Press Releases  

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For Immediate Release

September 20, 2015

Toni Van Pelt, President of Institute for Science and Human Values to Speak on the

"Religious Freedom Restoration Act and its Dangers to Secular Society and Government"

Sponsored by the Humanists of North Puget Sound


When: Nov. 10, 2015 6:00PM-8:00PM

Where: Everett Public Library activities room 2702 Hoyt Avenue, Everett, WA


With increasing frequency, we are seeing individuals, businesses, organizations and institutions claiming a right to discriminate – by refusing to provide services to women and LGBT people and (those who will be next) – based on religious objections. These are the same arguments that were used in the 1960s to oppose laws requiring integration in restaurants because of sincerely held beliefs that God wanted the races to be separate.


We saw religiously affiliated universities refuse to admit students who engaged in interracial dating. Now the radical right is working to expand allowance of this discrimination for ‘moral’ reasons. Imposing beliefs on others who do not share them goes against the very fiber and core of not just Secular Humanists Values and Principles but American Family Values. Ms Van Pelt will illuminate the history of RFRA and outline the damage it has done to date.

For more information contact: Robert Ray (360) 722-9900


Institute for Science and Human Values

Perspectives on Dying and Death Symposium

“Dying Without Deity”

Hospitals and Hospices ignore the needs of more than 20% of their patients.

Tampa, FL - Oct. 24, 2014 - Even though the Pew Research Center has found that one-fifth (20%) of the USA public and a third (33 1/3%) of adults under 30 are religiously unaffiliated, most hospitals and hospices insist on having religious Chaplains available while ignoring the needs of non-theistic, secular humanist, atheist and agnostic patients.

While a September 2014 Pew Research report indicated that 72% of the American public has concluded that religion is losing influence in American life, the CEO’s of America’s hospitals and hospices continue to ignore this reality.

According to Joe Beck, Florida’s first Humanist Chaplain and Founder of Florida’s Humanists of the Treasure Coast, "hospital and hospice literature mention the existence of non-denominational theistic chaplains but fail to mention the existence of supportive services from an openly secular humanist perspective.”  Mr. Beck believes that medical facilities providing a clearly identified secular support person helps to validate the secular patient's life stance and brings comfort to those patients.

The Institute for Science and Human Values (ISHV) has been approached by nursing home directors explaining that their secular patients are not being provided for, by either the facility or the patients’ families. They wonder how they can help. “I have comforted those who are frightened to identify as non-theist for fear that proper medical care will be denied them when they find themselves requiring hospital and hospice stays,” states Toni Van Pelt, ISHV President. “We know many secular humanists’ wishes are denied by their families concerning burial and funeral services.” she continues.

To date there has been little discussion and less research as to how widespread these problems are and what can be done to provide support for non-theists in this, their greatest time of need. To this end ISHV is sponsoring “Dying Without Deity” Perspectives Dying and Death Symposium, at Columbia University, on April 10 and 11th, 2015 Visit for further details and to register.


On March 25, 2014, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in lawsuits brought by Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a national arts-and-crafts chain, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a cabinet manufacturer. The cases challenge the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that insurance plans include coverage for contraception with no co-pay, which was designed to advance women’s health and equality. We, the undersigned members of the Coalition for Liberty & Justice, express our support for the right of all workers and their dependents to access contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act and to make personal decisions about using contraception based on their own beliefs. We oppose the corporations’ attempts to invoke their owners’ religious beliefs to undermine women’s health and equality and interfere in their personal decision-making. Corporations should not be permitted to impose religious views on their employees. We represent a diverse cross-section of communities, including faith-based and secular groups as well as those dedicated to LGBT rights, women’s rights, separation of church and state, civil rights, and sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice. We are united in our belief that public policies should both respect religious liberty and protect against the use of religious beliefs to discriminate or undermine equality. We believe that true religious liberty respects individuals, supports the common good and reflects the foundational principles of our nation. We therefore strongly support the rights of female workers and their dependents to follow their consciences, moral codes and beliefs when making a decision about contraception and oppose the plaintiffs’ attempts to interfere in this personal decision-making. We hope the Supreme Court will reject the corporations’ challenges to the contraceptive coverage regulations.

