Paul Kurtz – What is the Point of Inquiry

December 07, 2006

In this special episode of Point of Inquiry, Paul Kurtz joins D.J. Grothe for an overview of CFI’s mission and challenges. Kurtz is founder and chair of the Center for Inquiry and many other organizations and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is also Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, chairman of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (previously CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, and Prometheus Books. He is editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry magazine and author of over forty five books, including Science and Religion: Are They Compatible and Living Without Religion. Throughout the last thirty years, he has been a leading defender of science and reason against the prevailing cults of irrationality in our society.

In this episode, and for the first time in a year of weekly episodes featuring the leading minds of the day, Paul Kurtz and D.J. Grothe discuss the various programs and projects of the Center for Inquiry, including the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Societies, Secular Organizations for Sobreity (an atheist alternative to Alcoholics Anonymous), African Americans for Humanism, CFI’s community and campus programs, its international programs, its North American branches, its magazines, its social services, and other aspects of CFI’s work. Kurtz also discusses ways listeners can get involved in the Center’s efforts.

This is point of inquiry for Friday, December 8th, 2006. Welcome to Point of inquiry, I’m DJ Grothe a point of inquiry is the radio show and podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank collaborating with the State University of New York at Buffalo on the new science and the public master’s degree. CFI also has branches in Manhattan, Tampa, Hollywood and Washington, DC. With it looks like additional North American branch is on the way. In addition to 14 other offices around the world every week on point of inquiry, we look at some of the big questions facing our culture through the lens of science and critical thinking. We look mostly at three research areas pseudoscience and the paranormal, alternative medicine and secularism and religion. We look at these three research areas by drawing on CFI, his relationship with the leading minds of the day, including Nobel Prize winning scientists, renowned entertainers, public intellectuals and social critics and thinkers. Before we get to this week’s guest, I want to do what I’ve been doing for a while here on point of inquiry and welcome some new campus groups that have affiliated with this that we’ve helped found on campuses around the country. These are CFI campus groups that work with us to advance science and secularism at their schools. So welcome to the new group at Liverpool University. The new group at University of Chicago, the Democratic Trans Humanists. And the new group at Coach High’s College in Sierra Vista, Arizona. If you’d like to work with us to start a campus group at your school, go to Campus Inquirer dot org and avail yourself of the free resources that CFI makes available. To that end, before we get to this week’s guest, Paul Kurtz, I’d like to announce that this is the one year anniversary of point of inquiry and we have had a lot of fun. Now, I am headed to the airport shortly to southern Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, for a talk this weekend. If you’re in the southern Arizona region and you’d like to attend this event of the Center for Inquiry Community of southern Arizona, go to Center for inquiry, dot net slash, says S.A.C., and get more information. We’d love to see you there. This week’s guest is Paul Kurtz here to celebrate with us the one year anniversary of Point of Inquiry and talk about some of the things we’ve done over the last year and some of the things the Center for Inquiry is planning on doing in the future before he jumps on the show. I want to personally appeal to everyone who listens and we’re gratified how many people are listening and the e-mails we get each week. It’s motivating to get these e-mails from all over the world of people who enjoy this show, who listen to it every week, who listen to it every week on their commutes to work. Share it with their friends. Argue online about the things that the guests are saying. If you enjoy the show, may I personally appeal to you to become a friend of the center? That’s the membership category, the Center for Inquiry. Becoming a friend of the center lets us know that we’re doing our job, advancing science and reason and helping attract more people to that cause. So become a friend of the center. You can do so at Center for Inquiry Dot Net. When I become a member of the National Organization for Women or the ACLU, I’m not doing so to get a Chomsky, to get a lapel pin or a mug or a T-shirt. I’m doing so because those organizations represent my values. And when you join the Center for Inquiry by becoming a friend of the center, you’re showing that the Center for Inquiry in advancing its mission represents your values, the values of rationality, science, reason, free inquiry. So please do become a friend of the center. Today. And now a word from our sponsor. Before we get to this week’s guest. 

