Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Center for Inquiry-Transnational

Read "Think Tank Will Promote Thinking: Advocates Want Science, Not Faith, at Core of Public Policy" by Marc Kaufman, The Washington Post, November 15, 2006.

Lead paragraphs:
Concerned that the voice of science and secularism is growing ever fainter in the White House, on Capitol Hill and in culture, a group of prominent scientists and advocates of strict church-state separation yesterday announced formation of a Washington think tank designed to promote "rationalism" as the basis of public policy.

The brainchild of Paul Kurtz, founder of the Center for Inquiry-Transnational, the small public policy office will lobby and sometimes litigate on behalf of science-based decision making and against religion in government affairs.
According to Wikipedia, Paul Kurtz (born December 21, 1925) "is founder and chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), the Council for Secular Humanism, the Center for Inquiry and Prometheus Books. He is editor in chief of Free Inquiry magazine, a publication of the Council for Secular Humanism. He was co-president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU)."

The Center's website lists Centers for Inquiry in several cities in the United States as well as in a number of other countries.

Comment: While I certainly favor the use of scientific knowledge in public policy making, and share a concern for "Bush administration policies regarding stem cell research, global warming, abstinence-only sex education and the teaching of 'intelligent design'," I am somehow uncomfortable with what little I know of this initiative. I understand the U.S. separation of church and state to be based on the desire to protect the rights of adherents to minority religions (as well the non-religious) rather than to oppose organized religion per se. I distinguish militancy for scientific rationality from militant secularism. Indeed, scientists are only now beginning to explore neurological and evolutionary bases for behavior that we classify as moral, yet I would not want the lack of scientific evidence on the basis of morality to be used to justify immoral behavior. JAD

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