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Center for Inquiry

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a non-profit educational organization with headquarters in the United States whose primary mission is to encourage evidence-based inquiry into paranormal and fringe science claims, alternative medicine and mental health practices, religion, secular ethics, and society. CFI is dedicated to promoting and defending science, reason, and free inquiry in all aspects of human interest.


The Center for Inquiry was established in 1991 by philosopher and author Paul Kurtz. It brought together two organizations: the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal[1] (CSICOP) and the Council for Secular Humanism[2] (CSH), both of which had previously operated in tandem but were now formally affiliated under one umbrella. By 1995 CFI had expanded into a new 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2) headquarters in Amherst, NY, and in 1996 opened its first branch office in Los Angeles, CFI West[3]. In the same year, CFI founded the Campus Freethought Alliance, organizing college students around issues of importance to CFI and its members.

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, NY and participate in a summer institute each year. Additional international programs exist in Germany (Rossdorf), France (Nice), Spain (Bilboa), 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 two new branches in New York City[4] and Tampa, FL[5] in addition to expanding its West Coast branch into a new building in Hollywood, CA. Located on Hollywood Blvd., CFI West also became home to the Steve Allen Theater, named after the former Tonight Show host and CFI supporter. By 2004, CFI continued to expand into cities across the United States with the creation of a network of community organizations called "CFI Communities"[6] in cities such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Tucson, Tallahassee, FL, Indianapolis, and Fort Lauderdale.

In 2005 CFI once again expanded its Amherst headquarters with a new 15,600-square-foot (1,450 m2) 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 across North America and around the world. These include new Centers for Inquiry in Toronto, London, Washington DC, Indianapolis, IN, Grand Rapids, MI, and Austin, TX. The branch in Washington is headquarters to CFI's Office of Public Policy, which represents CFI's interests on Capitol Hill.

Program areas

The Center for Inquiry's programs focus on three broad areas: [7]

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.

Medicine and health

The Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health (CSMMH)[8] stimulates critical scientific scrutiny of New Age medicine and the schools of psychotherapy. It supports naturalistic addiction recovery practices through Secular Organizations for Sobriety.

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. More recently it has turned its attention to Quranic criticism and the secularization of Islamic societies. 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.

Projects and Programs

Center for Inquiry - On Campus

CFI On Campus[9] (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. Center for Inquiry - On Campus provides funding, speakers or debaters, literature, and other promotional and educational resources to student groups that affiliate, and supports almost 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, 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 D.J. Grothe and employs a staff of eight organizers who help CFI student groups to advance their aims at their respective schools.

CFI Communities

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. 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.[6]

CFI Institute

The Center for Inquiry Institute[10] offers undergraduate level summer school, 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.[11]

Camp Inquiry

The Center for Inquiry organizes an annual summer camp for children called Camp Inquiry. [12]

CFI Libraries

The Center for Inquiry Libraries[13] 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 60,000 volumes of works specializing in science, skepticism, freethought, humanism, and American philosophical naturalism, and includes the complete line of Prometheus Books titles, 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.[14]

Naturalism Research Project

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.[15]

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.[16]

Affiliate Organizations


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,[17] CSH's Free Inquiry, and CSICOP's Skeptical Inquirer, as well as the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice[18] and Philo.

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

In the media

On November 14, 2006 the CFI opened its Office of Public Policy in Washington, DC and issued Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism, which calls for public policy to be based on science rather than faith [19]. The next day the Washington Post ran an article about it entitled "Think Tank Will Promote Thinking." [20]


External links

Template:Skeptic Organizations

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