Richard Dawkins – Founder and Chair of the Board
Board and Staff
One of the most respected scientists in the world and the biggest draw in secularism, Richard Dawkins always generates impressive crowds when visiting North America. Secularism is sweeping America as a movement, and Richard Dawkins is the catalyst who galvanizes it.
From 1995 to 2008 Richard Dawkins was the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He is an internationally best-selling author. Among his books are The Ancestor’s Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, A Devil’s Chaplain, The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth, The Magic of Reality, andAn Appetite for Wonder His most recent book is the second part of his autobiography, A Brief Candle in the Dark. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society and of the Royal Society of Literature. His around-the-world speaking tour is the focus of a recent documentary The Unbelievers which also features appearances by Woody Allen, Stephen Colbert, Cameron Diaz, Ian McEwan, Ricky Gervais, Stephen Hawking, Eddie Izzard, Bill Pullman, and Sarah Silverman.
Dr. Andy Thomson – Treasurer
A psychiatrist with an interest in evolutionary psychology, Dr. Thomson wrote the 2011 book Why We Believe in God(s): A Concise Guide to the Science of Faith. Thanks to the revolution in cognitive neurosciences and the labors of many scientists, we are tantalizingly close to a comprehensive scientific answer to that question. Dr. Thomson speaks eloquently on this and other topics.
Details available at http://www.jandersonthomson.com/
David Cowan – Board Member
A partner at Bessemer Venture Partners, David Cowan has funded over 20 startups that have gone to IPO, such as Blue Nile, Ciena, Lifelock, and LinkedIn. Forbes Magazine now ranks Cowan fourth among the thirteen investors on their Midas List Hall of Fame. Cowan was also the co-founder of the companies VeriSign and Good Technology, and he currently serves on the boards of Lifelock, Endgame, Skybox Imaging, Zoosk, Reputation, GetInsured, and Smule. Raised in a fundamentalist religious community, Cowan is now an atheist and supporter of several secular organizations including Skeptics Society, Con Academy, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. He founded Hereby Chants, the first atheist a cappella singing group.
Woody Kaplan – Advisor
WOODY KAPLAN founded the Civil Liberties List (a political action committee) and is a full-time political and civil liberties activist. He is president of the Defending Dissent Foundation, Advisory Board Chair of the Secular Coalition for America, and serves on the advisory boards of the American Humanist Association, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and the Secular Student Alliance.
Kaplan is a former member of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Board of Directors and served on its Executive Committee.
Congressional lobbying, organizational governance and development work are Kaplan’s major activities. His civil liberties interests include freedom of expression, the right of dissent, separation of church and state, racial justice, LGBT rights, reproductive freedom, abolition of the death penalty, the rights of the accused, police misconduct and a general extension of political and civil liberties.
Kaplan spent twenty-five years developing regional shopping centers and is Chief Executive Officer of The Kaplan Group, Inc. He is married to writer Wendy Kaminer.
Baris Karadogan – Advisor
BARIS KARADOGAN has been the CEO of Hip Digital Media, a Silicon Valley based mobile advertising and rewards company, since 2008. Prior to joining Hip Digital Media, Baris was a venture capitalist for ten years at U.S. Venture Partners, a leading venture capital firm, and at Fuse Capital. As a VC, Baris invested in a wide variety of industries including digital media, telecommunications and semiconductors. Baris’ recent board seats/investments included: Like.com (Acquired by Google), SpectraLinear (acquired by SiLabs NASDAQ:SLAB), Minerva Networks, Redline Communications (LSE: REDL) and Aspendos Communications (Acquired by Beceem Communications). Baris is also an angel investor and advisor to a number of startups in Silicon Valley, including Workshop Café and ByUs.
Before becoming a venture capitalist, Baris worked in both engineering and marketing at 3Com/U.S. Robotics, where he developed software for the company’s networking and cable modem products. His efforts at U.S. Robotics resulted in a number of U.S. patents.
Baris, an avid birdwatcher, is an active participant and leader in a number of non-profits. He is a member of the board of directors of Audubon California, an organization working to preserve ecosystems and habitats for birds. He also served on the board of directors of Friends of Anatolia, a nonprofit that restored and renovated a number of on elementary schools in rural Turkey. Baris is the founding board member of Nature Turkey, a nonprofit promoting conservation ecology in northern Turkey. Baris is also on the board of the Foundation For The Future, a non-profit raising funds for the Menlo-Atherton public high school.
He earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lafayette College, where he graduated summa cum laude. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu. Baris also holds an MS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar.