Americans for Religious Liberty,  Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, Call To Action, Catholics for Choice, Center for Inquiry, Center for Reproductive Rights,  Coalition of Labor Union Women, Concerned Clergy for Choice, CORPUS, DignityUSA, Faith Aloud, GetEQUAL Action, Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc., Human Rights Campaign, Ibis Reproductive Health, Institute for Science and Human Values, Interfaith Alliance,  Keshet,  Law Students for Reproductive Justice, Medical Students for Choice, Metropolitan Community Churches Public Policy Team, MergerWatch, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Military Association of Atheists & Freethinkers, Muslims for Progressive Values, National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum,  National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Council of Jewish Women, National Council of Women's Organizations, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force,  National Latina for Reproductive Health, National Organization for Women (NOW) Foundation, National Women's Health Network, Nehirim,  New Ways Ministry,  Religious Reproductive Choice, Religious Institute, Reproductive Health Technologies Project, Secular Coalition for America,  Sexuality Information and Education Council of the Society for Humanistic Judaism, Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual, Women's League for Conservative Judaism.

Subject: Press Conference at Senator Nelson's Tampa Office

On April 8, 2014, also known as Equal Pay Day, AAUW members and fellow fair pay advocates will gather outside Sen. Bill Nelson’s Tampa office to advocate for the Paycheck Fairness Act and to deliver a cake with a 23 percent “bite” taken out of it to represent the 23-cent gap between men’s and women’s earnings.

Why Senator Nelson's office? The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is expected to hold a hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act in early April. Soon after the hearing, we expect the full Senate to vote on whether to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act – and Sen. Nelson will be key to this effort. Sen. Nelson was the only Democratic senator who had not committed to co-sponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act and TODAY he signed on to the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), which would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and bar retaliation against workers who disclose their wages to coworkers. In the face of this new development, which is a win for all women in Florida, we need Sen. Nelson to take the lead on getting the PFA passed.

When: April 8th at 5 p.m.

Where: Federal Courthouse in downtown Tampa Sam Gibbons Federal Court House 801 N. Florida Ave., Tampa,

What: Press Conference, Rally and Cake Delivery

Why:  Members of ISHV and other allied organizations have repeatedly asked Sen. Nelson to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act and will ask again on Equal Pay Day.

Who: American Association of University Women, Institute for Science and Human Values, Florida NOW, and The Feminist Student Alliance



September 5, 2014

CONTACT: Jill Maxick



New York Times-bestselling author leaves a rich intellectual legacy

Prometheus Books is deeply saddened by the sudden and unexpected loss of one of our most prolific and important authors, Victor J. Stenger. This Tuesday (September 9, 2014) marks the publication of his thirteenth Prometheus book, God and the Multiverse: Humanity's Expanding View of the Cosmos, and we can’t believe he isn’t here to see it off into the world and to engage the public in lively discourse on its topic at personal appearances or on his Huffington Post blog, as he would for any other book.

Jonathan Kurtz, publisher, Prometheus Books, says, “Victor Stenger was a visionary thinker. He had the rare ability to write for the academic reader as well as the layman. He was the ultimate professional and a close friend of Prometheus, with a relationship going back many years. We will miss him greatly.”

An adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado and professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii at the time of his death, Victor Stenger was an extraordinary scholar with the unique ability to make dense concepts in science both meaningful and intelligible to the general public while at the same time maintaining their scientific integrity.

In 2007, he achieved New York Times-bestseller status with God: The Failed Hypothesis, a book praised by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris, the prominent "New Atheists" of that time

Like many skeptics, Stenger valued the need to bring reason and critical thinking to a public desperately searching for understanding and clarity amid the many claims made by religion and the supernatural masquerading as science or insisting that where science has yet to discover answers some mysterious psychic force could fill the void. He took this obligation to the public at large very seriously, dedicating himself to confronting the pseudoscientific, the paranormal, and the supernatural with solid, evidence-based arguments that any careful reader could follow and gain significant insight from.

“The books Victor authored leave a rich intellectual legacy,” says Steven L. Mitchell, editor in chief, Prometheus Books. “His works broaden the public’s knowledge about science and the thoughtful method it uses to explore claims of all stripes in an objective, rational way that will ultimately lead to answers grounded in the best available evidence rather than baseless assertions, unfounded conjecture, or blind faith.”

Victor Stenger will be missed by those of us who had the privilege of knowing him. But we who cherish critical thinking, a positive skeptical attitude, and the uplifting of the human spirit through the light of reason are fortunate that his vast body of work remains to encourage and challenge us as we face an always uncertain future.

# # #


  • God and the Multiverse

  • God and the Atom

  • God and the Folly of Faith

  • God: The Failed Hypothesis

  • The Comprehensible Cosmos

  • The New Atheism

  • Has Science Found God?

