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Friday, September 11, 2009


The Centre for Inquiry Canada is excited to announce our first national conference. It will take place in Toronto from October 29 to November 1 at the University of Toronto and at the Centre for Inquiry in downtown Toronto.

Thursday, October 29th 2009 at 5:00 pm

Sunday, November 1st 2009 at 12:00 pm


There are two parts to this conference. On Friday, October 30, there will be a one day Leadership & Organizational conference for representatives and leaders of all CFI affiliated student groups, Communities for Inquiry and city organizations.

On Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1, there will be an educational conference, featuring the theme "Art and Science: Freethought at the Intersection of Two Worlds." Leading thinkers will explore a wide range of topics. Art exhibits, special entertainment and musical presentations, as well as catered meals, will be included.

Friday, October 30, 2009, 7:00pm

Tarek Fatah is a secular Muslim Canadian political activist, writer and TV host. He is the author of "Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State," which suggests that the idea of an Islamic state is merely a mirage that Muslims have been made to chase for over a millennium. The book was short listed for the prestigious Donner Book Prize. Tarek Fatah has joined CFRB 1010 as a co-host of the radio station's 3PM daily show. Fatah is the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress.

Fatah's advocacy for a separation of religion and state, opposition to Sharia law, and advocacy for a liberal, progressive form of Islam have been met with considerable criticism from various Canadian Muslim groups. The Muslim Canadian Congress has been a longtime supporter and ally of the Centre for Inquiry.

Our Art & Science Conference will feature discussion panels and talks on subjects including:

Science & Art Panel
We will explore the awe and wonder of science. Can art be turned into a science? Can science be turned into an art? Where does art and science come together, where do they depart

Art, Prehistory & Evolution
Why was there a sudden explosion in late stone age art? How is art appreciated by the human mind/aesthetics of art? Why is art appreciated, from an evolutionary, aesthetics and neuroscience perspective

Atheism, Skepticism & Philosophy
We will explore the philosophical school o fscientific naturalism, the impact of atheism on 20th century philosophy, the origins of postmodernist philosophy in skepticism/atheism and its effects on art today.

Science & Ethics Panel
We will explore ethical decision making in science research and the ethics of choosing among competing lifestyles


Confirmed speakers include:

Christopher DiCarlo, who will Chair the Panel "Art, Prehistory & Evolution"

Ontario's Best Lecturer 2008 and Canada's Humanist of the Year 2008, Christopher diCarlo is a Philosopher of Science and Ethics whose interests in cognitive evolution have taken him into the natural and social sciences. His personal research focuses on how and why humans reason, think, and act the way they do. He is interested in how and why the human brain has evolved to its current state and what cross-cultural and cross-species behaviour can provide insight into universally common modes of reasoning. He is also interested in the application of neuroscience (specifically fMRI work), in an effort to better understand psychoneuroendocrine feedback looping in problem solving. Dr. diCarlo is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology where he teaches Critical Thinking, Bioethics, and other courses. His most recent book (just released by McGraw-Hill Ryerson) is entitled: How to Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass: A Practical Guide to Thinking Critically. He is also a past Visiting Research Scholar at Harvard University in the Department of Anthropology and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology where he conducted research for two books he is currently writing called: The Comparative Brain: The Evolution of Human Reasoning and The Evolution of Religion: Why Many Need to Believe in Deities, Demons, and the Unseen.

James Robert Brown, who will speak on the panel "Atheism, Skepticism & Philosophy Panel"

Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and experienced debater in defense of scientific realism, Professor Brown appeared on TVO's The Agenda on their programs on Science and Religion, and Assault on Science. He is a Professor of philosophy at the University of Toronto.

Guillaume Loignon, who will speak on the topic "Is Art an Evolutionary Adaptation"

Spokesperson from the Ontario Science Centre on the important topic of "Selling Science to the Public"


Designed for representatives of CFI affiliated group and projects across Canada, and other special guests, this conference will run from the evening of Thursday, October 29 to the end of Friday, October 30.

The conference will feature an exciting panel on Canadian political issues to be run by various representatives from the new Canadian Secular Alliance. After hearing reports on well researched and analyzed policy positions, delegates will be invited to contribute to a discussion on building a coordinated national lobbying effort to approach critical issues:
  • Secularism and Science Education, with Mike Evans
  • Tax exemptions for religious charities, with Greg Oliver
  • Public Financing of Religious Schools, with Mike Evans
Mike Evans is an M.A. student in philosophy at York University and an aspiring teacher. He joined the CSA in June 2009 and is currently a spokesperson and Policy Advisor with the organization. In his work at York, he puts a particular emphasis on science and its importance in society. As a teacher, he is commited to promoting a widespread culture of science and reason. Outside of his studies and his work with the CSA, Mike is a piano teacher, science educator, and musician.
  • Religious Accommodation, with Michael DeDourek
  • Free Expression, with Justin Trottier
  • Heritage Issues (God in the national anthem, God in the Charter), with Leslie Rosenblood
Leslie Rosenblood has a Bachelor of Mathematics degree in Computer Science with a minor in Drama and Speech Communication from the University of Waterloo, and a Masters of Business Administration for Science and Technology from Queen's University. He has held diverse roles in his career, including programmer, technology researcher, market analyst, journalist, and national sales manager. Born and raised in Canada, Leslie has lived in several countries, including Japan, England, the United States, Albania, and Kazakhstan. He is currently an IT project manager at a major Canadian retailer. Leslie lives in Toronto with his wife and two sons.