The world is under assault today by religious extremists to invoke their particular notion of God to try and control what others think can do. One magazine is dedicated to keeping you up to date with analysis that cuts through the noise and the surprising courage to appear politically incorrect. That magazine is Free Inquiry, the world’s leading journal of secular humanist opinion and commentary. Regular contributors include Richard Dawkins, Wendy Kaminer, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Singer and Sam Harris. Their views are reasoned, thought provoking and to some, unpardonable, infuriating. Subscribe to free inquiry today. One year, six controversial issues for 1995. Call one 800 four five eight one three six six or visit us on the Web at Secular Humanism, Dawg. 

I’m especially pleased to be joined on this one year anniversary of point of Inquiry by the founder and chair of the Center for Inquiry. Paul Kurtz. He’s also the founder of a number of other organizations and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He’s professor emeritus of philosophy at the State University of New York, chairman of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. 

What we used to call Saikat, chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism and of Prometheus Books. He’s editor in chief of Free Inquiry Magazine, The World’s leading journal of secular humanist opinion and commentary. Paul is also the author of many books over 45 books, including Science and Religion. Are they compatible throughout the last 30 years of his life? A little longer than that. Paul has been a leading defender of science and reason in society against the prevailing cults of irrationality that seems so prevalent. He is 80 years old. 

He doesn’t like my mentioning that. But even at 80, he just returned from San Francisco, from Miami and from Chicago on a lecture tour. Welcome to Point of Inquiry, Paul Kurtz. 

I’m delighted to be here. D.J., and especially to offer my congratulations on the first anniversary of point of inquiry plaudits to you and to Tom Donnelly, who is involved in this production. And I must say, everywhere I go, people tell me about point of inquiry. And I see the hundreds and hundreds of e-mails that we’ve had from all over the world, from India and China, from England and Latin America. 

Why? Why is that so? Well, it seems to me that you put together this heroic kind of radio in which dissenting points of view are presented that are very rare on the mass media. That’s the point. An alternative viewpoint. 

Well, that’s exactly why we got you on the show for the one year anniversary. We knew you’d celebrate us and we’re celebrating on this one year anniversary. Thank you. Thomas printed something out. He showed me almost one million downloads of our episodes over the last 52 weeks. So there is an audience out there and we only hope to capitalize on that more expanded even more. You’re on the show today, of course, to celebrate with us the one year anniversary. But I also, for the first time in 52 episodes, want to talk about the Center for inquiry. Now, we mentioned it every introduction of the show, but we can get into it with you because you’re the organizing principle says, right? Right. We have a Paul, but we don’t have an Apostle Paul. Good point. So center for inquiry. Why does the Center for Inquiry exist? 

Well, it’s committed to inquiry. It defends science reason and free inquiry in every area of human interest. And it examines the sacred cows. Look were dominated by the mass media everywhere in the world. And to try to get a different glimmer of light, to bring in a creative perspective, to bring in alternative viewpoints is very hard subtype. So that’s what we’re attempting to do. 

So the point is just to be argumentative and offer an opposing view. We just want to disagree. 

There are unexamined questions that desperately need examination. One area, for example, is the area of religion and particularly the United States, but other parts of the world. I just returned from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. They’re the land of tolerance. And even there. There is a reluctance to criticize religious claims. And that surprises me because the world is in flames because of religious conflict. So I think we have to have an open mind, a free mind. We have to be willing to freely investigate. And that is what the Center for Inquiry is cultivating. 

Are you talking about this term being bandied about now, evangelical Athie ism going out there and fighting against religion? 

I think that those terms are unfortunate. They are used by our critics to denigrate what we’re doing. But Dan Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, even though E.O. Wilson has been attacked everywhere and people affiliated with the Center for Inquiry are, if you will, on the Vanguard. And we are trying to apply the scientific method to these areas and they call us evangelical atheists. We’ve been criticizing the evangelicals, the fundamentalists out there who pronounce what ought to be the case and are willing to die for it. And we’re saying, look, the best guarantee for humankind is reason, rational inquiry, scientific investigation, and that’s considered dangerous. 

