On the day I was born in 1977, Kendrick Frazier had already been running our sibling publication, Skeptical Inquirer, for about four months.
When he died on November 7, 2022, he had been editor of Skeptical Inquirer for forty-five years, and I had been running Free Inquiry for about four months. I had been his colleague at the Center for Inquiry, which publishes our magazines, for over a decade, and while we didn’t know each other well, we often expressed our mutual respect and admiration. Despite the chasm of experience separating us when I took the helm of Free Inquiry, Ken immediately treated me as his equal. I would have welcomed him affirmatively taking me aside to teach me a few things and help me avoid some rookie mistakes, but instead he allowed me to find my place, offered his counsel should I seek it, welcomed my input, and, perhaps most importantly, showed he had total faith in me. As he was about so many things, he was excited for me.
Ken and I led very different lives and had very different careers leading up to our positions as heads of our respective, complementary publications. Ken was a trained journalist, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Columbia University, while my degrees are in theater and political management. Ken was a westerner living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I hail from the northeast, raised in New Jersey and now living in Maine. Ken was an adventurer, investigating the wonders of nature, exploring different cultures, and delighting in sharing his whole self with his fellow humans, while I am best described as an “indoor cat,” introverted in real-world situations yet eager to perform “in character.” Ken was an enthusiast of science, and I of the arts.
I think what I admired most about Ken was that with all his decades of experience, rich expertise, and deep well of wisdom, he seemed most energized by what he didn’t know. He was positively ebullient over the prospect of learning new things, and having the opportunity to share what he’d learned with thousands of readers was, to him, almost too good to be true. I never saw Ken express derision toward those who had been misled into denying scientific reality or anger at those who choose to close their minds to the wonders of this universe for ideological reasons. Rather, I think he saw willful or imposed ignorance as a tragedy to be prevented or, all else failing, a loss to be grieved.
That’s where Kendrick Frazier, the scientific skeptic, was also Kendrick Frazier, the secular humanist. His skepticism was clearly grounded in his humanist, moral conviction that everyone should have the opportunity to be enriched with knowledge, be motivated by questions, and be free to express all of it. Similarly, my own secular humanist values are grounded in my skepticism, because we cannot hope to realize a better, freer world for all unless we deal with that world as it truly is, not as we would like to believe it is.
Ken and I had that in common, an intuition that the objective and the subjective are both essential to the human experience. Both of us understood, all too well, that what we don’t know will always be unfathomably more vast than what we do know. Too often, I have found that fact daunting and diminishing. Ken, I think, found it exhilarating. It means that literally every moment of our conscious existence presents another opportunity to learn something new. Every moment that we exist, we are richer for it.
“I have lived a fortunate life,” wrote Ken just before he died. “My heart is full of gratitude.”1
The universe is so big, and no single lifetime could ever be enough to take it all in. We grieve that Ken is no longer in this universe with us. Our hearts are full of gratitude that he was.
1. Kendrick Frazier, “A Personal Note to Readers of the Skeptical Inquirer.” Skeptical Inquirer, vol. 47, no. 1 (January/February 2023). Available online at https://skepticalinquirer.org/2022/12/a-personal-note-to-readers-of-the-skeptical-inquirer/.
On the day I was born in 1977, Kendrick Frazier had already been running our sibling publication, Skeptical Inquirer, for about four months. When he died on November 7, 2022, he had been editor of Skeptical Inquirer for forty-five years, and I had been running Free Inquiry for about four months. I had been his …