The Frank S. Robinson Enlightenment Fund

Professor Steven Pinker, Honorary Chairman

The Frank S. Robinson Enlightenment Fund is a philanthropic entity, created by a former administrative law judge, author, and numismatist, residing in Albany, NY.


Its purpose is to promote the principles of the Enlightenment – a revolution in thought beginning around 1700. Central is the idea that the cosmos is governed by natural laws, which human reason is capable of figuring out. This means rejecting superstition and the supernatural; and questioning received dogmas.


The only thing that ultimately matters – or can matter – is the feelings of beings who have them. That is, happiness – here on Earth, not in Heaven. The Enlightenment sought it by recognizing every person’s human dignity, and natural rights, including self-government. And there’s a belief in progress, being achievable through the application of reason to solving our problems and improving our quality of life.


In doing that, the Enlightenment has been a spectacular success. Yet the triumph of its ideas has never been secure, and today they are under fierce assault from many directions. Howling fools dance around bonfires of Enlightenment values.


Hence this fund's purpose to advance those values. However, this does not mean advocacy, political engagement, funding studies and verbiage, etc. Instead it means efforts directed toward individual people, enabling them to benefit from, to reflect, and to further Enlightenment precepts; aiming to make good things happen that would not otherwise happen. 


One commitment is to the Horn of Africa Education Development Fund, to create a network of high quality schools, for girls as well as boys, in Somaliland (a Muslim country). HAEDF has a track record of great success there with its Abaarso School of Science and Technology. The thrust is instilling critical thinking skills, largely absent from education throughout Africa and the Muslim world.  This is essential if Enlightenment values are to flourish.


A second commitment is to Secular Rescue, a program of the Center for Inquiry. It’s a kind of “underground railroad” to aid and protect writers and bloggers under threat for dissenting from religious orthodoxies in mainly Muslim countries. Some have been butchered by religious vigilantes. Societal progress requires open debate, and is thwarted if diverse viewpoints are intimidated and silenced by violence.


A third initiative is creation of a scholarship for a disadvantaged student to attend the excellent Albany Academy for Girls, who would not otherwise have such an opportunity.


The Frank S. Robinson Enlightenment Fund is a donor-advised fund and hence cannot accept outside donations. For further information, contact