Center for Inquiry

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Center for Inquiry (CFI)
Founded 1991
Type Nonprofit, science education
Focus Public understanding of science, secular ethics, skepticism
Method Research, education, outreach, and advocacy
Key people Paul Kurtz, Founder and former Chair Emeritus for CFI, CSI, CSH
Ronald A. Lindsay, President and Chief Executive Officer<ive

The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational organization with headquarters in the United States whose primary mission is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.[1]


The Center was established in 1991 by philosopher and author Paul Kurtz, bringing together the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal[2] (CSICOP) and the Council for Secular Humanism[3] (CSH),. They had previously operated in tandem but were now formally affiliated under one umbrella. By 1995 CFI had expanded into larger headquarters in Amherst, New York, and in 1996 opened its first branch office in Los Angeles, CFI West.[4] The same year, it founded the Campus Freethought Alliance, organizing college students around to promote its views.

By 1997 CFI had begun expanding its efforts internationally through an association with Moscow State University. CFI Moscow now operates an exchange program where Russian students and scholars are able to visit CFI headquarters in Amherst and participate in a summer institute each year. Additional programs exist in Germany (Rossdorf), France (Nice), Spain (Bilbao), Poland (Warsaw), Nigeria (Ibadan), Uganda (Kampala), Kenya (Nairobi), Nepal (Katmandu), India (Pune) (Hyderabad), Egypt (Cairo), China (Beijing), New Zealand (Auckland), Peru (Lima), Argentina (Buenos Aires), Senegal (Dakar), Zambia (Lusaka), and Bangladesh (Dacca).

Between 2002 and 2003 CFI opened branches in New York City[5] and Tampa, FL[6] and expandedng its west coast branch into a new building in Hollywood, California, CFI West also became home to the Steve Allen Theater, named after the former Tonight Show host and CFI supporter. By 2004, the organization continued to expand into a network of community organizations called "CFI Communities"[7] in cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Tucson, Tallahassee, FL, Indianapolis, and Fort Lauderdale.

Greta Christina speaking at the 5th anniversary celebration of Center for Inquiry - Washington, DC on November 12, 2011

In 2005 CFI once again expanded its Amherst headquarters with a new research wing. Additionally, CFI was granted special consultative status with the United Nations the same year.

Since 2006 CFI has been expanding rapidly with a series of new branches in cities in North America and around the world. The branch in Washington is headquarters to CFI's Office of Public Policy, which represents CFI's interests on Capitol Hill.

Program areas[edit]

The Center's programs focus on three areas:[8]

Paranormal and fringe science claims

Through the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, publisher of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, the Center for Inquiry evaluates claims of the paranormal (phenomena allegedly beyond the range of normal scientific explanations), such as psychic phenomena, ghosts, communication with the dead, and alleged extraterrestrial visitations. It also explores the fringes and borderlands of the sciences, attempting to separate strictly evidence-based research from pseudosciences.

Religion, ethics, and society

The Center promotes, through its connection with Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, critical inquiry into the foundations and social effects of the world religions. Since 1983 it has focused on such issues as fundamentalism in Christianity and Islam, humanistic alternatives to religious ethics, and religious sources of political violence. It is also the home of its affiliated organization, the Council for Secular Humanism, publisher of Free Inquiry magazine, a bi-monthly journal of secular humanist thought and discussion.

Medicine and health

The Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health (CSMMH)[9] stimulates scientific scrutiny of New Age medicine and the schools of psychotherapy. It supports naturalistic addiction recovery practices through Secular Organizations for Sobriety.

CFI International[edit]

CFI maintains branches all across the world.

Centre for Inquiry Canada[edit]

CFI Canada (CFIC) is the Canadian branch of CFI transnational, headquartered in Toronto, Canada. Originally established and supported in part by CFI Transnational, CFI Canada has become an independent Canadian national organization with several provincial branches. Justin Trottier served as executive director from 2007 to 2011, when he was dismissed by the CFIC board.[10] In March 2012, he was rehired as National Communications Director.[11] Michael Payton subsequently served as executive director, until June, 2013.[12] In March, 2014, Eric Adriaans was appointed National Executive Director by the CFIC Board of Directors.

CFI Canada has branches in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Saskatoon, Calgary, Okanagan (Kelowna) and Vancouver. In late 2009, CFIC announced a new bus campaign called the Extraordinary Claims Campaign.[13]

Projects and programs[edit]

Center for Inquiry On Campus[edit]

CFI On Campus[14] (originally the Campus Freethought Alliance) is a program launched by the Council for Secular Humanism in 1996 by Derek Araujo and others in order to reach out to university and high school students. The Center for Inquiry On Campus provides funding, speakers or debaters, literature, and other promotional and educational resources to student groups that affiliate, and supports over 200 campus groups around the world. In 2000, as a result of a dispute over management and funding of the organization, a number of volunteering students on the group's executive committee organized the split-organization Secular Student Alliance,[citation needed] with largely the same ends—to promote secular humanism as an alternative to religious lifestyle and politics on college and high campuses. However, as neither organization demands exclusivity in association, many campus groups maintain ties to both organizations. Center for Inquiry On Campus is directed by Debbie Goddard[15] and employs a staff of organizers who help CFI student groups to advance their aims at their respective schools.

