Rob Adamczyk

Rob Adamczyk religious background was rooted early in Catholicism to the point of wanting to be a priest. Subsequently being impressed with an evangelical Christian acquaintance, he departed from Catholicism and joined a Protestant fundamental church. But while continuing his religious quest several of his friends challenged his faith and the Bible. Realizing, eventually, the fallacy of the Bible, Rob felt more comfortable with a deist outlook rather than a theistic one, until settling on an agnostic/atheist stance.

Speaking Engagements

Aubrey Adrianson

Professor, Ferris State University

Aubrey Adrianson is an author and is the editor of the Secularite Magazine. She also teaches English as a Second Language to adults. She has a bachelor’s degree in English education from Western Michigan University and a master’s degree in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) from Grand Valley State University. Aubrey has taught English in a variety of settings but most enjoys teaching English to adults. Aubrey became interested in the secular movement after having children. She was becoming concerned about what seemed to her as the institutionalized and systematic indoctrination of her children. Since then, she has sought out other atheists, started a blog, and written books. Her blog, Being Atheist in a Christian America, focuses on a variety of topics including feminism, church state separation, and parenting, but she also branches out into other topics. She also writes for Secularite.com. Aubrey’s books are focused on parenting and children’s fiction. Her most recent book, Aurora and the Secret Friend, is available via her website.

Salvatore Alaimo, PhD

Professor, GVSU

Salvatore Alaimo is an Assistant Professor in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration at Grand Valley State University where he teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in nonprofit administration, including a graduate course he developed in program evaluation. His research interests are in the areas of evaluation, volunteer management and contract management. Dr. Alaimo has published several book chapters and a journal article in New Directions for Evaluation that was republished in 2010 in The Jossey-Bass Reader on Nonprofit and Public Leadership. He is currently producing a documentary entitled What is Philanthropy? that intends to enhance our understanding of the concept of philanthropy and its role in American society. Dr. Alaimo previously taught nonprofit management courses as an adjunct professor at Georgia State University and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). He has nine years experience working at nonprofit organizations including the United Way and the Girl Scouts, and has also consulted ten years for nonprofits including the National Benevolent Association, the University of Georgia, Georgia Ballet, International Rescue Committee, United Way, and Latin American Association among others. Dr. Alaimo earned his Ph.D. in Philanthropic Studies at Indiana University and his Master’s degree in Urban Studies, concentrating in Nonprofit Administration, at Georgia State University.

Steve Anderson

FAoWM member and Buddhist

Speaking Engagements

Seth Andrews

Seth Andrews, a video producer and former Christian broadcaster, now hosts www.thethinkingatheist.com, one of the most popular online atheist communities in the world. The Thinking Atheist is not a person. It is an icon encouraging all to reject faith and pursue reason and evidence. Seth hosts The Thinking Atheist podcast on Spreaker, a broadcast that has been downloaded 50 million times since its launch in 2010.

Seth has authored three books. "Deconverted: a Journey from Religion to Reason" chronicles his journey out of superstition, "Sacred Cows: A Lighthearted Look at Belief and Tradition Around the World" is a wild romp through many of the world's strangest cultures and customs, and  "Ghost Stories" is a fictional audiobook romp inspired by his annual Halloween radio show.

With a mix of humor and heart, Seth Andrews has spoken for audiences large and small in the U.S, Canada, Europe, and Australia about his former faith, the promotion of science and skepticism, the importance of Humanism in this often crazy world, and why we should all pursue a personal relationship with reality.

Ronald Aronson, PhD

Distinquished Professor of the History of Ideas, Wayne State University

Ronald Aronson grew up in Detroit and was educated at Wayne State University, U.C.L.A., the University of Michigan, and Brandeis University, where he earned a Ph.D. in the History of Ideas. He studied with William Barrett, Page Smith, and Herbert Marcuse. Swept up in the political activism of the1960s, he became a community organizer in the African American neighborhood of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and an editor of the prominent New Left journal, Studies on the Left. In spring, 1968, as he was completing a doctoral dissertation on “Art and Freedom in the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre,” he participated in the “Freedom School” organized in the aftermath of the student strike at Columbia University. Aronson taught at Wayne State University between 1968 and 2013, first at Monteith College and then in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, a program for working adults abolished by the WSU Board of Governors in 2007. He is now Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the History of Ideas. Winner of several scholarly and teaching awards at Wayne State, Aronson is the past president of its Academy of Scholars as well as of the Sartre Society of North America. In recognition of his scholarly career and political contributions to South Africa, in April, 2002 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Natal/Kwazulu, Durban, South Africa. Aronson is author of Living Without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided (Counterpoint, September, 2008). His latest book is We: Reviving Social Hope, published in April, 2017 by University of Chicago Press. Other books include We Have Only this Life to Live: Selected Essays 1939-1975 of Jean-Paul Sartre (NYReview Editions, 2013); Camus & Sartre: The Story of a Friendship and the Quarrel that Ended It (Chicago, January, 2004); and After Marxism (Guilford, 1995). Recent articles have appeared in Salon.com, The Boston Review, The Nation, Common Dreams, and Alternet. His writing has also appeared in Bookforum, The Yale Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington Post, International Herald-Tribune, Toronto Star, (London) Times Higher Education Supplement, and The Times Literary Supplement. The Nation, The Huffington Post, The Denver Post, AlterNet, USA Today, and Religion Dispatches among others have published his articles addressing secularism. One of Aronson’s lifelong concerns has been to study and write about the nature of hope, which is the theme of his new book and of his recent lectures. In these he develops a secularist conception of social hope in the 21st century and the time of Donald Trump. Since the 2016 election he has been actively organizing resistance activities with the Huntington Woods (MI) Peace, Citizenship, and Education Project.

Website: http://www.is.wayne.edu/raronson/

Frank Bacon


Frank Bacon FAOWM member and long involved with the American Atheists. AA and has been heavily involved in State & Church separation issues

Speaking Engagements

Carl Bajema, PhD

Retired Professor of Biological Sciences, Grand Valley State University

Recently retired from Grand Valley State University, Dr. Bajema taught evolutionary biology for more than 40 years. He has conducted scientific research involving the measurement of the direction and intensity of selection in human populations. Professor Bajema also has been very active as a science educator helping students, teachers and others gain a better scientific understanding of the natural processes involved in evolution.

Daniel Balfour, PhD

Professor and director of the School of Public and Nonprofit Administration at Grand Valley State University, Grand Valley State University

Danny L. Balfour, who is the professor and director of the School of Public and Nonprofit Administration at Grand Valley State University. He received a BA in history from Michigan State University and a PhD in public administration from Florida State University. He was also Professor of Religion atF.S.U. His teaching and research interests are in the areas of organizational theory and behavior, social policy, administrative ethics, and the Holocaust. Professor Balfour has published more than 20 scholarly articles and book chapters. He is co-author of Unmasking Administrative Evil (M.E. Sharpe, 2004l Sage Publications, 1998), which won the 1998 Brownlow Book Award from the National Academy of Public Administration, the 1998 Best Book Award from the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management, and the 2002 Book Award from the Social Issues in Management Division of the Academy of Management. In 1999 he was named a Distinguished Faculty Member by the Michigan Association of Governing Boards of Universities and won the Academician of the Year Award from the West Michigan Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration. In April 2000, he received an Administrative/Professional Service Award from Grand Valley State University. He served as the managing editor of the Journal of Public Affairs Education from 1995 to 2000. He was elected the 1997 Program Chair of the Public and Nonprofit Division of the Academy of Management and served as the Division Chair for 1998–1999.

Speaking Engagements

Jeremiah Bannister

Team Tiny Dancer

Jeremiah Bannister is a former pastor, apologist, and activist presently working as a talk radio personality, writer, and public speaker. He received his bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication from Olivet College in Olivet, Michigan, where he also minored in political science. He's part of the Secular Student Alliance Speakers Bureau. Currently, Jeremiah cohosts PaleoRadio, a talk radio podcast with Secular Media Group that airs in Grand Rapids on 95.3 FM and 1680 AM, Public Reality Radio.Since March of 2015, most of his time and efforts have been focused on #TeamTinyDancer, writing and speaking about the story of his family and their 11-year-old daughter's life with childhood cancer. Jeremiah serves as a board member for Center for Inquiry -- Michigan in Grand Rapids, where he resides with his wife, their four children, their cat, Lion, and their brand new Saint Bernard puppy, Cocoa.

Speaking Engagements

Samantha Bannister

Team Tiny Dancer

Samantha “Sami” Bannister is 11 years old, a student at Campus Elementary, and a founding member of The Bannister Family Chess Club. She enjoys reading chapter books, drawing anime, and roller skating at the Fun Spot. Since discovering that she has cancer, Sami has inspired people all around the country with her courage, her smile, and her bold determination to live out her two favorite slogans: “Never give up!” and “Keep on Smiling!” After doctors discovered a recurrence of her cancer this month, Sami and her family have begun looking into clinical trials for children with anapestic astrocytomas, a pursuit that may require them to leave the state of Michigan.

Dan Barker

Director of Freedom From Religion Foundation

Dan Barker is co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and co-host of Freethought Radio. After 19 years as an evangelical minister, Dan “saw the light” and announced his atheism in 1984. His first public appearance as an atheist was on Oprah Winfrey’s “AM Chicago.” Since that time he has traveled extensively, lecturing and performing on college campuses, and participating in more than 90 public debates defending atheism. A former composer of Christian songs and musicals (for which he still receives royalties), Dan is now a jazz pianist and writer of freethought music, contributing editor of Freethought Today and author of numerous books. He regularly travels the country and the world giving lectures, performing concerts, and participating in debates with theists, many at college and university campuses. Dan has 5 children, 7 grandchildren, and lives with his wife (and co-president) Annie Laurie Gaylor in Madison, Wisconsin.

B.J. Baule

Climatologist, NOAA's Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA) Center

B.J. Baule is a PhD candidate at Michigan State University and a climatologist with NOAA’s Great Lakes Integrated Sciences + Assessments (GLISA) Center. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Meteorology and Climatology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. At Michigan State his research is focused on climate change, it’s effects on regional agricultural, and how to better manage agricultural systems under projected climates.

Bob Baumbach

Professor of Astronomy (Retired), Grand Rapids Community College

Speaking Engagements

Jennifer Beahan

Executive Director, Center for Inquiry Michigan

Jennifer Beahan is the Executive Director for CFI Michigan, and has been a leader of the group for 15 years. She manages CFI Michigan’s ongoing programming—with over 150 educational, social and service events each year—and supports the growing secular community throughout Michigan. Her interests include interfaith outreach, volunteer management, program development, and she is an activist fighting for secular, LGBTQ and women’s equality. She holds a Bachelor’s of Music Education (K-12), and in addition to her work for CFI she teaches private music lessons on piano and woodwinds.

Jeremy Beahan

Instructor of Aesthetics & Philosophy, Kendall College of Art & Design

Jeremy Beahan teaches classes on Philosophy, Aesthetics and Ethics at Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI.

Charles Bearden

West Michigan Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Speaking Engagements

Lauren Becker

Field Organizer, Center For Inquiry

Lauren Becker is a field organizer for the Center for Inquiry. After completing a degree in Geography, with coursework focusing on cultural landscapes, global perspectives, and the physical sciences of ecology, astronomy, forestry, and geology, Lauren went to work in a variety of fields: volunteering in the Canadian arctic, teaching night sky constellations in the Badlands of South Dakota, and guiding hikes in Crater Lake National Park. When not playing with rocks, she could be found pushing science in public museums and planetariums, pushing drugs in retail pharmacies, and pushing educational children’s programming for public television. Known for her commentaries on Point of Inquiry, the radio show and pod cast of CFI, she is an experienced environmental activist and advocate for science literacy and education.

Gary Beckstrom

Director, Beckstrom Observatory

Garry Beckstrom is the Director of the Beckstrom Observatory, home of the largest research telescope in Michigan. He became an amateur astronomer at a young age, and has been a planetarium astronomer for close to four decades. Garry was the Director of the Delta College Planetarium, until he retired a few years ago, and he is a Past-President of both the Sunset Astronomical Society in Bay City, and the Great Lakes Planetarium Association.

Website: http://www.beckstromobservatory.com/

Speaking Engagements

Nancy Bedell

Member of Merian's Friends

Speaking Engagements

Richard Bellon, PhD

Associate Professor of History, Michigan State University

Richard Bellon teaches history of science and science policy at Michigan State University. He has written extensively on the connection between science, politics, and social change in Britain from 1830 to 1870. He is author of A Sincere and Teachable Heart: Self-Denying Virtue in British Intellectual Life, 1736-1859 and his article “Inspiration in the Harness of Daily Labor: Darwin, Botany, and the Triumph of Evolution, 1859-1868” received the History of Science Society’s 2013 Derek Price/Rod Webster Prize for excellence in a research article published in the journal Isis. His current research project focuses on the history of American biology from the 1890s to the end of World War II. Connect with Professor Bellon on Twitter: @RichBellon.

Craig Benjamin, PhD

AssistantProfessor of History, Grand Valley State University

A native of Australia, Craig earned his PhD at Macquarie University in Sydney, and moved to Grand Rapids in 2003 to take up his position at GVSU. Dr. Benjamin’s twin areas of academic specialization are ancient Central Asia and world history theory and practice. He is the author and editor of numerous published articles, chapters and books, and teaches a range of undergraduate and graduate history courses at Grand Valley.

Jennifer Bixby, M.Div

Jennifer Bixby is a former active duty Navy Chaplain with tours in Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory, and at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Arizona. Traveling the world and meeting a wide range of people from many faiths, Jennifer came to the conclusion that belief in the supernatural is irrational. She now works as an environmental engineer for the State of Michigan's Air Quality Program. She is the Events Coordinator and a Program Advisor for Mid Michigan Atheists and Humanists. Her personal interests include training for an Iron Man triathlon, making jewelry and, of course, reading science literature.

Kimberly Blaker

author and syndicated writer

Kimberly Blaker’s parenting and women’s interest articles have appeared in more than 150 regional parenting and women’s magazines throughout the U.S. and Canada including Nevada Woman, Atlanta Parent, Gulf Coast Woman, South Florida Parenting, and San Diego Families. Her articles have also appeared in the national Complete Woman Magazine.

Website: http://www.kimberlyblaker.com/

Speaking Engagements

Joe Bochinski


Joseph Bochinski is a board member of CFI-MSU and senior in psychology at Michigan State University. His current areas of research are relationships, aggression, stereotyping, prejudice, and affective neuroscience.

Speaking Engagements

Julian Bond

President, NAACP

A hero of the civil rights movement, Julian Bond continues to speak out on civil justice, voting rights and equal opportunity for all Americans. When he was 25, he was elected to the Georgia Legislature but denied a seat due to his opposition to the Vietnam war. It took U.S. Supreme Court action to seat him. ! He was the First African American nominated to be Vice President of the U.S. He is the founding President of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He once hosted Saturday Night Live and was seen this year on the Colbert Report.

Speaking Engagements

Steve Borders, PhD

Associate Professor, Grand Valley State University

Professor Steve Borders earned his B.A. in Psychology in 1991 from the University of North Carolina. He spent his summers at Texas State University earning a Master of Health Administration degree, and then accepted a position at the Texas Department of Health as a Medicaid policy analyst. After five years with the Texas Department of Health, Borders wanted to do high-level research and policy work. He became a full time research associate at the Texas A&M Public Policy Research Institute and obtained his Ph.D. in Health Systems Planning. Borders is one of the newest faculty members of the School of Public and Nonprofit Administration at Grand Valley State University. Integral to the M.H.A. program, Borders teaches health policy, financial management, and research methods, while also researching the causes of access barriers to prenatal care for Medicaid patients.

Rob Boston, MA

Assistant Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Robert Boston (born December 7, 1962 in Altoona, Pennsylvania) has been Assistant Director of Communications for Americans United for Separation of Church and State and Assistant Editor of Church & State magazine since 1987. Boston is an advocate of separation of church and state and has authored three books on the subject. He frequently appears on television and radio defending his position. His prominent media appearances include NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor” and MSNBC’s “Tucker”.[1] In addition to his monthly contributions to Church & State magazine, Boston has written articles for Free Inquiry, The Humanist, Public Eye, Liberty, Jewish Monthly and other publications. He is frequently quoted in the print media on church-state topics and often delivers public lectures before various audiences.

Website: http://www.au.org/site/PageServer

Danita Brandt, PhD

Associate Professor, Michigan State University

Danita Brandt is Associate Professor and Associate Chair in the Department of Geological Sciences at Michigan State University. She is a paleontologist whose research interests center on the evolution, extinction, paleobiology, and paleoecology of fossil arthropods. She is also engaged in informalscience education efforts, including "Darwin Discovery Day", MSU's annual community-wide celebration of science and discovery in honor of Charles Darwin's birthday. Recently Dr. Brandt has channeled her efforts toward using social media as tools in promoting increased public understanding of issues related to evolution and the history of the Earth. She currently serves as a member of the Paleontological Society's Education & Outreach Committee, is a past Councilor for Paleontology for SEPM--the Society for Sedimentary Geology, and is an alumnus of the University of Illinois (B.S.), University of Cincinnati (M.S.) and Yale University (Ph.D.).

Speaking Engagements

Ed Brayton

Founder and Owner, Freethought Blogs and Dispatches from the Culture Wars

Ed Brayton is the founder and owner of the Freethought Blogs network and the voice behind the popular blog Dispatches from the Culture Wars. He is the co-founder and past president of Michigan Citizens for Science and the recipient of the Friend of Darwin Award from the National Center for Science Education and has appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show, The Thom Hartmann Show, and C-SPAN. Ed is also a current member of CFI Advisory Board.

Website: http://freethoughtblogs.com/dispatches/

Roger Brewin, BA

Minister of First Unitarian Church of Hobart, IN and Minister of Berrien UU Fellowship in Berrien, MI., Editor of Religious Humanism- The Journal of HUUmanists

Roger Brewin has been portraying Clarence Darrow in his trademark rumpled suit and Borsalino hat since 1981. Brewin has revisited many of those same congregations, and has also taken Darrow to schools, libraries, literary clubs, conventions and numerous other venues. He has also introduced the lawyer to a medium he never knew -television, appearing on broadcasts in Rockford, Naperville, Joliet and Chicago. He has portrayed the “defender of the damned” in over 200 performances, on more than a hundred platforms in a dozen states.

Website: http://archive.uua.org/ga/ga01/5014a.html

Baba Brinkman, Author & Performer


Baba Brinkman is a Canadian rap artist, award-winning playwright, and former tree-planter who has personally planted more than one million trees. Best known for his “Rap Guide” series of plays and albums, Baba has toured the world and enjoyed successful runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and off-Broadway in New York. The Rap Guide to Religion was nominated for a 2015 Drama Desk Award in the category “Unique Theatrical Experience” and The Rap Guide to Evolution (“Astonishing and brilliant” NY Times), won a Scotsman Fringe First Award and a Drama Desk Award nomination for “Outstanding Solo Performance”, and was featured on US national TV on The Rachel Maddow Show and at the Seattle Science Festival opening for Stephen Hawking. In 2014 the show enjoyed a sold-out week at the Sydney Opera House. Baba is also a pioneer in the genre of “lit-hop” or literary hip-hop, known for his adaptations of The Canterbury Tales, Beowulf, and Gilgamesh. He is a recent recipient of the National Center for Science Education’s “Friend of Darwin Award” for his efforts to improve the public understanding of evolutionary biology. Baba tours and performs regularly and has spoken at several TEDx conferences and performed at the World Science Festival. His latest work “Rap Guide to Climate Chaos” premiered in Edinburgh in 2015, followed by a six month off-Broadway run in 2016. When he is not on tour, Baba resides in New York city.

Dr. Stephen Cohle & Tobin Buhk

Chief Medical Examiner & Forensic Pathologist/ Teacher & Freelance writer (respectively)

Stephen D. Cohle, MD (Grand Rapids, MI), a nationally recognized figure in the community of forensic medicine, is the chief medical examiner for Kent County, Michigan, and a forensic pathologist for Laboratory Pathologists, PC. Tobin T. Buhk (Grand Rapids, MI) is a high school teacher and freelance writer. In preparation for writing their co-authored books, he observed and assisted Dr. Cohle and his forensic team in more than thirty autopsies. Together, Stephen Cohle and Tobin Buhk have authored two books – “Skeletons in the Closet: Stories from the County Morgue” and “Cause of Death: Forensic Files of a Medical Examiner”

Speaking Engagements

Dr. John Byrne, M.D.

Michigan Adult & Child Medicine, P.C.

John Byrne is a practicing internist, pediatrician, and assistant professor at Oakland University’s William Beaumont School of Medicine in Michigan. He also is the creator of an exceptional website aimed at combating medical quackery. Skepticalmedicine.com is a comprehensive resource on many alternative medicine claims for healthcare professionals and the public.

Speaking Engagements

Hard Times Cafe Staff

Hard Times Cafe Staff, Hard Times Cafe

The Hard Times Cafe was piloted through the Food Pantry in August of 1995. The Cafe is a grass-roots empowerment organization which provides Downtown residents with a forum to take more control over their lives and their neighborhood. The HTC holds a dinner and meeting every Wednesday from 5:30-7:15pm every Wednesday in the church dining room. Different community organizations volunteer each week to serve and clean up the meal to our neighbors. This meal is an important service to the community because, for many of the diners, this is the only meal they eat each week where they are served family style instead of standing in a line at the missions and soup kitchens.

Website: http://www.westminstergr.com/volunter.htm

Speaking Engagements

Tim Callahan

Religion Editor of Skeptic

Tim Callahan is the Religion Editor of Skeptic magazine and has authored books that critically examine the Bible including Bible Prophesy- Failure or Fulfillment? and Secret Origins of the Bible. The 59 year old animated movie artist and self- trained scholar began by defining myths as stories of cosmological significance with supernatural agency (the gods) as the explanatory mechanism for how the world works, how a people came to be and their place in the universe.

Website: http://www.skeptic.com/index.html

Speaking Engagements

Earle Canfield, P.A.

Founder of ANSWER, ANSWER, an apolitical, non-religious, non-governmental organization (NGO)

Earle Canfield started out with an innate skill for mathematics and the sciences but gradually focused on medicine, where he ultimately became a certified Physician’s Assistant (P.A.) and moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids. During the time that he was deeply immersed in mathematics, his restless mind caused him to look into something as different as he could find from this. That new avenue came in the form of a textbook called Tibetan Cultural History—The Hegemonic Period. Soon he became enthralled with that region and its history. He decided to visit, and was smitten by the culture and its people. But he was also introduced to the dire living conditions of Nepal, which is one of the poorest areas on the globe. He decided to do something about it and started up ANSWER, an apolitical, non-religious, non-governmental organization (NGO), the central focus of which is the education of indigenous Nepali children.

Website: http://www.answer-nepal.org/

Richard Carrier

Author of Sense and Goodness Without God, Columbia University

Author of Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism and contributing author to The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave. Richard has also appeared in the movie The God Who Wasn’t There, is a contributing editor for the Secular Web (www.secweb.org), and is pursuing a PhD in ancient history from Columbia University.

Website: http://www.columbia.edu/~rcc20/

Speaking Engagements

Tom Cary, MA

Program Director for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, Antioch University

Tom Cary has been with the West MI Environmental Action Council since June of 1994. He has worked on a variety of projects of benefit to the environment while also promoting sustainable green business practices. He coordinated the Adopt-A-Stream and Lake Monitoring programs and also initiated the Religion, Ecology and Spirituality work group and the Stream Search programHis current focus is sustainable food systems, and he initiated the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council. Cary completed a Masters of Arts degree in Community and the Environment from Antioch University, Seattle, Washington, with interest in sustainable food systems, ecopsychology and environmental economics. He also received a B.S. in Chemistry from Hope College, was part of an environmental contracting/testing company and traveled throughout Europe and Africa.

Website: http://www.wmeac.org/

Speaking Engagements

Audrey Chapman

Board Member, Well House

Audrey Chapman is a member of the Board of Directors at Well House, and the Development and Administration Coordinator, Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan. She is a local non-profit professional, designer, and yoga teacher. Acutely aware of the devastation that chronic homelessness has on a person’s life, she joined the Well House board in 2012 because she saw the simple effectiveness and profound potential of the Housing First model. Now in her second term, Audrey is looking forward to collaborating with many more friends, businesses, and local, state, and national officials to end chronic homelessness in our communities.

