CFI–Florida Holds First Conference
by Miriam Basart
The following article is from the Secular
Humanist Bulletin, Volume 19, Number 1.
Center for Inquiry–Florida, held its inaugural conference
on February 7–9, 2003, at the Radisson Hotel in Pinellas Park, Florida. It was
indeed an history-making event, hosting speakers from near and far away places
such as Australia and New Zealand. Each speaker gave a fresh and stimulating
The weekend provided camaraderie and chances for new
contacts with likeminded people. The speakers were first class in their
knowledge and entertainment value. Many gave audio/visual presentations while
others simply used a few notes.
Paul Kurtz, chairman of the parent CFI–International in
Amherst, New York, spoke of current world affairs. Then later in the day he gave
the audience a chance to support CFI–Florida with contributions and showed a
short movie showcasing the work of Dr. Kurtz and staff at the CFI Centers.
The topics of the other speakers ranged from Deborah
Roffman who spoke about correct sex education for children to Tampa Bay Skeptics
President Gary Posner, who gave a good PowerPoint-assisted explanation of how
even the police can be hooked into believing the so-called fact-finding powers
of a psychic. Richard Lead from Australia added humor and sadness with his
animated talk of how upscale scam artists with fancy office addresses can
separate gullible people and their money as easily as the wide-shouldered,
moustached con artists depicted in films.
Throughout the meeting rooms the work of St. Petersburg
Times and Free Inquiry cartoonist Don Addis was displayed on easels.
Don told me that he attends the newsroom meetings every morning in order to
produce topical political cartoons.
The new CFI–Florida intends to operate a faith-free
community center in order to unite people of varied economic, racial, and
cultural backgrounds. As the world appears to grow smaller, it becomes necessary
to incorporate scientific naturalism through education, dialogue, and communal
Its staff includes Toni Van Pelt, executive director, and
Andrea Steele, who, along with Jan Loeb Eisler as chair will join the other
Centers for Inquiry in Amherst New York; Los Angeles, California; and Metro New
York. They will follow the vision to educate, serve, and provide enrichment
through activities such as Camp Inquiry for children.
The goals of the camp are to help children develop
objective skills in reason. Andrea Steele is leading CFI’s pilot program,
Families in Reason.
Among other regularly planned events, the Center will
support Secular Sobriety meetings, African Americans for Humanism, Campus
Freethought Alliance groups, Ethics in the Evening, discussion groups, and a
Miriam Basart has been a member of the Rocky Mountain
Skeptics and Tampa Bay Skeptics, and is a CFI–Florida founding member.
Magician Bob Steiner (standing) entertains conference attendees Miriam Basart
(left) and Nat Owen (right) with a magic trick at the Friday evening banquet.
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