CFI On Campus operates 18 branches across the United States, as well as 21 branches located internationally.[16]

CFI communities[edit]

Virtually all of these groups are outgrowths of local grassroots secular humanist and skeptical movements, most involving the leadership of local subscribers to Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer magazines.[citation needed] These groups draw upon volunteers and Center for Inquiry members and supporters who are enthusiastic about CFI's efforts to advance the scientific outlook in our society and who wish to become active in the organization.[7]

CFI Institute[edit]

The Center for Inquiry Institute[17] offers undergraduate level online courses, seminars, and workshops in critical thinking and the scientific outlook and its implications for religion, human values, and the borderlands of science. In addition to transferable undergraduate credit through the State University of New York (SUNY) system, CFI offers a thirty credit-hour Certificate of Proficiency in Critical Inquiry. This three-year curriculum plan offers summer sessions at the main campus at SUNY-Buffalo in Amherst and the Skeptic's Toolbox workshop at the University of Oregon, Eugene.[18]

"Science and the Public" Master of Education program[edit]

In partnership with the Graduate School of Education at the State University of New York at Buffalo, CFI offers an accredited Master of Education program in Science and the Public, available entirely online.[19] Aimed at students preparing for careers in research, science education, public policy, science journalism, or further study in sociology, history and philosophy of science, science communication, education, or public administration, the program explores the methods and outlook of science as they intersect with public culture, scientific literacy, and public policy.

Camp Inquiry[edit]

The Center for Inquiry organizes an annual summer camp for children called Camp Inquiry,[20] focusing on scientific literacy, critical thinking, naturalism, the arts, humanities, and humanist ethical development.

CFI Libraries[edit]

The Center for Inquiry Libraries[21] is a consortium of four libraries in Amherst, New York. Operated by the Center for Inquiry, it is the largest library of its kind in the world. The building is over 20,000 square feet (1,900 m2) with meeting rooms and special collections housing 70,000 volumes of works specializing in science, skepticism, freethought, humanism, and American philosophical naturalism, and includes a collection of Martin Gardner's books and papers, Steve Allen's manuscripts, and other special holdings.

It was opened on June 9, 1995 in Amherst by Steve Allen, Leon Jaroff, Herbert Hauptman, Stan Lundine, and Kendrick Frazier to name a few.[22]

Naturalism Research Project[edit]

CFI also runs the Naturalism Research Project, a major new effort to develop the theoretical and practical applications of philosophical naturalism. As part of this project, CFI’s libraries, research facilities, and conference areas are available to scientists and scholars to advance the understanding of science’s methodologies and conclusions about naturalism.[23]

Activities of the Naturalism Research Project include lectures and seminars by visiting fellows and scholars; academic conferences; and support CFI publications of important research. Among the central issues of naturalism include the exploration of varieties of naturalism; problems in philosophy of science; the methodologies of scientific inquiry; naturalism and humanism; naturalistic ethics; planetary ethics; and naturalism and the biosciences.[24]

Skeptics and Humanist Aid and Relief Effort[edit]

The recently renamed Skeptics and Humanist Aid and Relief Effort (previously the name began with the phrase "Secular Humanist") provides "an alternative for those who wish to contribute to charitable efforts without the intermediary of a religious organization in times of great need."[25] As of January 2010, all funds are being directed to the group Doctors Without Borders to aid the survivors of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Previous relief efforts have included aid for survivors of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and the October 2007 California wildfires.[26]

Office of Public Policy[edit]

The Office of Public Policy (OPP) is the Washington D.C. political arm of the Center for Inquiry. The OPP’s mandate is to lobby Congress and the Administration on issues related to science and secularism. This includes defending the separation of church and state, promoting science and reason as the basis of public policy, and advancing secular values.[27]

Affiliate organizations[edit]


The results of research and activities supported by the Center and its affiliates are published and distributed to the public in seventeen separate national and international magazines, journals, and newsletters. Among them are CSER's Quarterly Review,[28] CSH's Free Inquiry, and CSICOP's Skeptical Inquirer, American Rationalist,[29] as well as the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice,[30] The Skeptic in the UK and Philo.

CFI also produces the popular weekly radio show and podcast, Point of Inquiry.