So here you were, a college philosophy professor. These two worldwide movements developed around you and the leaders that you attracted to them. Let’s talk about both of them briefly. Skepticism. You got that ball rolling in the mid 70s. 

Yes. I was very happy that we revived the schools of skepticism which died in the third or fourth century A.D. came back in the modern world with the great scientists and had been forgotten. And so we did bring in the news. 

Skepticism, namely, skepticism, as part of science is part of intellectual inquiry, it’s part of any educated mind and still the skeptical movement has grown. We began with the paranormal. We’ve gone beyond that. Internally, we’ve changed our name from Saika Committee for the scientific investigation to claim to the paranormal, to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. 

Yes. Into any area of human interest that’s important, and particularly not only on the borderlands of science, but in the religious claims, in politics and economics. I think we need a kind of Socratic midwife who will attempt to question what people leave unquestioned. And that’s part of our role. 

The other side of the coin here at the Center for Inquiry is the humanist side. So not just Skepticism and PSI Cop or the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry now, but the Council for Secular Humanism. 

You started that up in around 1980 because secular humanism had everywhere been attacked and secularism is equivalent to modernism. And it goes back with the modern world of science and democracy. And someone had to respond to those attacks. And that’s what we’ve attempted to do. And I think that is positive. That’s not negative. It’s not evangelical Athie ism. Well, evangelical atheist. That term has been bandied around to denigrate what we’re do. We are interested in promoting, explicating, educating people about the scientific outlook. 

And I don’t see where that’s evangelical and Athie ism doesn’t describe us. No, I. I do not believe in God, but I don’t consider myself an atheist. I’m not defined by that. I don’t believe in mermaids. But I’m not an a mermaid is either. So many things I don’t believe in. But I do believe it. So I’m critical of religion. We are. But nonetheless, there are ethical and moral guidelines and ethical moral alternatives for people. And they’ve discovered them on the planet and they’re living full lives without religion. 

So the Center for Inquiry came out of that heritage of skepticism. On the one hand, humanism, secular humanism and the other. But the Center for Inquiry, which headquarters both of those other organizations, is not just skepticism and humanism. 

No, it’s more fundamental. It includes those and many other interests. But, you know, there are hundreds of thousands of churches, temples, synagogues, mosques in the United Sates and millions worldwide. 

We need secular centers cultivating the best of which were capable as human beings, realizing human potentialities without religion. 

And so at the moment, we have six centers in North America and something like 18 worldwide. And everywhere people are saying create a center here. We’re interested inquiry. Right. We can’t keep up with that enthusiasm. I know it’s very enthusiastic, particularly recently, because for the first time, inquiring into religion was considered a bad taste and even dangerous. Historically, youth be killed for it. But now people say, well, we want to investigate the roots of religion. If this bloodshed continues. What’s the origin of it and how can we go beyond that? 

So we say beyond religion into the 21st century, using the best tools of science, reason and goodwill in addition to the six North American branches in L.A. and Washington, D.C. and Florida, in New York City, here in Amherst, New York, and we’re expanding into Toronto. We’re looking at expanding in San Francisco and Chicago this last weekend. There are opportunities for growth everywhere you travel. But in addition to these branches, we also have what we call CFI communities. 

These are not fully born branches. 

And you, deejay, have done a great deal out in the various parts of the country and the world and creating these communities. 

There are a number of people on staff and we were traveling like headless chicken sometimes. Maybe that’s not the right metaphor, but a lot of a lot of frenetic activity all over the country with these community groups because we need alternatives. 

We’re at the point in the 21st century that change is very rapid. Process is very rapid. The opportunities are enormous. And we need to bring the best brains that we can to work on those. And so these communities are first stage centers. I think there ought to be a center in every major city in the country. Indeed, in the world. 

So centers for inquiry here in North America, the Center for Inquiry, communities in 22 cities, the international branches, the transnational outreach of the Center for Inquiry. You touched on and of course, we have this campus outreach program works on the campus. 

Outreach is vital. And I think that we’ve had over 650 campus groups. 

