Center for Inquiry Needs Help

By Sean Carroll | June 2, 2010 10:19 am

The Center for Inquiry is a great organization — their mission is to “foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values,” which sounds like a good idea to me. They sponsor a number of activities including lectures, education, conferences, and research. I’ve given talks at the local branch, and it’s a great thrill to meet with such an engaged and enthusiastic audience.

And they’re in a bit of trouble. As a non-profit, they rely on donations, and their major donor seems to have mysteriously disappeared. About $800,000 of their annual operating budget is suddenly gone.

We’re not going to make up for that with a few appeals on the internet, but we can help them adapt during a tough time. Consider donating, even if it’s just a few bucks.

  • Mike

    OK — I’m in for $100. Let’s try and get this going folks.

  • Mantis

    So, because someone decided to give them big donations a few years in a row they assumed he will keep on giving forever? How stupid is that?

    And now that he didn’t donate it’s a disaster! Also it’s interesting that he was giving $800,000 a year recently but they “are on pace to have a deficit in excess of $900,000” even though they claim to have “reduced costs by over $600,000, without materially affecting their work” during last year?!

    So basically they were wasting $600,000 a year on not work related stuff, and now even though they supposedly plugged that hole they are still short for $900,000 and who’s fault is that? Not theirs of course, clearly it’s the fault of their most generous donor, how dare he stop his donations!

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  • Norwegian Shooter

    The same thing happened to the ACLU recently. Obviously, George Soros’ investments have taken a dive! But seriously, they had a relationship with the donor not even worthy of an email saying “I’m not giving this year”? That is the issue here.

  • beaver fever

    Did someone hijack Sean Carroll’s account and started posting on his behalf?The last few posts are very uncharacteristic. The described scenario is just a scam – what official documents have been released to prove the existance of the ‘generous donor’ or the validity of the following commentary?

  • Brendon J. Brewer

    I’m always happy to support the CfI, but this whole situation is more than a little strange.

  • Ellipsis

    So their operating plan is fully dependent on a single mysterious anonymous donor?

    It appears wishful thinking is not just at BP these days…..

    Of course, these folks have a far more noble cause, but — didn’t they put anything into savings?

  • joe

    Where’s their Messiah now?

  • CoffeeCupContrails

    I’ve typically donated small amounts to organisations like Wikipedia, Wikileaks, ARC and a bunch of others (grad student here) . I’d be more than willing to donate to Institutions that promote science and science awareness, but I haven’t really heard much from these guys. Dr. Carroll’s endorsement is usually sufficient, but I have the same concerns as Mantis.

  • Jimbo

    I can only afford a small donation…
    My only question is did they have a `prenup’ with Mr. $$ that he remain anonymous ?
    If not, they should announce this jerk to the world. On the other hand, surely they
    realized they’d put all their eggs in one basket….
    Where is Mr. Templeton, in the spirit of christian competition ? Should be a pittance
    out of his pocket to help keep the playing field level.
    I fear for the CFI’s survival….

  • Charles Stromeyer Jr.


    Seth Lloyd, et al. have a new paper [1] on CTCs, but I am not sure I understand this paper for this reason:

    Quantum physics is the most accurate and thus valid science we have, and this new paper [2] in the journal “Nature Physics” demonstrates a quantum experimental violation of macroscopic realism. Further, there are four phenomena which have been shown to originate outside of 4D spacetime: the wavefunction of quantum mechanics [3], quantum nonlocal entanglement [4], the common entanglement sudden death (ESD) [5], and the poorly named but recent and important “Strong Free Will Theorem” [6] of two famous Princeton mathematicians.

    This last theorem proves that not everything within physical reality is random nor physically predetermined, thus proving that there cannot be a final and complete theory of physics. Do you have an opinion about this? Thank you.



    [3] S. Dolev and A.C. Elitzur, “Non-sequential Behavior of the Wave Function”,

    [4] N. Gisin, “Quantum Nonlocality: How Does Nature Do It?”, Science v326(5958), pp.1357-1358 (2009).

    [5] T. Yu and J.H. Eberly, “Sudden Death of Entanglement”, Science v323(5914), pp.598-601 (2009).

    [6] J.H. Conway and S. Kochen, “The Strong Free Will Theorem”, Notices of the AMS v56(2), pp.226-232 (2009).:


  • Fenn

    The top charity on can save a life for approx 400 dollars. I suggest giving to charities that accomplish moral goods rather than ones that allow you to signal your beliefs.

  • Shawn A.

    Perhaps he died and went to Heaven!

  • C Kenbury

    This whole business has just high lighted the generally juvenile way that CFI has conducted itself over the last few years. Troop over to their website and peruse the most absurd explanation you’ve ever gotten from anyone older than 15 ( “Our BFF isn’t talking to us anymore, maybe because we fought with our former besty Paul or maybe not, probably not, but we told Paul to go talk to our BFF for us and like, totally, we don’t think he even did. But none of the other cool kids are deserting us, so this totally isn’t a trend. Cuz like what have you heard? Have you heard this is like a trend? Cuz it’s not.”

    For the sake of secular humanism, I’m hoping that this organization will wither away and something staffed by grownups will take its place.

  • sabelotodo

    We cannot possibly maintain operations with a deficit of this magnitude.

    Was the donor George Lucas?

  • Courtney C.

    I wouldn’t give them a penny. They are too politically biased.


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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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