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Randi, Krauss, Kurtz Honored with Major Awards

Special Report

The Editors

Volume 33.4, July / August 2009

James Randi, Lawrence Krauss, and Paul Kurtz were honored with major awards at the Center for Inquiry’s 12th World Congress in Bethesda, Maryland. All were presented at the Saturday evening awards banquet, April 11.

James Randi received the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry’s In Praise of Reason Award “in recognition of his distinguished contribution to the use of critical inquiry, scientific evidence, and reason in evaluating claims to knowledge.”

As everyone knows, Randi has for decades been a tireless and charismatic critical investigator of those who claim paranormal powers, forthrightly challenging them to undergo testing under controlled conditions and exposing those who intentionally deceive others. He also has been an effective educator of the scientific and skeptical communities about the need to understand the methods magicians use to deceive, so as not to be deceived themselves by pretenders to psychic powers.  

Paul Kurtz, founder and chairman of CSI, presented the award to Randi, noting that it is granted only to “outstanding contributors to rational inquiry and scientific thinking.” He noted that Randi was one of the original founders of CSI and is “a leading critic of people who engage in chicanery and fraud.” He praised Randi for his application of reason to concrete cases. “Your greatest quality is that you are an educator, a teacher. You have shown that the easiest people to deceive are PhDs, a great insight to all of us. You expose myths and hoaxes.... You stand out in history.”

Lawrence M. Krauss received the Center for Inquiry’s Scholarship in the Public Interest Award “in recognition of his outstanding contributions in defense of scientific inquiry and on behalf of improving the public’s understanding and appreciation of science.”

Krauss, a leading theoretical physicist at the interface of particle physics and cosmology and also an author of popular science books (The Physics of Star Trek, Fear of Physics, Hiding in the Mirror) recently moved from Case Western Reserve University to Arizona State University. There he is Foundation Professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, director of the Origins Initiative, and co-director of the Cosmology Initiative. Krauss is one of science’s most effective spokesmen. In his frequent public appearances and articles and op-ed columns in major newspapers and magazines he defends good science and warns against the politicization of science. He has been a strong and effective opponent of creationist efforts to dilute the teaching of science.

Ronald Lindsay, CEO and president of the Center for Inquiry, presented the award to Krauss. “No one can match Lawrence Krauss’s tireless efforts on behalf of the public understanding of science,” he said. “He is one of the few prominent scientists to successfully bridge the chasm between science and popular culture.”

Paul Kurtz, founder and chairman of the Center for Inquiry and of its affiliate organizations the Council for Secular Humanism and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, received a special lifetime achievement award from the Center for Inquiry. Named The Eupraxsopher Award, it was given for his extraordinary leadership in the causes of humanism and scientific skepticism, his lifetime of accomplishment, and his moral and ethical guidance. The award is named for a term Kurtz himself coined, from Greek roots for “good/well,” “conduct/practice,” and “scientific and philosophic wisdom.” He defines eupraxsophy as “a set of convictions and practices offering a cosmic outlook and an ethical guide to life.”

Kendrick Frazier, editor of the Skeptical Inquirer and a board member of both the Center for Inquiry and Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, presented the award to Kurtz. He noted that were it not for Kurtz none of the organizations represented at the congress would exist, and the worldwide movements they spawned would likely never have occurred. Frazier praised Kurtz as “truly, one of the world’s extraordinary persons.” He noted that Kurtz is a unique and remarkable combination of philosopher, scholar, and intellectual; author/editor of more than forty books in philosophy, humanism, and skepticism; founder of a major book publisher (Prometheus Books); creator and organizer of a network of nonprofit organizations advancing humanism and scientific skepticism; an international diplomat who attracts and welcomes diverse people from nations around the world; and an inspiring leader with extraordinary vision and courage.

Lawrence Krauss Received CFI's Scholarship in the Public Interest Award.

Lawrence Krauss Received CFI's Scholarship in the Public Interest Award.

“He stresses not negativism but the affirming values of humanism and skepticism.... He has lived life to its fullest, with exuberance and extraordinary service to others. By elucidating, living, and advancing strong missions, ethical credos, and causes greater than ourselves, he inspires us all to try somehow to do the same.”

At a conference luncheon a day earlier, Paul Kurtz was also presented with an award from the National Capital Area Skeptics. NCAS President Scott Snell, who works at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, presented Kurtz with NCAS’s Phillip J. Klass Award “for outstanding contributions in promoting critical thinking and scientific understanding.” The award honored Kurtz as “the person most responsible for the modern organized skeptical movement that coalesced in the mid-1970s,” which included founding CSICOP (now CSI) and the Skeptical Inquirer.

“It was CSICOP’s eminent coalition of physical and social scientists, medical doctors, magicians, historians, journalists, and others, assembled and energized by Kurtz’s dynamic leadership and far-sighted vision, that ushered in the modern age of scientific skepticism,” said NCAS’s award statement. “Much is owed Kurtz as well for the formation of independent local skeptics groups like NCAS. Under his leadership CSICOP published a call for forming such groups and provided them with invaluable guidance and material support to connect with other skeptics in their community and to organize.”