Of course, they come and go. Right. We only have about 200 now. A few added up at. Campus group we’ve ever helped found there’d be hundreds and hundreds, over 600 now. There are 180, 200. And that’s because it’s like organizing at a bus stop. I said it. You can’t you know, students are constantly having to pass the baton to. 

But there are also thousands of students. If you go to a university campus, the opening day of the new term, you’ll see a dozen or two dozen religious organizations. But where is an organization for the non-religious secular people who find life good and worthwhile, drawing on science, philosophy, ethics without need of religion? So these branches on various various campuses are very important because this is the young people of the future that count. And that’s vital. But incidentally, looking back over your first year, you’ve had some remarkable guests. I mentioned Richard Dawkins, Dan Dennett, Sam Harris, but you have had Salman Rushdie, the great dissenter, Jill Tarter, and the quest for extraterrestrial life. 

And Driton, the wife of. We’ve had a of. Right. Neil deGrasse Tyson, one of the great astronomers of our day, James Randi, the amazing Randi. It’s skeptics and humanists. Joe Nickell, Bill Nye, The Science Guy even walked the great critic of Islam. So we tried to bring, as we can, people on the frontiers of knowledge breaking new ground. Yes. And you put them on point of inquiry. And that’s why it’s so exciting. 

Right. I think the secret to the success of this show we’ll get back to talking about CFI in a moment. But the secret to the success of the show are all these guests that Thomas has lined up. We have really the leading lights of the day that have affiliated with the Center for Inquiry. And these conversations are a way of a free way of us getting the word out about this plan. 

They have been affiliated, most of them. And I think we have in one sense, the who’s who of a good deal of intellectual life on the planet. With due modesty, now, you’ve had Max Maven, the great British. Yes. Herbert Helfman, the Nobel Prize winner, and so many others. I went back and reviewed what you’ve done in the past year by. You’ve had so many exciting people. But, you know, everywhere I go, I meet people today who say, hey, point of inquiry, that’s wonderful. Many people say, I carry this iPod around with me. I have it in my car. I listen to it all the time. So there I think out there, you hear you’re producing this in the small room, 12 by 15 with a very low budget. And people out there do appreciate. Well, it’s your influencing minds and hearts. And that’s important because there is an intelligent audience out there that agrees with you. And they cannot find it in the mass media. And so what you’re doing is conveying an important message everywhere on this planet. And that’s vital. And that’s your contribution in this past year. 

I really appreciate you saying that. It should be said that this is Thomas Donley’s brainchild and he does all the hard work. All I have to do each week is the burden of having a fun conversation with an very interesting person. 

People tell me, DKA, that you’re a wonderful moderator. They appreciate what you do, particularly taken the devil’s advocate to to challenge your people who participate. And that’s important. Well, I’d say you both do a great job. Appreciate you saying that. So what a celebration with a mutual admiration society. Thank you, Paul. And also Lauren Becker, who is one of your weekly or you put her rainbow quite frequently. People have loved what we do to get it right every week. 

And she demure is because she’s very busy with her normal job around here. But you’re right. She’s really touched a nerve out there. We’ve gotten hundreds of emails from people all over the world about Lauren Becker’s commentaries. They strike a nerve. She’s passionate and eloquent. I love listening to them. I’ve gotten choked up a couple times being in the studio as they’re recorded. So we love that she’s part of the show. In fact, she’ll kill me for saying this, but in addition to all those Kudo’s emails, we’ve gotten a number of them from listeners who have said that her commentaries have changed their lives, their outlooks on life. 

So we hear that all the time because we say we are modernists where post postmodernists, we’re trying to bring the best kind of scientific and philosophical thought. And we’re concerned with moral wisdom. I call it you practice of faith. And I think people are hungry for this. They’re tired of the conflict and the problems that we often encountering. The president will. Are the new visions of the future. And that’s what we’re looking for. Yes. 

And you’re saying this secular pro science outlook, this call it the scientific outlook, not just science. But what does science say about these big questions? You’re saying that Worldview offers answers to the challenges we face. 