Wissam Charafeddine

Founder, IRSHAD and Muslimish Support Network

Wissam Charafeddine, was born in United Arab Emirates from Lebanese parents. He attended the Islamic Hanbaly Educational Institute and graduated with a diploma in Islamic Shariah. After the first gulf war, His family immigrated to the U.S. and he became an American Citizen in 2004. He completed Associate Degrees in Fine Arts and Liberal Studies from Henry Ford Community College, a Bachelor’s in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Wayne State, and a Masters in Software Engineering from University of Michigan Dearborn. During his academic studies, Wissam continued to study and give lectures on Islamic Shariah through distant-study programs with Hawzah of Ahlulbait in Qum, Iran, and with local scholars. Mr. Charafeddine was the founder of Halakat Imam AlBaqir, an Islamic Studies Institute in Dearborn where he taught, among other teachers, various topics in Islamic studies. He was a co-founder of the Muslim Scouts of Michigan, Islamic Monitor Action Network, Islamic Unity Magazine, and was a member of various organizations, among which were the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), Islamic House of Wisdom, and Amnesty International. Mr. Charafeddine co-founded IRSHAD (the Institute for Religious Studies, Humanities, and Dialogue) in 2005. IRSHAD is an organization that seeks free coexistence between human beings and the aspiration for building a better life centered around the well being of humanity. IRSHAD functions in its Islamic branch as a reform movement that calls for freedom of belief and expression, and a less literal interpretation of Quran. In 2008-2009, Mr. Charafeddine, while researching to write an article about Islam and Evolution, found new understanding of science, and adapted a new understanding of life based on it. The article was never finished, but a new intellectual journey started. Mr. Charafeddine co-founded Muslimish in 2012, which is an organization that seeks to create an environment for support and dialogue among exMuslims and questioning Muslims, and fight for the freedom of expression and against blasphemy laws in Islamic countries. Mr. Charafeddine works in the field of Educational administration, and he is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of W Distributions and First Wireless X. In his free time, he enjoys Sailing, Poetry, reading, music and traveling with his 2 daughters and son.

Speaking Engagements

Matthew Childers

Instructor of Philosophy, Lansing Community College and Muskegon Community College

Matthew Childers received his B.A. in philosophy from Michigan State University and his M.A. in philosophy from Western Michigan University. His research is primarily focused on issues in the philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, ethics, and epistemology. He is currently an instructor of philosophy at Lansing Community College and Muskegon Community College.

Speaking Engagements

Greta Christina

Author and Blogger, Greta Christina's Blog

Greta Christina is author of The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life, of Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do with God, of Coming Out Atheist: How to Do It, How to Help Each Other, and Why, and of Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless. She is on the board of directors of Foundation Beyond Belief, the humanist organization for charitable giving, and is co-founder and co-organizer of Godless Perverts, a performance series and social community that promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion. She blogs at Greta Christina’s Blog at The Orbit, the atheist social justice blogging collective. She lives in San Francisco with her wife, Ingrid. You can follow her on Facebook, and on Twitter at @GretaChristina.

Henry Cisneros, PhD

former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, George Washington University

Henry Cisneros was elected Mayor of San Antonio in 1981, selected as one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Men of America” by the U.S. Jaycees, and was nominated by President Bill Clinton to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. He was sworn into office by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist on January 22, 1993. During his term, he reformed the public housing system, and successfully resisted efforts to substantially reduce or wholly eliminate the Department.

Tom Clark

Director of the Center for Naturalism in Boston

Website: http://www.centerfornaturalism.org/

Speaking Engagements

Allison Colberg

Director, Micah Center

Allison Colberg is the Director at the Micah Center in Grand Rapids. The Micah Center is a faith rooted organization working to provide opportunities for education on justice issues in our community and opportunities to take action to create change on those issues. She has worked in community organizing for eight years, first as an organizer with the Michigan Organizing Project, then as the Deputy Director for Michigan United.She has worked on a variety of issues, including immigration, housing, and employment for returning citizens. She got her start in organizing after working as an interpreter and English as a Second Language teacher in Sturgis, Michigan and seeing the broken immigration system at work.

Joshua Colby

Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Advanced Drug and Alcohol Counselor

Joshua Colby is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Advanced Drug and Alcohol Counselor. He has worked with diverse populations struggling with Substance Use Disorders and Mental Health Disorders. Since 2010 he has worked in a correctional setting helping individuals at risk of recidivism reenter society and avoid future arrests and incarcerations. He is interested in the causes of antisocial behavior and in helping at risk individuals develop skills that will allow them to reduce harm to others and the chronic consequences from their behaviors that disrupt their lives.

Speaking Engagements

Robert Collins, PhD

Robert W. Collins, PhD received his doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Indiana University’s Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences in Bloomington, Indiana. He was a former President of the Michigan Psychological Association and has written and presented on eliminative disorders in children for lay, psychological, and medical audiences. He was on the faculty of GVSU and an invited professor to the University of Western Australia in Perth. He has been a long time member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Inquiry (CFI) and has led a Café Inquiry in Grand Rapids for two years. You will often see him accompanied by his wife of 47 years, Sherron. He loves his semi-retirement in which he can devote more time in the role of an educator on critical thinking and secular values.

Jeffrey K. Conner, Ph.D.

Professor of Plant Biology, Michigan State University

  Jeffrey K. Conner, Professor of Plant Biology and Interim Director of Michigan State University's W.K. Kellogg Biological Station. Jeff received his A.B. cum laude from Harvard and a Ph.D (1988) from Cornell. He was a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow, also at Cornell. Jeff was an Assistant Professor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before moving to KBS in 1996. Jeff's research focuses on rapid evolutionary adaptation to changing environments in natural and weed populations; this work has been funded by the US Department of Agriculture and primarily the National Science Foundation continuously since 1993. He co-wrote A Primer of Ecological Genetics with Dan Hartl, and was Editor of the journal Evolution. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), was the Walton Lecturer at Mountain Lake Biological Station and Distinguished Sabbatical Scholar at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, and has received graduate student and junior faculty mentoring awards from MSU.

Website: http://jeffreykconner.com/

Tobin Craig, PhD

Assistant Professor, MSU

Tobin Craig’s studies focus on the intersection between modern political philosophy and modern science and technology. He teaches in both the PTCD field and the STEPPS specialization. He is currently at work on a book length study of the unity of Francis Bacon’s scientific and political thought, and a study of the place of technology in American political thought. Dr. Craig’s dissertation was on Bacon’s New Atlantis and the place of technology in modern politics. His areas of interest center on the philosophic origins and criticisms, and the political and moral problems, of modern science and technology.

Speaking Engagements

Paul Critelli


George Crosby

President of Human Resource Network, Human Resource Network

George Crosby has worked for over 30 years in the HR field. He left traditional corporate employment after 25 years and noticed that a lot had changed since then, especially in the decline in character in the corporate business world.

Website: http://www.nationjob.com/hr/

Speaking Engagements

Jeremy Crow

Freethought Association Member

Jeremy Crow was studying for his Bachelor’s degree in Religious Education with the intent of actually going into the ministry. But he soon discovered the many contradictions and inconsistencies that were part and parcel of his religious faith. Like all budding freethinkers, he began to ask tough questions but was never given responses that were satisfying, especially within the context of his orthodox religious beliefs. He became an atheist. Jeremy has begun hosting the Philosophy Book Discussion group gatherings again at his house. He selected the book: The President of Good & Evil; Questioning the Ethics of George W. Bush, by Peter Singer.

Speaking Engagements

Bridget Crutchfield

Founder/President, Minority Atheists of Michigan, Black Non-believers of Detroit

Bridgett Crutchfield was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA and brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness. Realizing in her teens life as a Jehovah’s Witness would not be in her future, she abandoned the organization at the age of 18 and moved to Michigan. Two years later, Bridgett was disfellowshipped (excommunicated) from the Jehovah’s Witness’ faith. After flitting from one doctrine to another (Buddhism, Islam etc), Bridgett settled upon Christianity and committed to the doctrine and church wholeheartedly, initially. Bridgett assumed position as Evangelist, Prophetess and Intercessory Prayer member. Reading the bible in her spare time, Bridgett realized the ‘god of love’ she ministered about was anything but. She begged God for understanding of the senseless murders in the bible, and the blatant manipulating of innocent people. The bible, in addition to several horrific crimes that made national news, made Bridgett realize she could not in good conscience believe in a god that would allow devastating tragedies nor could she defend what she earnestly taught previously. After fearfully declaring to herself in the confines of her bedroom she was an Atheist, Bridgett set out to learn. She sought solace online and then at meetups. After noticing the lack of diversity in the meetups, Bridgett questioned an organizer. The organizer in turned questioned Bridgett and what she intended to do about the issue. Thus, Minority Atheists of Michigan (2011) was born. Two years later, Bridgett founded the Detroit affiliate of Black Nonbelievers, where she also serves as President. Bridgett is the mother of two children, proud Suga Mama to her two grandsons (‘Suga Babies’) Blake & Ryan and is dog-owned by a beautiful Black Lab named Tahir.

Speaking Engagements

Austin Dacey, PhD

Representative to the United Nations, Center for Inquiry

Austin Dacey is a philosopher who writes on the intersection of science, religion, and ethics. He serves as a representative to the United Nations for the Center for Inquiry, a think tank concerned with the secular, scientific outlook. He is also on the editorial staff of Skeptical Inquirer and FreeInquiry magazines. His writings have appeared in numerous publications including the New York Times. In 2002 Austin earned a doctorate in philosophy. Austin has authored two books: The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life (Prometheus Books, 2008) and The Case for Humanism: An Introduction (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003). Austin lives in New York City.

Website: www.austindacey.com

Richard Dawkins, PhD

Founder, Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS)

Richard Dawkins is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and popular science writer. Dawkins first came to prominence with his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, which popularized the gene-centered view of evolution. He has since written several best-selling popular books, and appeared in a number of television and radio programs, concerning evolutionary biology, creationism, and religion. His most recent book The God Delusion was on the bestsellers list for almost a year.

Website: http://www.richarddawkins.net

Speaking Engagements

Mary de Young

Professor of Sociology, Grand Valley State University

Mary de Young is a professor of sociology at Grand Valley State University, whose research focuses on the nexus of trauma, culture and memory. She has published extensively on the nexus between trauma, culture and memory, and has presented scholarly papers both in this country and abroad. She is active in community organizations, and has testified often as an expert witness on sexual victimization. Prof. deYoung also is a Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress (B.C.E.T.S.). Her latest book is The Day Care Ritual Abuse Moral Panic published by McFarland and Co. (2004). de Young is also the author of The Ritual Abuse Controversy: An Annotated Bibliography and she is currently working on a new book titled, Madness, which explores how new definitions and diagnoses of madness arise during periods of social change. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Speaking Engagements

Kevin Dean

Kevin is a second-year student at MSU and a board member of CFI MSU. He wrote a research paper last year on the subject of the “death of God” in the United States, entitled, “A Popular Contradiction: the Role of the Print Media in the “God is Dead” Controversy.” His majors are Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy and International Relations, with a specialization in Political Economy.

Speaking Engagements

Robert Deaner, PhD

Assistant Professor of Psychology, GVSU

Robert Deaner is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Grand Valley State University, where he teaches courses on research methods, comparative psychology, and sex differences. Prior to coming to GVSU in 2006, he was at Duke University where his doctoral work addressed the evolution of intelligence and his postdoctoral work investigated mechanisms of social attention. Dr. Deaner’s overarching research goal is to contribute to a scientific understanding of human nature, especially by demonstrating the value of evolutionary theory. Most of his current projects are related to sports.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, PhD

Hayden Planetarium

Neil deGrasse Tyson was born and raised in New York City where he was educated in the public schools clear through his graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. Tyson went on to earn his BA in Physics from Harvard and his PhD in Astrophysics from Columbia. Tyson’s professional research interests are broad, but include star formation, exploding stars, dwarf galaxies, and the structure of our Milky Way.

Website: http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/tyson/profile/about-neil-degrasse-tyson

Thomas Deits, PhD

Adjunct Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University

Dr. Thomas Deits has a broad background in sciences from chemical process technology to bionanotechnology, and is committed to encouraging students to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). As “Dr. Nano” he makes engaging presentations about the new field of nanotechnology to help inspire students to consider STEM careers. He established NanoDay at Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing, Michigan and is presently serving as Project Director for a new initiative in STEM education called Innovation 5. Dr. Deits received his Bachelor’s degree in chemistry and history from the University of California, San Diego and his Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry at the University of Washington. He has served as Director of Molecular Biology at MBI International and as Chairperson of the Science Department at Lansing Community College. He is presently an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Michigan State University and also serves as a Mentor for the National Science Foundation Mentor-Connect project. He is also active in the formation of the new Institute for Advanced Composite Manufacturing Innovation, a $259 MM project in which MSU is one of the four lead institutions.

Jamie DeLeeuw, BS

co‑founder Animal Care Takers, Grand Valley State University.

Jamie DeLeeuw graduated from GVSU in 2005 with majors in psychology and polysci. She co‑founded Animal Care Takers, a student organization that volunteers at animal shelters and fundraises for national animal welfare/rights organizations. DeLeeuw also authored the Call to Action Community Psychologist paper and is currently working with another FA member, Dr. Luke Galen, on a study examining the relationship between belief in evolution, religious fundamentalism, and support for animal rights. It was noted that at age 12, she gave up meat and a decade later, she gave up God.

Speaking Engagements

Susan Demas

Susan Demas is a “referee” for the Michigan Truth Squad and a political analyst for Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS) in Lansing, covering the state Senate and national politics. She writes a weekly syndicated column reaching three-million readers and will be a familiar face from Michigan Public Television’s “Off the Record.” Her work has been featured in more than sixty national, international and regional media outlets.

Kevin den Dulk, PhD

Spoelhof Teacher-Scholar-in-Residence Chair, Calvin College

Kevin den Dulk earned his bachelor of arts degree in philosophy at Calvin College in 1992. After a brief stint in a corporate law firm, he completed his M.A. in political science at the University of Georgia (1995) and his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (2001). In 2001, he took aposition in the Department of Political Science at Grand Valley State University, and later added a joint appointment as Honors Faculty-in-Residence. He joined Calvin’s political science faculty as the Spoelhof Teacher-Scholar-in-Residence during the 2011-2012 academic year. Professor den Dulk has recently co-authored two books – Religion and Politics in America and A Disappearing God Gap? He is active in various community-based activities, including fostering better civic education in local schools. Dr. den Dulk’s interests include American politics, religion and politics cross-nationally, public law and courts, and political theory.

Fred Deneke, PhD

Educator, botanist and horticulturist

Speaking Engagements

Daniel Dennett, PhD

Co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University

Daniel C. Dennett is a prominent American philosopher whose research centers on the philosophies of mind, of science and of biology, particularly as those fields relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science. He is currently the co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies and the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University. Dennett is a noted atheist and advocate of a social movement that aims to promote public understanding and acknowledgment of the naturalistic world view. Dennett is the author of Breaking the Spell, Freedom Evolves and Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, among other noted works. He authored more than 300 scholarly articles on various aspects of the mind, published in journals ranging from Artificial Intelligence and Behavioral and Brain Sciences to Poetics Today. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Fellowship and a Fellowship at the Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as lectured at Oxford University.

Speaking Engagements

Michael DeWilde, Ph.D.

Corporate Philosopher and Associate Professor of Philosophy, Grand Valley State University

Michael DeWilde is Associate Professor of Philosophy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Associate Director of the Business Ethics Center at the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University. At GVSU he teaches Eastern Philosophy, Buddhism, Ethics, Ethics in ProfessionalLife, and the Working Classics seminar, which received the 2002 national award for “Excellence in Philosophy Programs” from the American Philosophical Association. In addition he has, for the past five years, been a consultant to area businesses, including the Louis Padnos Iron and Metal Co. and the Koeze Company. DeWilde is a regular speaker at conferences, the recipient of a major grant from the Kellogg Foundation, and is currently at work on a book about the value of the liberal arts in business. His work has been featured in the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Grand Rapids Press, among others. DeWilde holds degrees from William James College and Harvard University.

Jerry DeWitt

Author, Secular Minister and Vice President, Dogma Debate LLC

Jerry DeWitt is an Author, Public Speaker, Secular minister and V.P. of Dogma Debate LLC. He now sits on the board of both The Clergy Project and The Foundation Beyond Belief. His Christian ministry began at age seventeen. He evangelized the United States and assisted in three Pentecostal churches.Later he held the pastorate of two fundamentalist congregations. After more than twenty-five years of ministry he realized he had become an Atheist.DeWitt has made numerous appearances on major news-outlets in the two short years of his activism, including appearances in The New York Times, CNN, the Joy Behar Show, and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”. Currently Jerry is engaged in two projects. First, building a Secular “church” community in Lake Charles Louisiana named Community Mission Chapel and second, touring with his memoir ‘Hope After Faith’, which was release in June 2013 by Da Capo Press. Jerry DeWitt has one son and still lives in rural Louisiana.

Emily Dievendorf

Director of Policy and Lobbyist, Equality Michigan

Emily Dievendorf is Director of Policy for Equality Michigan, where advocates and helps move issues of interest to the Michigan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community to the forefront of public policy. Prior to joining Equality Michigan, Emily worked in the Michigan House of Representatives, since 2003, for two Democratic state legislators. While the legislature offered several varied policy areas to fascinate, Emily’s primary focus in her community and in her vision for the future always remained rooted in a commitment to advancing civil rights causes. Emily graduated from James Madison College at Michigan State University with a degree in social relations, and when not working tries to indulge her science geek side or her inner arts addict.

Dirk Dirk Nebbeling

teacher, educator in Grand Rapids

Dirk began his schooling at a Dutch Christian School in the 30’s, during the Depression. Dirk reflected on the relative uniformity of students there as to heritage, culture, beliefs, religious upbringing, and ethnicity. He has lived in this area all his life and was both educated and an educator in Grand Rapids.

Speaking Engagements

Megan Donahue, PhD

Professor of Physics & Astronomy, Michigan State University

Megan Donahue grew up on a family farm in Nebraska, and went on to get a bachelor of science in physics at MIT. She received a PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she met her husband, Mark Voit, who is also an astrophysicist and frequent collaborator. She spent time as a Carnegie fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California and as an Institute Fellow at Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland. She then accepted a staff astronomer position at STScI, working with the Hubble Space Telescope archive and James Webb Space Telescope science planning. In 2003, she and Mark Voit moved to Michigan State University to join the physics and astronomy department where they are now both full professors. Megan spends significant time in service to the astronomical community through committee work at the national and international levels, including the National Academy of Science Committee for Astronomy and Astrophysics, the International Astronomical Union committee to advise the Office for Astronomy for Development, located in South Africa, and NASA, NSF, and AURA advisory committees. She is also the author of a best-selling introductory college astronomy textbook series, called the Cosmic Perspective, (co-authors Jeffrey Bennett, Nick Schneider, and Mark Voit), published by Pearson.

Matthew Douglas

Professor of Biological Sciences, Grand Rapids Community College

Dr. Matthew Douglas has been teaching for over 30 years, and is currently a Biological Sciences professor at Grand Rapids Community College. He has published a number of research science papers on the topics of science, evolution, psyche, and more. Dr. Douglas’ work with Monarch butterflies has aired on NPR, the BBC, and national TV.

Greg Dressler, PhD

Professor of Pathology Research, University of Michigan

Dr. Greg Dressler is the Collegiate Professor of Pathology Research at the University of Michigan. He received his PhD in Molecular Genetics from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and was a post-doctoral fellow with Peter Gruss at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistryin Goettingen, Germany where he helped discover many mammalian developmental control genes. Before joining the faculty at University of Michigan, he was a Senior Staff Fellow at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Bethesda, MD. He has studied genetics and embryonic development for more than 30 years. Research in Dr. Dressler’s laboratory is focused on the molecular genetic basis of embryonic development. According to Dressler, “Since my post-doctoral fellowship I have been focused, though some might say obsessed, with the embryonic development of the kidney. This is in part because I identified an essential control gene that specifies the region of mesoderm destined to become the kidney. However, I view the kidney as a model system to understand more general principles of embryonic patterning, differentiation, and cell lineage specification.” Dr. Dressler’s work has been published in numerous medical journals including the Journal for the American Society of Nephrology, Human Molecular Genetics and Science.

Roger Durham, PhD

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Aquinas College

Professor Roger Durham (Ph.D., University of Oregon) joined the Aquinas Community in Fall of 1996. He teaches the international relations and comparative politics courses and coordinates the International Studies Degree. His research interests include: Post- Cold War dynamics between strong andweak states; development issues; theories of the state; international political economy, human rights issues and American Foreign Policy. On campus he is Chair of the Political Science Department, Advisor to the Polis Political Studies Club, Pi Sigma Alpha – Political Science Honor Society, Model United Nations and Model Arab League. He serves on many committees including the Haiti Connection Committee through which he has twice accompanied AQ students on a service learning trip to Haiti. He has twice been honored with the AQ Student Senate Outstanding Faculty Award for the years 1996-97 and 1998-99. He has been nominated by AQ President Knopke for the prestigious CASE Award for Teaching Excellence. He is a member of the International Studies Association, the American Political Science Association and has presented research at several conferences. He is past President of the Michigan Conference of Political Scientists.

Speaking Engagements

JT Eberhard

Campus Organizer & High School Specialist, Secular Student Alliance

JT Eberhard is a campus organizer and high school specialist with the Secular Student Alliance (SSA), author of the blog ‘What Would JT Do?’, as well as a contributing author to AtheismResource.com. Before joining the SSA, JT was most known as a debater on atheism and LGBT rights and as the co-founder of the Skepticon annual conference. From 2008-2010, JT worked as the organizing team leader for Skepticon 1, 2, and 3. The event would usher in a new format of conventions featuring rock star lineups while allowing people to attend for free. JT also co-founded and led the SSA-affiliated Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster at Missouri State. The group would go on to make news on several occasions, often for their unconventional approach to combating religion such as building a cardboard box fort in the middle of campus to counter-protest evangelists or massing on their school’s free speech zone with expletive-bearing signs in response to the school saying bands could not use coarse language. Outside of his work as an activist, Eberhard is a veteran of the Springfield Regional Opera’s Young Artist Program. A baritone, JT has a handful of professional roles to his credit with various companies including work under the directorship of two-time Grammy-winner James Billings.

Speaking Engagements

Gary Eberle

Professor of English, Aquinas College

Gary Eberle, M.A., is chair of the English department at Aquinas College. Eberle is a professor of English at Aquinas, and has been named twice in the last ten-years the Outstanding faculty member of the year by the Student Senate. His journalism and fiction have won awards locally and nationally, including the novel Angel Strings which was named a “best book” by the New York Public Library in 1997. Eberle’s writing includes several books including A City Full of Rain – a short stories collection – and The Geography of Nowhere: Finding One’s Self in a Postmodern World. His newest book is entitled Dangerous Words: Talking About God in the Age of Fundamentalism, which will be released in June 2007.

Website: http://www.aquinas.edu/english/faculty.html#gary

Taner Edis

Assistant Professor of Physics, Truman State University

Taner Edis is an Associate professor of physics at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. Edis received his Ph.D. in Physics from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (1994). He is the Associate Editor for Reports of the National Center for Science Education. Edis is also an accomplished author. His most recent book is An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam (Prometheus Books, 2007). He has also written numerous articles and reports for various scientific and skeptical journals including Free Inquiry, Skeptical Inquirer, The Skeptic Magazine, and The Humanist. Edis has also authored two other books: Science and Nonbelief (2006) and The Ghost in the Universe: God in Light of Modern Science (2002) and is the co-editor of Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism (2004).

Vern J. Ehlers, PhD

Congressman, Third Congressional District – Michigan, United States Congress

U.S. Representative Vernon J. Ehlers of Grand Rapids, Mich., was sworn in on January 4, 2007, to serve his seventh full term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was first elected to the 103rd Congress in a special election on December 7, 1993. Ehlers joined Congress following a distinguished tenure of service in teaching, scientific research and public service. He has served on numerous boards and commissions and was elected to the Kent County (Mich.) Board of Commissioners, and the Michigan House and Senate. The first research physicist to serve in Congress, Ehlers has been recognized for his strong work ethic and proven leadership skills in his duties on Capitol Hill. As a member of the 110th Congress, Ehlers serves on four standing House committees. He is the Ranking Republican of the House Administration Committee, which oversees the day-to-day operations of the House of Representatives, as well as the Smithsonian Institution, the National Zoo and the U.S. Botanical Gardens. It also plays a role in federal election legislation, among other issues. He has been a member of the committee since 1995 and was instrumental in the effort to connect the House of Representatives with the Internet and the creation of the Library of Congress’ Thomas website, which allows anyone to look up legislation being considered by Congress, laws that have been passed and other information about Congress. Ehlers served as chairman of this committee throughout 2006. Ehlers also serves on the Science and Technology Committee (previously known as the House Science Committee), on which he serves as Ranking Republican of the Subcommittee on Research & Science Education. During his tenure on the committee, he oversaw in 1998 the writing of the nation’s first major statement on science policy since 1945. He also co-chairs the STEM Ed Caucus, which is dedicated to improving the nation’s K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. On the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Ehlers has led efforts to secure a fair funding formula and more dollars for Michigan’s roads, highways, and transit systems. In the 107th Congress, Ehlers led the development of the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which authorized spending $270 million over five years to clean up sediments in the Great Lakes. Ehlers also is a member of the Education and Labor (previously the Education and the Workforce) Committee, where he blends his efforts with the Science Committee on improving math and science education. Ehlers has served on the Science Committee and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee since his arrival in Washington and joined the Education and Labor Committee in 1999. Prior to Congress, Ehlers served a total of 11 years in the Michigan Legislature – with just over two years in the House and nine years in the Senate, where he finished his tenure as President Pro-Tem. He also served eight years on the Kent County Board of Commissioners, including three years as chairman. After three years of studying at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Ehlers transferred and received his undergraduate degree in physics and his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1960. After six years teaching and research at Berkeley, he moved back to Grand Rapids to Calvin College in 1966 where he taught physics for 16 years and later served as chairman of the Physics Department. During his tenure at Calvin, Ehlers also served as a volunteer science advisor to then-Congressman Gerald R. Ford. He is married to Johanna (Jo) Meulink and is the father of four adult children and the grandfather of four. He and his wife reside in Grand Rapids.