Norman Lear – Advisor
NORMAN LEAR was born in New Haven, Connecticut on July 27, 1922. He dropped out of Emerson College to join the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II. He left the Army in 1945 and began writing comedy, which eventually transformed into screenwriting and producing for television and films. His best known projects include the TV shows All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude and Good Times.
In 1981 Lear decided to leave the world of television for political activism. In that year, he founded People for the American Way, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting First Amendment rights, strengthening public education, and promoting electoral and immigration reform. In 2000, Lear founded the Norman Lear Center at USC to support research investigating the intersection of entertainment and society. Four years later, he founded Declare Yourself, a nonpartisan youth voter registration initiative. For his work in both television and political activism, President Bill Clinton presented Lear with the National Medal of Arts in 1999, stating that “Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it.”
Bill Nye – Advisor
BILL NYE was born on November 27, 1955, and grew up in Washington, D.C. From there he went on to Cornell University, moved to Seattle to work as a mechanical engineer for the Boeing Company and eventually became a comedy show writer and performer.
Nye went on to get his own show, Bill Nye, the Science Guy, which was an educational program that taught science to preteens. Over its five-year run, the show was hugely successful and won 18 Emmy Awards. Nye became a well-known entertainer and went on to perform in films and television shows, among other things, after his show ended. He remains vocal in the science community.
Carolyn Porco – Advisor
CAROLYN PORCO is the leader of the imaging science team on the Cassini mission presently in orbit around Saturn, a veteran imaging scientist of the Voyager mission to the outer solar system in the 1980s, and an imaging scientist on the New Horizons mission on its way to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. Carolyn has co-authored over 115 scientific papers on a variety of subjects in astronomy and planetary science and has become a regular public commentator on science, astronomy, planetary exploration, and the intersection of science and religion. Her popular science writings have appeared in such distinguished publications as the London Sunday Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, Astronomy magazine, the PBS and BBC websites, the Arizona Daily Star, Sky and Telescope, Scientific American, and American Scientist.
Carolyn has been the recipient of a number of awards and honors for her contributions to science and the public sphere. She is the namesake of Asteroid (7231) Porco, which was named to honor her work in planetary science. In 1999, she was selected by the London Sunday Times as one of 18 scientific leaders of the 21st century, and by Industrial Week as one of “50 Stars to Watch”. In 2009, New Statesman named her as one of the “50 People Who Matter Today.” In 2010 she was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal, presented by the American Astronomical Society for Excellence in the Communication of Science to the Public. And in 2012, she was named one the 25 most influential people in space by TIME magazine.
Andrés Roemer – Advisor
ANDRÉS ROEMER is the president and co-founder of the Ciudad de las Ideas (City of Ideas) conference. A Fulbright scholar, Dr. Roemer earned a Ph.D. in Public Policy in 1994 from UC Berkeley, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration in 1991 from Harvard University, where he received the Don K. Prize Award. Dr. Roemer is a pioneer in creating and implementing key ways of promoting science, art, and culture in his native country. In his diverse roles as scholar, writer, intellectual curator, and diplomat, Roemer has positioned Mexico as an emerging cultural leader. He has shaped intellectual discourse on public affairs in Mexico and is widely recognized for his prodigious efforts to bring the world to Mexico — and Mexico to the world.
Andrés is devoted to empowering people by teaching them to question accepted beliefs and to order the complexities of society. Based on that conviction, Dr. Roemer has orchestrated pivotal and remarkable international meetings, which have made him one of the most distinguished citizens in his country.
Dr. Roemer is also known as a great communicator, capable of transmitting complex concepts in a simple and comprehensible way, as well as for writing about a variety of critical topics with a keen understanding of science, arts, public policy, and economics, with broad implications for social prosperity. Creator of the internationally celebrated Ciudad de las Ideas festival, he is also the author of 16 books and two plays on such diverse topics as happiness, art, sexuality, love, water, soccer, law, economics, crime, evolutionary psychology, government, cultural mobility and public policy. His range of influence is extensive and has significantly impacted the wellbeing of the Mexican people.
Todd Stiefel – Advisor
TODD STIEFEL is the Founder and President of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation and serves as an advisor to many of the national organizations in the freethought movement. He is the Chair of Openly Secular and the co-host of the Humanist Hour podcast. Todd spoke at and his foundation was the primary sponsor for Rock Beyond Belief and The Reason Rally. He has given over $3.5 million dollars to charities in the Freethought Movement.
