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Center for Inquiry, Dawkins Foundation are merging

In the world of secularism and atheism, few people are as well-known as Richard Dawkins, the British-born biologist and writer who takes glee in antagonizing religion.

In 2006, the same year his best-selling “The God Delusion” was published with much fanfare, Dawkins launched the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science – an effort to counter creationism and remove the influence of religion in science education and public policy.

Now, that effort will be based in Western New York.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science is merging with the Center for Inquiry, the Amherst-headquartered think tank that promotes secular humanism and skeptical inquiry into faith matters.

The merged organization will go by the name of the Center for Inquiry, with the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science becoming a division of CFI.

The merger marks a further evolution of the Center for Inquiry since 2009, when the center’s founder and longtime chairman, Paul Kurtz, was removed from that leadership post. Kurtz, an internationally known philosopher and writer, complained in 2010 about the direction of the center under new leadership, saying that it had become fixated on criticizing religion and pushing atheism, at the expense of the secular humanist goals he had long espoused.

Kurtz ended up leaving the center entirely, due to its gravitation toward the “new atheism,” and he formed a new venture, the Institute for Science and Human Values, prior to his death in 2012.

The headquarters of CFI will be kept at its current location in Amherst.

“I am very pleased that my foundation is about to join forces with the Center for Inquiry,” Dawkins said in a statement. “CFI is the biggest player in the secular/non-religious/skeptical world, and I like to hope that RDFRS will have something to add to its already flourishing enterprise. In turn, among our projects which will benefit from a larger team of professionals are Openly Secular and the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES). I look forward to adding my voice to CFI’s focus on promoting secular humanism and fighting the proliferation of pseudoscience.”

Dawkins’ fierce arguments against the existence of a supernatural creator, using scientific evidence to contradict belief in God, have made him a leading figure in the “new atheism” realm of thinkers and writers who have been harshly critical of religion. “The God Delusion” sold 3 million copies and sparked a trove of responses from other writers in defense of faith and religious belief.

Dawkins will become a member of the CFI board of directors, along with the other directors of his foundation, once the merger is complete.

Robyn E. Blumner, currently president and CEO of the Dawkins Foundation, will become CEO of the combined entity Monday.

Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of CFI since 2008, will retain the title of president until the merger is complete and will work closely with Blumner during the transition.

“CFI is thrilled to be associated with one of the pre-eminent public intellectuals of our time, and we’re all eager to take full advantage of his wisdom, intelligence and eloquence as perhaps the world’s foremost communicator of science and secularism,” Lindsay said of Dawkins.

Both CFI and the Dawkins Foundation have offices in Washington, D.C., which will be combined in the merger. CFI’s branches in Los Angeles and in other U.S cities will be retained.

The Center for Inquiry continues to publish the magazines Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer.

Among other projects, the Dawkins Foundation offers a confidential online community for active and former clergy who no longer hold supernatural beliefs and has raised thousands of dollars from secular communities toward disaster relief efforts around the globe. It also has a program for training middle school teachers how to teach evolution effectively and confront creationist beliefs.