Website: http://www.house.gov/ehlers/3rd.html

Speaking Engagements

Mustafa Eissa

Islamic Center of West Michigan

Speaking Engagements

Kurt Ellenberger

Pianist, Composer, Author, Professor, Frederick Meijer Honors College, GVSU

Kurt Ellenberger is a pianist, composer, and author who has written for a wide-range of jazz and classical ensembles. He has been featured as composer and pianist on CBC Radio and NPR and has recorded on Innova, Ghostly, and Challenge-A Records, several of which received international acclaim in leading publications including the New York Times and The New Yorker. He has been hailed as “a gifted pianist who combines the lyricism of Bill Evans with the energy of Keith Jarrett.” He is also a Fulbright Scholar who recently returned from six months living in Graz, Austria where he taught at the University of the Arts. As an author, he has published on various pedagogical topics and many essays that appear in his internationally renowned blog Also Sprach FraKathustra, on Huffington Post, and on National Public Radio’s A Blog Supreme. He is a professor in the Honors College at Grand Valley State University where he is also the Associate Director of the Faculty Teaching and Learning Center.

Joseph Ellin, PhD

Philosophy Professor, WMU

Website: ethicscenter@wmich.edu.

Speaking Engagements

Wesley Elsberry, PhD

Visiting Research Associate, Michigan State University, Lyman Briggs School

Dr. Wesley Royce Elsberry is a marine biologist with an interdisciplinary background in zoology, computer science, and wildlife and fisheries sciences. Elsberry was born in Lakeland, Florida. He was brought up in the Evangelical United Brethren church, which merged with the Methodists in 1968 toform the United Methodist Church. He attended a public elementary school, an evangelical junior high, and a Catholic high school. He received a National Merit Scholarship and earned a B.S. in zoology from the University of Florida in 1982. During that period, he worked as a staff photographer for the Independent Florida Alligator newspaper. After graduating, he worked for Media Image Photography in Gainesville, Florida. In 1983, he became a lab technologist for the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Florida. In 1984, he married Diane J. Blackwood. In 1985, he became a biologist in the Department of Physiological Sciences of the College of Veterinary Medicine there, working with Professor Richard H. Lambertsen on the histology, physiology, and epidemiology of fin whales. He then entered a program in artificial intelligence, obtaining an M.S.C.S. in computer science from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1989. Following graduation, he was employed by General Dynamics Data Systems Division, programming fire-control computers for F-16 fighters. In 1991, he became a research scientist at the Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory, working on a mapping system for the U.S. Air Force. In 1993, he began his doctoral studies in wildlife and fisheries sciences at Texas A&M University. He collaborated with the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in 1995 to investigate marine mammal hearing at depth. He periodically travelled to San Diego to continue collaboration on temporary threshold shift in marine mammals, until he was employed as a Behavioral Research Programmer for Science Applications International Corporation. He collaborated with Ted W. Cranford on a study of dolphin biosonar sound production in 1999. In 2001, he was awarded the Society for Marine Mammalogy’s Fred Fairfield Award for Innovation in Marine Mammal Research. He completed his Ph.D. in 2003. In 2003, he joined the National Center for Science Education as its Information Project Director. Elsberry has been involved in the creation-evolution controversy since 1986 and since then he has contributed to a number of projects defending science. He was responsible for the creation of the Antievolution.org site in 2001, as a place to collect critical information on the antievolution movement. In 2002, he presented at the “Evolution and Intelligent Design” session of the CSICOP 4th World Skeptics conference in Burbank, California, along with Massimo Pigliucci, Kenneth Miller, Paul Nelson, and William A. Dembski. Currently Wesley is Visiting Research Associate at Michigan State University with Rob Pennock at the Lyman Briggs School, working on a project to investigate the evolution of intelligence using the Avida artificial life platform.

Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wesley_R._Elsberry

Speaking Engagements

Jeffrey Falick

Rabbi, Birmingham Temple Congregation for Humanistic Judaism

Jeffrey L. Falick is the Secular Humanistic rabbi of The Birmingham Temple Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Originally a member of the liberal theistic Reform Jewish denomination, Jeff became involved in Humanistic Judaism in 2009 after a lifetime of searching and questioning. In service to Secular Humanistic Judaism, he has served on the executive committees of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis and the Society for Humanistic Judaism. Jeff is an ardent advocate for immigrant and refugee rights (among other issues) and his community involvement includes service on the advisory board of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, the advisory board of Muslimish, and the board of directors of Freedom House Detroit. Jeff received his B.A. (1984) from the University of Texas at Austin, and his M.A. (1987) and rabbinical ordination (1989) from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio. When not busy with his responsibilities, he and his husband Arthur Liebhaber are frequent visitors to the D.C. / Baltimore area where their children Ilana Falick and Aliza (Jason) Mann live, mostly to visit their new grandson Jack.

Website: http://www.TheAtheistRabbi.com

Speaking Engagements

Art Falk, PhD

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, Western Michigan University

Professor Arthur E. Falk did his M.A. at Yale University, USA in 1962 and obtained Ph.D. from the same university in 1965. Earlier he had the distinction of being a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a Junior Sterling Fellow at Yale during 1960-62 and in 1966 respectively. He has been teaching at WesternMichigan University since 1966 and was elevated to the post of Professor of Philosophy in 1977. A Visiting Professor in Indiana University, USA in 1968, Dr. Falk was a Fulbright Visiting Professor in Jadavpur University (India), where he lectured and taught for 10 months. Recently he lectured at Utkal University (India) as a Visiting Professor. An expert in Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Mind, Professor Falk’s other areas of interest include Logic and Moral Philosophy. He is the author of Darwinism and Philosophical Analysis published in 2003 by New Delhi: Decent Books (India).

Speaking Engagements

Nancy Falk, Ph.D.

Professor of Comparative Religion, Western Michigan University

author of Women and Religion in India, and Unspoken Words: Women’s Religious Lives

Speaking Engagements

David Fideler, PhD

Director of the Concord Grove Education Center in Alto, MI.

David Fideler, PhD, author of Jesus Christ, Sun of God is the Director of the Concord Grove Education Center in Alto, MI. The website is www.cgecwm.org . It supports communities of higher learning and offers a home in the small country village for talks, workshops, book signings, discussion groups, poetry readings, concerts and similar events in the West MI area. In addition, Dr. Fideler is a musical composer, astronomer, and editor and publisher of philosophical works.

Speaking Engagements

Stanley Finger, PhD

Professor of Psychology in Arts & Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis

. Stan was the founding President for the International Society of the History of the Neurosciences and the first and senior editor for their Journal. . He has appeared and served on a PBS series about the brain and its functions. His book on Minds Behind the Brain: A History of the Pioneers and Their Discoveries covers the histories and ideas of major scientific and philosophical geniuses. His books include Origins of Neuroscience (1994) and Minds Behind the Brain: A History of the Pioneers and their Discoveries (2000). His journal articles cover a range of historical topics including the discovery of cerebral dominance, the brain science behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the recognition of affective changes in multiple sclerosis

Speaking Engagements

Dave Fletcher

Adjunct Professor, Kendall College of Art and Design

Dave Fletcher is an adjunct professor at Kendall College of Art and Design. He has been teaching courses on Mythology for eight years. His first book, tentatively titled “Myth Education: Profiles of Gods, Goddesses and Other Supernatural Beings From Around the World” will be available in 2017.

Tom Flynn

Editor, Free Inquiry Magazine, Center For Inquiry

Tom Flynn is Editor of Free Inquiry magazine, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism, director of the Robert Green Ingersoll Birthplace Museum, and co-founder of the Freethought Trail. His books include The Trouble with Christmas, the blasphemous sci-fi novels Galactic Rapture and Nothing Sacred, and (as editor) The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief. Recently he was named a founding board member of the New York Cultural Heritage Tourism Network. Tom has been listed in Who’s Who in the East, Who’s Who in Entertainment, and Who’s Who in Hell.

Website: http://www.secularhumanism.org/

David Foran, PhD

Associate Professor and Director of the Forensic Science Program, Michigan State University

Dr. David R. Foran is an Associate Professor and Director of the Forensic Science Program at the School of Criminal Justice, Department of Zoology, Michigan State University. He received his PhD in Molecular Genetics from the University of Michigan in 1988. His expertise is in Forensic Science including: forensic biology, wildlife forensics, genetic identification of individuals and species. His research has been focused on DNA isolation from tissues, body fluids/stains, hair, and bone. Foran is a Court qualified expert in Forensic Biology, including DNA analysis (nuclear and mitochondrial) and serology. He serves as the Director of the Forensic Biology Laboratory at Michigan State University, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Amara Conservation Association and a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Forensic Sciences.

Gregory Forbes, PhD

Professor of Biological Sciences, Grand Rapids Community College

Dr. Gregory Forbes has a broad education in the biological sciences earning a B.S. in Wildlife and Natural Resources Management, and a M.S. in Biological Sciences from California Polytechnic University, and a PhD from the Department of Zoology and also the Department of Tropical Environmental Studies at James Cook University in Australia. Dr. Forbes also holds professional certification as a Certified Wildlife Biologist. Dr. Forbes is a Professor of Biological Sciences at Grand Rapids Community College where he also served as the Director of its Science Education Center and currently serves as the course coordinator for the majors human anatomy and physiology program. Dr. Forbes served as the Education Director for the Michigan Evolution Education Initiative, a state-wide initiative designed to help teachers to effectively teach evolution. He also served as the Director of the Institute for Evolution Education, an initiative that expands the Michigan project nationally. Dr. Forbes served as the National Course Director for the National Science Foundation’s Chautauqua course on evolution and evolution education for college and university professors and he is the Evolution Education Specialist for the 4,000 member Michigan Science Teachers Association. Dr. Forbes has 30 years of university and college instructional experience. His instructional and curricular development work has included the development of 24 college and university courses in both the biological and physical sciences at four institutions as well as instruction of wide diversity of courses such as zoology, natural resources management, geology, majors biology, tropical ecology, marine biology and human anatomy and physiology. In 2004 Dr. Forbes was awarded the Michigan Science Teachers Association highest award, College & University Science Teacher of the Year. In 2005, Greg was selected as the Civil Libertarian of the Year by the Michigan ACLU for his work in defending the integrity of science education against attempts to introduce non-scientific ideologies into the public classroom. He was also selected as the 2006 Freethinker of the Year by the Freethought Association (now CFI–Michigan) in recognition of his efforts to promote freethought and in consideration of his work in the legislative arena to safeguard the teaching of science in public classrooms. Dr. Forbes has instructed field courses in or studied the natural history and geology of many locales such as Brazil, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Kenya, Tanzania, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Fiji, the Galapagos Islands and the Society Islands. His research interests focused upon the evolution of the diet and feeding ecology in vertebrates with his most recent research focused upon the evolution of diet selection in endangered green sea turtles. Since 1993, Dr. Forbes has served as an Editorial Board member for Skeptic Magazine, an international publication promoting a scientific approach to addressing social, philosophical, and scientific issues with a significant emphasis upon evolutionary thought, education, and inquiry. He once authored a regular column in the Michigan Science Teachers Association’s Journal entitled “Natural Selections; Essays on Evolution and the Nature of Science”. Dr. Forbes has been a featured or keynote speaker at many dozens of scientific and educational conferences. He is also a founding member and current Board member of the Michigan Citizens for Science, a citizens group that works to ensure quality science education in the public classroom. Dr. Forbes works with local conservation organizations including serving as past Executive Board Member of the West Michigan Sierra Club. During his spare time, Dr. Forbes also operates Natural Selections Natural History Expeditions, an expedition company that takes groups of adventurers to study the natural history of Kenya, Tanzania, Australia, the Galapagos and the Amazon. For recreation, Greg enjoys flying his plane, flying search and rescue for the Civil Air Patrol and whitewater paddling.

Scott Forschler, PhD

Scott Forschler has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Minnesota; his research area is the foundations of ethics. He has published several articles on ethical theory and presented papers at national and international conferences. He currently teaches at St. Cloud Technical and Community College.

Michael Fossel, MD, PhD

MSU Clinical Professor of Medicine, St. Mary's Hospital emergency room in Grand Rapids, MSU

Michael B. Fossel, M.D., Ph.D. (born 1950, Greenwich, Connecticut) is a professor of clinical medicine at Michigan State University best known for his views on telomerase therapy as a possible treatment for cellular senescence. Fossel has appeared on many major news programs to discuss aging and appears regularly on National Public Radio (NPR). He is also a respected lecturer, author, and the founder and former editor-in-chief of the Journal of Anti-Aging Medicine (now known as Rejuvenation Research). Prior to earning his M.D. at Stanford Medical School, Fossel earned a joint B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. in psychology at Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in neurobiology at Stanford University. He is also a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy. After graduating from medical school in 1981, he was awarded a National Science Foundation fellowship and taught at Stanford University. Fossel has written numerous articles on aging and ethics for the Journal of the American Medical Association and In Vivo, and a book by Fossel entitled Reversing Human Aging was published in 1996.

Speaking Engagements

Howard Foster

Formenr Baptist preacher

Speaking Engagements

Andrew Franks, M.S.

Andrew Franks is a doctoral candidate in Applied Experimental Psychology at Central Michigan University, where he earned his M.S. in 2012 and is expected to complete his Ph.D. in 2015. His research interests include sexuality, politics, and the law with a primary line of research aimed at understanding and remediating the lack of political acceptance for atheism and secularism in The United States. His teaching experience includes courses in the developmental and social psychology content areas as well as applications of experimental research methods. Andrew’s pursuit of excellence extends to his personal life where he has an undefeated record (4-0) as an amateur fighter and a Level A skydiving license.

Douglas Furton, PhD

Professor of Physics, Grand Valley State University

Doug Furton is a Professor of Physics at Grand Valley State University, where he has taught physics and astronomy classes and has introduced students to the joys and sorrows of scientific research since 2002. Prior to coming to GVSU, Prof. Furton was an Associate Professor of Physics at Rhode Island College, in Providence, RI. Dr. Furton earned his Ph.D. degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Toledo, in Toledo, OH, in 1993. Prof. Furton’s interest in research began in graduate school when he studied carbonaceous interstellar dust grains observationally and experimentally. More recently, Prof. Furton has combined his interests in “ham” radio and astronomy by establishing an Internet-accessible radio telescope at the Stephen F. Wessling Observatory in Fremont, MI, with support from GVSU and the Newaygo County Dark Sky Astronomers. He also wrote a column for several years about backyard astronomy and space-science current events for the Grand Haven Tribune. He recently published a book entitled Glimpses of our Universe – he will have copies of the book available for purchase at the lecture. Doug Furton lives in Grand Haven with his wife Anne Marie and son Simon.

Luke Galen, PhD

Associate Professor of Psychology, Grand Valley State University

Luke Galen is currently an Associate Professor of Psychology at Grand Valley State University. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Wayne State University. His main area of research and teaching focuses on the psychology of religion. His areas of research include the study of secularityand nonreligious groups, religious fundamentalism and the psychology of belief and non-belief. He teaches classes on the Psychology of Religion, Controversial Issues in Psychology, and Human Sexuality. He is faculty advisor to the GVSU Center for Inquiry campus group. He is currently working on a co-authored book entitled “Being Secular.”

David Gamut

Mentalist, Magician & Author

David Gamut is a mentalist and speaker based out of St Paul, Minnesota who’s mind reading acts and talks on memory are making him a rising star in the Mentalist/Magic community. Gamut began performing at age 16 and has blown the minds of countless individuals and audiences over the years. At the age of 24 he began performing and speaking professionally. He speaks and performs at numerous venues from private parties, to companies and universities. His study of the mind has allowed him to take some his performances to a different level than most performers. David's style of being in the moment and listening to his audience, allows him to stray "off script" and share some unique moments with attendees. His magic background and mental skills give him a unique mix of boosted effects and real ability leaving many to wonder which they've just seen. David also has a book in the works on memory which will cover different memory systems, how they work, and the strengths and weaknesses of each one and how to use them in unique ways.

Website: http://davidgamut.com/

David Garfinkle, PhD

Professor of Physics, Oakland University

David Garfinkle was born in New York City in 1958. He has a BA in physics from Princeton University and a PhD in physics from The University of Chicago. Since 1991, he has taught physics at Oakland University, in Rochester, Michigan. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the editor of “Matters of Gravity” the electronic newsletter of the APS Topical Group in Gravitation. Professor Garfinkle's research focuses on Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, and especially on the process of gravitational collapse and the formation of black holes. He utilizes computer simulations to study numerical relativity and the properties of strong gravitational fields. Much of his recent research has been on properties of singularities critical to gravitational collapse and cosmic censorship.

Website: http://www.oakland.edu/physics/physics_people/faculty/Garfinkle.htm

Vyckie Garrison

No Longer Quivering

Vyckie Garrison was once a prominent member of the Quiverfull community, a rapidly growing Christian fundamentalist movement that bans birth control and encourages huge, “Biblical families” such as the Duggar Family of TLC’s 19 and Counting fame. Garrison edited and published a Christian “pro-life, pro-family” newspaper for 16+ years in northeast Nebraska while home-churching, home birthing, and home schooling seven children. She made waves when she left the Quiverfull movement, divorced her husband, and began speaking out against the lifestyle. Vyckie has appeared on The Joy Behar Show, The Secret Lives of Women, The Story with Dick Gordon, as well as numerous podcasts and radio programs including Thom Hartmann, Living After Faith and Godless Bitches. She is a well-respected adversary of Biblical patriarchy and the damages that it can inflict. She started the blog “No Longer Quivering” to provide support to women and children who are escaping abusive religious movements and to provide the public with accurate and compassionate information on the unique challenges faced by the spiritually abused.

Stephen Gibson, Mr

Businessman, People Power Productions

Stephen L. Gibson is the author of the book: Truth-Driven Thinking; An Exploration of Human Emotion and Its Impact on Everyday Life. Mr. Gibson, in addition to promoting his Truth-Driven Thinking mission, owns and operates a specialty multimedia company called People Power Productions, along with his wife and co-founder, Julie. This company is dedicated to helping people share and preserve their own special stories and treasured family media.

Website: http://www.peoplepowerproductions.com/

Speaking Engagements

karen Gipson, PhD

Associate Professor of Physics, Physics Department Chair, Grand Valley State University

Karen Gipson is an Associate Professor of Physics and Chair of the Physics Department at Grand Valley State University. She has been a serious student of both physics and buddhism for over 30 years. She has a Ph.D. in physics from Washington State University and is currently employed at Grand ValleyState University, where she continues to deepen her understanding of physics through teaching and research. Following extensive zen/vipassana training in Japan and in the USA, she took precepts in the Order of Interbeing and subsequently helped establish two sanghas, including the Mindfulness Meditation Community of Grand Rapids, where she currently practices meditation and studies the dharma. Her research interests focus on Acoustics and the Philosophy of Science. She has presented numerous studies at the Meetings of the Acoustical Society of America and has received awards for her work with undergraduate students at Grand Valley State University. Gipson was the 2008 recipient of the Women’s Impact Award and is a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Speaking Engagements

Frank Girard, MA

retired English teacher

Frank Girard retired English teacher and FAoWM member prepared a table for us containing numerous older books, most of which dealt with religious issues from a critical standpoint.

Speaking Engagements

Faye Girsh, Ed.D

Senior Adviser, Final Exit Network, Harvard University

Dr. Faye Girsh received her doctorate in Human Development from Harvard University and taught Psychology at Morehouse College and the University of of Chicago. For 18 years she practiced as a clinical and forensic psychologist in San Diego. It was in that capacity in 1983 that she became involved in a California case of a quadriplegic woman who wanted to die, by refusing food and hydration—a right that was ultimately affirmed by the US Supreme Court. Faye Girsh, Senior Vice President and past- executive director of End of Life Choices, formerly the Hemlock Society, a national non-profit organization based in Denver, Colorado.

Website: http://www.atheistvoices.com/pages/faygirsh.html

Speaking Engagements

Jim Goode, PhD History

Professor of History and Coordinator of the Middle East Studies Program, GVSU

Jim Goode is a professor of History and coordinator of the Middle East Studies program at Grand Valley State University. He graduated with his Ph.D. in History from the University of Indiana. He received his Master’s Degree in History from the University of Massachusetts, and a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Georgetown University. His teaching interests are U.S. Diplomatic History, Contemporary U.S., Middle East, Iran, and Islamic Civilization. He has written many publications on US relations with Iran and Afghanistan since the end of World War II including United States and Iran, 1946-51: Diplomacy of Neglect, and “Reforming Iran During the Kennedy Years.” Also, he is coordinating a five week, study abroad program in Cairo, Egypt in May of next year.

Amy Goodman

Host and Producer, Democracy Now!

Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!, a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 650 TV and radio stations in North America. Time Magazine named Democracy Now! its “Pick of the Podcasts,” along with NBC’s Meet the Press. Goodman is the co-author with her brother, journalist David Goodman, of Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times, due out in April, 2008, along with two New York Times bestsellers, Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back (2006) and The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media That Love Them (2004). She writes a weekly column (also produced as an audio podcast) syndicated by King Features, for which she was recognized in 2007 with the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Reporting. Goodman is the winner of the 2007 Gracie Award for Individual Achievement for a Public Broadcasting Host, from the American Women in Radio and Television, and is a 2007 honoree with the Paley Center/Museum of Television and Radio’s She Made It Collection, which “celebrates the achievements and preserves the legacy of great women writers, directors, producers, journalists, sportscasters, and executives.” Her daily reporting and groundbreaking work from Nigeria and East Timor has won numerous awards, including the George Polk Award, Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, and the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award. She has also received awards from the Associated Press, United Press International, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Project Censored.

Website: http://www.democracynow.org/

Speaking Engagements

David Gorski, MD, PhD

Managing Editor, Science Based Medicine

David H. Gorski, MD, PhD, FACS is a surgical oncologist at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute specializing in breast cancer surgery, where he also serves as the Medical Director of the Alexander J. Walt Comprehensive Breast Center and Cancer Liaison Physician for the American College of Surgeons Committee on Cancer. Academically, he is an Associate Professor of Surgery and Oncology at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, where he serves as Chief of the Section of Breast Surgery, and is a member of the faculty of the Graduate Program in Cancer Biology. Additionally, he serves as chairman of the board of directors for the Society for Science-Based Medicine, a group dedicated to promoting good science in medicine and opposing pseudoscience in medicine. An investigator whose primary research interests include tumor angiogenesis and the role of glutamate receptors in promoting the growth and metastasis of breast cancer, Dr. Gorski also runs an active research laboratory and has recently taken an active interest in the problems of breast cancer overdiagnosis and overtreatment. Learn more about David Gorski’s work at his website: www.sciencebasedmedicine.org.

Lanette Grate


Speaking Engagements

Roger Greeley

minister emeritus of the Unitarian People's Church in Kalamazoo, Mi

Speaking Engagements

Gary Greer, PhD

Associate Professor, Biology, Grand Valley State University

Gary Greer was born and raised in Greeley, CO. he received is Bachelor’s of Arts in Biology from the University of Northern Colorado (1987), he later received a Master’s of Science in Plant Biology at Humboldt State University in California (1993) and defended his Thesis on the “evolution of mating systems in a hybrid fern complex.” In 1997 Greer received his PhD in Environmental and Plant Biology from, Ohio University. His Doctoral Dissertation addressed “phenotypic plasticity as a determinate of ecological distribution in ferns.” He is currently Associate professor of Biology at Grand Valley State University, before coming to GVSU Greer was Assistant professor at West Virginia State University from 1997-2003. Dr. Greer is the Associate Editor, American Fern Journal,s and a peer-reviewer for scientific journals regarding plant ecology. His research interests address “the evolution and ecological importance of adaptive phenotypic plasticity in ferns and invasive plants; i.e., the ability of a genotype to match its phenotype (anatomy, physiology and behavior) to its environment such that its fitness is maximized.”

Ed Brayton, Jessica Sudy, and Greg Bliss

Richard Griffin

Smart Justice Campaign Field Organizer, ACLU of michigan

Richard Griffin is the Grand Rapids Field Organizer for the ACLU of Michigan’s Smart Justice campaign. The ACLU believes it is critical to hire people impacted by the system to do the work to fix the system. Richard is just that person. At the age of 16, he was sentenced to life in prison for a drug-related homicide.  After just two years behind bars, he knew he had to change his ways. "When I was 18, I vividly remember sitting in a cell and blaming others for my life," said Richard. "But the common denominator in everything that went wrong was me. I knew then I had to stop blaming and take responsibility, and this changed my entire outlook on life." With no opportunities behind bars, Richard knew that transforming himself was something he would have to do alone. "There is nothing in the corrections system that would foster that, no program or relationship to foster that. It has to be a conscientious effort on the individual to walk that path," he said. After spending 23 years locked up, the corrections department recognized that Richard was a changed man, and he was released. With his new freedom, he knew he wanted to dedicate his life to improving the lives of others. For him that meant helping fix the criminal justice system. When Richard isn’t working on transforming the justice system, he studies ancient religions and spirituality, something his mother also loved to do.  He says it brings his peace, as does spending time near the water. He also is a self-described “fitness freak,” who lifts weights and runs, and is an avid jazz fan obsessed with John Coltrane. Richard’s favorite quote may best describe his life: "No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell." Or in Richard’s own words: "To grow spiritually and emotionally, we will go to some rough places along the way because our greatest success is tied to our worst experience."