It offers many answers. On the other hand, it’s often forgotten. I mean, people say, oh, well, we defend science. So a person can be a biologist or a chemist or a physicist or an anthropologist and defend his or her own science. But. Who looks at the scientific outlook, that scientific perspective, and I fear that most of the political leaders today and others ignore that science has so much to tell us about the world that’s expanding and about the methods of science. 

So our task is to explicate the meaning of science and to defend it. And we’re called evangelical atheist for doing that. But look at all the great betterment that has occurred t humankind by applying the methods of science. 

So it’s not just talking about science. In fact, we’ve had few shows, I’d say a dozen or so that got into a field of science. We’ve mostly talked about the implications of science. Tell me how the Center for Inquiry is different than a science organization like a university biology department? 

Well, it’s the implications of science. It’s a relevance of the scientific outlook to human behavior and practice. For example, the expanding galaxy’s Neil deGrasse Tyson, I think, talked about that on your show, The Universe, as you see it through the eyes of the astronomers, the discovery of 200 new planets in the last five years is mind boggling. The immensity of the universe, the problems, the mysteries of the universe. But that cosmic vision and cosmic or is part of what science conveys to us. It is very essential that we appreciate that instead of talking about God, create the image of man to do his duty or what he demands alone, but to open up the parameters of our outlook, the mind of the human depends on the objects of thought of the objects. Are the universe at large? How much do we enlarge our vision? And that’s important. 

So it’s not just science as a body of knowledge, things you memorize from a textbook, but it’s this sense of wonder you get when you look at how beautiful and meaningful the world we see from science is. 

Today, I’ve been reading the book by E.O. Wilson and the creation critical of creationism, defending evolution. And he talks about biodiversity, the richness of the planet, and the fact that this is now being minimized and destroyed by all of the modern efforts to pollute the planet, to use our resources and to ignore this. So it’s the biosphere as well as the natural physical universe at the same time. But over and beyond that. And this series point of inquiry, if talking about moral issues, we believe deeply in moral issues and ethics. So it’s not science versus ethics. It’s an effort to bring the best intelligence we have to enrich human life and achieve as best we can a peaceful planet. So a science of ethics, not science versus ethics, no ethics drawing upon science and learning from ethics. Yes. So it’s an ethical interests as well as an intellectual interest. It’s an effort to improve the human condition. And that’s the task of the Center for Inquiry. 

Ed, you’ve discussed these issues on a point of inquiry, and that’s centrally one of your areas of focus ethics as a philosopher, as a pragmatist. You’re looking at where these ethical theories play out in society, where the rubber hits the road. 

And what disturbs me is our critics say, oh, you’re negative. You you reject religion. 

Therefore, you’re necessarily a rotten person. 

You’re a you cannot be good unless you believe in God. And I sometimes say, well, if your morality is only based upon your belief in God, you’re not very good because you need a kind of empathy and concern for others based upon a reflective intelligence and a kind of moral conscience that develops as you live and learn without theological foundations. 

Ethics precedes religion. Paul, tell me as we’re giving a kind of an overview for the first time in all these shows of the Center for Inquiry. Tell me about projects we have going on here. Let’s take ISIS first. 

ISIS, the Institute for the Secularization of Islam. The center. I think I should say, is among the first to engage in critical examination of the claims of Islam. Islam is a powerful religion. One point two billion people. Second largest in the world. Yes, after Christianity. But then who examines the claims, particularly when the claims have an impact in the world? And when many people so devoutly devoted to Muhammad and the Koran or the hard death will act in terms of it and defend jihad and so on. So we think that examining the foundations of Islam and Christianity and Hinduism and Buddhism is very important. And so this ISIS is unique. Using Ibn Mauric and many other scholars to examine the claims of Islam in a dispassionate way. 

So it’s academics who critically inquire in Islam and also activists who work against. Militant Islam and trying to advance secularism in Islamic societies. We have a think tank. 