  • The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning

  • Physics and Psychics

  • Not by Design

  • Quantum Gods

  • The Unconscious Quantum


For Immediate Release

February 23, 2013


Diverse Set of Thinkers to Ponder Ethics, Science, Secularism, and the Human Future at ISHV’s 2013 Columbia University Symposium

The Institute for Science and Human Values (ISHV) will convene its Third Annual Symposium at Columbia University in New York City on April 12-13, 2013. The theme for this year’s event is “The Human Prospect and the Fate of Our Planetary Civilization: Science, Humanism, Ethics, and the Task Before Us." A distinguished cast of scientists, scholars and authors will assemble for an interdisciplinary examination of pressing issues at the forefront of humanism and society today. Discussions will center on how organized secular humanism can be translated into an effective public philosophy of pragmatic action and persuasion. Featured prominently will be Dr. Philip Kitcher, author of Living with Darwin and John Dewey Professor of Philosophy at Columbia, who will be fresh from delivering the prestigious 2013 Terry Lectures at Yale University on the topic of “Secular Humanism.”

Also among the powerful roster of speakers will be Rebecca Goldstein, Ronald Aronson, Susan Jacoby, James Giordano, Lindsay Beyerstein, John Shook, Toni Van Pelt, Terry O'Neill, Dr. Ron Miller, Bob Bindschadler, Stuart Jordan, Nel Noddings, Larry Hickman, Jacques Berlinerblau, Barry Kosmin, Anthony Pinn, and Linda LaScola.

“The overall theme of this event, our third yearly symposium, was conceived by our founder and former chairman, Paul Kurtz. Indeed, helping us plan for this was one of the final projects undertaken by Paul,” said Stuart Jordan, president of ISHV. “We are sorry that he didn’t live long enough to attend this special gathering, but we are happy to announce that the entire event will dedicated to his memory, and quite appropriately so, as Columbia was his alma mater.

Topics to be addressed include:

  • Advancing political secularism; humanism and the “religiously unaffiliated”

  • Reaching out to Non-Believing Clergy

  • Ethics as a human project

  • Secular Humanism beyond unbelief

  • Making Science and Humanism better bedfellows

  • The intersection of Humanism and Feminism

  • Keeping our laws and our ethics in pace with rapid technological change and growth

  • The ethical imperative of responding to climate change

  • Humanism and Progressivism

The full symposium program can be viewed online at,

Registration is $175 for the general public and $60 for students (valid student ID required at door and limited to 25 students). The symposium will commence on Friday evening, April 12 and run from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. The all-day Saturday session on April 13 will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 6:00 p.m.

ISHV Third Annual Symposium: “The Human Prospect and the Fate of Our Planetary Civilization.”

Where: Columbia University, Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive, New York, NY 10027

When: April 12-13, 2013

Registration and more information:

The Institute for Science and Human Values (ISHV) is a research and advocacy organization founded by secular humanist visionary Paul Kurtz. It is committed to the enhancement of human values and scientific inquiry through the application of humanist ethics in all areas of human life on a planetary scale. The Institute publishes a quarterly journal called The Human Prospect. Jonathan Kurtz is the organization’s chairman. ISHV's Website can be found at,



Announcing the sad death of our ISHV Founder, Professor Paul Kurtz


1925 - 2012

It is with great sadness that I announce to all of you the death of our ISHV Founder, Professor Paul Kurtz. Paul died in his home on October 20 at the age of 86 of causes still to be determined, but likely to be associated with progressive cardiac failure. Some of you may have heard this news

already, for the passing of any figure as prominent as Paul invariably reaches many ears immediately, and numerous unofficial obituaries and other memorials have been issued. I'm sure I speak for all of us in offering condolences to Paul's wife Claudine, his son Jonathan, also on the ISHV Board, and to all other members of Paul's family. This is a difficult time of trial for all of them, and ISHV offers whatever help we can give to ease the adjustment this period entails.

It is impossible to summarize in a few words all of Paul's achievements as an international humanist leader. Many of these achievements will no doubt be noted when an appropriate memorial is held to honor his memory. It is not an exaggeration to say that Paul was the most prominent and effective leader of the global - Paul would have preferred "planetary" - secular humanist movement since the time of John Dewey; and Paul was a far more effective organizer than even Dewey. People often fail to realize what a profound impact a great public figure has had until that figure is gone. The spontaneous outpouring of tributes to Paul during the first two days following his demise speak volumes to that. From us in ISHV we can now say, "Thank you Paul for what you have done for us, for your vision and your passion, and for advancing the freethought movement that we all cherish. We will always remember you, honor you, and stay true to the vision for a better, more humanistic world for people that you always defended. You will be long remembered and greatly missed."