Website: aclumich.org

D.J. Grothe

President of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), Center for Inquiry

D.J. Grothe is President of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). He hosts the nationally popular radio show and podcast, Point of Inquiry, discussing fundamental questions with the world’s thought-leaders, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook for society’s most cherished convictions. An Associate Editor of Free Inquiry Magazine, D.J. lectures and debates frequently on topics surrounding science and central beliefs at colleges and universities throughout the United States. As a “mind-reader” and magician, Grothe studies the processes of deception and self-deception. His award-winning performances focus on the powers of the mind, parapsychology, and the challenge that skeptics bring to paranormal claims.

Website: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/

Margarita Gurdjieff

President, Gurdjieff International Charitable Public Organization

Margarita Gurdjieff, grand-neice of Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, is a member of the Russian Natural Sciences Academy as an Adviser and Practical Psychologist. She founded The Gurdjieff International Charitable Public Organization in 2004 and now serves as its president. The Organization engages issues related to mental harmonious development of man and it is the supporter of healthy way of living and favors the spheres such as upbringing, education, culture, society ecology and public health. The organization aims at propagating in Armenia and outside it the teaching of an outstanding thinker, psychologist, philosopher and intellectual Georgi Ivanovitch Gurdjieff

Speaking Engagements

Paul Hann

Executive Director, Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan

Paul Haan is the founding Executive Director of the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan. The Healthy Homes Coalition is a community-based non-profit organization formed in 2006 to ensure that no children in west Michigan grow up in substandard housing that negatively impacts their health and development. Healthy Homes works hard to protect children from lead poisoning, asthma attacks, fire hazards, and other environmental health risks. Paul has been a trainer for the national Healthy Homes Training Center since 2009, has taught the Essentials for Healthy Housing curriculum extensively across Michigan and Ohio, and has also instructed various other courses. In the past, he has been certified by the State of Michigan as a Lead Paint Abatement Supervisor and by the National Environmental Health Association as a Healthy Homes Specialist. Paul holds his BA degree from Calvin College (communications, philosophy, and education). Prior to working with the Healthy Homes Coalition, Paul was the lead organizer for the Grand Rapids-based Get the Lead Out! initiative, which won the 2006 EPA Children’s Environmental Health Excellence Award. Governor Jennifer Granholm named Paul a Hometown Health Hero in 2004 for his work on childhood lead poisoning and Governor Snyder appointed him to the Child Lead Poisoning Elimination Board in June 2016 and the permanent Child Lead Exposure Elimination Commission in March 2017. Prior to working in environmental health, Paul was a grassroots community organizer working on housing and other neighborhood issues for twelve years.

Daniel Harper

Host, I Don't Speak German Podcast

Daniel Harper is an independent antifascist researcher who currently runs a podcast on white nationalism called “I Don’t Speak German.” He currently identifies as a socialist, but was born and raised in Alabama during the 1980s in a lower-class and fairly conservative religious household, but drifted gradually left after discovering science and freethought through science fiction and skeptical literature as a child. His first political memories are of the 1992 Presidential election, and he has been following the far right in America since the mid-nineties. (He remembers watching Rush Limbaugh’s television show in the mornings before school during Clinton’s first term.) During the 2000s, Harper followed the freethought community both casually (as a regular reader of ScienceBlogs and the New Atheists) and actively, combatting creationists and intelligent design advocates as a regular poster on the talk.origins Usenet group. Having idly followed far-right propagandists for years, mostly antifeminist “manosphere” types during the Obama administration, his interest was piqued in summer 2016 by a reference to the white nationalist podcast “Fash the Nation” in a comment thread. An avid podcast listener already, Harper added the title to his queue and over time the curiosity became an obsession, especially after the results of the 2016 presidential race. Since 2016 he has followed far-right podcasts and YouTube shows between thirty and forty hours a week, and in the beginng of 2019 decided to start podcasting about what he had discovered by following the movement. For his trouble, he is regularly mocked on the very shows he follows, and was threatened by a group of militia-like white nationalists who were members of a group called “The Base” in fall 2019. In his personal life, Harper is married and has an interest in craft beer, Doctor Who, and old movies. He has worked most of his life in retail jobs, but completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry with a minor in math in his thirties, and currently works as a lab technician.

Website: https://idontspeakgerman.libsyn.com/

Simon Hatley

Animal Rights Activist

Speaking Engagements

Mike Hemmingsen

President, Board of Directors, Grand Rapids Pride Center

Mike Hemmingsen has a professional career that includes Sales and Operations Leadership within the Technology sector. He has been an LGBTQ activist and volunteer for nearly 2 decades including his current role as Board President for the Grand Rapids Pride Center (formerly known as The Network). Mike is married to Jacob and they have two boys (Conrad and Declan).

Website: http://www.grpride.org/

Speaking Engagements

Gillian Hendershot

Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Grand Valley State University

Gillian Hendershot is the Visiting Assistant Professor of European History at Grand Valley State University. She received her MA in History from the University of Strathclyde in conjunction with Central Michigan University in 2002. She is currently a PhD candidate at Central Michigan University and is in the process of writing her dissertation on the topic of “Witches, Wizards and Marginalized Men: Gender Accusation and Conviction in Witch Trials in 17th Century England and Colonial New England.” She has had articles published in Gender and History. Her fields of interest include Early Modern Europe, Ancient Near-East, Mediterranean, Colonial North American and Gender History.

Speaking Engagements

Mike Henshaw, PhD

Associate Professor of Biology, Grand Valley State University

Mike Henshaw is an Associate Professor of Biology at Grand Valley State University where he specializes in Animal Behavior and Evolutionary Biology. For most of his career, Mike has studied cooperation in social wasps. Using genetic techniques, he has helped to demonstrate that social insect colonies, while paragons of familial cooperation, in fact must navigate a fair amount of conflict within the family. Recently, the focus of his work at GVSU has shifted to the genetics and behavior of the bold jumping spider, Phidippus audax, which have unusually acute vision, striking and elaborate sexual displays, and a remarkable capacity for learning and problem solving. Mike grew up in Rockford, MI before moving to Africa with his missionary parents and graduated from Rift Valley Academy in Kijabe, Kenya. Mike attended GVSU as an undergraduate student, then Rice University in Houston, the University of Massachusetts, and James Cook University in Townsville, Australia for graduate school and a series of postdoctoral research positions. It was a long trip back to West Michigan, but one He is glad to have made, as there has been a dramatic improvement in the beer situation!

Todd Heywood

Journalist, The American Independent

Heywood has been reporting on Michigan issues for 20 years. From LGBT issues to the massive oil spill in Marshall Michigan, Heywood’s work has often been on the cutting edge of investigative journalism. In 2011, he was named one of the top 100 ideas and people changing the battle against HIV by POZ Magazine, and TheBody.com named him a person making a difference. He currently covers HIV policy for The American Independent, an independent nonprofit journalism group focused on impact journalism. His reporting on HIV has lead to the state health department ordering local health departments to stop using legally inaccurate documents for HIV-positive persons and the state health officials issuing guidance for non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis for people who were exposed to HIV through sexual or needle sharing behavior. His reporting also resulted in the Michigan Department of Corrections eliminating a policy which prohibited HIV-positive prisoners from working in food service.He lives in Lansing with this three dogs, Gypsy, Gobbo and Virgil. He is currently working on a book titled “VIral Apartheid: HIV Exceptionalism and the Erosion of Privacy in America.” The book will explore the social and historical constructs behind HIV related laws in the U.S.

Speaking Engagements

John Hockenberry

Co-host of The Take Away

John Hockenberry is the co-host of The Take Away, a national morning news program produced in partnership with The New York Times, the BBC World Service, WNYC, Public Radio International and WGBH Boston. Hockenberry was an anchor for NBC News/MSNBC from the years 1996-2005, and won threeEmmys for his exceptional performance. During his career there, Hockenberry established and anchored Edgewise, an MSNBC program, and reported on major events such as the Kosovo War, the elections of 1996/2000/2004, September 11th, and the Iraq War. He also created and produced the first live streamed audio Internet program from a journalist’s office in 1999 and 2000 as well. Before his career at NBC News/MSNBC, Hockenberry anchored “The DNA Files” for NPR from 1998 to 2003. Hockenberry was awarded two awards for his performance there: The Peabody Award/Robert Wood Johnson Peabody Award (2003); and the Columbia Dupont Award (1999). From 1992-1996, Hockenberry was an anchor for ABC News, and was awarded an Emmy for his coverage of famine and civil war in Somalia, Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 1993, LA earthquake and “Good Morning America Sunday.” Hockenberry began his journalist career at NPR where he worked as a producer for NPR’s foreign desk from the years 1981 to 1992. During his career there, he was awarded the Peabody Award and the Columbia Dupont Silver Baton for his coverage on the first Intifada, the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Fall of Ceaucescu in Romania and the first Gulf War, including the Kurdish refugee crisis. Hockenberry was presented with the Peabody Award again in 1990. Hockenberry graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Oregon and a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Chicago.

Charles Honey

Outgoing Religion Editor, Grand Rapids Press

Charles Honey is a freelance writer specializing in issues of faith, values and spirituality. He received his bachelor’s degree in English from Murray State University in 1984, and also did undergraduate work in creative writing at Michigan State University. He has been writing for newspapers since 1978, and worked for The Grand Rapids Press from 1985 to 2009. He became the Religion Editor for the Press in 1994, and has been covering daily religion news, planning each week’s Religion section and writing features and columns for the section for 15 years. Prior to taking the position as Religion Editor he was a feature writer for the Flair section, and covered education and Wyoming city government for The Press. As the Religion Editor, Honey led the The Press to win the Religion Newswriters Association award for best religion section in the years 2000 and 2002 among U.S. and Canadian mid-sized newspapers. His section placed third for large newspapers in 2006 and 2005, third for all newspapers in 1999 and second in 1996. Before working at the Press Honey worked at the Murray Ledger and Times in Murray, Ky., was editor of The Enterprise in Williamston, MI. and sports editor of The Towne Courier in East Lansing, MI. Charles Honey has received awards for column writing from the Michigan Press Association, the Associated Press and the Kentucky Press Association, and a School Bell award from the Michigan Education Association. He also received the Public Service Award from the Michigan Association of Local Public Health for a five-part series on infant mortality in 1991. Honey has a particular interest in spirituality and personal growth, the work of the church and of individuals for social welfare, interfaith understanding, the arts, community history, education, teen and men’s issues, minority concerns and disabilities. Honey has been an active member of Arts Advocates and organizer of Arts Jam, a yearly benefit concert and art auction for art and music programs in Grand Rapids Public Schools. He has taught journalism at Aquinas College and Grand Rapids Community College, and served on the Grand Rapids Area Council for the Humanities. He has two grown children and is an avid fan of them, as well as of baseball and all kinds of music. He is the leader of the band "The Honeytones," which has been together for nearly 25 years, pleasing Festival crowds and annoying the neighbors.

Speaking Engagements

Thom Houseman

Delegate of the Michigan Republican Convention, Member of the National Republican Caucus of NEA

Mr. Houseman has been a Delegate of the Michigan Republican Convention since 1978 and is a member of the National Republican Caucus of NEA. Previous GOP positions that he has held include: Delegate – Republican National Convention (1980), Delegate – Republican National Convention (1984), Republican National Convention (1992), County Chairman – Allegan County Republicans. In addition, he served for 8 years on the Party Issues Committee for the Michigan Republican Party, as the District Secretary of the Michigan Republican Party, and as Co-chair for the Michigan Republicans for Clinton/Gore in 1992.

Speaking Engagements

Holly Huber

Founding Member, Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists

Holly Huber has been an activist in state-church separation and gay rights for the past 21 years in Hawaii with her partner Mitch Kahle. She is a founding member of Hawaii Citizens for the Separation of State and Church (HCSSC) and now Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA). Huber grew up in Muskegon, graduating from North Muskegon High School (1983) and Albion College (1987).

Paul Huizenga, PhD

Professor, GVSU

Speaking Engagements

Leo Igwe

Leo Igwe is an award-winning Nigerian human rights activist, JREF Research Fellow, and a former Western and Southern African representative to the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). He has bravely worked to end a variety of human rights violations, including anti-gay hate, sorcery, witchcraft, ritual killing, human sacrifice, "untouchability", caste discrimination, "child witch" superstition, and anti-blasphemy laws in Ghana and Nigeria.

Ben Ingebretson

Speaking Engagements

Lyza Ingraham

Clinical Specialist, ProtoCall Services Inc.

Lyza Ingraham, LLMSW, MPA, is a volunteer at Momentum for Impact. She is also a Clinical Specialist at ProtoCall Services, where she works with a team of counselors to provide crisis counseling and referrals to mental heath services. She completed her Masters of Social Work at Grand Valley State University in 2014.

Roger Scott Jackson

AKA Brother Sam Singleton, Atheist Evangelist

Writer-actor Roger Scott Jackson’s Sam Singleton Atheist Evangelist is a comedic character, not a comedian. His shows are best described as one-man theater pieces. Those with strong views on the existence or nonexistence of God may see what he does as activism, though he insists his aim is simply to get some stuff off his chest: “Somebody else, who had to deal with snake-handling tongues-speakers as a child, might become a homicidal maniac or a teacher at a Bible college. I talk to the world’s most astute ticket-buyers.” He adds, “Though Brother Sam is not strictly autobiographical, he is fabricated from my own experience, which is to say, I start by telling the truth, then heap on lies.” Before Mr. Jackson became a full-time writer-actor, he worked at dozens of jobs, among them: shoeshine boy, fish gutter, taxi driver, copy writer, reporter, and teacher (English, speech, debate). In 2007, Mr. Jackson wrote Patriarchs and Penises and began performing in the Sam Singleton Atheist Evangelist persona. In the years since, he has appeared in hundreds of towns across America.

Website: http://www.samsingleton.com/

Bill Jacobks

Muskegon Community College history professor

Susan Jacoby


Susan Jacoby is the author of ten books, including New York Times bestsellers: The Age of American Unreason (2008) and Alger Hiss and The Battle for History (2009). Her most recent book is entitled The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought (2012). Jacoby is an independent scholar whose work focuses on American intellectual history. She has been a contributor for more than 25 years, on topics including law, religion, medicine, aging, women’s rights, political dissent in the Soviet Union, and Russian literature. Her articles and essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Washington Post Book World, Los Angeles Times Book Review, Newsday, Harper’s, The Nation, Vogue, The American Prospect, Mother Jones, and the AARP Magazine, among others. Susan has also been the recipient of many grants and awards, from the Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Ford Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2001-2002, she was named a fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

Website: www.susanjacoby.com

Jan O’Connell, BS

National Board of Directors for Sierra Club

Jan O’Connell has been fairly active in environmental conservation efforts for many years. She spearheaded a 1.1 million dollar Park Preservation Initiative in Michigan, helped create the Michigan bottle deposit law, and was a co-founder of the Grand Rapids Inner City Outings, a group that takes inner city kids out to the country and connects them with nature. She has been a part of the Sierra Club for 27 years and has a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Biology.

Website: http://www.sierraclub.org/

Steve Jaqua

Founder, Pinstripe Publishing, LLC

Steve Jaqua started Pinstripe Publishing, LLC three years ago with the help and support of a number of dear friends and one big idea. The big idea: design and then publish a board game called, Blasphemy®, the race to the cross . Of late, Steve has started three additional game companies with Poplin Press being the first one of the three to leap out of the gates this past December. Prior to starting Pinstripe Publishing, Steve dabbled in the world of Venture Capital and Artist Management. Steve resides in both Ann Arbor and San Francisco, and drinks copious amounts of Fernet-Branca whenever possible.

Website: www.pinstripepublishing.com

Speaking Engagements

Tharani Jayaratnam

FAOWM member, "white collar coolie"

Speaking Engagements

Jeff Smith Jeff Smith

Director of Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy

GRIID ( www.griid.org ) is an affiliate, along with WYCE (radio station; 88.1FM), GRTV (that shows our video releases of our meetings; www.grtv.org ) and GrandNet, ( www.grandnet.org, that provides IT solutions for non-profit organizations), of the Community Media Center.

Website: http://www.mediamouse.org/griid/

Speaking Engagements

Brandy Johnson

Executive Director, Michigan College Access Network

Before joining MCAN (Michigan College Access Network) as its founding executive director in 2010, Brandy served in the Governor’s Office as college access coordinator. In this capacity, she coordinated the state’s college access and success agenda and advised Governor Granholm on postsecondary education policy issues. Brandy hails from Phoenix, Arizona and attained a Bachelor of Science degree in political science with a concentration in public policy advocacy from Arizona State University. Upon graduation, she served as a Teach for America corps member and taught third grade in a low-income neighborhood in Las Vegas, Nevada. Brandy relocated to Michigan in 2007 and received a Master’s degree in public policy from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. More recently, Brandy was named the 2013 Michigan Champion for Children by the Michigan Association of School Administrators and in 2014 she received the National College Access Network’s Executive Leader of Excellence Award. Follow @MCANBrandy on Twitter!

Ellen Johnson, MA

President of American Atheists, Executive Director of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee (GAMPAC)

Ellen Johnson received her Masters Degree in Political Science from the New School for Social Research in New York. She was the Chairwoman of the Godless Americans March on Washington (GAMOW) Task Force, which in November of ‘02, brought thousands of non- theists of all stripes to the nation’s capitol for an unprecedented demonstration of unity in that call for acknowledgment in our country. Johnson also testified before the National Commission on Civil Rights, concerning the problem of religious proselytizing in the public schools. Ms. Johnson is a leading advocate of cooperation and mutual respect within America’s diverse Atheist- nonbelievers community. She serves as Executive Director of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee (GAMPAC), a nationwide initiative seeking to elect Atheists to public office.

Website: http://www.atheists.org/welcome.html

Speaking Engagements

Les Johnson

Deputy Manager for the Advanced Concepts Office, NASA

Les Johnson is a NASA physicist, manager, author, husband and father. By day, he serves as the Deputy Manager for the Advanced Concepts Office at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. In his spare time he writes popular science books and articles, reads science fiction, and fulfills the role of husband and father to his two children.

John Joldersma, PhD

retired school teacher

John Joldersma is a member of FAoWM, reading specialist, retired school teacher and rock hound. Joldersma has taught in various places—some quite rough, and received his doctorate in reading.

Speaking Engagements

Edwin Kagin, JD

Founder and director of Camp Quest, www.Camp-Quest.com

Mr. Edwin Frederick Kagin, J.D., is a founding member, former Vice President and erstwhile board member of FIG (the Free Inquiry Group, Inc.) of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky and is a published writer of poetry and prose that appears regularly in FIG Leaves, the newsletter of the Free Inquiry Group, and elsewhere, as Kagin’s Column. He is co-author of the book Fundamentals of Extremism; The Christian Right in America (Kimberly Blaker, ed.; New Boston Books, 2003). His book, Baubles of Blasphemy is a collection of some of his writings. Mr. Kagin was born in Greenville, South Carolina, on November 26, 1940. He is an attorney in Union, Kentucky. Kagin is the originator, founder and director of Camp Quest, the nation’s first residential secular summer camp for children of atheists and other freethinkers (www.Camp-Quest.com), with the motto: It’s Beyond Belief!

Website: www.edwinkagin.com.

Speaking Engagements

Shadia Kanaan

Shadia Kanaan is an American Palestinian Arab who was born in Nablus, Palestine in 1947. She was schooled in the Quakers Friends Girls School in Ramallah , Palestine and the Rosary College in Amman , Jordan. She graduated with a BA degree in 1969 from the University of Jordan in Economics and Public Administration. She is married to Dr. Azzam Kanaan, a neurologist who is practicing in Kalamazoo, Michigan since 1975. They have four sons. Shadia pursued a Masters degree in Political Science and graduated from Western Michigan University in 1997. Shadia is active in the Peace movement in Kalamazoo. She is a member of the KNOW, Kalamazoo Nonviolent Opponents to War, The Kalamazoo Interfaith Coalition for Peace and Justice and is a cofounder of the Kalamazoo Women in Black. She works relentlessly to bring understanding to the Palestinian /Israeli conflict and advocates for a peaceful and just resolution of that conflict.

David Karowe, PhD

Professor of Biological Sciences, Western Michigan University

David Karowe received a BS in Biology from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Michigan. He joined the faculty in Biological Sciences at Western Michigan University in 1996, where he teaches courses in climate change, ecology, and evolution. David is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan Biological Station, where he teaches ecology, runs a program to train undergraduates in climate change research, and conducts his own research on the effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 on plant nutritional quality and chemical defenses.

Jessica Kelton


Jessica Kelton graduated cum laude with a B.A. in economics and a minor in business through the Honors College at the University of North Texas in 2006. After an internship and subsequent position as a research assistant at the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce, she returned to the University of North Texas and in 2009 completed her M.S. in economics with a focus in econometrics and labor economics. After a year of studying in the economics doctoral program at Michigan State University, Jessica decided to leave academia and instead focus her career on activism and economic development. She has currently been working to educate her community about the realities of the economy and the simple logic needed to solve some of the gravest problems we face, including high unemployment and poverty. In addition to the basic economics talks she gives around the Greater Lansing area, Jessica teaches economics courses at Lansing Community College. She also consults for various nonprofit organizations and campaigns in the Lansing area and works as a program analyst for a statewide economic development organization.

Richard Kessler, Esq.

Staff attorney at the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan

Richard Kessler, Esq. received his juris doctorate from the University of Michigan Law School in 1982. Before opening his immigration law firm in 1987, Mr. Kessler had been a staff attorney at the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the National Lawyers Guild Immigration Project, the director of the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, and past chair of the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance project (MMLAP).

Douglas Kindschi, PhD

Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy, Grand Valley State University

Douglas Kindschi, Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy, Grand Valley State University, previously served for over 20 years as the Dean of Science and Mathematics. P. Douglas Kindschi’s interest in the discussion of the sciences and religion goes back to his graduate studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School and his leading a campus ministry science-religion program while completing his PhD in mathematics at the University of Wisconsin. At GVSU he developed the course: Science, Mathematics, and Religion: Ways of Knowing, which received a Templeton Course Award. He founded and has led for the past seven years, a faculty discussion reading group in science and religion. He currently directs a new Local Societies Initiative program which is bringing together an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional, and interfaith dialogue for the greater Grand Rapids area; The Grand Dialogue.

Website: www.GrandDialogue.org

Speaking Engagements

Sheril Kirshenbaum

Director of The Energy Poll, University of Texas at Austin

Sheril Kirshenbaum works to enhance public understanding of science and improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. She is the Director of The Energy Poll at The University of Texas at Austin and the author of two books, including Unscientific America, coauthored with Chris Mooney. Her writing regularly appears in magazines, newspapers, and scientific journals and she has been featured in the Best American Science Writing anthology series. Previously, Sheril worked at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, and as a Senate staffer on energy climate, and ocean policy. For more information, visit her website (sherilkirshenbaum.com) and follow her on twitter @Sheril_.

Speaking Engagements

Bernie Klein

Former Officer, Board of Directors, Final Exit Network

Bernie Klein, former officer of the Final Exit Network Board of Directors, worked in engineering for 32 years. After leaving that field he went to the University of Michigan, earning his Masters in Social Work and working as a chemical dependency therapist until retirement. In addition to his 'day job', Bernie has been actively involved with many volunteer programs throughout the years, including a food rescue program, a child bereavement program, Motor Wheels, and for the last 21+ years, a patient escort at Planned Parenthood. He has served on the Board of Hemlock of Michigan and the Board of Final Exit Network. Final Exit Network is a national volunteer organization dedicated to legalizing physician aid in dying and assisted suicide. He is also a trained Exit Guide for this right to die organization. Additionally, he serves on the Board of Directors at RX For Care at End of Life. Bernie has been active in the right-to-die movement since 1998.

Cliffe Knechtle

Pastor, Grace Community Church, New Canaan, Connecticut

Cliff Knecthle is the pastor at Grace Community Church which is located in New Canaan, Connecticut. He runs the Give Me An Answer Ministry. He has traveled all over the nation and worked with various churches to discuss his beliefs about “the reasonableness of Christianity." Following his graduation from Gordon-Cornwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts he worked with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship.

Website: http://givemeananswer.org

Mira Krishnan, PhD

Principal Consultant, Mira Krishnan LLC

Mira Krishnan is a consultant and neuropsychologist. Her firm specializes in supporting diverse populations and people with disabilities. She advocates on the state and national levels, and is a member of the Board of Equality Michigan. She received her PhD from the University of Florida.

Kristin VandenBerg Kristin VandenBerg

Freethought member

Speaking Engagements

James Kulig

Freethought Association Member

Jim has been involved in Freethought Association/CFI for seven years. As a lifelong atheist and proponent of science and critical thinking he believes it is important for the general public to have a firm grasp of these areas, which is clearly not the case at present. When and where possible, he tries to remedy this, knowing that he also has something more to learn tomorrow. Having worked in a number of fields in which he has absolutely no interest, he finds himself ungainfully unemployed at present.