Plus, student leaders will address issues affecting science, secularism and skepticism on campus:
  • Violations of church-state separation at university (eg. Campus graduation prayers)
  • Student unions and censorship
  • Student newspaper and the treatment (or lack thereof) of science
  • Alternative medicine endorsing campus programs
  • Working with faith groups on campus - multifaith dialogues, multifaith centres, chaplaincies
We will also host sessions on a variety of topics, to be presented by CFI leaders in cities like Vancouver, Saskatoon, Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Calgary and elsewhere! If you are interested in addressing any of the issues below, or any we may have missed, please contact
  • The road to a CFI branch in your city, featuring Kendra Getty, who leads the high successful new CFI Saskatoon/Saskatoon Freethinkers. Listening to Point of Inquiry podcasts motivated Kendra to start community and campus groups in Saskatoon when she moved back in 2008 after several years living in Sweden, Taiwan, and Vancouver. Kendra is particularly interested in issues related to the public understanding of science and to religion in different cultures. Kendra holds degrees in Chemistry and Sociology and currently works in private industry. Kendra started the Saskatoon Freethinkers along with George Williamson in November of 2008.
  • Launching your own Multimedia projects, featuring presentations from leaders of freethought themed radio shows, podcasts and even Canada's first freethought TV show.
  • Press & Activism: Tips from Toronto, CFI's most media covered branch
  • Public Relations & Outreach
  • How to give a kick-ass interview
  • How to raise money
  • How to promote your groups and its activities
  • General group organizing
  • How to attract members
  • Forging campus/community partnerships
To open both conferences, on Thursday and Friday evenings, introductory remarks will be made and a toast led by representatives of CFI Canada's Board of Directors & Advisory Fellows, including:

Carol Parow, President of the Board of CFI Canada

Dr. Carol M. Parlow is a clinical psychiatrist, a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, a psychiatric consultant on occupational health and disability to businesses and a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Inquiry Canada.

Jeffrey Rosenthal, Advisory Fellow

Jeffrey Rosenthal is a professor in the Department of Statistics at the University of Toronto.For his research, he was awarded the 2006 CRM-SSC Prize, and also the 2007 COPSS Presidents' Award, the most prestigious honour bestowed by the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies. For his lecturing, he received a Harvard University Teaching Award in 1991, and an Arts and Science Outstanding Teaching Award at the University of Toronto in 1998. Rosenthal's book for the general public, Struck by Lightning: The Curious World of Probabilities, was a bestseller in Canada, and is being published in a total of fifteen countries. He has also worked as a computer game programmer, musician, and improvisational comedy performer. He maintains the web site Despite being born on Friday the thirteenth, Rosenthal has been a very fortunate person.

Gordon Precious, Advisory Fellow

Preliminary Schedule:

Registration and check in (starting at 2pm)
Opening round table

Evening: Public Keynote Lecture (TBA)

Saturday, October 31: ARTS & SCIENCE CONFERENCE
Art Inspired by Science exhibit
Halloween Party & Awards Banquet

Final sessions (ends at 12 noon)

Lodgings:The following is a small sample of accommodations available in downtown Toronto, with some diversity for cost and quality

* Holiday Inn: 111 Lombard Street - (416) 367-5555‎
* Delta Chelsea Hotel: 33 Gerrard Street West‎ - (416) 595-1975‎
* Days Inn: 30 Carlton Street - (416) 977-6655‎
* Metropolitan Hotel: 108 Chestnut Street - (416) 977-5000‎
* Sutton Place Grande Hotel: 955 Bay Street‎ - (416) 924-9221‎
* Bond Place Hotel: 65 Dundas Street East‎ - (416) 362-6061‎

Transportation:The conference is held in the University of Toronto and at the Centre for Inquiry Ontario. CFI is located at 216 Beverley St., just south of College St. at St. George St.

Registration: Students $99.00, Non-students $115.00, CFI Members $79.00


  1. Tarek Fatah is a secular Muslim Canadian political activist

    "Secular Muslim". That's a good one. Once again, seems like PC run amok. Will the next speaker be a sacred atheist?

  2. Argh. The art/science day is the same day as the Gairdner Foundations most interesting event that week...