In the media[edit]

On November 14, 2006 the CFI opened its Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC and issued a declaration "In Defense of Science and Secularism", which calls for public policy to be based on science rather than faith.[31] The next day The Washington Post ran an article about it entitled "Think Tank Will Promote Thinking".[32]

Video expert James Underdown IIG and CFI West did an experiment for "Miracle Detective" Oprah Winfrey Network which replicates exactly the angelic apparition that people claim cured a 14 year old severely disabled child at Presbyterian Hemby Children's Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. The "angel" was sunlight from a hidden window, and the little girl is still severely handicapped.[33]

Wyndgate Country Club and Richard Dawkins[edit]

During Richard Dawkins' October 2011 book tour, Center for Inquiry - the tour's sponsor - signed a contract with Wyndgate Country Club in Rochester Hills, Michigan, as the venue site. After seeing an interview with Dawkins on The O'Reilly Factor, an official at the club cancelled Dawkins' appearance. Dawkins said that the country club official accepted Bill O'Reilly's "twisted" interpretation of his book The Magic of Reality without having read it personally.[34][35] Sean Faircloth said that cancelling the reading "really violates the basic principles of America ... The Civil Rights Act ... prohibits discrimination based on race or religious viewpoint. ... [Dawkins has] published numerous books ... to explain science to the public, so it's rather an affront, to reason in general, to shun him as they did."[36] CFI Michigan executive director Jeff Seaver stated that "This action by The Wyndgate illustrates the kind of bias and bigotry that nonbelievers encounter all the time."[37] Following the cancellation, protests and legal action by CFI against the Wyndgate Country Club were pursued.[38][39] In 2013 this case was settled in favor of the Center For Inquiry.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Center for Inquiry Official Website
  2. ^ Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
  3. ^ Council for Secular Humanism
  4. ^ Center for Inquiry–Los Angeles
  5. ^ Center for Inquiry-New York City
  6. ^ CFI Tampa
  7. ^ a b CFI Communities -
  8. ^ Center for Inquiry's programs of public education
  9. ^ a b Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health (CSMMH)
  10. ^ "Letter from the Board". Archived from the original on 2012-10-23. 
  11. ^ Joe (2012-03-27). "CFI Is On The Mend". Canadian Atheist. Archived from the original on 2012-10-30. 
  12. ^ "CFI National Director Announced". Canadian Archived from the original on 2012-11-01. 
  13. ^ Cryderman, Kelly (2010-12-02). "Skeptics plan to bring controversial atheist ads to Calgary buses". Global News. Retrieved 2011-01-17. 
  14. ^ CFI On Campus
  15. ^ "Debbie Goddard Named CFI’s Director of Outreach". Center for Inquiry. November 20, 2012. 
  16. ^ "About - CFI". Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 2013-08-03. 
  17. ^ CFI Institute Catalogue
  18. ^ Skeptic's Toolbox
  19. ^ "Ed.M. Graduate Program". Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  20. ^ Camp Inquiry website
  21. ^ CFI Libraries
  22. ^ "Center for Inquiry Celebrates Grand Opening". CSICOP News. 1995-06-09. Archived from the original on 2008-03-23. Retrieved 2008-09-20. 
  23. ^ Center for Inquiry - Research
  24. ^ Shook, John (March–April 2007). "Center for Inquiry launches Naturalism Research Project". Skeptical Inquirer 31 (2).  – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  25. ^ SHARE Opens Fund for Haiti Quake Relief, Received 2010-01-18.
  26. ^ Secular S.H.A.R.E. Raises $47,000 for Haiti in Less Than 24 Hours, Received 2010-01-18.
  27. ^ Center for Inquiry-Office of Public Policy, Received 2012-03-16.
  28. ^ Quarterly Review for the Scientific Examination of Religion
  29. ^ The American Rationalist volume LVII May/June 2011, Number 3. ISSN 0003-0708.
  30. ^ Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice (SRMHP)
  31. ^ Park, Bob (2006-11-17). "Freedom Of Science: in Defense of Science and Secularism". What's New with Bob Park. 
  32. ^ Kaufman, Marc (2006-11-16). "Think Tank Will Promote Thinking: Advocates Want Science, Not Faith, at Core of Public Policy". The Washington Post. 
  33. ^ "Guardian Angel: Video Expert Re-Creation | Guardian Angel: Video Expert Re-Creation". Oprah Winfrey Network. 2011-01-20. Retrieved 2011-01-28. 
  34. ^ "Rochester Hills Country Club Cancels Richard Dawkins Appearance". Fox News. 2011-10-13. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  35. ^ "Atheist Richard Dawkins snubbed by Detroit area country club". Detroit Free Press. 2011-10-12. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  36. ^ "Rochester Hills Country Club Cancels Richard Dawkins Appearance". Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  37. ^ "Protest tonight against club's decision to cancel atheist's appearance". The Detroit News. 2011-10-12. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  38. ^ "UPDATE: Dawkins Event Banned - CFI to Pursue Legal Remedies". Center For Inquiry. 2011-10-14. Retrieved 2011-10-15. 
  40. ^ "Mich. club settles atheist discrimination suit". The Wall Street Journal. 2013-02-26. Retrieved 2013-02-27. [dead link]

External links[edit]