Speaking Engagements

Paul Kurtz, PhD

Founder and Chairman, Center for Inquiry

Paul Kurtz is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, and Prometheus Books, and editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry Magazine. He is also founder and chairman of the Center for Inquiry, Transnational. He is a former Co-President of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). BA, New York University; MA and PhD, Columbia University. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Humanist Laureate and President of the International Academy of Humanism. He is the author or editor of 45 books and over 800 articles and reviews. Newspaper stories and interviews with him have appeared in the New York Times, Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine, Washington Post, Associated Press, Panorama (Italy), Readers Digest, Los Angeles Times, US News & World Report, Buffalo News, TV Guide, Chicago Tribune, TWA Ambassador, American Way (American Airlines), Washington Times, Newsday, Newsweek, Le Monde, Publishers Weekly, Christianity Today, Toronto Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Hartford Courant, Pravda, Investia, Atlanta Constitution, Science News, Boston Globe, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Times of India, San Diego News, Philosophy Now, et al. He has appeared on many major TV and radio programs in North America and worldwide, including National Public Radio, HBO, CNN, FOX, ABC, CBS, NBC, Today Show, Good Morning America, Nightline, Meet the Press (Los Angeles), Voice of America, Mike Wallace, Michael Jackson, Phil Donohue, Associated Press Radio, Dateline (ABC), BBC, CBC (Canada), AM Canada, ABC (Australian Radio), Smithsonian Radio, Science Friday (NPR), Milt Rosenberg (Chicago), Merv Griffith, Paul Harvey, Barry Farber Show, MacNeil/Lehrer Report, Larry King Live, The 700 Club, Sally Jesse Raphael, Unsolved Mysteries, Oprah Winfrey, RAI TV (Italy), Brazilean, Korean, Russian, French, German TV, et al. Paul Kurtz has lectured widely in North America and throughout the world, including Oxford, Cambridge, University College (London), University of London, La Sorbonne, University of Heidelberg, Free University of Brussels, University of Warsaw, Cleveland State University, University of Iowa, Franklin & Marshall College, Sydney (Australia), Beijing and Shanghai Universities, Moscow State University, St. Petersburg University, Utrecht University, Keele University, Trinity College (Dublin), Williams College, Brock University, University of Toronto, York University, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton, University of Chicago, Rutgers, UCLA, University of Southern California, University of California (Irvine, San Diego, Berkeley), San Francisco State, City University of New York, University of Nevada, Columbia, New York University, American University, George Washington University, Richmond University, Temple University, The Franklin Institute, The Smithsonian, University of Illinois, University of Colorado, University of Kansas, et al.

Website: www.centerforinquiry.net

Speaking Engagements

Robert Kuttner

Economic and Financial Journalist

In September 2008, veteran economic and financial journalist Robert Kuttner published a prophetic book predicting the financial crash and Barack Obama’s election, and pointing to the recovery program needed to revive America. In Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency, Kuttner argues there is no middle ground. Obama will either be “a great president or a failed president.” Obama’s Challenge marks Kuttner’s eighth book in what has proven a distinguished career with positions as columnist for Business Week for 20 years, national staff writer for The Washington Post during the Watergate era, national policy correspondent for the New England Journal of Medicine, chief investigator for the US Senate Banking Committee, columnist for Boston Globe, as well as teaching stints at Brandeis and Harvard. His World View presentation is “The Challenge of Rescuing the Financial System.”

Speaking Engagements

Nica Lalli

Art Educator, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Nica Lalli is an art educator working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She also writes a weekly column in the Brooklyn Paper. She is the author of Nothing: Something to Believe In her newly published and recently acclaimed memoir of growing up nonreligious. In her memoir she also explores how to relate to devout relatives, the need to “come out” as a nonbeliever, and what she does believe in, if she doesn’t believe in God.

Speaking Engagements

Charles LaRue, Board Member, CFI–Michigan

Charles LaRue was practically born drawing, and found in childhood that he could only understand the visual world if he explored it the way an artist does: breaking it down and building it back up again from its components. He graduated from Kendall College of Art & Design (illustration major; design minor) with an Associates of Fine Arts degree in 1982 and did commercial and freelance art and design. He was simultaneously beginning to explore the world of fine art painting. When he discovered alkyd resin-based paints, he was hooked. His art has been displayed in numerous galleries, private, corporate and public collections, and he has pieces that have been purchased for, and have traveled to, foreign nations, including France, Greece, and South Korea. He has won numerous awards in competitions and has been involved in solo and group art shows for many years. Charles was one of the early members of the Freethought Association of West Michigan, now CFI–Michigan, and is a past Freethinker of the Year Award recipient. Charles has worked for over half of his life with individuals with different challenges and impairments. Those with sensory disorders drove his curiosity toward exploring human perception, with a special interest in visual perception. Charles is a naturalistic, secular humanist who loves science as much as art. Some of his artwork is based on his understanding of neurology and visual perception, acquired through his pursuits as an autodidact.

Ian Lawton

Executive Minister, C3 Exchange

Ian originates from Australia and the story is that of one man’s deep mission to nourish the spiritual nature of humanity. It has been an interesting journey since Ian was ordained as an Anglican Priest in Sydney, Australia, in 1994 and later completed a second degree in sociology. Sydney is one of the most conservative Anglican dioceses in the world and Ian never fit into that church culture. He was always more interested in connecting with the people who don’t go to church; the homeless people, the broken people, the creative people, the liberated people, the recovering people, the inquiring people, the family people, those who put their humanity before their ideology. In 2000, Ian left Sydney to find a more open place to explore a relevant and evolving theology. He went on to be the Vicar of St. Matthew's in downtown Auckland, New Zealand for four years where he was exposed to Maori language and culture, mixed with a stimulating community; and launched an online progressive network. Bishop John Shelby Spong then convinced Ian to come to the United States to lead an emerging group of progressive Christians in Michigan. Today Ian calls Grand Haven, Michigan home where he lives with his wife Meg and three children Hugo, Darcy and Raina. C3 Exchange (formerly Christ Community Church) in West Michigan (of all the most unlikely places) has a sizable population of church alumni. The C3 community is an incredibly talented, impressive group of human beings. Ian is the leader and teacher of the C3 community. Since moving to the U.S. Ian’s sense of sacred has broadened to embrace all things. Ian has taken up meditation and Zen training which have helped to remove any tendency to divide the world up into good and bad, holy and profane.

Speaking Engagements

Roland Leggett

Director of Field Organizing, Equality Michigan

Roland Leggett is the Director of Field Organizing at Equality Michigan – the only statewide LGBT focused advocacy organization in the state which focuses on Policy issues as well as Victim services relating to discrimination and hate crimes. Roland’s focus is grassroots organizing and public education for Equality Michigan. The overreaching goal of Equality Michigan is to amend the Elliot Lawson civil rights law to include gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression. Prior to working at Equality Michigan, Leggett was a field organizer for the ACLU of Michigan. During his time there he worked to bring together young progressive people throughout Detroit and became well versed in the legal disparities facing the LGBT movement. Roland has a degree in Journalism from Wayne State University.

Jason Lemieux

Director of Government Affairs, Center for Inquiry Michigan

Jason Lemieux is the Director of Government Affairs at Center for Inquiry. As a veteran of both the U.S. military and Capitol Hill, Jason leads CFI’s efforts in advancing public policy based on reason, science, and humanist values. As a former U.S. Marine and serving three tours of duty in Iraq, Sgt. Lemieux led an intelligence and infantry team in Ramadi. Coming home, he served as a spokesperson and board member for Iraq Veterans Against the War. Jason earned his master’s degree from Columbia University in International Affairs, and was a fellow in the congressional offices of Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY), and most recently served as a legislative correspondent for U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). Jason’s written work has appeared in Time MagazineNew York Daily News, and Huffington Post, and he has appeared on PBS Newshour, Al Jazeera English, and even Fox and Friends.

Website: www.centerforinquiry.net/opp

Sarah M. Levin

Director of Grassroots and Community Programs, Secular Coalition for America

Sarah Levin graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from American University, where she served as president of the university’s Secular Student Alliance affiliate. Since joining the Secular Coalition in 2013, she has managed and grown the Secular Coalition’s state advocacy program and implemented various grassroots campaigns on the national and state level, including: the 2014 “Knit a Brick” campaign to protest the Hobby Lobby v. Burwell decision; the 2015 (now annual) Bad Bill Madness; and a new political party organizing initiative, launched in 2016 when the first ever Secular Caucus was established at the Texas Democratic Convention and three secular policy resolutions were incorporated into the party platform. Prior to joining the Secular Coalition, Sarah completed her AmeriCorps service by serving low-income immigrant and refugee families as a community liaison at the Greenbrier Learning Center in Arlington, Virginia. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys learning new languages, planning her next trip, and putting Frank’s Red Hot sauce on everything.

Website: https://secular.org/

Speaking Engagements

Ronald Lindsay, PhD

Chief Executive Officer, Center for Inquiry

Ronald A. Lindsay, J.D., Ph.D. is president & CEO of the Center for Inquiry. He is by training and experience both a lawyer and a philosopher. An honors graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, he practiced for twenty-six years with the national law firm of Seyfarth Shaw LLP prior to joining the Center for Inquiry, where he has been president and CEO since June 2008. Dr. Lindsay received his Ph.D. from Georgetown University, specializing in bioethics. He has had articles published in peer-reviewed journals such as The Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics, the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, and The American Journal of Bioethics. His first book, Future Bioethics: Overcoming Taboos, Myths, and Dogmas, was published by Prometheus Books in June 2008. He is the author of the entry on “Euthanasia” for the prestigious International Encyclopedia of Ethics (Wiley Blackwell 2013). Dr. Lindsay is pleased to announce that Pitchstone Publishing will be publishing his second book, God Can’t Tell Us What To Do, with an expected release date of November 2014.

Speaking Engagements

Dan Linford

PhD student, Purdue University Philosophy Department

Dan Linford is a PhD student in the philosophy department at Purdue University. He was previously a visiting instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies at Christopher Newport University. He holds a master’s degree in philosophy from Virginia Tech and a bachelor’s in physics from University of Rochester. He writes for two blogs, Philosophical Percolations and Secular Spectrum, and his work has been published in journals, magazines, books, and newspapers.

Nick Little

Vice President & Legal Director, Center for Inquiry

Nick Little is the Vice President and General Counsel of the Center for Inquiry. In this role, he oversees both the Center’s in-house legal work, and its outside litigation.

Nick graduated from the University of Oxford with an honors degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, and the University of Warwick with a Master’s degree in Labor Relations. He had an intensive public speaking history at university, winning both the Oxford University and European Parliamentary Debating Championships. After moving to the United States and working in the finance industry, Nick returned to education and was awarded his JD, with membership of the Order of the Coif, from Vanderbilt University School of Law, where he also served as Articles Editor of the Law Review.

Nick practiced as an antitrust litigator with Howrey, LLP, in Washington, DC, but found his practice focusing more on pro bono matters. In that capacity, he represented a Sudanese man expelled from Saudi Arabia for converting from Islam to Christianity, winning him asylum in the United States; a group of hearing impaired patients challenging the provision of sign language interpreters in Maryland hospitals; mentally ill patients in New York fighting inadequate funding; as well as criminal and police misconduct matters.

Nick joined CFI in 2013 as Legal Director, and has worked for the recognition of secular celebrants across the country, as well as submitting amicus briefs on CFI’s behalf to the Supreme Court in cases including Hobby Lobby v. Burwell, Obergefell v. Hodges, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, Zubik v. Burwell, and Trinity Lutheran v. Pauley, as well as circuit and district court cases. He supervised CFI’s Florida litigation, and is currently examining multiple possibilities for further action to protect secular humanist values and skeptical pro-science positions. Nick has involved himself in multiple local situations where the separation of church and state has been threatened. He has also worked closely with Michael De Dora and CFI’s Office of Public Policy on lobbying matters, as well as providing advice on asylum issues related to CFI’s work with threatened bloggers in Bangladesh and across the world.

Speaking Engagements

Duncan Littlefair, PhD

Former minister of Fountain Street Church,

Speaking Engagements

Paul Loebe

Paul Loebe was raised in a radical religious environment and joined the military under the auspices of Christian Dominion. During his first tour overseas Paul questioned his faith for the first time and, over the course of a couple years and a great amount of research, gradually accepted his atheism. Witnessing the unbridled state-sanctioned Christian proselytization and oftentimes discrimination by extreme Christians in the military Paul signed on with Justin Griffith who had started the Rock Beyond Belief movement. Ever since then, he has been involved in activism for the awareness of military atheists and governmental secularism in general.

Speaking Engagements

John Loftus

John is a former Christian minister and apologist with M.A., M.Div., and Th.M. degrees in Philosophy, Theology, and the Philosophy of Religion from Lincoln Christian Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. While in school John majored under Dr William Lane Craig, the infamous leading evangelical apologist/debater of our generation. John also studied in a Ph.D. program at Marquette University for a year and a half in the area of Theology and Ethics. John authored the book, Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity, and one titled The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Decide Which Religion is True, both published by the premier atheist publisher of our generation, Prometheus Books. He has edited two other important books, The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, and The End of Christianity. He also co-wrote a debate book (with Dr. Randal Rauser) titled, God or Godless. (That’s five published books in five years!) John has traveled America speaking for and entertaining audiences from Ohio, to New York, to Louisiana, to Texas, to Los Angeles, to Colorado, to Wisconsin, and many places in-between. He even did a gig in Toronto, Canada, and somehow passed the border checkpoint as an atheist.

Website: http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-prometheus-books-interview.html

Michael Lombardo, PhD

Professor of Biology, Grand Valley State University

Michael Lombardo is currently a professor of biology at Grand Valley State University. He received his master's degree in Zoology and PhD in Ecology from Rutgers University. Dr. Lombardo is currently on sabbatical working on an evolutionary analysis of the origin of male athletic competition. He is also interested in the evolution of behavior. His research includes examining, both theoretically and empirically, the role of sexually transmitted microbes (e.g., viruses, bacteria, and fungi) in the ecological and evolutionary dynamics of mating systems. Dr. Lombardo's work has been published in the Anatomical Record, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, and Animal Behavior, among others. He is also a member of many Scientific & Professional Societies including the Animal Behavior Society, the International Society for Behavioral Ecology, the Michigan Society of Fellows, and the Society for the Study of Evolution.

Leighann Lord

Leighann Lord (Ph.D, honorary) is a veteran stand-up comedian and the author of several humor books including Dict Jokes and Real Women Do It Standing Up. She is the creator of the People with Parents podcast (where she talks about the role reversal between adult children and aging parents); and is a former co-host on StarTalkRadio,with Neil de Grasse Tyson. Leighann has been seen on Comedy Central, HBO, and The View, and was recently seen on Netflix in the Def Comedy Jam25th Anniversary Special. She was a national finalist in the American Black Film Festival-HBO Comedy Wings Competition and received the 2019 Humanist Arts Award from the American Humanist Association. Leighann is currently a co-host for Point of Inquiry, the podcast for the Center for Inquiry and is hosting CFI’s Skeptical Inquirer Presents virtual Lecture series. She is the creator of the new YouTube show, “Hanging In There with Leighann Lord”and has a daily social media post called #LightheartedHistory, which takes a humorous, tongue and cheek approach to random events in history. She is also a proud member of House Ravenclaw (with a dash of Slytherin). Follower her on Twitter @LeighannLord and visit VeryFunnyLady.com

Kris Lou, PhD

Assistant Dean of International Programs and Cultural Studies, Aquinas College

Speaking Engagements

Kary Love


Kary Love is a 1977 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law. He runs a private practice in West Olive Michigan and concentrates on personal injury, business, civil, constitutional, and disability rights law. He has lectured on and published articles relating to the historical development of the Bill of Rights, the War on Drugs as a War on the Bill of Rights, the USA Patriot Act, and other recent actions in the war on terror and the civil and human rights implications of same.

Kathryn Lynnes, BS,Juris Doctor

Environmental consultant, Juris Doctor degree from the University of Oregon School of Law.

Kathryn Lynnes graduated with honors from Michigan Technological University with a BS in civil engineering. After working as an environmental engineer for the U.S. Forest Service in Alaska for two years, she returned to school and earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Oregon School of Law. Ms. Lynnes’s academic and professional accomplishments were achieved despite a life-long struggle with bipolar disorder. After a severe episode of suicidal depression she chose to “come out of the closet” about her illness and publicly advocate for persons with mental illness. She has told her story to local and national media and was featured in articles on mental health insurance parity in The New York Times and Kiplinger’s’ Personal Finance magazine.

Website: http://www.michigan.gov/mentalhealth/0,1607,7-201--85124--,00.html

Michael Macaluso, MA, PhD Candidate (ABD)

Professor of Sociology, GVSU

Michael Macaluso is a professor of sociology at Grand Valley State University. His teaching concentrates on Race and Ethnicity, Environmental Racism, Sociological Theory, and Social Movement Theory. He has a Master’s Degree in Sociology and is currently a doctoral candidate at Western Michigan University working on his dissertation. He has been an organizer for the Michigan Sociological Association, and a GVSU Climate Study board member/organizer.

Erica Allie Mack

Member, CFI Michigan

Erica has been part of the transgender community for over 30 years and most recently has become significantly more of an activist. She describes herself as being a full-time tightrope walker learning the art of simultaneously balancing two lives in two different genders. Most of the time successfully. She started out her career as a youth minister. Attempting to live a conservative life style as a way of holding back and hiding her true feelings. Most of the time unsuccessfully. Through almost 39 years of learning how to dance with a very conservative partially disabled Christian wife. Erica has gained a perspective that few seem to have and a desire to share her story in a nonthreatening way with all people, conservative and liberal alike. In a time where tribalism abounds, Erica remains optimistic and hopeful for a bright future where we can all learn to prosper together.

Josef Gregory Mahoney, PhD

Assistant Professor, Liberal Studies Department, GVSU

Josef Gregory Mahoney received a Ph.D. in Human Sciences, an interdisciplinary program in language, culture, and philosophy, from George Washington University in 2003. Previously received degrees include an M.Phil. in Human Sciences from George Washington University in 2002, an M.P.A. in Public Administration from University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1995, and an M.S.P.H. in International Health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1994. He completed post-graduate studies in economics at Johns Hopkins University S.A.I.S. in 1997. His research and teaching interests center on classical Marxism, political praxis, and philosophy, with the bulk of his research occurring in China. He has worked as a visiting scholar at Minzu University (Beijing), Shaanxi Normal University (Xian). He is also the first non-Chinese to serve formally as a dissertation director at Peking University; to this end and others, he has an ongoing relationship with PKU’s School of Marxism. In June 2009, he presented two lectures at the national Academia de Ciencias in Havana, Cuba. He has recent publications in Science and Society, the Journal of Chinese Political Studies, and Political Affairs, among others.

Azhar Majeed

Associate Director of Legal and Public Advocacy, Foundation for Individual Rights In Education (FIRE)

Azhar Majeed, a native of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, received a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in History from the University of Michigan in 2004. He is also a 2007 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. As an undergraduate, his academic interests included comparative constitutional law and political philosophy, particularly from the time period of the Enlightenment. During law school, Azhar represented the University of Michigan at the 2006 Tulane International Moot Court competition. Azhar was one of FIRE’s inaugural Robert H. Jackson Legal Fellows and was also a FIRE legal intern in 2005.

Marshall Grate Marshall Grate, JD

Clark Hill, PLC - Board of Directors of the Michigan Council for School Attorneys, Law degree summa cum laude from the Indiana University School of Law in 1981

Marshall Grate specializes in Public School Law, Labor Law, and Employment Law representing municipal corporations and private sector employers in all aspects of Labor and Employment matters including: Personal Administration, Personnel Administration, Wage and Hour Employment Discrimination, Family and Medical Leave Act, Unfair Labor Practices, Collective Bargaining, and Labor Arbitration. Attorney Grate has successfully defended clients in Bench Trials, Jury Trials, and Administrative Proceedings and he is licensed to practice in all state and federal courts in Michigan and Indiana. He has been admitted to the 6th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals and the 7th Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals as well as the United States Supreme Court.

Website: http://grate-marshall-w-attorney.nhft.org/407723.html

Danny Mcgee

Director of Sustainability, Well House

Danny McGee is the Director of Sustainability at Well House. Danny started as a volunteer in the Spring of 2014 and joined as an employee at the end of August of the same year. Before moving to Grand Rapids in November 2013, Danny was working to improve housing conditions on Native American Reservations in Montana and South Dakota. In 2009 He lead a cross-country bike trip to raise money for affordable housing. At Well House, Danny works in a number of different areas, including coordinating volunteers, reducing the cost of operations, and a little bit of IT work. His favorite part about working at Well House is working with volunteers and the tenants. In his spare time, he also works as a sustainability consultant, loves to rock climb, bike, or do anything outdoors.

Dale McGowan, PhD

Author & Lecturer, "Parenting Beyond Belief" and "Raising Freethinkers"; Foundation Beyond Belief

Dale McGowan left a 15-year career as a college professor in 2006 to pursue writing full-time. Reviewers called his satirical novel Calling Bernadette’s Bluff “an undoubted triumph of satire” and “a riot.” In addition to editing and co-authoring Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion (“irresistible…a compelling read”—Newsweek), Dale co-authored “Raising Freethinkers released in January 2009. He writes the secular parenting blog The Meming of Life as well as parenting columns for Humanist Network News, and edits the Humanist Parenting website for the Institute for Humanist Studies in Albany, New York. In December 2008 he was named Harvard Humanist of the Year. Dale holds degrees in physical anthropology and music theory from UC Berkeley as well as a Ph.D. in composition from the University of Minnesota. He and his wife Becca live with their three children near Atlanta, Georgia.

Dennis McKinsey

McKinsey is the author of the book The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy as well as Biblical Errancy, A Reference Guide. Both are published by Prometheus Books. Dennis McKinsey believes that most Americans have only seen or heard the good things about the Bible, without any exposure to its many shortcomings. McKinsey argues that the lack of criticism of biblical writings has wrongly affected millions of people in their beliefs, allowing many to believe the Bible to be the infallible word of God. He maintains that it is becoming imperative not only that the Bible’s inadequacies be exposed, but that its negative teachings be corrected.

Website: http://www.geocities.com/klomckin@ameritech.net/

Speaking Engagements

Hemant Mehta

Author, I Sold My Soul on eBay, Blogger at FriendlyAtheist.com

Hemant Mehta graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with degrees in Mathematics and Biology. While there, he also helped establish their first secular student group, Students WithOut Religious Dogma (SWORD). He earned his Masters in Math Education at DePaul University and currently teaches high school math in the suburbs of Chicago. He has worked with the Center for Inquiry and the Secular Coalition for America, received scholarships from American Atheists and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and now serves on the board of directors for Foundation Beyond Belief (a charity organization targeting non-theistic donors) and is the former chair of the board of the Secular Student Alliance (which creates and supports college atheist groups nationwide). Hemant's book, I Sold My Soul on eBay (WaterBrook Press), was released in 2007. His blog, the winner of the 2011 Bloggie award for Best Weblog About Religion, can be read at FriendlyAtheist.com.

Website: FriendlyAtheist.com

Figen Mekik, PhD

Associate Professor of Geology, Grand Valley State University

With prior experience as a visiting scientist in the department of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of British Columbia and in the department of Marine Chemistry at Woods Hole Oceanography Institution, professor Mekik is currently a tenured Associate Professor of Geology at Grand Valley State University. In addition to Climate Change, her research interests include such topics as Paleooceanography and Marine Biogeochemistry. A popular teacher, Dr. Mekik was recently nominated by her students to deliver a talk in Grand Valley State’s “Last Lecture” series.

Website: http://diamond.gvsu.edu/mekikf/

Speaking Engagements

Bill Merriman, graphic artist


Bill Merriman is a graphic artist and has done considerable study and research in philosophy, chemistry, biology, physiology, transcendental meditation, ethology, neurology, genetics, history and mythology.

Website: http://www.iserv.net/~merriman/pairbond.htm.

William Merriman

Speaking Engagements

CFI Michigan

Greg Miklashek, PhD

psychiatrist, Pine Rest Christian Hospital and Forest View Psych. Hospital

Speaking Engagements

Brian Mikula, Dr

Chiropractor and Adjunct Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Grand Rapids Community College, Grand Rapids Community College

Dr Mikula is a chiropractor and Adjunct Professor of Anatomy and Physiology at Grand Rapids Community College

Speaking Engagements

William Charles Millar, MA

Professor of Astronomy, Grand Rapids Community College

Professor Millar is Professor of Astronomy at Grand Rapids Community College and has been teaching the subject for over twenty years. He is very involved with local amateur astronomy groups and belongs to The Planetary Society and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific and has traveled to Europe and South America to observe solar eclipses. In addition to his degree in astronomy, he holds a Masters degree in physics from Western Michigan University. His book ,The Amateur Astronomer’s Introduction to the Celestial Sphere is an introduction to the night sky for amateur astronomers who desire a deeper understanding of the principles and observations of naked- eye astronomy. Professor Millar has taught for 26 years at GRCC; with subjects ranging from mathematics and physics to astronomy and is in the process of garnering his PhD.

