Committee For The Scientific Examination Of Religion
Appoints Executive Director
by Matt Cherry
Professor Hector Avalos, a professor of
religion and philosophy at Iowa State University, is
the new executive director of the Committee
for the Scientific Examination of Religion (CSER). CSER, a sub-committee of the
Council for Secular Humanism, examines religious beliefs and
claims in the light of scientific inquiry.
The inter-disciplinary committee includes specialists in biblical scholarship,
archeology, linguistics, psychology, philosophy and the social sciences. In the 1980s CSER
organized several groundbreaking conferences exploring the historical evidence regarding
Jesus and the origins of the Old and New Testaments. CSER has also produced studies of
faith healing and the truth behind satanic cult scares.
Professor Avalos will continue CSER's studies of the Judeo-Christian tradition, while
increasing its examination of other world religions. CSER has already launched a
sub-committee for the study of Islam and the Koran, and it plans to establish a group of
Hindu scholars. The committee will also apply scientific techniques to explore the
psychology of belief and the sociology of religion.
Professor Gerald Larue, Professor Emeritus of Biblical Archeology at the University of Southern California, will continue as the
President of CSER.
CSER will work closely with the Centre for Inquiry: Critical Studies in Religion,
Ethics and Society at Westminster College, Oxford. Professor R. Joseph Hoffmann, the head
of the Oxford center, has long been a leading figure in CSER.
Humanist Scholars To Examine Islam And The Koran
The Council for Secular Humanism has formed a Committee
for the Study of Koranic Literature. The new group, a sub-committee of the Committee for the Scientific Examination
of Religion, will examine the foundations, claims and practices of Islam and its holy
book the Koran.
Ibn Warraq, author of Why I Am Not A Muslim, will chair the new committee.
Its members include Western scholars of Islam and academics from Islamic countries. The
other founding members of the committee are Professor Hector Avalos (CSER executive
director), Professor R. Joseph Hoffman (Oxford University), and Professors Mourad Wahba
and Mona Abousenna (Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt). Ibn Warraq (a pseudonym) will be
a visiting scholar at the Center for
Inquiry, Amherst, for three months in the Spring of 1997.
The Committee for the Study of Koranic Literature is one of several
initiatives that arose from a meeting of Middle-Eastern humanists and secularists at the World
Humanist Congress in Mexico City, November, 1996.