In fact, there was a story in The Washington Post two weeks ago saying think tank wishes to focus on thinking. Right. Isn’t that the greatest headline you’ve ever heard? It’s a think tank. Promotes thinking. That’s right. Yes. Yes. This is our Office of Public Policy, which we’ve just opened in Washington, D.C., to defend secularism and the integrity of science. And they’re both part of the interests of the Center for Quarry’s Secularism and Science. Yes, secularism, the separation of church and state and science, the integrity of science without censorship or interference by religious, moral or political forces. You almost can’t have one without the other. No, I think you need a secular society in which you play by the rules of the game, namely empirical inquiry, and you try to confirm and replicate hypotheses and theories objectively without allowing extraneous out cold forces to intervene. No invasion of religion into the research. Yes. Yes. That’s crucial to freedom of scientific research is vital. And the consequences to humankind are enormous and appreciation of what science in general is. So the Center for Inquiry is an effort to convey to the public an appreciation for the scientific outlook, not a specific science, but science as a human creation, as a worldview, as a worldview, and as a dimension of human experience. Let’s talk about another project here. A. a. h. African-Americans for humanism. Yes. Under the direction. Norm Allen, who is on his way to the Cameroons next week. 

Right. He travels the world advancing humanism and secularism in African states. Yes. 

And 10 years ago, there were only two humanist groups. Now they’re 54. Wow. And we have centers in six African countries. What is the message? The message is learn to develop the skills of critical thinking. Appreciate science. Appreciate the fact that you can lead the good life. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Enter into the modern world over and beyond the ancient and the mystic religions. Over and beyond Islam or Christianity. So we’re providing an appreciation for people of the scientific outlook and scientific methods and the enthusiasm that we encounter in Africa’s truly enormous right. 

I regularly receive pictures by email of our groups over there. And it’s it’s a reason to get out of bed earlier in the morning to see all the hard work they’re doing. 

Without the resources that we have here in the United States, in Nigeria and Uganda and Ghana and Kenya, and also, incidentally, in Cairo, Egypt, where we have the center focus on the tremendous of danger constantly of being attacked for that. So the African continent has had many missionary doing good work, no doubt, and many efforts to bring Africa and into the modern world. But our message is unique in it because it’s not religious missionary. 

It is secular and scientific outreach. 

Yes. And so secularism is important. And the young people, the universe is become very excited. Oh, wow. Here’s something. No. And so they re copies of our magazines. We send them books, they vote in libraries. And this is very, very important. 

Let’s talk about another project here at the Center for Inquiry. S o. S. 

S So Save Ourselves Secular Organizations for Sobriety, founded by Jim Christopher. We’re now headquartered in Los Angeles. We’ve just celebrated our 20th anniversary at our branch there. CFI West. CFI West. Yes. In Hollywood, California, actually. But addiction is a particularly alcoholic addiction as one of the worst diseases in the United States and elsewhere in the world. There are tens of millions of people suffering from it. And you have AA. But Alcoholics Anonymous. You need a higher power. 

Right. It’s considered by sociologists of religion, the largest PEMRA church in the world, because many of its 12 steps, you have to submit to something like God. 

And I remember I had an employee once who I discovered was an alcoholic. And I said, why don’t you go to AA? He said, I’d rather be drunk, then go to AA. So we provide an alternative. What is it? A narrow view? Abstinence is as crucial. Absent that, you cannot drink if you’re an alcohol, if you are an alcoholic. And if you take one drink, you may be set off again. Some people say, well, what about drinking moderately well? That perhaps for some people, but as a Wesa’s is an effort to bring peers together, it’s a peer group where you get together and discuss the problems of drinking. 

It’s an atheistic or naturalistic. It’s not an editor. It’s a non-religious, non-religious effort at self-help. And it’s been enormously successful. 

Self-Help addiction recovery program, there is something like 500 groups around the world, this group and many countries of the world there in England and Russia and aala that Italy, Israel there, many have many, many such groups. And I think that’s important. 

So that’s a social service that the Center for Inquiry provides. It’s not just people getting together, smarty pants getting into again, getting together to talk about another reason why God doesn’t exist or Big Foot doesn’t exist. We’re doing something, serving people, helping people with their problems without recourse to religion. 