Kevin Miller

Speaking Engagements

Seth Mnookin

Author and Contributing Editor, Vanity Fair

Seth Mnookin is the author of The Panic Virus: A True Story of Medicine, Science, and Fear (2010). He is also the author of the 2006 New York Times-bestseller Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top and in 2004, Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media, was a Washington Post Best Book of the Year. Since 2005, Seth has been a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, where he’s written about the American media presence in Iraq, Bloomberg News, and Stephen Colbert. In 2002 and 2003, he was a senior writer at Newsweek, where he wrote the media column “Raw Copy” and also covered politics and popular culture. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including New York, Wired, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Spin, Slate, Salon.com, and other publications. A former music columnist for The New York Observer, he began his journalism career as a rock critic for the now-defunct webzine Addicted to Noise and has also worked as a crime reporter at The Palm Beach Post, a city hall reporter at the Forward, a presidential campaign reporter at Brill’s Content, and a jack-of-all-trades at Inside.com. He graduated from Harvard College in 1994 with a degree in History and Science, and was a 2004 Joan Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. A native of Newton, Massachusetts, he and his wife currently live in Brooklyn with their thirteen-year-old cat, their six-year-old dog, and their one-year-old son.

Speaking Engagements

Chris Mooney

Washington correspondent for Seed Magazine

Chris Mooney is Washington correspondent for Seed magazine and a senior correspondent for the American Prospect. He focuses on issues at the intersection of science and politics, and is author of the bestselling book The Republican War on Science, dubbed “a landmark in contemporary political reporting” by Salon.com and a “well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing’s assault on science and scientists” by Scientific American. His next book, entitled Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming, will be published in July of 2007 by Harcourt Books. Among other accolades, Chris was recently named one of Wired magazine’s ten “sexiest geeks.” In addition, The Republican War on Science was named a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times book prize in the category of “Science and Technology,” and Chris’s 2005 Mother Jones feature story about ExxonMobil, conservative think tanks, and climate change was nominated for a National Magazine Award in the “public interest” category (as part of a cover package on global warming).

Website: http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/about.php

Carolee Moore

Mentalist & Magician

Carolee Moore has been an American mentalist Since 1997. In the early 90’s Carolee began studying the art of mental magic and mindreading. She practices a rare combination of psychological and perceptual manipulation in entertainment.

Christopher Moore (Mystopher)

Mentalist & Magician

Mystopher is an American mentalist and magician. He continues to study magic theory, rare memory techniques, body language, hypnosis, linguistics, non-verbal communication, theatre and stand up comedy.

Website: http://mystopher.com/index2.html

Speaking Engagements

Jacques "Jack" Mullah, PhD

Physics Instructor, Ferris State University

Speaking Engagements

Gonzalo Munevar, PhD

Gonzalo Munevar has a Ph.D. in philosophy of science from the University of California at Berkeley. He has published several books in that area, in both English and Spanish. Most of his research now is in neuroscience, particularly in doing brain-scanning experiments about the self (fMRI) and consciousness. He presently teaches at Lawrence Technological University in Michigan. He has published articles about conceptual issues in space exploration and has also published poetry and fiction, including a novel (The Master of Fate). In addition, he is the author of two blogs: Alex in Femiland: A Politically Incorrect Novel of Morals, and The Philosophy of Space Exploration.

Speaking Engagements

Dennis Murphy, BS


Dennis Murphy is an engineer, mountain bike enthusiast and avid reader. This was his fourth presentation to our group, having given talks on Ayn Rand, gun control issues, and the Federal Reserve previously.

Website: http://atheists.meetup.com/47/members/3306053/

Speaking Engagements

David Myers, PhD

Professor of Psychology, Hope College

Social psychologist David Myers is a communicator of psychological science to college students and the general public. His scientific writings, supported by National Science Foundation grants and fellowships and recognized by the Gordon Allport Prize, have appeared in three dozen academic periodicals, including Science, the American Scientist, the American Psychologist, and Psychological Science. David has digested psychological research for the public through articles in four dozen magazines, from Scientific American to Christian Century, and through seventeen books, including general interest books and textbooks. He is a Seattle native, an all-weather bicyclist, and an avid noontime basketball player and fan of his college’s basketball teams. David and Carol Myers married while undergraduates at Whitworth College and are parents of three adult children, sons Peter and Andrew, and a daughter, Laura. Carol is the creator of a world class website offering information and resources related to the real Santa Claus, St. Nicholas (aka Saint Nicholas).

Website: http://www.davidmyers.org/Brix?pageID=1

PZ Myers, PhD

Associate Professor of Biology, University of Minnesota

Paul Zachary “PZ” Myers is a professor of biology at the University of Minnesota Morris. He is the author of the popular science blog Pharyngula (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/). His blog has been honored as the “top-ranked blog written by a scientist” by Nature magazine. He is currently an associate professor of biology at UMM, works with zebrafish in the field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo), and also cultivates an interest in cephalopods. Myers is a public critic of intelligent design and the creationist movement and is active in promoting and defending evolution.  In addition, Myers is an unabashed “godless liberal”, a vocal skeptic, questioning religion, superstition, spirituality and pseudoscience. 

Website: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/

Speaking Engagements

John Nader

Professor of Economics and Management, Grand Valley State University, Davenport University

John Nader is the Professor of Economics and Management at Davenport University and Instructor of Economics at Grand Valley State University. He teaches economics and finance at various schools. He has taught at GVSU, Davenport University, and Ferris State University. Professor Nader does private consulting work for a number of clients including Nike, specializing in economic analysis, strategy and pricing. He has graduate degrees in both economics and finance (University of Toronto) and Undergraduate degrees in economics, and mathematics from Aquinas College. His hobbies include running and reading.

Speaking Engagements

Carlos Navarette, PhD

Asst. Professor of Psychology, Michigan State University

Carlos Navarette is an Assistant Professor with Michigan State University Department of Psychology. He is the Principal Investigator of the Morality & Intergroup Relations Lab, a member of the Core Faculty of the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior program, and a Research Fellow of the Center for Multicultural Psychology Research. His research interests include evolutionary psychology, social psychology, intergroup bias, and moral judgment. Dr. Navarette received his PhD. in Biological Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2004.

Rev. Julie Nemecek, PhD

The Rev. Dr. Julie Nemecek is one of Michigan’s leading voices on transgender issues. Dr. Julie served as senior pastor in three churches over 20 years before moving into higher education. She reached the rank of associate professor at Spring Arbor University then Lansing Community College before retiring from teaching in 2013. She continues to speak at colleges, churches, and LGBT events as well as providing training and consulting services. Dr. Nemecek served on the national boards of Soulforce and PFLAG . She is on the advisory board of Trans Youth Family Allies (TYFA) and is an honorary board member of Inclusive Justice Michigan. Julie has been married to Joanne for 42 years. She has three sons, four grandsons and one granddaughter. She has delivered a baby; climbed a mountain; gone spelunking; parachuted from a plane; cooked a 12-course dinner for six; shot a 78 in golf; traveled internationally to England, France, Guatemala, Ireland, India, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland; and visited 48 U.S. states.

Randolph Nesse, MD

Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan

Randolph Nesse is a professor at the University of Michigan. Earning his MD from the University of Michigan, he is one of the founders of the field of Darwinian medicine, which uses the principles of evolutionary biology to address health problems. He has collaborated with George Williams to write several seminal works on Darwinian medicine, including Why We Get Sick: The New Science of Darwinian Medicine. His early research on the neuroendocrinology of anxiety has evolved into a focus on how selection shapes mechanisms that regulate defences such as pain, fever, anxiety and low mood. He is devoted to encouraging doctors and researchers to apply evolutionary insights in diverse areas of medicine

Speaking Engagements

Barb Neumann


Speaking Engagements

Joe Nickell, PhD

Senior Research Fellow, Center for Inquiry, Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Joe Nickell, Ph.D. (University of Kentucky, 1987), is Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a division of Center for Inquiry, and an investigative columnist for Skeptical Inquirer magazine. A former professional stage magician (he was Resident Magician at the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame for three years) and private investigator for a world-famous detective agency, Dr. Nickell taught technical writing for several years at the University of Kentucky before taking the full-time position with CSICOP at its offices at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York. Utilizing his varied background, Nickell has become widely known as an investigator of myths and mysteries, frauds, forgeries, and hoaxes. He has been called “the modern Sherlock Holmes,” “the original ghost buster,” and “the real-life Scully” (from “The X-Files” ). He has investigated scores of haunted-house cases, including the Amityville Horror and the Mackenzie House in Toronto, Canada. Nickell has appeared on numerous national TV including “Dateline NBC,” “Oprah,” and “20/20,” in addition to several documentaries on the Discovery and National Geographic Channels, and numerous other shows. Nickell has been profiled in the New Yorker magazine and on the Today show. He is also the author (co-author and editor) of nearly 20 books.

Speaking Engagements

Norman Cohen Norman Cohen

Director of NOCIRC of Michigan

Norman Cohen, Director of NOCIRC of Michigan since its founding in 1994. He appeared on the 1996 award-winning documentary on circumcision, “Whose Body, Whose Rights?” Cohen, who grew up in a conservative Jewish home as the son of a rabbi, first questioned his religion—becoming an atheist as a result—at age seventeen.

Website: http://www.nocircofmi.org/

Speaking Engagements

Michele Norris

Host and Special Correspondent for NPR

Michele Norris is an American radio journalist and former host of the National Public Radio (NPR) evening news program All Things Considered. She is the first African-American female host for NPR. Prior to becoming a host with NPR, Norris was a correspondent fro ABC News. She also wrote for The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times. She is also the author of The Grace of Silence, a book that started as an extension of an NPR series about race relations in the United States, but in the end became mostly autobiographical.

G.K. Noyer

Translator and Editor, "Voltaire’s Revolution: Writings from His Campaign to Free Laws from Religion"

G. K. Noyer was born and raised in downriver Detroit and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Arts and Media from Grand Valley State University. After a three-year stint working in production and copywriting at WGVC-TV, the former PBS station in Grand Rapids, along with DJ-ing and writing news reports at WSRX radio on campus, and after two or three failed attempts to join the Work/Study abroad program at Grand Valley, she struck out on a year-long tour of Europe on her own. She eventually settled in France, where she has written scripts for a half-dozen French television series and translated many more into English for the international market. A member of the French Authors Society (the SACD) since 1986, she has also done translations for websites, art galleries, museums and has subtitled a few documentary films. Of most notable interest for freethinkers is The 3 Lives of the Chevalier which relates the continuing struggle of freethought in France, told through the story of 19 year old Chevalier de La Barre, tortured and executed for blasphemy in 1766, and through the repeated struggles to erect a statue to his memory in Paris. The heinous treatment of La Barre was indicted by Voltaire in several other works read throughout Europe and the American colonies, in part because the authorities had claimed that his own Philosophical Dictionary, one of his book-length works on religious oppression, was responsible for La Barre’s “behavior.” A version with English subtitles is available on VOD at the bottom of this link, where you can also see a trailer for free.

Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., P.E.

Professor of Engineering, Oakland University

Barbara Oakley, PhD, PE is a professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. She is the author of “A Mind for Numbers,” (Penguin, 2014), and a co-instructor (with Terrence Sejnowski, the Francis Crick Professor of the Salk Institute) of the massive open online course “Learning How to Learn,” from Coursera, which, with nearly 200,000 students, is the largest course ever taught on how to learn. Dr. Oakley’s research focuses on the complex relationship between neuroscience and social behavior, and has been described as “revolutionary” by the Wall Street Journal. Oakley’s books have been praised by many leading researchers and writers, including Harvard’s Steven Pinker and E. O. Wilson, and National Book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates. Dr. Oakley was designated as an NSF New Century Scholar; she is also a recipient of the Oakland University Teaching Excellence Award (2013) and the National Science Foundation’s Frontiers in Engineering New Faculty Fellow Award. Dr. Oakley is an elected Fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

Website: http://www2.oakland.edu/users/oakley/

Cara Ocobock, PhD

Assistant Professor Biomedical Sciences, Grand Valley State University

Dr. Cara Ocobock earned her Bachelors of Science from the University of Michigan in Anthropology-Zoology and Cellular, Molecular, & Developmental Biology. She earned her PhD in Anthropology from Washington University, St. Louis in 2014. She is currently a professor in the Biomedical SciencesDepartment at Grand Valley State University. Her research focuses on human energy expenditure and adaptations under extreme conditions of climate and physical activity. Ocobock is also deeply involved in science education and encouraging women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medical fields. She founded and is currently running Science on Tap Grand Rapids, which is an opportunity for conversation, debate, and interaction between scientists and the public while enjoying libations at the SpeakEZ Lounge. Ocobock is also a core member of the Association for Women in Science West Michigan and a faculty fellow for the Women in Science and Engineering living learning community at Grand Valley State University.

Paul Offit

Paul Offit is a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases and an expert on vaccines, immunology, and virology. He is the co-inventor of a rotavirus vaccine that has been credited with saving hundreds of lives every day. Offit is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology, professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. He has been a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Offit is a board member of Every Child by Two and a founding board member of the Autism Science Foundation (ASF). Pandora’s Lab is his ninth book.

Gordon Olson

Grand Rapids City Historian Emeritus

Gordon Olson, Grand Rapids City Historian Emeritus, served as Grand Rapids City Historian for 24 years and is the author and editor of numerous local history books, including A Grand Rapids Sampler; Grand Rapids, A City Renewed; and histories of Amway, Steelcase, and Irwin Seating Companies and theGrand Rapids Foundation. His latest efforts include and advisory role for The Gift of All, a video documentary about philanthropy in West Michigan, joint editor of Thin Ice, a collection of stories about coming-of-age experiences in the lives of Grand Rapids residents, and editor of A Michigan Polar Bear Confronts the Bolsheviks, the memoir of a World War I soldier’s adventures in north Russia. His most recent book is titled The Notorious Isaac Earl and His Scouts which recounts the story of Union Lt. Isaac Newton Earl and the special scouts he led on missions gathering intelligence, and pursuing Confederate guerillas and smugglers in the lower Mississippi River Valley during the U.S. Civil War. Olson is currently working on New Guinea Nightmare, the Story of Michigan and Wisconsin National Guardsmen in The Battle Of Buna, Papua New Guinea.

Christian Orlic


Christian Orlic is a first year graduate student in the department of Zoology and EEBB (Ecology, Evolutionary, Behavioral Biology) at Michigan State University and as well as a graduate student in HSTM (History of Science and Medicine) at the University of Minnesota. Christian holds three bachelor degrees in: Zoology (BSc); History, Philosophy, Sociology of Science, Technology, the Environment and Medicine (BSc); Political Theory & Constitutional Democracy with a minor in Science Technology Public Policy (BA) from Michigan State University. Christian is interested in the history of biology and its ethical, moral, political, societal implications. Christian is also working on a project to distinguish the roles of adaptation, chance and history in evolutionary biology. Christian has served on the CFI MSU board since Fall 2008.

Meredith Osborne

Student Attorney, Michigan Law Innocence Clinic, University of Michigan

Meredith Osborne graduated magna cum laud from Grand Valley State University, with dual degrees in Philosophy and Liberal Studies. Between undergrad and law school, Meredith lived in Chicago for several years. There, she led a youth after-school program and also worked as an immigration intern at RefugeeOne. Meredith is currently a second-year law student at the University of Michigan Law School. She is in her second semester as a student attorney for the Michigan Law Innocence Clinic. She has previously worked as a legal intern for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and will be working as an associate for the civil rights firm Loevy & Loevy in Chicago this summer. Meredith is a Contributing Editor on the National Lawyers Guild Review. She is also a member of the Michigan State Bar and is active on the boards of Law Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Law Students for Reproductive Justice, and the National Lawyers Guild. The National Lawyers Guild of Michigan recently awarded Meredith the 2015 Outstanding Law Student award.

Speaking Engagements

Bjørn Østman, PhD

Evolutionary Biologist, Michigan State University

Bjørn Østman is from Copenhagen, Denmark. He has an M.S. in Physics and Astronomy from University of Copenhagen. Bjørn was a web developer in New York City from 1999 to 2002 before earning an M.A. in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology from University of California, Santa Barbara 2005. He went on to receive a Ph.D. in Computational and Systems Biology from Keck Graduate Institute and Claremont Graduate University in 2010 and is currently pursuing post-doctoral studies at Michigan State University. Bjørn’s work includes: computational evolution, theoretical evolution, evolutionary dynamics, population genetics, evolutionary metagenomics, bioinformatics, microbial evolution, speciation, adaptation, genetic architecture, and fitness landscape structure.

Website: https://www.msu.edu/~ostman/

Vivek Palavali, MD

Dr. Palavali is a brain surgeon and author of the book, A Mindful Life: A Brain Surgeon's Personal Experiences and Philosophical Reflections on Living Life Fully. He also is the producer of the film Creator of God: A Brain Surgeon’s Story and most recently Bitter Pill: America and Healthcarein America. Born in India, Dr. Palavali migrated to the United States in 1986. Trained as a neurosurgeon at the University of Chicago. Since he was a teenager, he has been on a global journey to find an answers to the big questions. The story of his travels is presented in, Creator of God: A Brain Surgeon's Story, which won the Best Documentary Film Award at the Pasadena Film Festival and at the Ferndale Film Festival in 2009. His new documentary "Bitter Pill' was nominated for a 2013 Emmy Award by the NATAS Michigan Chapter.

Ron Palmer, PhD

Speaking Engagements

Vandana Pednekar-Magal, PhD

Associate Professor of Journalism, Grand Valley State University

Dr. Pednekar-Magal’s teaching and research interests include Journalism; Global Communication; Communication Policy; and Societal Issues in the Media. She has recently published an anthology titled International Communication: Essential Readings (Cognella); and has produced a documentary titled Divided by Language: India’s Newspapers (Rowman and Littlefield: National Film Network). She has published in scholarly journals including Communication Law and Policy; and Media, Culture and Society. She has worked for several years as a reporter and feature writer for The Economic Times (Bombay Edition) and has published articles as a free lance writer.

Meghan Peltz

Sensory Scientist, Kalsec, Inc.

Meghan Peltz works as a Sensory Scientist at Kalsec, Inc., a spice flavor company located in Kalamazoo, MI. She recently graduated of department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Michigan State University in the Spring of 2009. Meghan holds a bachelor degree in Food Science with a specialization in Agriculture and Natural Resources Biotechnology.

Robert Pennock, PhD

Professor, Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University

Robert T. Pennock is a Professor at Michigan State University, where he is on the faculty of Lyman Briggs College and the Departments of Philosophy and Computer Science. He is a PI of the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action. His research involves both experimental and philosophical questions that relate to evolutionary biology and cognitive science, such as the evolution of altruism, complexity, and intelligence. A national leader in evolution education, he was an expert witness in the historic Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board Intelligent Design creationism case. Dr. Pennock is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has served on the AAAS Committee on the Public Understanding of Science and Technology and the National Academies of Science Evolution, Creationism and Science authoring committee. He is PI of the Avida-ED Project, which develops software and curricula to help students learn about evolution and the nature of science using digital organisms.

Website: http://www.msu.edu/~pennock5/

Mark Pestana, PhD

Professor of Philosophy, Grand Valley State University

Mark Pestana has been teaching in the Philosophy Department of Grand Valley State University for over twenty-five years. His areas of specialization and research are in medieval thought and the philosophy of the mind, brain and consciousness. He presented papers and posters sessions at the Toward A Science Of Consciousness Conference in Tucson, AZ on three occasions. Books published: Moral Virtue or Mental Health and the edited collection, Metaphysics. Papers published on, the intentionality of the mental, the qualitative character of experience and several on free will and volition.

Nate Phelps

Executive Director, Centre for Inquiry–Calgary, AB

Nate Phelps is the son of Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, which gained infamy from their protests at soldiers’ funerals around the United States. He is the sixth of thirteen children, and was taught his father’s extreme version of Calvinism from an early age. This wasaccompanied by extreme physical punishments and abuse, extreme dietary and health requirements, and other extreme expectations. Nate left home at midnight on his eighteenth birthday, and moved to California where he built a new life away from his family. He later moved to Canada, and only recently began speaking out about his story after a chance encounter with a reporter while driving a cab in Cranbrook, British Columbia. Nate has now spoken about his story to many groups around North America, and even returned home to Topeka in 2010 to tell his story to the people in his hometown. Today Nate lives in Calgary, Alberta, and is the head of Calgary’s Centre for Inquiry. He also serves on the board of directors for Recovering from Religion. He is a vocal LGBT advocate, and speaks out against the dangers of religion and child abuse. He is currently working on a book that covers his exceptional story and is the subject of an upcoming documentary film.

Website: http://natephelps.com/

Thomas H. Picard, MD

Author, Star Trek A Psychoanalysis

Thomas H. Picard, MD, is a board-certified psychiatrist with the Battle Creek VA Medical Center in Battle Creek, Michigan. He graduated from Hope College with a Bachelor's in Physics and he earned his medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. He completed a residency in psychiatry with Menninger School of Psychiatry in Kansas.

Speaking Engagements

Jill Pinkerton

Speaking Engagements

Henry Pollack, PhD

Professor of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan

Henry N. Pollack, Ph.D., has been a Professor of Geophysics at the University of Michigan for more than 40 years. Among his numerous publications is Uncertain Science…Uncertain World, published by Cambridge University Press in 2003. In the scientific community, he has earned a reputation as one of the world’s leading experts on the temperature of the Earth, both today and in the geological past. An award-winning teacher with a gift for explaining science to non-scientists, Pollack has taken a special interest in helping leaders in government, business, and the general public understand the scientific developments associated with global climate change. His specialties involve geophysics, global change, paleoclimate, geodynamics, and tectonophysics.

Website: http://cms.lsa.umich.edu/geo/geo_detail/0,2764,21980%255Fpeople%255F96448539,00.html

Speaking Engagements

Michael Pollan

Author and Essayist

For the past 20 years, author/essayist Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where the human and natural worlds intersect: food, agriculture, gardens, drugs, and architecture. His book The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals was named “one of the ten best books of 2006” by The New York Times and The Washington Post. His most recent book is In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. Pollan has been a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine since 1987, and his writing has received numerous awards and accolades.

Speaking Engagements

Marissa Postler

2nd Ward City Commissioner, Wyoming City Council

Marissa Postler was just elected to Wyoming, Michigan’s City Council, representing the second ward of the city. She is the only atheist on the council, the only woman, and the youngest council member ever to serve in the city of Wyoming. She is also currently wrapping up her undergraduate studies at Grand Valley State University, where she plans to graduate next May with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. She hopes to pursue a career teaching music in public schools while also continuing to serve as a city council member.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pg/marissapostlerforwyoming/about/?ref=page_internal

Robert Price, PhD

Professor of Theology and Scriptural Studies, Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary

Robert M. Price (born July 7, 1954) is a Mississippian by birth, lived in New Jersey for most of his life, and has recently resettled in North Carolina. After early involvement in a fundamentalist Baptist church, he went on to become a leader in the Montclair State College chapter of the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. Having developed a keen interest in apologetics (the defense of the faith on intellectual grounds), Bob went on to enroll at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he received an MTS degree in New Testament. Billy Graham was the commencement speaker. It was during this period, 1977-78, however, that Bob began to reassess his faith, deciding at length that traditional Christianity simply did not have either the historical credentials or the intellectual cogency its defenders claimed for it. Embarking on a wide program of reading religious thinkers and theologians from other traditions, as well as the sociology, anthropology, and psychology of religion, he soon considered himself a theological liberal in the camp of Paul Tillich. He received the Ph.D. degree in systematic theology from Drew University in 1981. After some years teaching in the religious studies department of Mount Olive College in North Carolina, Price returned to New Jersey to pastor First Baptist Church of Montclair, the first pastorate, many years before, of liberal preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick. Price soon enrolled in a second doctoral program at Drew, receiving the Ph.D. in New Testament in 1993. These studies, together with his encounter with the writings of Don Cupitt, Jacques Derrida, and the New Testament critics of the Nineteenth Century, rapidly eroded his liberal Christian stance, and Price resigned his pastorate in 1994. A brief flirtation with Unitarian Universalism disenchanted him even with this liberal extreme of institutional religion. For six years Bob and Carol led a living room church called The Grail. Now, back in North Carolina, he attends the Episcopal Church and keeps his mouth shut. Robert M. Price is Professor of Biblical Criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute as well as the editor of The Journal of Higher Criticism. His books include Beyond Born Again, The Widow Traditions in Luke-Acts: A Feminist-Critical Scrutiny, Deconstructing Jesus, and The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man. Forthcoming titles are The Crisis of Biblical Authority, Jesus Christ Superstar: A Redactional Study of a Modern Gospel, The Da Vinci Controversy and The Amazing Colossal Apostle.

Website: http://robertmprice.mindvendor.com/

Speaking Engagements

Stephen Prothero

World-Religions Scholar, Author

Stephen Prothero is a professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University and the author of numerous books, most recently God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter and the New York Times bestseller Religious Literacy: What Americans Need to Know –And Doesn’t. Prothero received his BA from Yale in American Studies and his PhD in the Study of Religion from Harvard. He has commented on religion on dozens of National Public Radio programs, and on television on CNN, NBC, MSNBC, FOX, and PBS. He was also a guest on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” A regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, he has also written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe.

