Monday, September 17, 2012

Paul Kurtz

by Edd Doerr

On September 8 the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH) presented a panel discussion on the contributions to humanism of Paul Kurtz. The panel consisted of Stuart Jordan, president of the Institute for Science and Human Values (founded by Paul Kurtz); Nathan Bupp, editor of the new book Meaning and Value in a Secular Age: The Writings of Paul Kurtz (Prometheus Books, 2012, 365 pp, $19); Margaret Downey, president of the Philadelphia Freethought Society; and myself. All of us agreed that Kurtz has been the most important voice for humanism or secular humanism for the past half century. Paul was editor of The Humanist (AHA), later  Free Inquiry, and now The Human Prospect: A Neohumanist Perspective.  He founded the world's largest humanist publishing house, Prometheus Books, produced a television series, wrote about 50 books and many  hundreds of articles, and founded the Center for Inquiry. He and Edwin Wilson produced the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II.

My own connection with Paul goes back about 45 years. (By coincidence we have the same birthday, the winter solstice.) Around 1971 Paul asked me to write a column in The Humanist with Paul Blanshard, which we did for a couple of years, until Blanshard retired. I continued the column for another 30 some years until my successor as AHA president ordered my column terminated in a bizarre and unhumanistic fit of pique. At which point Paul Kurtz asked me to continue the column in Free Inquiry, for which I still write.

In 1973 I was one of the original signers of Humanist Manifesto II, which rated an eleven page story in the New York Times on August  26, 1973, and is probably the best summary of humanist thinking ever produced.

Let me recommend Paul's Meaning and Value. This book of Paul's writings over a span of nearlt 50 years is a real treasure, and one too long and rich for even a short review here. Buy the book.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I respect that he has done a great deal for humanism.
I was just very disappointed when, out of a desire to learn something of this guy people were talking about, I listened to an interview he did I believe on Point of Inquiry. Right out the gate he came off as entirely un-skeptical and endorsed a completely ridiculous conspiracy theory about president Lincoln. Not at all what I'd been lead to expect from the man.