from individuals with disabilities. Requests for reasonable accommodation may be made by contacting organizer Barry Karr at (716) 636-4869 ext. 217 or bkarr@centerforinquiry.net before June 1, 2015.

Policy on Hostile Conduct / Harassment at Conferences: View policy ▸

Canadian midway at Niagara Falls
sheas sign: BUFFALO

Hotel Information

The CFI “Reason for Change” conference is taking place at the Buffalo Marriott Niagara, 1340 Millersport Highway, in Amherst, New York (a suburb of Buffalo).

Conference Discount rooms at the Buffalo Marriott Niagara are no longer available. To book your room at the Marriott’s prevailing rates, call 1-800-228-9290.

We have arranged additional discounted rooms at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Buffalo - Amherst, within close walking distance of the Marriott. Book a room at the discounted rate ▸

Room reservations are not included in Conference registration. You must make your own arrangements for your sleeping room while attending “Reason for Change.”

hotel exterior
hotel interior