Daniel Ray

Former Professor, Thomas M. Cooley Law School

Dan Ray is a former Professor and Chair of the Constitutional Law Department at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan. Ray was on the Cooley faculty since 2005. He taught Constitutional Law I, a course about the sources and scope of governmental power and the relationships between different government institutions, and Constitutional Law II, a course about individual rights and liberties. Ray has also taught Constitutional Law in Cooley’s LLM program. Before coming to the Cooley faculty, Ray practiced law in Kansas and Missouri. His practice focused on civil trials and appeals. Ray has also taught law at the undergraduate level and as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School. He received a J.D. degree from UMKC Law School and an undergraduate degree in Finance from Texas Christian University, home of the Division I powerhouse Fighting Horned Frogs.

Darrel Ray, Ed.D.

Author, The God Virus

Darrel Ray, Ed.D. is an organizational psychologist and consultant. He practiced for 10 years as a clinical psychologist before opening an international consulting practice in 1986. He has been a student of religion all his adult life: Raised in a fundamentalist home by parents who eventually becamemissionaries, he has seen religion from the inside out. Darrel received a Bachelor’s in Sociology/anthropology at Friends University in 1972, then decided to go into the ministry. He received an MA in Church and Community from Scarritt College for Christian Workers in 1974. After finishing his MA, he changed course and went on to receive a Ed.D. in psychology at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University 1978. Darrel is the author of The God Virus: How Religion Infects Our Lives and Culture. He is also the author of Teaming Up (1995) and The Performance Culture (2001). In 2009 Darrel founded Recovering from Religion (www.recoveringreligionists.com) – a group whose purpose is to help people out of religion. There are now more than 20 groups throughout the country.

Speaking Engagements

Mark Reimers, PhD

Professor of Neuroscience, Michigan State University

Dr. Mark Reimers studies brain function by applying advanced statistical and computational methods to the very large data sets of brain activity measures now being generated in neuroscience. In particular he tries to understand how brain dynamics changes between different activities and states of mind. Dr. Reimers has worked at the US National Institutes of Health, the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, and at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics in Richmond. He is the co-author of many publications about brain genetics, development and evolution in several leading science journals, including three articles in Nature and two in Science.

Michael Rip, PhD

Director of Program in Public Health, Michigan State University

Dr. Michael Rip serves as Director of the PPH at Michigan State University. He is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Criminal Justice. Rip is also a spatial epidemiologist and medical geographer with interests in reproductive and perinatal epidemiology. He has conducted research in South Africa, and is the author of two books and numerous articles in reproductive and perinatal epidemiology, and care. Dr. Rip is currently researching the cruise missile attack on the El-Shifa Pharmaceutical Factory (Khartoum, Sudan) in August, 1998 and writing a third book: "Blunt Scalpel: Counter-Terrorism, Counter-Proliferation, and the U.S. Military.

Dr. Carol Robinson

Community Coordinator, Making Choices Michigan

Dr. Robinson, DNP, RN, CHPN, has had a varied nursing career in both clinical and administrative leadership positions. Her clinical specialty has focused on adults and children with life-limiting disease. Her passion for the care of chronically ill patients and families led to extensive experience with patient/family communication relative to quality of life and treatment preferences.  Her scholarly work has focused on communication skills for health professionals, including advance care planning conversations. Her friendly and open approach has helped many individuals create an advance directive reflective of one’s own personal values, beliefs, and preferences for end-of-life care.

Karel Rogers, PhD

Retired Professor of Biology, former Biology Department Chair, Grand Valley State University

Karel Rogers is Professor of Biology Emeritus of Grand Valley State University and the author of a series of peer-reviewed scientific articles with topics ranging from paleoclimate reconstruction to factors causing the decline of modern amphibians. She is a past president of the board of directors of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and a frequent guest speaker on topics like human population growth, energy, and global warming. She earned her PhD from Michigan State University and has since held administrative and/or teaching positions at four colleges and universities. She has over thirty years of experience keeping abreast of new information and teaching up-to-date college courses in general biology, genetics, evolution, embryology, environmental science, ethics, and computer science.

Cyndi Roper

Great Lakes Director and Michigan Campaign Director for Clean Water Action

Cyndi Roper has worked with the Audubon Society and on the EPA’s Water Advisory Board and in education in psychological counseling. Cyndi is Great Lakes Director and Michigan Campaign Director for Clean Water Action. This 501©4 organization works for clean, safe and affordable water, prevention of health- threatening pollution, creation of environmentally safe jobs and businesses, and empowerment of people to make democracy work.

Website: http://www.cleanwateraction.org/

Speaking Engagements

Stephen Rowe, Ph.D.

Professor of Philosophy, Grand Valley State University

Stephen Rowe is Professor of Philosophy, Liberal Studies, and Religious Studies at Grand Valley State University. Rowe earned an Masters of Theology, a Masters of Arts, and a Doctorate in Philosophy from at the University of Chicago. He also holds a Bachelors from Colgate University. Professor Rowe is also actively engaged in intercultural dialogue and consultation on liberal education though several universities and institutions in China and the U.S. An award winning teacher, his books include Rediscovering the West: An Inquiry into Nothingness and Relatedness (SUNY Press, 1994, in Chinese, Shanghai Translation Publishing House, 1996), and, most recently, Overcoming America / America Overcoming: Can We Survive Modernity? (Lexington Books, 2012, and forthcoming in Chinese).

Ben Rudolph, Dr

Professor of Marketing at GVSU's Seidman School of Business, Grand Valley State University.

Bennett Rudolph, Professor of Marketing at GVSU’s Seidman School of Business is an expert on marketing strategy and management, and is the past president of the West Michigan Chapter of the American Marketing Association. Other accomplishments and involvements, including but not limited to his monthly column in Michigan Business magazine, his research in market management and strategy, and his earning of the Teacher of the Year award in Marketing.

Corey Ruffin

Co-Founder & Leader, Super Happy Funtime Burlesque

Corey is a musician, composer, performer, and official narcissist. He is a circular breathing, mouth singing, polymath performer with 15 years of professional experience playing the saxophone, clarinet, flute, guitar, drums, and piano during his residencies in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Grand Rapids not to mention several national tours. For three years he worked as a caricaturist and illustrator under Tom Richmond of Mad Magazine fame and he also self-publishes and distributes his own his mini-comics. He currently teaches saxophone, flute, clarinet, and guitar to people of all ages. He lives on the Divsion Avenue of the Arts with his sexy and amazing girlfriend Rachel Finan aka Rachelbutoh aka La La Vulvaria. The Super Happy Funtime Burlesque was founded in 2006 by Corey Ruffin, Rachel Finan, Rich Haralson, and Josh Dunigan – to launch a revival of the theatrical entertainment style in Grand Rapids. Yes, churchy, small town Grand Rapids is home to one of the only regular burlesque and vaudeville shows in Michigan. Super Happy Funtime Burlesque is a 12 member touring monstrosity. A live band, a burlesque troupe, a circus act, that is all together too contemporary, too modern, too bawdy, and too controversial to be defined just as “burlesque”. So, calling itself “burlesque” for lack of a better term, SHFB is just returning from their 8th national tour. Corey Ruffin is the bandleader of the house band “The End Times Orchestra,” who hosts the show as the dentally challenged “Mr. Happy Pants”. Super Happy Funtime has been performing in Grand Rapids since 2006, and originally hosted monthly Sunday night show at the Sazerac Lounge. Neglected by the major media, they got support from Recoil and Revue magazines. Eventually, the Sazerac shows began selling out with 175 people squeezing into the bar even as ticket prices rose to reflect all the work that went into each performance, and they had to seek a new venue to accommodate their growing audience. With a successful performance record at the Sazerac the managers of Super Happy Funtime persuaded the Wealthy Theatre to let the burlesque show take the stage. The SHFTB troupe now performs for over 300 people at their regular shows at Wealthy Theatre and regularly tours the country with originally composed musical selections by Corey Ruffin and original performances by the cast. For information on the show visit their website Super Happy Funtime Burlesque.

Amy Russell, PhD

Assistant Professor of Biology, Grand Valley State University

Dr. Amy Russell was born and raised in Lancaster, Ohio. While working on her undergraduate degree in Biology and Environmental Science at Bowling Green State University, Amy became involved in research, investigating the evolution of transposable DNA elements in Drosophila fruit flies during the academic year. Over the summers, Amy conducted ecological research through Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, tracking the growth of gypsy moth populations in the forests of northeastern Ohio. After graduating in 1994, Amy continued her fruit fly research for her M.S. degree, measuring levels of transposable element activity in Drosophila populations from across the world. Motivated to switch study organisms, Amy then pursued her Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, studying the population genetics of Brazilian free-tailed bats. After graduating in 2003, Amy then spent two years as a Gaylord Donnelly postdoctoral fellow at Yale University, studying the biogeography of bats in Madagascar. She then worked as a research fellow at the University of Arizona, studying the genetic demography of non-human great apes. She was hired as an Assistant Professor at Grand Valley State University in 2008.
At GVSU, Amy’s research program focuses on the intersection of multiple fields: where phylogenetic and population genetic approaches can inform questions of recent speciation, where coalescent approaches can help to discriminate among biogeographic hypotheses, and where molecular ecology and simulation-based analyses can discriminate among demographic scenarios influenced by wildlife disease. Her work has been funded by the U.S. Department of Fish & Wildlife, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the National Park Service. She teaches classes including Evolution, Genetics, Population Genetics, and Introductory Biology.

Ray Sadowski

retired from Spectrum Health

Geoffrey Saint, MA

Director of Qualitative Underwater Ecological Surveying, Working on his PhD in Public Policy & Sustainable Business at Western Michigan University.

Geoffrey attended the University of Hawaii, earning a Masters degree in Marine Sciences, and served as the Director of Qualitative Underwater Ecological Surveying. He has a Masters also in Strategic Management in Sustainable Business from Aquinas College, which is very pertinent to this presentation. Those who know him as a thorough-going freethinker may be surprised to learn that he has also served as Minister of Worship at an Evangelical Lutheran Church. Adding to his litany of interests, accomplishments and involvements is his work as a Clerk at an E-bay convenience store, as he tells it, and he is justifiably proud of winning First Place in his division in Motocross. He is also a fine photographer and is responsible for most of our digital images taken at FA events and meetings (fellow Motocross enthusiast, Greg Collins took over this duty at this meeting) and he still finds a way to channel energies into working on his PhD in Public Policy & Sustainable Business at Western Michigan University.

Ahm Don Steve Sampson

Ahm Don Steve Sampson was born in Fremont, Michigan and lived on a farm in Oceana County. He took vows with the Missionary Brothers of Charity in Los Angeles in 1981. He worked as a Brother in Los Angeles and Santa Ana in Southern California, Tijuana in Mexico, Houston, and Philadelphia. In the 1990s he managed Butterball Farms. In 1996, his partner died of HIV-AIDS. The following year Steve was diagnosed with the same condition. During his time in the hospital he began the study and practice of Theravada Buddhism. He also came to the sanity of Atheism. He took his Precepts in the Vietnamese Zen tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh at the Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in Lansing in April of 2007. In April of 2012 he took Precepts in the Korean Taego Zen tradition. He is now studying to become a Dharma teacher within the Taego Order. Steve is also a writer with two published novels. He’s working on the third novel. He’s a member of the Grand Rapids’ Zen Buddhist Temple and the Withered Tree Meditation Community in Eastown.

Speaking Engagements

Justin Schieber, Host

the Real Atheology YouTube Channel

Justin Schieber is former co-host of the Reasonable Doubts Radio Show and Podcast and current host of Real Atheology (RealAtheology.com), a Podcast focusing on contemporary academic philosophy of religion. Justin has lectured on the philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God and has participated in many public debates throughout the United States and Canada. December 2016 saw the publication of 'An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar', a conversational exploration on the merits of theism co-authored with Canadian theologian Randal Rauser and published through Prometheus Books.

Tim Schmig

Executive Director, Michigan Association of Christian Schools

Tim is the Executive Director for the Michigan Association of Christian Schools after having taught High School History, Social Studies, Government and Economics for 5 years in two different Christian Schools. The Congressional Record September 25, 2002 entered, in part, records these words: “Tim spends much time in Washington D.C. and Lansing meeting with elected officials and has earned respect and garnered influence on both sides of the political aisle. Lawmakers have come to trust Tim and rely on his knowledge of the issues and his well-informed advocacy on a variety of issues. He truly has earned the respect and the influence he has in the halls of Congress and in the Michigan Legislature.” Tim and his wife Sue live in Owosso, Michigan.

Cliff Schrauger

Cliff Schrauger graduated from Cornerstone University in 1980 and served as a pastor for 25 years.

Jeff Schweitzer, PhD

Marine biologist and former Clinton White House Science Advisor

Dr. Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist who has written extensively on topics of morality, religion, politics, and science – how they relate to each other and their importance in today’s polarized social environment. He is the author of Vote to Save the Planet and the new book, Beyond CosmicDice: Moral Life in a Random World. Dr. Schweitzer began his scientific career in the fields of marine biology and neurophysiology earning his Ph.D. from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. In 1984, he joined the Center for Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine, and in 1991 he was appointed as the Chief Environmental Officer at the State Department’s Agency for International Development. In 1992, he was made Assistant Director for International Affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy where he was responsible for providing scientific and technological policy advice and analysis for the President’s Science Advisor and the Vice President. During his tenure at the White House, Dr. Schweitzer realized that one critical element was missing from global efforts to bring science, conservation, and development together: there was no appropriate ethical foundation providing a compelling mandate. Since his retirement from government, Dr. Schweitzer has devoted himself to the task of articulating and promoting such an ethic, a new way to ensure that humans can grow and prosper indefinitely in a healthy environment. To learn more, please visit www.jeffschweitzer.com.

Speaking Engagements

Jeff Seaver

Executive Director of Center for Inquiry–Michigan

Jefferson Seaver has served as the Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry’s Michigan branch since its founding over 15 years ago. CFI is a non-profit educational organization with the mission to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and secular values. As a passionate defender of the separation of church and state Jefferson has been a board member of the ACLU of Michigan’s Western Branch for 12 years. Since 1992 he has also been a partner and president of a marketing and design firm that provides strategic planning, branding, graphic design, and web marketing services.

Shelley Segal


Segal grew up in a musical household. She began singing at the age of three, then writing and performing at eleven. Joining her father’s Jewish wedding band early on provided her with an ease and enjoyment performing and writing across a broad range of styles including pop, folk, jazz, blues, rock and reggae. ‘Saved’ has been described as “jazz singing with a Caribbean-rock melody.” Intimate, story-telling and biographical lyrics are what unifies Shelley’s song-writing across genres. Shelley accompanies herself on guitar and has been performing her original music around Melbourne and internationally for the last ten years. She has been teaching vocals, music theory and song-writing for seven years. In 2009 she recorded her first EP, a collection of songs written between 2002 and 2008 with acclaimed producer Josh Abrahams at Fishtank Studios. In 2010, Shelley completed a Bachelor of Applied Music from the Box Hill Institute of Tafe. Last year Shelley launched ‘An Atheist Album’ which has had sales on every continent but Antarctica (though it’s never too late). She also featured on the album ‘Infidelity’ by London socialite Tara Palmer Tomkinson. Shelley has many other musical ventures underway. Upcoming projects include a jazz album with guitarist singer-song writer Adam Levy (Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman, Ani Difranco) a folk-pop album of love songs, and an upbeat indie-folk EP with her partner called ‘Snow Pear.’

Website: http://www.shelleysegal.com/

Speaking Engagements

Andrew Seidel

Director of Strategic Response, Freedom From Religion Foundation

ANDREW L. SEIDEL is a constitutional attorney, the Director of Strategic Response at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and an author based in Madison, Wisc. His first book The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism Is Un-American was burned by an evangelical preacher shortly after its release last year. Publisher's Weekly said that Andrew “provides a fervent takedown of Christian Nationalism in his furious debut. ... his well-conceived arguments will spark conversations for those willing to listen.” Renowned constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky has described it as “a beautifully written book” that “explodes a frequently expressed myth: that the United States was created as a Christian nation.” When not fighting for the First Amendment, Andrew writes for ThinkProgress, Religion Dispatches, Religion News Service, Rewire News and elsewhere.

Speaking Engagements

Tom Shellberg, PhD

Retired Professor of Biology, Henry Ford Community College

Tom Shellberg is a retired Professor of Biology at Henry Ford Community College. During his time at Henry Ford he noted the lack of an entry level behavioral biology course. In response to this he created a model course on Evolution and Human Behavior that he taught until he retired. The course wasrecognized as an international model for teaching evolutionary biology and later became the basis for his recent book Choosy Women and Cheating Men: Evolution and Human Behavior. Tom was twice voted Professor of the Year at Henry Ford and was chosen for the Faculty Lectureship on The Modern Evolution Revolution. He has written many articles and given talks at professional conferences about Evolution and Behavior Education, and was recently featured on Atheists Speak-Up, a production of the Michigan Atheists.

Michael Shermer, PhD

Publisher of Skeptic Magazine

Dr. Michael Shermer received his M.A. in experimental psychology from California State University Fullerton, and his PhD in history of science from Claremont Graduate University (1991). He taught psychology, evolution, and the history of science at Occidental College, California State University LosAngeles, and Glendale College. Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine (www.skeptic.com), the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, and Adjunct Professor of Economics at Claremont Graduate University. Shermer has authored ten books about science and skepticism. His most recent include The Mind of the Market, Why Darwin Matters, Science Friction, and The Science of Good and Evil. He has also written several more on topics including pseudohistory, the borderlands of science, and the origins of religion and pseudoscience. He has appeared on such shows as The Colbert Report, 20/20, Dateline, Larry King Live, Oprah, Unsolved Mysteries, and other shows as a skeptic of weird and extraordinary claims. His interviews have appeared in countless documentaries aired on PBS, A&E, Discovery, The History Channel, The Science Channel, and The Learning Channel. Shermer was also the co-host and co-producer of the 13-hour Family Channel television series Exploring the Unknown.

John Shook, PhD

Vice President and Senior Research Fellow, Center for Inquiry Transnational

John Shook is Vice President of Education and Research at Center for Inquiry. John is also a CFI Senior Research Fellow and Research Associate in Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He received his PhD in philosophy at Buffalo in 1994. He was professor of philosophy at Oklahoma State University from 2000 to 2006, before returning to New York to teach Science Education at University at Buffalo. He has authored and edited more than a dozen books, is co-editor of three philosophy journals, and is a frequent contributor to Free Inquiry magazine. Shook’s work is inspired by Pragmatism and other dimensions of American Philosophy. He writes about naturalism, philosophy of science, and philosophy of mind. His writings also include humanist ethics, social theory, and political philosophy.

Speaking Engagements

Seth Shostak, PhD

Senior Astronomer, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute

Dr. Shostak is the Senior Astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute and host of their weekly radio program “Are We Alone?” which explores topics in cosmology, physics, genetics, paleontology, evolutionary biology, and astrobiology. In addition, once a month he hosts a show called “Skeptical Sunday” which focuses on de-bunking pseudoscience (including U.F.O. claims). His efforts at scientific outreach have been compared to the late Carl Sagan’s and in 2004 he received the Klumpe-Roberts Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific in recognition of his outstanding contributions to public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. He is the author of “Confessions of an Alien Hunter: A Scientist's Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence”.

Speaking Engagements

Herb Silverman

Herb Silverman is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Charleston; President Emeritus, and Founder of the Secular Coalition for America; founder of the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry in Charleston, SC, and a recipient of the American Humanist Association Lifetime Achievement Award. Herb has spoken at numerous freethought conferences, and appeared in a number of debates, including one at the Oxford Union in Oxford, England on the topic: Does American Religion Undermine American Values?

Robert Sirico

President, Acton Institute

Rev. Robert Sirico received his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic University of America following undergraduate study at the University of Southern California and the University of London. During his studies and early ministry, he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training that religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today’s social problems. As a result of these concerns, Fr. Sirico co-founded the Acton Institute with Kris Alan Mauren in 1990. As president of the Acton Institute, Fr. Sirico lectures at colleges, universities, and business organizations throughout the US and abroad. His writings on religious, political, economic, and social matters are published in a variety of journals, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the London Financial Times, the Washington Times, the Detroit News, and National Review. Father Sirico is often called upon by members of the broadcast media for statements regarding economics, civil rights, and issues of religious concern, and has provided commentary for CNN, ABC, NPR, and CBS’ 60 Minutes, among others. In April of 1999, Fr. Sirico was awarded an honorary doctorate in Christian Ethics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and in May of 2001, Universidad Francisco Marroquin awarded him an honorary doctorate in Social Sciences. He is a member of the prestigious Mont Pelerin Society, the American Academy of Religion, and the Philadelphia Society, and is on the Board of Advisors of the Civic Institute in Prague. Father Sirico also served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 1994 to 1998. He is also currently pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Fr. Robert Sirico’s pastoral ministry has included a chaplaincy to AIDS patients at the National Institutes of Health and the recent founding of a new community, St. Philip Neri House in Kalamazoo, MI.

Website: http://www.acton.org/

Christine Smith, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Psychology, Grand Valley State University

Christine Smith, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Grand Valley State University. She earned her doctorate from Loyola University of Chicago where she was trained as a group dynamicist. Her research interests include group decision-making, minority influence processes, and group creativity. Smith is the author of a number of journal articles and chapters in books on this research, and has twice been awarded research funding from the National Science Foundation. She currently serves on the editorial boards of two major journals in the area of social psychology, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. Smith regularly teaches courses in social psychology, group dynamics, and research methods in psychology.

Jeff Sodini

Language Therapist, Flint Public Schools

Jeff Sodini of Flushing, Michigan has been a Speech and Language Therapist for the Flint Public Schools for over 28 years. He holds a B.S. from Western Michigan University (1976) and a M.A. from Eastern Michigan University (1985). As an amateur he has been in study of the historical Jesus for nearly five years. The past three years having taught community education classes for the Flushing Community School on the same topic. His hobbies include tennis, golf, running, as well as computer building and videography.

Speaking Engagements

Lauren Spangler

Graduate Student, GVSU

Lauren Spangler is a first year graduate student in the Master of Public Administration program at Grand Valley State University, focusing on non-profit management and leadership. Lauren also has an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Grand Valley, and is currently focusing on studying the sociological impacts and implications of philanthropy in the United States.

Various Speakers

Alice St. Clair, BS

Communications Coordinator, Planned Parenthood Center of West Michigan

Alice St. Clair has a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications with a minor in Public Relations from Illinois State University and spent nearly 20 years in television news before joining Planned Parenthood in 2001.

Website: http://www.ppcwm.org/

Speaking Engagements

Keith St. Clair, PhD

Professor of Political Science, Grand Rapids Community College

Mr. St. Clair is a tenured Political Science Instructor at Grand Rapids Community College. He has been teaching political science there since 2002 and can be seen frequently on its cable channel 28. He teaches government and international relations. He holds two degrees from Illinois State University: a Master of Arts in Political Science and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. While in graduate school, he interned in London working as a research assistant for a Member of the British Parliament. He has travelled extensively throughout the Middle East. He has lived in West Michigan since 1997 with his wife Alice. Mr. St. Clair serves on the board of the Michigan Conference of Political Scientists. He remains active in the World Affairs Council of West Michigan and has been a guest lecturer for the National Issues Forum at the Dirksen Congressional Center.

Robert St. Mary


Robert St. Mary is an artist and writer and has made other films, including one called “Tainted” which was shown at the Cannes Film Festival. He also worked on two independent films; “Portraits” and “The Edge of Love.” He brought along with him one low budget horror film he had done before. He also works as a radio reporter who has received honors for his work on station 790 AM, WSGV.

Website: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0820763/

Bob Stark

Rockford High School student and FaoWM member, Rockford High School

Bob Stark is a Rockford High School student and FaoWM member. Stark started a freethought club on the Rockford campus but admitted that it was a hard sell in that environment.

Speaking Engagements

Jonathan Stars

Writer & Database Consultant

Jonathan Stars is a writer, database consultant, musician, comedian, and songwriter. He has written over 100 articles on computers, music, and software, and 7 editions of “Learn FileMaker Pro.” His latest novel is the techno-thriller “N-hanced.” Learn more at www.N-hanced.com.

Fred Stella

President of Interfaith Dialogue Association

Fred Stella has been teaching Yoga at Muskegon Community College for the past 5 years. He has studied the postures of Yoga and its philosophy since he was 15. Aside from teaching, Fred is an entertainment broker and actor. Currently he is the president of Interfaith Dialogue Association. Stella has a public radio program, “Common Threads” that is aired on Sunday mornings, featuring a discussion on topics from different faith groups.

Speaking Engagements

J. Stenesh, PhD

Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, Western Michigan University

Dr. Stenesh is Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at Western Michigan University and author of the Cogno Press book by the same title. Our presenter was accompanied by his dear wife, Mabel. He was born in Germany, studied in Israel, earned degrees at the University of Oregon and Cornell University; earned his PhD at Berkeley, his post-doctorate in Israel, and has taught biochemistry at Western Michigan University for 30 years; written some 17 papers, authored five books in his field of expertise (bio-chemistry) and does photography.

