February 4 in freethought history…

epicurusFebruary 4, 341 BCE – According to ancient sources, the Greek philosopher Epicurus is born on this date (10 Gamelion of the old Attic calendar). Although little of his written work survives, fragments of his proto-scientific treatise On Nature. Epicurus is also commonly attributed with the “trilemma” against the omnipotence and omnibenevolence of God that asks, “”Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

February 4, 1921 – Feminist Betty Friedan is born Betty Naomi Goldstein in Peoria, Illinois. She founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) and is the author of the influential manifesto The Feminine Mystique. Friedan described herself as an agnostic, and was one of the signers of the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II. She was named Humanist of the Year in 1975 by the American Humanist Association. Friedan died in 2006 on her 85th birthday.

February 4, 1954 – English activist Chapman Cohen dies in Brentwood, England, aged 85. Raised in a nonreligious Jewish family, Cohen became active in Britain’s National Secular Society, eventually serving as Vice President and later President.  He lectured widely, made frequent contributions to freethought periodicals, and published numerous pamphlets. Wrote Cohen: “Gods are fragile things, they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense.”

February 4, 1971 – Canadian psychiatrist Brock Chisholm dies in Victoria, British Columbia. He was the first Director-General of the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO). The outspoken Chisholm, a secularist, ruffled feathers by suggesting that children should not be encouraged to believe in Santa Claus or the Bible. He was named Humanist of the Year in 1959 by the American Humanist Association.

February 4, 1987 – Carl Rogers, one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century, dies in San Diego, California, aged 85. The American Humanist Association named him Humanist of the Year in 1964.

February 4, 2014 – Bill Nye the Science Guy debates Young Earth Creationist Ken Ham at Ham’s Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, on the question, “Is creation a viable model of origins?” Nicknamed “Ham on Nye,” the event was attended by 900 people and viewed by hundreds of thousands via internet streaming. No official winner was declared, but while some on the science side criticized Nye for even participating in the debate, they universally agreed that Nye presented the better case.

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