July 08, 2010
Humanists announce formation of new institute
dedicated to ethics
statement of "Neo-Humanist" values, a group of leaders in
the humanist movement has established a new non-profit
aiming to re-humanize secularism.
“We aim to be inclusive and to work with
religious and non-religious groups to help solve common
problems facing the Planetary community,”
Paul Kurtz, chairman of the new Institute for
Science and Human Values (ISHV), said.
Kurtz also said
the group will promote scientific inquiry and critical
thinking in evaluating claims and "develop values that are
naturalistic and humanistic in character and appropriate to
the 21st century." He said religion is often at the root of
society's ethical values, and that ISHV wants to reevaluate
them on rational grounds.
“We’re going to
enlist the brightest scientists and scholars, and not just
in the United States but everywhere there are humanists,”
Kurtz said. “We want to find out how to better develop the
common moral virtues that we share as human beings.”
Kurtz is an
emeritus professor of philosophy and has been involved in
humanist, skeptical, and secularist movements for more than
30 years. In 1991 he brought together two organizations, one
focused on skepticism and the other on humanism, to form the
Center for Inquiry (CFI). Kurtz resigned from CFI’s board in
May of this year.
garden doesn't necessarily produce humanist blooms," Kurtz
said. “The questions we want to answer are, how do you
develop among secularists a personal morality? How does one
develop empathy? How can we motivate morality? It’s a common
belief that morality can only come from religion. Well, I
have known scores of excellent human beings who behave very
morally and yet do not subscribe to religious belief
input from other prominent humanists, has composed a
"Neo-Humanist Statement of Secular Principles and Values"
that will help guide the new organization's activities. It
is the latest public declaration of a humanist movement that
has been punctuated by similar documents in 1933, 1973, and
2003. The Statement is signed by more than 100 prominent
Humanists including Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker,
former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, and writer Ann
Druyan, wife of the late Carl Sagan.
lays out 16 "recommendations" that emphasize the development
of a positive ethical system in order to help the humanist
movement better understand and express what it is for.
had a problem expressing what we're against," Kurtz said.
"Humanists have always been critical of theism. But as our
movement matures politically and socially, it will be
beneficial to express our positive values, like ethical
values based on reason and support for critical thinking as
a way to solve public problems."
also includes some decidedly liberal ideas, including
support for the rights of "women, racial, ethnic, and sexual
minorities," and for "education, health care, gainful
employment, and other social benefits."
recommendations support democracy, a "green economy,"
population restraint, and "progressive positions on the
Toni Van Pelt,
former director of CFI's lobbying arm the Office of Public
Policy, said that humanism had significant accomplishments
petitioning Congress over the last several years.
"We had great
success, to the point where several members accepted our
Science and Reason award and even spoke in our D.C. office,
which was just a short walk from the Capitol," Van Pelt
Van Pelt, who
signed the new Statement, said part of ISHV’s mission would
be to fill the lobbying gap left by the effective closure of
CFI’s Office of Public Policy.
astrophysicist Stuart Jordan is also among ISHV’s
organizers. He said ethics would take priority in ISHV’s
activities. “Science and reason are the means to achieving
the ethical goals, which were and are the ultimate goals of
the Enlightenment that helped jump start our country,” he
said. “The overriding goal was and still is a better world
for all humanity.”
Kurtz said what
he sees as a crisis in secularism prompted him to form the
ISHV. “It is becoming obvious to an increasing number of
secularists that to be disaffected from religion doesn’t
bestow moral or ethical superiority,” he said. “For example,
Ayn Rand and her ideological heirs promote freedom, but
don’t consider the virtue in selflessness and cooperation.
We want to investigate whether there is a moral framework
reinforced by reason that non-theists can embrace.”
Paul Kurtz is the author of more than 50
books and is a Professor Emeritus at the State University of
New York at Buffalo. To
schedule an interview with him,
please contact Jesse Christopherson at
(480) 882-8370 or
additional information see the attached “Neo-Humanist
Statement of Secular Principles and Values” and visit:
For immediate distribution
Contact: Jesse Christopherson July 8,