Skepticism and Humanism by Paul Kurtz Summary
As we begin the third millennium there is cause for cautious optimism regarding the human prospect. Democratic revolutions and the doctrine of universal human rights have captured the imagination of large sectors of humanity, while major advances in science and technology continue to conquer disease and extend life, contributing to rising standards of living, affluence, and cultural freedom on a worldwide basis. Paradoxically, at the same time ancient authoritarian fundamentalist religions have grown in vitriolic intensity along with bizarre New Age, media-driven paranormal belief systems. Also surprising is the resurgence of primitive tribal and ethnic loyalties, unleashing wars of intolerance and bitterness. In Skepticism and Humanism, Paul Kurtz locates these threatening developments within a long-standing and largely unchallenged theological worldview. He proposes, as an alternative to religion, a new cultural paradigm rooted in scientific naturalism, rationalism, and a humanistic outlook. An estimated 60 percent of scientists are atheists or agnostics. However, the skeptical world view has been given little currency even in advanced societies, because of a cultural prohibition against the criticism of religion. At the same time, science has become increasingly narrow and specialized so that few people can draw on its broader intellectual and cultural implications. Skepticism and Humanism attempts to meet this need. It defends skepticism as a method for developing reliable knowledge by using scientific inquiry and reason to test all claims to truth. It also defends scientific naturalism-an evolutionary view of nature, life, and the human species. Kurtz sees the dominant religious doctrines as drawn from an agricultural/nomadic past, and emphasizes the need for a new outlook applicable to the postindustrial information age. At the same time, he rejects postmodernism for abandoning science and embracing a form of nihilism. There can be no doubt that as a new global civilization emerges, scientific naturalism, rationalism, and secular humanism have something significant to say about the meaning of life. Skepticism and Humanism shows how they can to foster democratic values and social prosperity. The book will be important for philosophers, scientists, and all those concerned with contemporary issues. Paul Kurtz taught at Trinity College, Vassar College, and State University of New York at Buffalo. He is founder of Prometheus Books, a major publisher of philosophical works. He is the author of some thirty books including Toward a New Enlightenment (available from Transaction) Humanist Manifesto 2000, and A Secular Humanist Declaration. He is chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and editor-in-chief of Free Inquiry magazine.