Thursday, October 25, 2012

Paul Kurtz – A Great Philosopher No One Ever Heard Of Passes Away

But See if What He Said Doesn’t Make Sense

The State University of New York at Buffalo is one of the most unknown of high quality colleges and universities in the nation.  The reason for this lack of notice is the fact that SUNY Buffalo, as it is known, does not have renown football or basketball team.  It does have a football team that the consistently fields a mediocre squad and it does have basketball team that also is consistently mediocre.  These are not necessarily bad characteristics for a university these days.

Until recently though the SUNY Buffalo did have a great philosopher associated with it, Paul Kurtz.

Doug Benz for The New York Times
Paul Kurtz, in 2010, published books
 and magazines devoted to fact-based, 
not faith-based, solutions to human problems.
Professor Kurtz taught philosophy at the University at Buffalo, part of the State University of New York, from 1965 until his retirement as professor emeritus in 1991. But his wider influence came as a publisher of books and magazines devoted to fact-based, rather than faith-based, solutions to human problems, and as a writer who, in more than 40 books and hundreds of articles, promoted an ethical system independent of religion.

If Mr. Kurtz was known at all, he was known for his debunking of pseudo scientists, people who claimed levitation power or the ability to read minds or bend spoons by thought.

Professor Kurtz founded . . .  (known as Csicop), which is dedicated to debunking pseudosciences.

But his real contribution was towards the ideas that people were responsible for their lives and that religious fanaticism of any type from any religion was wrong and dangerous.

In 1980, in response to the conservative religious movement the Moral Majority, Professor Kurtz founded the journal Free Inquiry. In its inaugural issue he drafted another statement, “A Secular Humanist Declaration,” in which he warned that “the reappearance of dogmatic authoritarian religions” had become a threat to intellectual freedom, human rights and scientific progress. The statement, signed by 61 scholars, directed its objections toward “fundamentalist, literalist and doctrinaire Christianity; a rapidly growing and uncompromising Muslim clericalism in the Middle East and Asia; the reassertion of orthodox authority by the Roman Catholic papal hierarchy; nationalist religious Judaism; and the reversion to obscurantist religions in Asia.”

Notice the comprehensive nature of the above and notice it is a concept that foretold the current state of affairs. This is insight for today that was proclaimed over 30 years ago.   Religious fundamentalism was and is a threat to basic human dignity and freedom.  And while that threat still exists, and is probably stronger than it has ever been Mr. Kurtz’s work has at least exposed the threat for what it is.

Here is his philosophy summed up,

In its best-known dictum, it declared, “No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.”

Really, who other than mindless fanatics can disagree with that? 

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