Stuart Jordan

president of ISHV





For Immediate Release

Brain Science Experts to Examine Issues at the Intersection of Neuroscience and Morality


Special One-Day Symposium Will Address Fundamental Human Questions

The Institute for Science and Human Values (ISHV), in partnership with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, will sponsor a one-day symposium entitled "Neuroscience and Neuroethics: Considering Nature, Nurture and Norms" on Friday, March 16, 2012. The program will run from 8am-6pm at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, 901 North Stuart Street, Suite 200, Arlington, VA, 20003.

This special event will bring together outstanding scholars to examine ways in which neuroscience can inform contemporary discussions about human nature, the human condition, and human relationships. Speakers will also address questions of how the neurosciences might influence these discussions in the coming decades. While providing some answers, brain science may actually foster other, more profound questions about what we are, what we know and do not know, and the ways we regard and treat ourselves and other species.

“We are proud to be co-sponsoring this event with the Potomac Institute and their Center for Neurotechnology Studies,” said Paul Kurtz, chairman and founder of ISHV. “This meeting promises to make a valuable contribution the cultural conversation surrounding neuroscience and human well-being. Our plan is to disseminate the fruits of this gathering to all educated laypersons with an interest in the topic.” With this goal in mind, the meeting will be broadcast via Internet streaming, and selected material from the symposium will be published in The Human Prospect, the quarterly journal of the Institute for Sciences and Human Values.

The Symposium will take a pragmatic view of the capabilities, limitations, potential and problems of neuroscience in describing, defining and shaping the human condition and predicament. While of high scholarly quality, the aim is to create a forum of multi-disciplinary discourse that is open and accessible to professionals and students from the sciences and humanities, as well as to the general public.

Featured speakers will include:

Paul Kurtz, PhD, Institute for Science and Human Values. Special Symposium Introduction

Gregory Berns, PhD, Emory University "Neural Mechanisms of Values"

William Casebeer, PhD, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency "Will, Narrative and Personal Responsibility"

Patricia Churchland, PhD, University of California San Diego "What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality"

James Giordano, PhD, Center for Neurotechnology Studies, Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, University of New Mexico, University of Oxford, Symposium Chair "Neuroethics as Meta-ethics: Avoiding Icarus' Folly"

Eric Racine, PhD, Neuroethics Research Unit , Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM) "Neuroimaging and the Values of Neuroscience"

John Shook, PhD, University of Buffalo "The New Ethics of Neuroethics"

A Continental breakfast will be served at 8 am and lunch will be served. There is a wine and cheese reception 5-6 pm.

Admission is free of charge, but RSVP is required. For more details please visit

To register, please contact Laurie Kinney at

The Institute for Science and Human Values (ISHV) is a research and advocacy organization founded by secular humanist visionary Paul Kurtz. It is committed to the enhancement of human values and scientific inquiry through the application of humanist ethics in all areas of human life on a planetary scale. The Institute publishes a quarterly journal called The Human Prospect. ISHV's Website can be found at




For Immediate Release

Humanist Group Calls Attention to the Dangers of Nigerian Witch Hunter Helen Ukpabio


The Institute for Science and Human Values (ISHV), an organization committed to advancing humanist ethics, is standing up for children and against dangerous superstition. The Institute has expressed concern that the controversial Nigerian witch hunter Helen Ukpabio is returning to the United States (Houston) to raise money for her work in Nigeria.

Ukpabio heads the Liberty Gospel Church. Much of her ministry is focused on identifying, harassing, ostracizing and persecuting alleged child witches and wizards. Though witch hunts died out in the West centuries ago, they are widespread in Africa, Saudi Arabia, India and other parts of the world. In many cases, religious fanatics torture and kill children accused of practicing sorcery.

“It is appalling to learn that someone like Ukpabio could bring her act to this country and get any support,” says Norm Allen, director of the Institute’s international outreach program. “What is even more disturbing is that these dangerous and irrational beliefs and practices could once again become accepted in this nation.”

Ukpabio has tried unsuccessfully to silence her critics in Nigeria. In 2009, Leo Igwe of the Nigerian Humanist Movement (NHM), an affiliate of the Institute, participated in a local seminar on witchcraft and the rights of the child, organized by the NHM and the child rights organization Stepping Stones Nigeria (SSN). Members of Ukpabio’s church disrupted the meeting, physically assaulted Igwe, and stole his personal items.