Website: Reach his publisher via snail mail to P.O.Box 1431, Portage, MI 49081-1431; by telephone at (269) 343-3933; Fax: (269) 343-3990

Speaking Engagements

Victor Stenger, PhD

Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Hawaii and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado

Victor Stenger grew up in a Catholic working class neighborhood in Bayonne, New Jersey. His father was a Lithuanian immigrant, his mother the daughter of Hungarian immigrants. He attended public schools and received a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Newark College of Engineering (now New Jersey Institute of Technology) in 1956. While at NCE, he was editor of the student newspaper and received several journalism awards. Moving to Los Angeles on a Hughes Aircraft Company fellowship, Dr. Stenger received a Master of Science degree in physics from UCLA in 1959 and a PhD in physics in 1963. He then took a position on the faculty of the University of Hawaii, retiring to Colorado in 2000. He currently is emeritus professor of physics at the University of Hawaii and adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado. Dr. Stenger is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and a research fellow of the Center for Inquiry. Dr. Stenger has also held visiting positions on the faculties of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, Oxford in England (twice), and has been a visiting researcher at Rutherford Laboratory in England, the National Nuclear Physics Laboratory in Frascati, Italy, and the University of Florence in Italy. His research career spanned the period of great progress in elementary particle physics that ultimately led to the current standard model. He participated in experiments that helped establish the properties of strange particles, quarks, gluons, and neutrinos. He also helped pioneer the emerging fields of very high-energy gamma ray and neutrino astronomy. In his last project before retiring, Dr. Stenger collaborated on the underground experiment in Japan that in 1998 showed for the first time that the neutrino has mass. The Japanese leader of this experiment shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for this work. Victor Stenger has had a parallel career as an author of critically well-received popular-level books that interface between physics and cosmology and philosophy, religion, and pseudoscience. These include: Not By Design: The Origin of the Universe (1988); Physics and Psychics: The Search for a World Beyond the Senses (1990); The Unconscious Quantum: Metaphysics in Modern Physics and Cosmology (1995); Timeless Reality: Symmetry, Simplicity, and Multiple Universes (2000); Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe (2003); The Comprehensible Cosmos: Where Do the Laws of Physics Come from? (2006); and God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist (2007). The last made the New York Times bestseller list in March, 2007. Dr. Stenger and his wife Phylliss have been happily married since 1962 and have two children and four grandchildren. They now live in Lafayette, Colorado. They attribute their long lives to the response of evolution to the human need for babysitters, a task they joyfully perform. Phylliss and Vic are avid doubles tennis players, golfers, generally enjoy the outdoor life in Colorado, and travel the world as often as they can. Dr. Stenger maintains a popular Web site (a thousand hits per month), where much of his writing can be found, at http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/.

Heidi Stenson

local NOW chapter and a member of Young Feminists, Rockford High School student

Heidi Stenson is a Rockford High School student and FAoWM member. She is involved in the local NOW chapter and a member of Young Feminists and is a religious skeptic

Website: http://homepage.mac.com/bice1/B1144903672/C1075710115/E263315752/index.html

Speaking Engagements

Ester Sternberg, M.D.

Chief of the Section on Neuroendocrine Immunology and Behavior, National Institutes of Health (NIH)

ESTHER M. STERNBERG M.D. is internationally recognized for her discoveries in brain-immune interactions and the effects of the brain’s stress response on health: the science of the mind-body interaction. A dynamic speaker, recognized by her peers as a spokesperson for the field, she translates complex scientific subjects in a highly accessible manner, with a combination of academic credibility, passion for science and compassion as a physician. Sternberg received her M.D. degree and trained in rheumatology at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and was on the faculty at Washington University, St. Louis, MO, before joining the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, in 1986, where she is currently based. In addition to numerous scientific publications in leading scientific journals, she has authored the popular book The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions and is a regular book and movie review contributor to the Books et al. section of Science magazine. Dr. Sternberg lectures nationally and internationally to both lay and scientific audiences and is frequently interviewed on radio, television and film and in print media on subjects including the mind-body connection, stress and illness, and spirituality, love, and health.

Website: http://www.esthersternberg.com/

Speaking Engagements

Louis-Gregory Strogler, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Western Kentucky University

Dr. Strogler made important contributions to the study of dark energy with the three 2011 Nobel Physics laureates while serving as a postdoctoral researcher and has co-authored several seminal papers in astrophysics. He is the Chair of the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Users Committee and is a lead investigator in a project using the Hubble Space Telescope to probe dark energy in the first five billion years of the universe. He also serves as Chair of both the American Physical Society’s Committee on the Status of Minorities in Physics and the American Astronomical Society’s Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy. He is currently an Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Western Kentucky University.

Kirsten Strom

Associate Professor of Art History, Grand Valley State University

Kirsten Strom is Associate Professor of Art History at Grand Valley State University. Her teaching and research interests include Surrealism and the emerging interdisciplinary field of Animal Studies. Accordingly, her most recent work is a forthcoming book titled The Animal Surreal: The Role of Darwin, Animals, and Evolution in Surrealism. She has also written on a variety of other topics including Dance Anthropology, early cinema, and alternative music in the 1980s. In addition to her courses on Surrealism and Animals in Art, she teaches classes on Asian Art and Contemporary Art and Theory.

Speaking Engagements

Herman Sullivan, MD

Speaking Engagements

Jamy Ian Swiss

World-Renowned Magician & Mentalist

A gifted sleight-of-hand artist who possesses, as the Washington Post once wrote, “a finely tuned sense of the absurd,” Jamy Ian Swiss has performed magic throughout the United States and in 13 countries around the world. His wildly eclectic resume includes stints as a marketing consultant, telecommunications firm owner, and wild animal handler. His greatest passion, though, is sleight-of-hand magic, and there are few practitioners who can match his skill and enthusiasm. Swiss blends contemporary comedy with bravura technical mastery to create a truly unique show that appeals to almost any audience. He has been called magician, comedian, artist; Swiss himself prefers the phrase “Honest Liar.” A busy and highly regarded writer, Swiss contributes a monthly book review column to Genii, the Conjuror's Magazine; is the author of 11 books and monographs of magic for magicians (including a volume published in Japanese); a contributor and advisor to the book, Magic for Dummies, and many more. He has made numerous television appearances in the United States, Europe and Japan, including CBS 48 Hours, PBS Nova and the PBS documentary The Art of Magic, and Comedy Central. He also served as a comedy writer and chief magic consultant for Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular, a weekly television variety show on the FX network.

Speaking Engagements

Edward "Eddie" Tabash

Attorney, Board Member, Center For Inquiry

Edward “Eddie” Tabash is a lawyer in the Los Angeles area. He graduated magna cum laude from UCLA in 1973 and obtained his law degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles in 1976. Eddie is a member of the California State Bar, the American Bar Association, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, and the Beverly Hills Bar Association. Eddie is currently chair of the national legal committee of Americans United for separation of Church and State. He is also a board member of Center for Inquiry and chair of the Council for Secular Humanism’s First Amendment Task Force. Tabash has filed amicus briefs with the United States Supreme Court, the California Supreme Court, and the California Court of Appeal in cases dealing with the separation of church and state. In addition to church state activism, Eddie has debated world famous Christian philosophers on the question of God’s existence, including William Lane Craig and Richard Swinburne. Eddie’s father was an orthodox rabbi from Lithuania and his mother an Auschwitz survivor from Hungary. After a lifetime of spiritual searching, he has concluded that the best evidence we have, to date, strongly points to a naturalistic universe in which there are no supernatural beings and no God or gods.

Website: http://www.tabash.com

Carol Tavis

Carol Tavris is a social psychologist and writer. Her books include Anger; The Mismeasure of Woman; and (with Avrum Bluming) Estrogen Matters. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Skeptic, the TLS, and many other publications. She lives in Los Angeles.

Jill Taylor, Dr.


Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey and was chosen as one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World for 2008.” A Harvard-trained neuroanatomist whoexperienced a severe hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996, Dr. Taylor could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life on the afternoon of her stroke. It took eight years for her to successfully rebuild her brain – from the inside out. In response to the swelling and trauma of the stroke, which placed pressure on her dominant left hemisphere, the functions of her right hemisphere blossomed. Her presentation will be based on her bestselling book.

Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson graduated from Southwestern Oklahoma State University with a degree in Computer Science. He spent ten years as communications and computer systems policy analyst modeling those system designs and operations. His experience with the technical and organizational errors that plagued such systems led him back to school and the acquisition of a dual degree in Psychology and Sociology from Maryville University. Mark then graduated from Saint Louis University with a Master’s in Organizational Psychology with a focus on research methods. His lifelong interest in how humans really think and act (versus how they think they do) has led him to the Skeptical outlook and research on how to develop and apply it to everyday life

Jennifer Tislerics

EducationDirector for the Gift of Life, Michigan

Website: http://www.giftoflifemichigan.org/events/pastevents.htm

Speaking Engagements

Gary Tomlinson

Astronomy and Science Educator; President,, Great Lakes Planetarium Association Board of Directors

Gary Tomlinson is an accomplished educator with more than 35 years of experience championing science and science education among students, the public, colleagues, the professional community, and government decision makers. From 1976 until 2003 he was the Associate Curator of the Chaffee Planetarium at the Public Museum of Grand Rapids where he coordinated the educational programming for schools and organizations. He received his Master of Arts for Teachers in Planetarium Education from Michigan State University, and a Bachelor’s of Science from Ball State University. He is currently the President of the Board of Directors and Chair of the National Science Standards Review Committee for the Great Lakes Planetarium Association, as well as the National Coordinator of Astronomy Day for the Astronomical League.

Speaking Engagements

Tom Towle, BA

Senior Minister Pro Tem, Fountain Street Church

Rev. Tom Owen-Towle, Senior Minister Pro Tem, Fountain Street Church. Owen-Towle was ordained in 1967 and has served congregations in Wisconsin, Iowa and California. For 24 years, he and his life mate, Carolyn, were co-ministers of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego. He is the father of four children and 5 grandchildren. Rev. Owen-Towle has authored 17 books, most recently one entitled Growing the Beloved Community.

Speaking Engagements

Chris Tucker, BA

Former Linguist and Intelligence Officer, US Air Force

Chris Tucker received his Bachelors’ degree in Philosophy at Montana State University (with honors) in 2004. From 1996-2001, he was the Russian linguist in Army Intelligence, and he served as Air Force Intelligence Officer in Air Force Special Operations from 2004-2008. Chris is currently a stay-at-home dad.

Ruth Tucker, PhD

Associate Professor of Missiology, Calvin Seminary

Ruth Tucker first felt her call to mission at age 13. The middle child of 5, she was the only one who became immersed in the faith that her siblings had all walked away from. She began to harbor festering doubts about certain doctrinal content, however, with the Canons being the biggest instigator of skepticism. Dr. Tucker’s book, “Walking Away From Faith,” regards those who, like Dan Barker (included in this publication), were once devoutly religious believers but who broke from this perspective to one of non-theism.

Speaking Engagements

Michael Tuffelmire

Board Member, MILegalize

Michael Tuffelmire is a Board Member of MI Legalize, a Realtor at Urban Pharm, and an Adjunct Member at Grand Rapids Historical Commission, and a writer for the Rapidian since 2009. He was born and raised in Grand Rapids and graduated from Aquinas College with a Masters of Management and a Masters in Sustainable Business. He is a father, decorated veteran, and community advocate focusing on issues of community safety, smarter government, local history, and neighborhood revitalization.

Website: www.milegalize.com

Speaking Engagements

Guenter Tusch, PhD

Professor of Artificial Intelligence, Grand Valley State University

Dr. Tusch is a professor at Grand Valley State University in the Computer Science Dept. where he teaches a course in A.I. He came to the U.S. from Germany where he taught at a large medical school. It was there that he had his first contact with artificial intelligence, working, as he was, with medical information systems. There were complaints about the inadequacy of these systems and he began work in correcting these deficiencies, doing research at Stanford and working on “expert systems” that can interface with people more fluidly, resulting in more “user-friendly” programs.

Website: http://www.cis.gvsu.edu/~tuschg/

Speaking Engagements

Jim Underdown

Executive Director, CFI Los Angeles, Center for Inquiry

James Underdown is the Executive Director of the Center for Inquiry-West in Los Angeles. His writing has been published in Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquirer magazines. James founded and chairs the Independent Investigations Group (IIG), a group whose investigations into paranormal and extraordinary claims in the southwestern U.S. have led to articles and exposés in Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. He has appeared on several Television shows including: Hannity & Colmes on Fox News, Penn & Teller: Bullshit! for their First episode – “Talking to the Dead”, History’s Mysteries on the History Channel and Proof Positive on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Speaking Engagements

Joseph Uscinski

Joseph Uscinski is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Miami. He studies public opinion and mass media, with a focus on conspiracy theories, misinformation, and disinformation. He is coauthor of American Conspiracy Theories (Oxford, 2014) and editor of Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them (Oxford, 2018).

Walter Van Dam

Speaking Engagements

Tim Van Haitsma

Speaking Engagements

Bill Van Oosterhout

45 year veteran Stockbroker

FAoWM member and 45 year veteran Stockbroker

Speaking Engagements

Shane Van Oosterhout

Master Gardener Coordinator, MSU Extension Service and Adjunct Professor of Digital Media, Kendall College of Art & Design

Shane VanOosterhout is a professional gardener and garden photographer, designer, educator and writer. He is the Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator for the Ottawa County Michigan State University Extension Office. His primary interests include ecology and environmental stewardship. Shane is alsoAdjunct Professor of Digital Media at Kendall College of Art & Design. Shane received his Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan. He lives and gardens at Merkabee House (http://web.mac.com/merkebee/iWeb/Site/Merkebee.html), a 10 acre property which is a National Wildlife Foundation Certified Backyard Habitat, and maintains a blog called The Passionate Gardener (www.livetogarden.blogspot.com).

Howard Van Till, PhD

Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy, Calvin College

Howard J. Van Till graduated from Calvin in 1960, he earned his PhD in physics from Michigan State University in1965 and his research experience includes both solid state physics and millimeter wave astronomy. Since 1980, he has devoted a considerable portion of his writing and speaking efforts to topics regarding the relationship of science and religion.

Speaking Engagements

Dani Vilella

Public Affairs Manager, Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan

Dani Vilella is the Public Affairs Manager for Planned Parenthood of West and Northern Michigan. She is an entrepreneur, volunteer, and community organizer who is passionate about the social climate of West Michigan. Dani holds a degree in anthropology with an emphasis on women and gender studies from Grand Valley State University. She also has a Master’s Certification in non-profit leadership. She is also currently the president of the Grand Rapids chapter of the National Organization of Women.

John Waller, PhD


Dr. Waller received his B.A. in Modern History and his M.Sc. in Human Biology from the University of Oxford, his M.Sc. in History of Science and Medicine from Imperial College, London, and his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from University College, London (in 2001). Following his graduate work, he served as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard and as a Research Fellow and Part-time Lecturer at University College, London, and then became a Lecturer in History of Medicine and Biology at the University of Melbourne (Australia). Dr. Waller’s research has largely focused on nineteenth-century medical science and society. He has published five books (with Oxford University Press and Cambridge: Icon Books), is working on a sixth, and has also published seven peer-reviewed articles, and a number of conference articles, reviews, and book chapters. Dr. Waller teaches courses in the Lyman Briggs College of Science and the Department of History on the history of medicine, psychiatry, and evolutionary biology.

Speaking Engagements

Ibn Warraq

Senior Research Fellow, Center for Inquiry

Ibn Warraq is a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry and the founder of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society. His op-ed pieces have appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian. He participated in the Secular Islam Summit in St. Petersberg and has addressed the United Nations in Geneva. He is the author of seven books, including Why I Am Not a Muslim, The Origins of the Koran, The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, What the Koran Really Says: Language, Text and Commentary and Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism.

Speaking Engagements

Shelli Weisberg

Legislative Director, ACLU of Michigan

Shelli Weisberg joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan staff in 2003 to continue the ACLU’s longstanding commitment to a proactive legislative agenda in Lansing. Her primary responsibility is to persuade the legislature and administrative agencies to enact or amend legislation consistent with civil liberties principles. Shelli is responsible for developing and maintaining the legislative program by building coalitions consistent with ACLU policy; educating, motivating and organizing ACLU members for grassroots activity; and educating the public on the importance of legislative and administrative processes in the protection of civil liberties. Shelli has an extensive background in grassroots organizing and political activism for social justice issues.

Joel Welty

Great Lakes Humanist Society

Joel Welty, of the Great Lakes Humanist Society is a writer and has been a director of cooperatives and unions, taught school, and worked with groups to become more efficacious and focused among the many hats he has worn. He was also the Director of Property Management for the Foundation for Cooperative Housing. In the novel Sylviron that he authored, Welty blended his interests in cooperatives, the environment and policies that affect society. He has worked as a teacher, consultant and trainer, has served on the board of directors and in organizing committees of various cooperatives and credit unions.

Emily West

LGBT Coordinator, GVSU

Emily West is the LGBT Coordinator for the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center at Grand Valley State University. Emily is an alum of both Hope College and GVSU. At Hope, Emily began their activist work with campus organizing, including a campaign to repeal the college’s anti-homosexualitystatement. Emily has worked as a field organizer for local, regional and state campaigns, including a campaign focused on amending Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976 to be inclusive of perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. Emily has also worked as a youth advocate, supporting youth experiencing poverty and homelessness. Emily’s experiences doing LGBT advocacy work as well as youth advocacy work has been rooted in relational organizing toward a goal of collective liberation. Recently Emily had the honor of co-authoring a chapter titled “Beyond identity politics: Equipping students to create systemic change” in the first published text on intersectionality in higher education. Emily holds a Master’s of Education Degree with an emphasis in Adult and Higher Education from Grand Valley State University.

Greg White, MA

Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) as the Commission's legislative liaison, Grand Valley State University.

Greg White, at the beginning of this year was appointed to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) as the Commission’s legislative liaison. He had years of experience as a utility industry policy analyst, with a strong background in utility related legislative matters. White, of Grand rapids, previously served as the executive assistant to Commissioner Robert B. Nelson and former PSC Commissioner John Shea. In addition, he has managed the Commission’s congressional relations since 1989. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Grand Valley State University. He has served as chairman of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ staff subcommittee on nuclear issues and waste disposal for the last six years.

Website: http://www.michigan.gov/mpsc

Speaking Engagements

Andy Wible, PhD

Instructor of Philosophy, Muskegon Community College

Andy Wible finished his Ph.D. in philosophy at Wayne State University in Detroit in 2000. He has been on the faculty of Muskegon Community College since that time. He teaches a wide variety of classes at MCC including introduction to ethics, business ethics, environmental ethics, biomedical ethics, and introduction to philosophy. He received a Fulbright Award in 2003 and traveled to southern Africa to study ethical issues around HIV and AIDS. Andy has also published articles in business ethics and gay and lesbian rights, and is currently editing a book on golf and philosophy with the University Press of Kentucky.

Speaking Engagements

Arthur Wiggins

Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Physics, Oakland University

The universe’s workings have always fascinated Arthur Wiggins, so it’s no wonder he gravitated – eventually – to physics. After earning a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Notre Dame, he worked as an engineer while pursuing part-time graduate studies at the University of Michigan. One dissertation short of a PhD, he landed a job teaching physics at Oakland University. This challenge kept him busy for 37 years, and he enjoyed every nanosecond of it. Interactive lectures, labs, problem-solving sessions, tutoring, even grading essay questions all served to deepen his appreciation of how others also struggle to understand the universe. Often working with his long-term friend Charles M. Wynn, he decided to write books that would help people “get” what science is all about. Since he firmly believes enjoyment and understanding often go hand-in-hand, the books feature cartoons (mostly by Sidney Harris, America’s premier science cartoonist), diagrams, accessible language, and occasional mild humor. In retirement, Arthur and his wife Barbara enjoy family, travel, bicycling, bridge, tennis, and those addictive crossword puzzles.

Speaking Engagements

Valerie Wilkes, Ed.D.

Adjunct professor at MCC and Baker College, MCC, Baker College

Dr. Valerie Wilkes is a graduate of Baylor University and an educator. She recently has moved back to Muskegon after living in Texas for many years and is an adjunct professor at MCC and Baker College, where she teaches future educators.

Speaking Engagements

Todd Williams, Ph. D.

Associate Professor, Grand Valley State University

My theoretical and research interests are focused on examining the diverse existential issues of the human condition. I am fascinated by how we, as social animals, construct a shared system of meaning while maintaining a private sense of self. Although I do not deny the utility of micro-level theory in psychological research, I feel that there is much to be gained through the use of a more holistic approach to understanding psychological phenomenon. Terror management theory (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991) has provided me with a broad and integrative framework from which to explore my primary research interests. My interests encompass three topic areas: 1) How individuals acquire and maintain self-esteem in a social context, 2) How novel information influences beliefs and metacognitive awareness of changes in beliefs over time, and 3) How Machiavellianism relates to our ability to deceive others and our memory for things we have lied about.

Michael D. Willis

Member, Center for Inquiry-Michigan

Michael D. Willis has a degree in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University (which is less useful than a degree from Kendall College). He was on church Youth Leadership Teams through Middle and High School, worked as a youth pastor while attending college and was in Ministry for about 5 years, post undergrad; serving 2 different churches and eventually partnering with a church planting organization in New York city. Now he fixes security systems, since effectively fostering an environment of paranoia would be a terrible talent to waste.

Edward O. Wilson, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology, Harvard University

Dr. Edward O. Wilson is one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. His groundbreaking research, original thinking, and scientific and popular writing have changed the way humans think of nature, and our place in it. Currently he is a research professor and museum curator at Harvard University. He has received many of the world’s leading prizes for his research in science, his environmental activism, and his writing. Wilson has been a leader in the fields of entomology (the study of insects), animal behavior and evolutionary psychology, island biogeography, biodiversity, environmental ethics, and the philosophy of knowledge. He has written groundbreaking books and articles on all of these subjects. Two of his non-fiction books, The Ants (1990, with Bert Hölldobler) and On Human Nature (1978), have won Pulitzer Prizes. The Diversity of Life (1992) and Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge (1998), two of his more recent books, have been applauded for their graceful, creative and constructive approaches to challenging subjects. In The Diversity of Life and The Future of Life he conveys his deep concern for humanity’s bewildering degradation of our planet’s ecosystems. His commitment to protecting our natural heritage has brought him to the forefront of environmental activism.

Speaking Engagements

Sherwin Wine, PhD

International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism, University of Michigan

Dr. Wine was named the 2003 Humanist of the Year by the AHA (the American Humanist Association), sharing this award with such other Humanist luminaries as Margaret Sanger, Steven Jay Gould, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins, among other notables. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion. He is the founder of Humanistic Judaism, a fifth branch of Judaism. In 1963, he established the Birmingham Temple in suburban Detroit, MI, which was the first congregation of Humanistic Judaism. Six years later, he founded the Society for Humanistic Judaism, and, in ‘85, he established the International Institute for Secular Humanistic Judaism. Dr. Wine is the author of Judaism Beyond God, Celebration, Pursuit of Happiness and a book with the same title of this evening’s presentation. Additionally, he has written more than 75 articles on humanism, ethics and religion and is the principle contributor to Judaism in a Secular Age: An anthology of Secular Humanistic Jewish Thought.

Website: http://www.shj.org/wine.htm

Lisa Wininger

JPL Solar System Ambassador, NASA

Lisa Wininger is a Regional Director for the MiSTEM Network and is based in West Michigan and has been a space enthusiast throughout her career. Lisa participated in the SOFIA Airborne Astronomy program in 2015, and speaks about the flying observatory and its research at professional gatherings. Lisa was selected as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow in 2017 and served a year as a Fellow with NASA. She is a graduate of WRATS rocketry camp at NASA Wallops Island, presented at the SEEC conference at Houston Space Center, and at multiple NSTA conferences.

Naomi Wolf

Author, Social Critic, Political Activist

Author, social critic, and political activist Naomi Wolf raises awareness of the pervasive inequities that exist in society and politics. She encourages people to take charge of their lives, voice their concerns and enact change. In addition to her best-selling books such as The Beauty Myth, she’s a frequent blogger on The Huffington Post and writes cultural commentary for The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Harper’s Bazaar. Her TV appearances include Larry King Live, Meet the Press, The Joyce Behar Show, and The Colbert Report. A graduate of Yale and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Wolf was a consultant to Al Gore during his presidential campaign on women’s issues and social policy. She is co-founder of The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership, an organization that teaches leadership to young women, and The American Freedom Campaign, a grass roots democracy movement in the United States whose mission is the defense of the Constitution and the rule of law.

Michael Wolfe, Ph.D

Professor of Psychology, Grand Valley State University

Dr. Michael Wolfe is professor of psychology at Grand Valley State University and incoming chair of the Psychology Department. Dr. Wolfe received his PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Much of his research involves studies on reading comprehension and memory. In recent years, he has studied how and when beliefs may change as a result of reading, and the extent to which people are aware of these changes. He is past Secretary of the Society for Text and Discourse, and a current Governing Board member. He also serves on the editorial board of the journal Discourse Processes.


CFI Michigan Member

Wolfgang had his bachelors, masters and doctorate in the US, UK, France and Germany in areas of Anthropology, Biomedical Research and Business.  He studied nontraditional sexual lifestyles such as sexual yoga (Tantra), BDSM (The Real 50 shades of gray) and so called Sex Magick triggered by mutually hypnotic erotic trance (Shamanistic, Animism and other so called Earth Traditions).  Doing field studies in Seattle, Amsterdam, Paris and the Midwest. In a different career he worked on innovation engine challenges of doing next generation medical research for better and more precise discoveries leading into Precision Medicine.  After an MBA he works advising investors which medical science and technologies are most likely to succeed and which risks are worth losing money on in the global markets.