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Skepticism and humanism : the new paradigm
Kurtz, Paul, 1925-2012.
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Publication Information:
New Brunswick, NJ : Transaction Publishers, [2001]

Physical Description:
306 pages ; 24 cm
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BL2747.6 K89 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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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.

Author Notes

Paul Kurtz was born on December 21, 1925. He received a bachelor's degree from New York University and a master's degree and doctor of Philosophy degree from Columbia University. During World War II, he served in the United States Army and helped liberate the Dachau concentration camp in 1945.

He was a philosopher who focused on fighting prejudice against people who reject belief in a god and promoting a non-religious stance in life. He wrote or edited more than 50 books on ethics without religion, critiques of religion and the paranormal, and on skepticism, or the challenging of received wisdom. His works include The Transcendental Temptation, Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Secularism, The Courage to Become, Multi-Secularism: A New Agenda, and What is Secular Humanism? He founded the journal Free Inquiry and the secular humanist Center for Inquiry. He also taught at numerous universities including the State University of New York at Buffalo and Vassar. He died on October 20, 2012 at the age of 86.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Table of Contents

Paul Kurtz
Introduction: A New Paradigm for the Third Millenniump. 7
Part 1 Skeptics of the World Unite!
1. Antiscience Paradigmsp. 29
2. Skeptical Inquiryp. 39
3. Skepticism and the Paranormalp. 47
4. The Escape to Oblivionp. 67
5. Fears of the Apocalypsep. 73
6. Scientific Tests of Astrologyp. 81
7. The "Mars Effect"p. 85
8. In Defense of Scientific Medicinep. 105
9. Can the Sciences Be Unified?p. 111
10. Should Skeptical Inquiry Be Applied to Religion?p. 117
11. Why Do People Believe or Disbelieve?p. 125
Part 2 Beyond Religion
12. First Things Firstp. 143
13. Is Secular Humanism a Religion?p. 155
14. Important Lessons on the Collapse of Marxismp. 161
15. Rising Above the Ancient Loyalties: Who Is a Jew?p. 167
16. Morality without Godp. 175
17. Humanism and the Idea of Freedomp. 179
Part 3 Neo-Humanist Politics
18. The Need for a New Secular Coalitionp. 187
19. The McCarthyites of Virtuep. 191
20. Where Are the Secularists?p. 195
21. Darwin Re-Crucifiedp. 199
22. Confronting "the Corporate Mystique"p. 205
23. The Global Mediocracyp. 211
24. The Population Time Bombp. 217
25. Reflections on the New Left Students' Movementp. 223
26. New Direction for Liberalismp. 233
Part 4 Humanism Writ Large
27. The Evolution of Contemporary Humanismp. 239
28. The Humanist Prospectp. 249
29. The Infomedia Revolutionp. 255
30. Science and Reason in an Irrational Worldp. 263
31. Do the Arts Convey Knowledge?p. 277
Selected List of Publicationsp. 287
Indexp. 297