Paul Kurtz, 1925 – 2012

By Phil Plait | October 22, 2012 11:58 am

I am greatly saddened to learn that one of the founders of modern skeptical outreach, Paul Kurtz, has died.

Paul was the motivating force behind the creation of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, which recently changed its name to the much more palatable Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, or CSI), one of the leading centers of the skeptical movement. You can read more about Paul’s work on Wikipedia. Dr. Steve Novella, from the New England Skeptical society, wrote a nice piece about Paul as well.

I only met Paul a few times, and I don’t have any interesting stories of note, to be honest. I’m sure we’ll be hearing tales about the man over the next few days, and I hope you take the time to read them. Too many people in movements forget their own history, and knowledge of what happened in the past is always valuable in moving forward.

And move forward we must. There is no end to the weeds of nonsense that take root in the human brain, and we will never rid ourselves of them completely. As any gardener will tell you, it’s a full time task just to pull those weeds; it’s not something you can ever stop doing. But it’s the only way to let flowers grow.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Skepticism

Comments (10)

  1. Tara Li

    Way to leach off of a popular TV show, CSICOP.

  2. mks

    we live in the worlds that others have created/discovered…it’ll be interesting to see how the belief systems of Paul Kurtz’s, CSICOP and secular humanism, will fare now that ‘e is dead…

    everyone’s death diminishes us

  3. Mark Plus

    Did Kurtz convert to some religion on his deathbed, like his atheist friend who converted to Catholicism? Kurtz recounts that story in at least two of his books, so the prospect that he would do something similar towards the end of his life must have bothered him.

  4. Matt B.

    Calling themselves CSI may not be the best way to seem like they’re promoting intelligence. I once saw an episode of CSI: Miami, and the characters acted as audience surrogates to the point that I wondered how such morons could become police detectives. On the other hand, the fact that these detectives felt it necessary to hold the audience’s hand through every simple step of logic might be an approriate association.

  5. Mike

    After reading your last paragraph, Phil, I wonder if you’re a fan of the Peter Sellers movie, “Being There.”

  6. Bill

    FYI all… the organization was named CSICOP back in the ’70s, way before the TV show.

    RIP Dr. Kurtz. Seriously bummed about this news.

  7. Matt B.

    ^Bill – I’m pretty sure Tara Li was referring to the new name, CSI.

  8. Wzrd1

    I don’t know, Phil. I’ve kept a garden and on occasion, retained weeds.
    When I was in the Persian Gulf, my garden had some local succulent vine that didn’t strangle plants, but it was an excellent sun shade.
    So, perhaps one can also GUIDE the weeds a bit, to cause beneficial effects when the weed isn’t utterly destructive for the whole. :)

  9. Patrick

    Hey ! Tera Li,
    Why don’t you read his Bio, as usual Hollywood is not the innovator, nor imaginative.
    Try and read some books, or something.


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