It’s a it was for many people who become addicted to alcohol. How do you get through life? What do you do? Well, we introduce them other people who’ve come through this and have given up alcohol. And if you can drink, fine, if you can drink in moderation, fine. Vino veritas and the turtle wine is not and is not bad. I’d like to drink a glass of wine now and then. But alcoholism is a disease because once you’re addicted to it, it’s almost impossible to break the habit. 

And so S.O.S attempts to do that as we’re continuing through the survey of the Center for Inquiry. Before we finish up and I have a couple other questions I want to ask you about yourself. Well, let’s talk about new developments with rational emotive therapy, Albert Ellis. Do you want to talk about that? 

Well, our Centers for Inquiry are inaugurating a new program. This is counseling based upon cognitive emotive behavioral therapy. I think it’s the latest state of the art. And Albert Ellis is considered to be one of the leading psychologists of the world. 

Write American Psychological Association, voted him more influential than Freud, Freud or Carl Rogers, who was also in the top. 

And so he uses these techniques. And we have entered into an alliance with Albert Ellis himself. And there’s a new Abdullah’s foundation. And you’re a longtime friend. I’ve no doubt. Ellis. A long time. Yes. And I’ve admired his great work. He’s in his 90s now. So what we’re doing is bringing the Albert Heliers techniques, the rational, emotive behavioral methods to art centers for inquiry to offer counseling, rational counseling through our centers. 

Through our centers. Yes. Yes. Let’s touch on the CFA Institute, the summer session, the science and the public program that we have going on. 

The Center for Inquiry Institute is an educational program and now headed up by Professor Joseph Hoffman, distinguished biblical scholar. Though he’s gone beyond that. And our program is a program it’s inhuman is and what is human is in naturalize of an effort to present this alternative viewpoint, which you may get in college, but not in a systematic way. So this is a systematic effort at providing a curriculum for secularist humanists and naturalists. 

So we’re offering our CERT program here at the Center for Inquiry courses that you can take in science and reason, human values, the kinds of issues we talk about on this radio show. In addition, we have a new master’s degree in collaboration with the State University of New York in science in the public, slightly different focus. But still about the kinds of things we’re talking. 

Well, our focus from the start has been the failure of the public to appreciate science. And we think so. Public understanding of science is very, very important. Richard Dawkins does this at Oxford. But we have worked out a systematic program in which we will offer a master’s degree online. Incidentally, add to a general appreciation of how science operates and the application of science human life. And that’s the purpose of this program. One area we didn’t touch on is youth education and childhood education. I think moral education for children. Scientific appreciation of the methods of critical thinking for children are vital. And so the Center for Inquiry intends to develop a new curriculum for secular educators going to happen through the Centers for Inquiry and through our community. 

Yes. Fantastic. That was a whirlwind tour of the Center for Inquiry. I’m curious now, our listeners might also be curious what in the world about you makes you 35 years ago say, I don’t like the way it is. I want to change things. What makes you start all this? 

I guess I’ve been inspired by Socrates who would ask the question, what is truth? And he was the gadfly or the midwife trying to get human beings to begin to acquire some committed to inquiry. But you can’t do it in the ivory tower. As a professor of philosophy at many colleges and universities, I was dealing with undergraduates and then graduates. You have to take it into the public forum, as Socrates did, into the arena, into the Agora. So I’ve attempted to apply the methods of inquiry into the public arena, and that’s the purpose of our centers for inquiry. And it’s been great fun. A tremendous amount of effort, and there’s so many people have been inspired by the application of Quarrie, particularly in open democratic societies such as United States and other parts of the world. Yes. Even so, we have branches in China and we have branches. We have ushe. We have a branch in China. We’ve been exchanging people with China for 20 years. We’re having a world Kairis Ed Manging in the fall. We have a branch and in Russia. Yes, indeed. And they’re trying to apply what they call democratic humanism. So the critical of their President Putin. We have a branch and going through the world in Germany, rosoff skeptics groups throughout Europe branch in France, South America and South America. There are 13 organizations of skeptic’s in South America. And we have two centers, one in Argentina and one in Peru. And we’re trying to provide, let’s say, the rationalistic, scientific, naturalistic humanist alternative. And I find great enthusiasts. We publish a Spanish language magazine advancing this point of view called Pense Ardell. Thanks our regards, Spanish speaking language and a widely read and appreciated. It’s an opening to the Hispanic world. 

