July 08, 2010


Humanists announce formation of new institute dedicated to ethics

Brandishing a 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.

"The secularist 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 systems.”  

Kurtz, with 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.

The Statement 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.

"We've never 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."

The Statement 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."

Other recommendations support democracy, a "green economy," population restraint, and "progressive positions on the economy."

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 said.

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.

Retired NASA 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

  For additional information see the attached “Neo-Humanist Statement of Secular Principles and Values” and visit:



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(480) 882-8370

Contact: Jesse Christopherson July 8, 2010                                                                                                    


NOSHA Assembles Big Name Speakers:

Kurtz, Faircloth and Barry

NOSHA has been extremely fortunate to have some “heavy hitters” in the secular humanism and reason movements visit our regular meetings over the past few months. Paul Kurtz, who is considered the “father of secular humanism” discussed that “...traditional religion is outdated and morality must necessarily change with social conditions and the times.” Norm Allen spoke about his and Kurtz’s efforts to engage African Americans in secular humanism here and abroad. Mr. Kurtz, in a note to President Harry Greenberger: “I enjoyed myself very much and I was delighted with the many friends at NOSHA that I made. It was gratifying to meet so many fine humanists. I especially appreciate your gracious hospitality.”

(Read More)


Buffalo, New York, October 11, 2011


Louise Antony to deliver 2011 Paul Kurtz Lecture


Louise Antony  will be delivering the 2011 Paul Kurtz Lecture on Thursday, October 20. Her talk is entitled "Materialism, Naturalism, and Nihilism." Although Professor Antony is an academic philosopher at UMass Amherst and has been invited here by UB Philosophy Department, her address is intended for the broader academic community. She will deliver her paper on October 20 at 4 pm in Clemens 120.  The talk is open to the public and will be followed by a question and answer period in which the audience can engage the speaker.

Professor Antony’s talk is the second of the annual lectures in a series endowed by Paul Kurtz, UB emeritus professor of Philosophy, author and editor of over 50 books, founder of Prometheus Books and the Center for Inquiry.


Antony has had a huge impact across the philosophical landscape, in part because she brings research in one field to bear on others. She has repeatedly reinvigorated epistemology and philosophy of mind with insights drawing upon feminist philosophy. One of her better known papers: “Quine as a Feminist – The Radical import of Naturalist Epistemology” has been cited nearly a 100 times.  Her current research is in perception and intentionality, autonomy, of psychology, Issues in feminist epistemology, and Human Nature.


Antony is a co-editor and contributor of some highly and controversial anthologies: A Mind of One’s Own: Issues in Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity  in 1993, 2002, and Philosophers without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and Social Life in 2007.


Philosophers without God sought to contribute to a fuller understanding of those who have rejected religious belief. It collects original essays by twenty leading philosophers from Great Britain and the United States, all of whom are secular. The first section, “Journeys,” includes many very autobiographical pieces, and reveals how the authors came to develop their own positions on issues like the existence of God and the basis of moral value. Authors in the second section, “Reflections,” discuss in a more general way philosophical questions that arise in connection with religion and theology: Is religious faith really a form of belief?  Can an atheist affirm the meaningfulness of human existence?  Without God, is anything sacred? The most prestigious source of philosophical reviews, The Notre Dame Philosophical Review , lauded it as “an excellent source of how comprehensive philosophical writing can be at its best.”


A Mind of One’s Own is a collection of essays by women who are prominent in philosophy who address some recent feminist criticisms of philosophy. They ask: Are we right to feel, as we do, that reason and objectivity, the traditional “tools of our trade” have important contributions to make to the lives of women who seek full equality? Martha Nussbaum, in her New York Review of Books  piece claimed “The collection is important because women in philosophy have too long been silent about the question it poses, embarrassed by the shortcomings of some feminist philosophical work but reluctant to criticize people with whose politics they have much sympathy. The book is also distinguished by the quality of its contributors. On no previous occasion have so many of the most interesting female thinkers in philosophy contributed to a single book dealing with feminist issues.”

Committed to transforming the role of women in academia, Antony began the Mentoring Project for pre-tenure women in philosophy in 2011. The program involved a three day workshop and the formation of networking groups.


Professor Anthony’s articles and lectures are  known  not just for the philosophical  insights of her work and her  commitment to social justice, but her style and wit, that latter which is even evident in such titles as “Back to Androgyny: What Bathrooms can tell us about Equality”, Equal Rights for Swamp People,” “Empty Heads,”“Whose Afraid of Disjunctive Properties,”  and “Atheism as Perfect Piety.”


Before joining the UMass Amherst philosophy department in  2006, Antony taught at Ohio State University from 2000-2006 and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 1993-2000. She received her Ph.D in philosophy from Harvard in 1981.




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