525,600 Minutes of Progress

Cause & Effect No. 129: May 1, 2019

Cause & Effect is the biweekly newsletter of the Center for Inquiry community, covering a wide range of work that you help make possible. Become a member today!

The Top Stories


The Story of a Year of Incredible Progress

The Center for Inquiry carries out its mission through a wide variety of means: campaigns, publications, major events, legal action, lobbying efforts, community activities, workshops and trainings, educational programs, press outreach, social media, and more. All this activity is carried out through CFI-proper, as well as its divisions, programs, and branches across the country and around the world.

It’s a lot to keep track of!

Last month, CFI released its annual Progress Report for 2018, which gives all of us a chance to take a step back and take in all that CFI has accomplished with the indispensable help of its supporters, donors, branch members, subscribers, social media followers, and everyone else who makes themselves a part of our growing community.

Take a look at the incredible new Progress Report website; see how we’ve been a lifeline to dozens of persecuted freethinkers, how we’ve taken on fake medicine with a groundbreaking lawsuit, how we’ve cultivated a passion for science and evolution among America’s teachers, how we’ve lifted up the voices of secular Americans in the halls of power at every level, and so much more.

Visit centerforinquiry.org/progress, and see what you have helped us achieve. And let it inspire us to keep working, because there’s so much more to do.

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Court Allows Discrimination Against Atheist Invocations in Congress

Last year, Dan Barker, copresident of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, had been invited by a sitting member of Congress to present a secular invocation to the House of Representatives. However, Barker was denied the opportunity by the House’s chaplain, Patrick Conroy, simply because Barker is an atheist. In the subsequent lawsuit, the Center for Inquiry backed Barker with an amicus brief to the court, joined by American Atheists.

On April 19, a federal appeals court ruled against Barker, giving the green light to the exclusion of atheists from offering invocations. In our statement following the ruling, CFI’s legal director, Nick Little, said, “This decision takes the constitutionally guaranteed notion of equal treatment between the religious and the non-religious and rips it to shreds. It’s a disgraceful decision.”

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DNA and Destiny in Skeptical Inquirer

In a time when companies such as 23andMe can tell us about our Neanderthal ancestors for under $100, it can seem as though we have a pretty good handle on our DNA. As New York Times science writer Carl Zimmer, author of the bestselling She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, writes in the latest Skeptical Inquirer, “People are no longer thinking of their DNA as a black box but as a database to be mined.”

But as is often the case, the marketing and the mythology don’t always match the reality. In a special cover feature for Skeptical Inquirer, Zimmer highlights major misconceptions about DNA and heredity. Among these errors, he dispels the notion that a genetic connection to a historical figure makes one “special,” refutes the idea every trait we inherit is transmitted by a single gene, and perhaps most importantly, shows us that one’s genes do not define who we are as people.

(Watch Carl Zimmer’s presentation on heredity from CSICon 2018.)

Also in the May/June issue of Skeptical Inquirer, Benjamin Radford notes the explosion and quick flame-out of the Momo internet hoax; Ian Bryce reveals the deception behind claims of a cold fusion hoax; Philip J. Senter shows how creationists are subject to fossil-based hoaxes (even involving dragons); and much more … and not all of it related to hoaxes.

Subscribe to Skeptical Inquirer in print or online at the all-new skepticalinquirer.org.

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CSICon Returns to Las Vegas in October!

Get ready for the year’s premier skeptics’ event, when the brightest minds in science and reason come together in the city of illusions to turn the tide against pseudoscience, conspiracy theories, and alternative facts.It’s time for CSICon 2019, October 16–20 at the Flamingo Resort in Las Vegas!

The incredible lineup of speakers includes John de Lancie, Julia Sweeney, Brian Greene, Richard Dawkins, Britt Marie Hermes, Dr. Jen Gunter, Michael Mann, and entertainment from illusionist Banachek and comedian Leighann Lord. As well as many more, along with hands-on workshops, author book signings, Sunday Papers presentations, and even a 1950s-themed party.

And as you are undoubtedly making your plans to attend CSICon 2019, get yourself revved up for the big event with Skeptical Inquirer’s conference reports from CSICon 2018 by editor Kendrick Frazier and CFI communications director Paul Fidalgo. Plus, check out the latest CSICon video, as Craig Foster of the U.S. Air Force Academy explains why we’re all susceptible to pseudoscience. Foster also expands on his thinking in a new piece for Skeptical Inquirer on “respectful skepticism.”

