Amherst, New York, May 18, 2010

Apologia

Open Letter to  friends and colleagues in the Center for Inquiry/Transnational movement:

This letter officially announces my resignation from the boards of the Center for Inquiry,  Committee for Skeptical  Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism, all  organizations  that I founded beginning in 1976. It is with profound regret that I also wish to announce my resignation as editor-in-chief  of Free Inquiry magazine now in its 30th year of  publication and from the editorial board of The Skeptical Inquirer. I have already been shorn of all effective authority in these organizations and magazines and "shoved  on an ice flow" so to speak, so it is merely a formality to divest myself of any pretensions that I have anything any longer  to say within the organizations or magazines that I founded. 

May I say something about the notable achievements and breakthroughs that we accomplished They are so many that I can only touch on some highlights, and apologize if I have omitted any due to lack of space. May I say that I  appreciate the unparalleled  opportunities that I have had to be working with colleagues such as Dr. Joe Nickel,  Profs Ray Hyman and James Alcock and others on so many important  research projects. We were among the first to have tested psychics and other gurus. We questioned the doctrine of reincarnation  and the transmigration of souls.

We challenged the ever popular claims of astrologers and commissioned scientists in France and elsewhere to test their claims. Our statement  "Objections to Astrology" endorsed by leading astronomers and other scientists made the front page of newspapers world-wide, including the New York Times. Media attention was enormous

Uniquely, we attempted to bring public attention to the findings of biblical criticism, under the direction of Profs Gerald La Rue and R Joseph Hoffmann. The Jesus Project enabled us to examine Jesus in myth and history We critically analyzed the basic doctrines of the Old and New Testaments that were essential to Judaism and Christianity .We also initiated the field of Koranic studies under Ibn Warraq to question the untested beliefs of Islam and the historical Muhammad, with all of the frightful dangers that posed to us at that time. Here was skeptical inquiry in action in so many fields of vital public interest. CSICOP and the Council for Secular Humanism were often in the media around the clock. We enlisted many famous media stars to assist us in these bold and exciting projects, notably Steve Allen. We were simultaneously on many fronts of vital public interest. We were informative, innovative, and courageous.

Secular humanism came under attack by the religious right, we were the first to respond that "Yes,we were secular humanists and proud of it." We thus defined a new outlook that was critical of religion, yet offered a positive alternative to those seeking practical answers. Scientific rationalism and secular humanism we suggested offered non-believers constructive guidelines for the good life. In response to increasing demand from various regions of North America, we began to form skeptics and secular humanist groups. These eventually led to the creation of Centers and Communities in all parts of the land. The key idea was that we would provide secular Centers where like -minded folk could meet. Interesting speakers, seminars and debates ( notably Edward Tabash) were sponsored throughout North America. And we attempted to offer new programs to satisfy a growing public interest. We embarked upon a new building program in Amherst New York --our fund drive exceeded its goals-- and in Los Angeles where we built an entertainment center with various events sponsored around the clock. We rented space in many cities and said that we would build Centers if people in the area could raise the money. First they had to found Communities, later we might go on to Centers. We offered many services in many of our Centers, including weddings, funerals, moral education for children, even counseling.

Of tremendous significance is the fact that in 1988 we began to embark upon an educational mission. We provided courses and seminars at the Summer Institute in Amherst and throughout the country. Well over 1500 students have registered for these programs. And most important we offered dozens and dozens of popular teachers--such as Anthony Flew, Richard Hull, Austin Dacey, R. Joseph Hoffmann to teach.. These programs recruited many young people to our movement including DJ Grothe, Amanda Chessworth, Chris Mooney, Derek Aruajo, and others..Being adjacent to the largest campus of the State University of New York, we were able to build the most significant free thought library in the world with over 160.000 books, monographs and journals. We also established a students movement, the largest of its kind in the history of the United States, with hundreds of groups on college campuses and universities and thousands of students at large.

The influence of the Center for Inquiry world wide grew at a rapid pace. We convened congresses in many parts of the world, including Sydney, London, Heidelberg, Beijing. And we convened seminars in Egypt, Peru, Argentina, Moscow, to name only a few. It has been exciting to apply science and reason to the critical examination of  paranormal and religious claims; and in emphasizing the need for the public's appreciation of the scientific outlook I am pleased that we were able to attract so many distinguished scientists and philosophers under our banner and hundreds of thousands of readers and supporters throughout the world. The International Academy of Humanism has elected over 100 of the most distinguished men and women as Laureates. It is the Whos' Who of public intellectuals including many Nobel Prize Winners, including Francis Crick, Sir Herman Bondi, Isaac Asimov, Sidney Hook,Sir Karl Popper,.Carl Sagan, Andrei Sakharov, EO Wilson, Lady Barbara Wootton, Sir Isaiah Berlin, Bette Friedan, etc. And as far as I am aware, no one has ever declined this honor

May I add to our achievements, how exciting it has been to have created Centers from New York to Los Angeles, London to Moscow, Beijing to New Dehli, Argentina to Nigeria. How satisfying to have worked cooperatively with so many students and scholars, ordinary men and women, Noble Prize winners and scientists. who agree about the vital importance of critical thinking in society and humanist values.

May I add a negative note that I hope will be corrected. Too many independent individuals are sometimes victims of "board-mania.;" that is, the power of boards of directors to suppress creative personalities. Albert Ellis the famous psychologist was sacrificed by the board of directors of the organization that he founded I have suffered a similar fate, but that is a topic for another time. Also I fear that there may be developing among some within our midst a distaste for Ph.D's. This would be a disaster for the Center for Inquiry now has an international reputation everywhere, as our Conference in Beijing demonstrated. We were welcomed by leading Chinese scientists and by the Chinese government. Kendrick Frazier who visited China with me and a team of 15 well-known American scientists and scholars can attest to that fact.

In Conclusion:

I wish to take the time now to deal with a vital question that needs to be addressed by the Center for Inquiry, and I believe that it should be at the top of the agenda for the future. Here I am talking about the need to apply reason and science to human values. Unfortunately, the major emphasis of the Center had been on criticism of religious and paranormal claims--that is surely a key part of the agenda. But this has led to the neglect of another essential part of the vision that first inspired the creation of the Center for Inquiry; and that is the application of science and reason to ethical questions. The key question is whether secularists are able to develop secular ethical values that instill meaning and provide some basis for moral integrity.

Many of us thought that if we criticized the traditional theological foundations of morality, humans would be emancipated from repression and free to realize their own potentialities and that they would behave ethically. This is not necessarily the case, as secular Marxism was perverted by communist states which abandoned the civic virtues of democracy and condoned terror. I fear that the Center for Inquiry will risk irrelevance unless it begins to embark upon this second part of our mission. Thus we need to address the key question of Personal Morality. How can we discover what such principles and values are and more importantly how can this be applied in concrete terms to practice in the cosmopolitan communities in which we live. Of course this leads to a final point that many of you know is central in my writings, and that is Planetary Ethics. But I will end this letter which is already far too long.

Sincerely yours,

Paul Kurtz

This is a research project that I have already embarked upon..

 

 

 

Institute for Science and Human Values