Todd graduated cum laude from Duke University. He worked 12 years for Stiefel Laboratories, holding positions in marketing, sales operations and strategy. During his tenure, the company’s revenues quadrupled. He was the Chief Strategy Officer, the Enterprise Leadership Team chairman and member of the executive committee of the Board. He was responsible for 250 people including the finance, strategy, risk, facilities, administration and program management functions. He co-led the teams that sold equity to Blackstone and Stiefel Laboratories to GlaxoSmithKline.
He was awarded the Freedom From Religion Foundation 2014 Emperor Has No Clothes Award, Foundation Beyond Belief 2013 Heart of Humanism, American Atheists 2010 Activist of the Year and 2012 Philanthropist of the Year. During 2012 and 2013, Todd led the Foundation Beyond Belief international team that raised $930,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Greg Stikeleather – Advisor
GREG STIKELEATHER is a serial entrepreneur who currently invests in both for-proﬁt and non-proﬁt ventures. In the 1990s, Greg founded and was President and CEO of aha! software, which produced and patented digital-ink processing technology. aha! was later acquired by Microsoft. Greg then led another start up, Portola Communications, in the development of high-performance Internet email software. He served as President and CEO of Portola through its acquisition by Netscape. Greg was also a managing partner at Soﬁnnova Ventures, a San Francisco venture capital ﬁrm, for several years, and in 1999 cofounded Headsprout, a learning sciences company. He served as President and CEO of Headsprout until early 2006, when its award- winning early reading program was being used in schools, homes, and learning centers across the United States, and around the world. Greg was trained in the learning sciences with a graduate degree in experimental psychology. In the 1980s, he applied his learning science research as an instructional and interface designer at Apple, where he developed and ran the ﬁrst usability testing lab during the creation of Apple’s ﬁrst graphical user interface.
Julia Sweeney – Advisor
JULIA SWEENEY is best known for her four seasons on Saturday Night Live (1990 – 1994), in which her most famous character was androgynous “Pat.” She is also known for her critically acclaimed one-woman monologues God Said, Ha! and Letting Go of God.
God Said, Ha! played on Broadway at the Lyceum theater in 1996. This show chronicled her brother Michaels’ diagnosis with cancer and her experiences as his caretaker. During this time, she was also diagnosed with cancer. Miramax released the film version of the show in 1998 which was produced by Quentin Tarantino. The CD version of the show was nominated for a Grammy.
Letting Go of God also was performed in New York and Los Angeles. It was made into a film, which aired on Showtime. This show is about her search for a God she can believe in. She has worked as a writer on several TV shows including Sex & the City and Desperate Housewives. She has also appeared in several TV shows including Fraiser and Sex & the City and in many films, including It’s Pat: The Movie, Pulp Fiction, and Stuart Little as well as the mother in Beethoven 3 and Beethoven 4.
Her book If It’s Not One Thing, It’s Your Mother was published by Simon & Schuster in April 2013. She has voiced numerous animated characters. The most recent was for the voice of Mrs. Squiggles in the Pixar movie Monsters University. For seven years she performed with her friend Jill Sobule, the rock/folk musician. They did a show called The Jill & Julia Show. They are no longer performing, but you can see the film they made of one of their last performances on YouTube.
She is not currently performing on stage. She has turned her attention to her writing and lives just outside Chicago in Wilmette, IL, with her husband and daughter.
ROBYN BLUMNER joined the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science as Executive Director in February 2014 and a year later she was promoted to President & chief executive officer. In January 2016 she became CEO of the Center for Inquiry. She comes off a 16-year career as a nationally syndicated columnist and editorial writer at the Tampa Bay Times newspaper (formerly the St. Petersburg Times.) Blumner is an expert on civil liberties and civil rights. She has written extensively on church-state separation, free speech and privacy issues as well as economics and the diminishing power of the middle-class. Her columns appeared regularly in newspapers around the country. In 2012, she was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing along with three colleagues. Blumner was executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida from 1989 to 1997, and executive director of the ACLU of Utah from 1987 to 1989. In that role she led efforts to protect abortion rights, student free speech rights and to prevent the adoption of school vouchers, among dozens of public policy battles.
Blumner attended Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, graduating with honors in 1982. Her law degree comes from New York University School of Law where she graduated in 1985 and is a member of the New York State Bar.
STEPHANIE GUTTORMSON joined the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science in March of 2013.
She was the leader of an award winning student group at the Metropolitan State University of Denver that developed widely successful unique events such Food for Freethought and The Pseudoscience Fair. She also brought in notable names such as Michael Shermer and James Randi to speak on campus.
She holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Linguistics and Theoretical Mathematics from the Metropolitan State University of Denver.
DAVE CHURVIS is a longtime activist for many secular, feminist, queer, and social justice causes. He joined the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science in June 2015.