Register Now

A New Congress and a Promise Kept

When a new and more diverse freshman class of Congress came to Washington, D.C., earlier this year, forming a new Democratic majority, we told you that we intended to hit the ground running and meet with each newly elected representative in the first 100 days of the 116th Congress. That goal is now complete. Now every new member of the House and Senate knows that the Center for Inquiry, as a leader of the secular community, is watching to ensure they protect the role of science in evidence-based policy and that they uphold our constitutional right to a government and policies that are free from the corrosive effects of religion.

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Massimo Pigliucci and Susan Blackmore on Point of Inquiry

Point of Inquiry, the official podcast of the Center for Inquiry, closes out its special series of episodes recorded at CSICon 2018 as Kavin Senapathy interviews Massimo Pigliucci, author of books such as Nonsense on Stilts and How to Be a Stoic. Plus, Kavin talks to skeptic psychologist and author Susan Blackmore about her out-of-body experiences, whose research has centered around consciousness, memes, and subjectivity.

Subscribe to Point of Inquiry with your favorite podcast app and never miss an episode! It’s available on all major platforms including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and many others.

Listen Now

Beautifying HQ for Earth Day

The Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York, is quite an impressive looking place. But as lovely as it is, even the global command center of skepticism and secular humanism can benefit from some sprucing up from time to time. So could the planet.

On April 22, staff and volunteers at the Center for Inquiry Transnational took part in an Earth Day project, cleaning up the grounds and planting a couple of beautiful trees. (They are Pink Crimson Cascade Weeping Peach Flowering Trees, in case you were wondering.)

 

Latest Hot Takes and Longreads


  • While there’s no such thing as werewolves, there is a psychiatric diagnosis for something referred to as “clinical lycanthropy delusions,” which came up recently in South Florida. Joe Nickell helps distinguish the mythical version from the clinical and gives some useful historical background.
  • Benjamin Radford looks at two examples of misinformation about the Columbine massacre twenty years ago that continue to be spread despite having being debunked.
  • John Murdoch explores the overlap of religious faith and “new age” beliefs and wonders how skeptics ought to prioritize which forms of magical thinking are in most need of dispelling.
  • In Free Inquiry, Ophelia Benson pours some cold water on the “Oprah-style” notion of an“authentic self,” saying it “rests on the assumption that self-knowledge is reliable, truthful, and immune to dispute by others.”
  • Russell Blackford in Free Inquiry worries over “slippery slopes” for free expression with the charges of “willful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group” against Canada’s Your Ward News.
  • In Skeptical Inquirer, Reynold Spector looks into the science behind the health claims about mega- and multivitamins and finds, well, very little.
  • Kenny Biddle investigates a novel ghost hunting “technique,” the so-called “Estes Method,” involving an SB7 Spirit Box, which sounds nifty, but which is actually just a radio receiver.
  • At his CFI column “The Rationality of Science,” Jamie Hale dispels some misconceptions about “learning styles” in education.

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 16 - 20: CSICon 2019 in Las Vegas. Learn More

CFI Austin

 
May 20: Cyberpsychology expert Michelann Quimby presents “The Psychology of Online Aggression.” Learn More
 
June 17: Clinical psychologist Hector Garcia presents “The Evolutionary Psychology Of Our Political Divide.” Learn More
 
July 15: Candice Withrow of the Austin Humanist Community presents “Sexual Harassment In Non-Theist Communities.” Learn More

CFI Michigan

 
May 4: Service day at Long Lake historic campground. Learn More
 
May 8: Jeremy Beahan presents “No Principles: Particularism In Virtue & Care Ethics.” Learn More
 
July 12 - 14: 2019 Secular Summer Retreat at Long Lake Outdoor Center. Learn More

CFI New York City

 
May 4: Participation in the NYC March for Science. Learn More
 
May 7: First “Secular Cinema” event with a screening of the documentary Hail Satan? Learn More
 
May 15: Book launch event for Massimo Pigliucci and Gregory Lopez’s A Handbook for New Stoics: How to Thrive in a World Out of Your Control—52 Week-by-Week Lessons. Learn More

CFI Northeast Ohio

 
May 8: Mark Tiborsky of CFI Northeast Ohio delivers an astronomical presentation: “Celestial Strangeness.” Learn More

CFI Western New York

 
May 2: Mark Tiborsky of CFI Northeast Ohio delivers an astronomical presentation: “Celestial Strangeness.” Learn More
 
June 7: Kristen Schultz Lee presents “Parenting While Secular: How Atheists and Agnostics Negotiate Religion and Family in the U.S.” Learn More

Thank you!

Everything we do at CFI is made possible by you and your support. Let’s keep working together for science, reason, and secular values.

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Cause & Effect: The Center for Inquiry Newsletter is edited by Paul Fidalgo, Center for Inquiry communications director.

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