But what we find so exciting. People say, you know, I’ve always thought that there are alternatives to the traditional isms in the world. 

But now to open a new realm of inquiry, scientific and humanistic, is so important. And so there’s great excitement about it. 

So here we did on our one year anniversary talk about center for inquiry and everything we’re doing everywhere. You said at a meeting a while back and I got a chuckle out of it. You looked to everyone. 

This was a meeting of the program directors here at the Center for Inquiry. You said in one sense, ladies and gentlemen, Center for Inquiry is far flung. 

That’s kind of an understatement. It’s far flung. We’re everywhere doing all sorts of things everywhere because the demand is so incessant. 

People out there say, please come. We feel beleaguered. We need another point of view. Yes. 

There’s a lot of enthusiasm. So let me finish up by asking you, where are we going from here? Is it more of the same? What’s what’s on the horizon for Center for Inquiry? 

I think you need I think particularly in democratic societies, but everywhere you need educated citizens, reflective citizens who will raise questions, fundamental questions, basic questions. We do that also being concerned about the future of humankind. We have to be interested. Ted, the future of the human species on this planet. And so there are always new questions. It’s great fun, but it’s very, very significant. And you deejay going into the field, going to Chicago and San Francisco, Miami to Sun, Toronto and everywhere. India next year, where we have a center and everywhere is the less supportive of the fact there’s a new kind of Firmat. And we feel this very much is an appreciation of the scientific outlook with an ethical concern. And that’s very important. 

Thanks for joining me on the one year anniversary of Point of Inquiry, Paul Kurtz. And congratulations again. 

You’ve seen the headlines, Bill seeks to protect students from liberal bias. The right time for an Islamic reformation. Kansas School Board redefined science. These stories sum up the immense challenge facing those of us who defend rational thinking, science and secular values. One adviser to the Bush administration dismissed as the reality based community who could have imagined that reality would need defenders. The educational and advocacy work of the Center for Inquiry is more essential than ever. And your support is more essential than ever. Show your commitment to science, reason and secular values by becoming a friend of the center today. Whether you are interested in the work of psychology and skeptical Inquirer magazine, the Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry magazine, the Commission for Scientific Medicine or Center for Inquiry on Campus. By becoming a friend of the center, you’ll help strengthen our impact. If you’re just learning about CFI, take a look at our Web site. W w w dot center for inquiry dot net. We hosted regional and international conferences, college courses and nationwide campus outreach. You’ll also find out about our new representation at the United Nations, an important national media appearances. We cannot pursue these projects without your help. Please become a friend of the center today by calling one 800 eight one eight seven zero seven one or visiting WW w. That Center for inquiry dot net. We look forward to working with you to enlarge the reality based community. 

Thanks for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry. Over the next couple of months, we have some exciting guests planned. So please continue to join us each week to get involved with an online conversation about today’s episode with Paul Kurtz. That kind of review of the one year we’ve been at this point of inquiry, go to CFI dash forums, dot org. Views expressed on point of inquiry don’t necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on today’s show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org or by visiting our website point of inquiry dot org. 

Point of inquiry is produced by Thomas Donnelly and recorded at the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, New York. 

Executive producer is Paul Kurtz of Inquiry’s Music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael. Contributors to today’s show included Sarah Jordan and Debbie Goddard. I’m your host DJ Grothe. 

DJ Grothe

D.J. Grothe is on the Board of Directors for the Institute for Science and Human Values, and is a speaker on various topics that touch on the intersection of education, science and belief. He was once the president of the James Randi Educational Foundation and was former Director of Outreach Programs for the Center for Inquiry and associate editor of Free Inquiry magazine. He previously hosted the weekly radio show and podcast Point of Inquiry, exploring the implications of the scientific outlook with leading thinkers.