Getting a Humanist Education

By Nickell, Joe | Free Inquiry, Fall 1997 | Go to article overview

Getting a Humanist Education


Nickell, Joe, Free Inquiry


The Center for Inquiry Institute launches a three-year academic program

A program of intensive education in humanism, skepticism, and rationalism has been successfully launched by the Center for Inquiry Institute, a nonprofit educational institution co-sponsored by the Council for Secular Humanism. In addition to increasing public awareness of the need for critical thinking across the spectrum of human concerns, and providing specific courses in that regard, the Institute's new program will prepare future leaders and spokespersons for reason and humanism.

The Institute was founded in 1987 by philosopher Paul Kurtz. The Institute initially sponsored an informal series of seminars and workshops. Although these were popular and fulfilled their purpose, they represented only a first step toward a more ambitious goal: a permanent program that confers on its graduates a certificate of proficiency, ensuring that the bearer has undergone rigorous training and examination over a broad range of studies.

This new goal has involved building a permanent home for the Institute - the new Center for Inquiry International in Amherst, New York - along with outreach centers across the United States (currently the Center for Inquiry West in Los Angeles, California; the Center for Inquiry Rockies in Boulder, Colorado; and the Center for Inquiry Midwest in Kansas City, Missouri). There is also a Centre for Inquiry in Oxford, England, and a Center for Inquiry Moscow is forthcoming in Russia. Each center will have a research library - the library at the international headquarters already has some 22,000 volumes, in addition to periodicals. The international headquarters also has a nearby residence for visiting scholars.

In addition, an international faculty has been appointed, its members being chosen for their diverse interests and distinguished professional training, as well as the level of respect their scholarship has earned over the years. In addition to Professor Kurtz and the Institute's Dean, Vern Bullough - neither of whom should require further introduction - faculty members include Ray Hyman, Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon; Mario Bunge, Professor of Philosophy, McGill University, Canada; Jean-Claude Pecker, Professor of Astronomy, College de France; Eugenie Scott, physical anthropologist and Executive Director, National Center for Science Education; and many, many more.

The Institute offers certificates in two program areas: (1) Humanistic Studies, which examines the nature of social and ethical conduct while critically exploring and contrasting the roles of reason, freethought, and religion, and (2) Science and the Paranormal, which examines alleged paranormal phenomena and other fringe-science claims. …

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