Amazingly, Ukpabio and members of her church sued Igwe and SSN for millions of dollars, claiming that they were deprived of their right to believe in witchcraft. The Liberty Gospel Church lost the case and Igwe and SSN continue to rescue and defend alleged witches and wizards.

Allen not only opposes the persecution and killing of children, but the very belief in the power o witchcraft. “If people did not believe in the witches and wizards to begin with, there would be no basis for harming these young victims,” he said. ISHV calls upon all of those concerned with the protection of children to protest against Helen Ukpabio’s event sponsored by Glorious Praise Ministries in Houston March 14-25, 2012. Emails may be sent to

Website may be visited at

They may be reached by phone at (713) 530-2080, or (713) 370-2587




For Immediate Release

July 8, 2010

Humanists announce formation of new institute dedicated to ethics

Brandishing a statement of "Neo-Humanist" values, a group of leaders in the humanist movement has established a new non-profit aiming to re-humanize secularism. “We aim to be inclusive and to work with religious and non-religious groups to help solve common problems facing the

Planetary community,” Paul Kurtz, chairman of the new Institute for Science and Human Values (ISHV), said.

Kurtz also said the group will promote scientific inquiry and critical thinking in evaluating claims and "develop values that are naturalistic and humanistic in character and appropriate to the 21st century." He said religion is often at the root of society's ethical values, and that ISHV wants to reevaluate them on rational grounds. “We’re going to enlist the brightest scientists and scholars, and not just in the United States but everywhere there are humanists,” Kurtz said. “We want to find out how to better develop the common moral virtues that we share as human beings.”

Kurtz is an emeritus professor of philosophy and has been involved in humanist, skeptical, and secularist movements for more than 30 years. In 1991 he brought together two organizations, one focused on skepticism and the other on humanism, to form the Center for Inquiry (CFI). Kurtz resigned from CFI’s board in May of this year.

"The secularist garden doesn't necessarily produce humanist blooms," Kurtz said. “The questions we want to answer are, how do you develop among secularists a personal morality? How does one develop empathy? How can we motivate morality? It’s a common belief that morality can only come from religion. Well, I have known scores of excellent human beings who behave very morally and yet do not subscribe to religious belief systems.”

Kurtz, with input from other prominent humanists, has composed a "Neo-Humanist Statement of Secular Principles and Values" that will help guide the new organization's activities. It is the latest public declaration of a humanist movement that has been punctuated by similar documents in 1933, 1973, and 2003. The Statement is signed by more than 100 prominent Humanists including Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, and writer Ann Druyan, wife of the late Carl Sagan.

The Statement lays out 16 "recommendations" that emphasize the development of a positive ethical system in order to help the humanist movement better understand and express what it is for. "We've never had a problem expressing what we're against," Kurtz said. "Humanists have always been critical of theism. But as our movement matures politically and socially, it will be beneficial to express our positive values, like ethical values based on reason and support for critical thinking as a way to solve public problems." The Statement also includes some decidedly liberal ideas, including support for the rights of "women, racial, ethnic, and sexual minorities," and for "education, health care, gainful employment, and other social benefits." Other recommendations support democracy, a "green economy," population restraint, and "progressive positions on the economy."

Toni Van Pelt, former director of CFI's lobbying arm the Office of Public Policy, said that humanism had significant accomplishments petitioning Congress over the last several years.

"We had great success, to the point where several members accepted our Science and Reason award and even spoke in our D.C. office, which was just a short walk from the Capitol," Van Pelt said. Van Pelt, who signed the new Statement, said part of ISHV’s mission would be to fill the lobbying gap left by the effective closure of CFI’s Office of Public Policy.

Retired NASA astrophysicist Stuart Jordan is also among ISHV’s organizers. He said ethics would take priority in ISHV’s activities. “Science and reason are the means to achieving the ethical goals, which were and are the ultimate goals of the Enlightenment that helped jump start our country,” he said. “The overriding goal was and still is a better world for all humanity.”

Kurtz said what he sees as a crisis in secularism prompted him to form the ISHV. “It is becoming obvious to an increasing number of secularists that to be disaffected from religion doesn’t bestow moral or ethical superiority,” he said. “For example, Ayn Rand and her ideological heirs promote freedom, but don’t consider the virtue in selflessness and cooperation. We want to investigate whether there is a moral framework reinforced by reason that non-theists can embrace.”

Paul Kurtz is the author of more than 50 books and is a Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Buffalo. To schedule an interview with him, please contact Jesse Christopherson at (480) 882-8370 or


For additional information see the attached “Neo-Humanist Statement of Secular Principles and Values” and visit:

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