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Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal

From Academic Kids

The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, or CSICOP, is an organization formed to encourage open minded, critical investigation of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims from a responsible, scientific point of view. It is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1976 by Paul Kurtz.

According to CSICOP's charter, the organization exists to pursue six major goals:

  1. Maintain a network of people interested in critically examining paranormal, fringe science, and other claims, and in contributing to consumer education.
  2. Prepare bibliographies of published materials that carefully examine such claims.
  3. Encourage research by objective and impartial inquiry in areas where it is needed.
  4. Convene conferences and meetings.
  5. Publish articles that examine claims of the paranormal.
  6. Do not reject claims on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry, but examine them objectively and carefully.

CSICOP has conducted investigations into many paranormal claims, ranging from Bigfoot and UFO sightings to self-proclaimed psychics, pseudoscience, astrology, alternative medicines, and religious cults. Notable members of CSICOP have included TV science program host Bill Nye, Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Milbourne Christopher, Martin Gardner, James Randi, and many others.

As the publishers of the magazine Skeptical Inquirer, the committee disseminates information about results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public.

CSICOP's critical investigations into claims of paranormal phenomena have been unrelenting; the organization has never abandoned its belief that claims of the paranormal must be proven to exist by scientific means, or else the claims must be considered baseless. CSICOP critics often accuse its members of arrogance and pseudoskepticism. Critics often claim that the group has a fixed opinion that paranormal phenomena do not exist, regardless of any evidence presented to them that such phenomena do indeed exist. CSICOP's response to these criticisms has been to state that no definite, peer-reviewed evidence of the existence of paranormal phenomena has ever been presented. According to the mainstream scientific community, every instance of claimed paranormal activity has failed to stand up under scientific scrutiny.

CSICOP's criticism of paranormal phenomena, pseudoscience, and fringe groups that encourage these practices has won it a large number of critics. Some of these groups have claimed that CSICOP has no credibility. A 1977 government raid on the offices of the Church of Scientology uncovered considerable evidence of a plot against CSICOP by the Church; this included a plot by Scientology to discredit CSICOP by forging CIA documents. The documents seized by the FBI described a plan to spread rumors that CSICOP was actually a front group for the CIA. (Source: Toronto Globe and Mail, January 25, 1980.)

CSICOP states that the various pro-paranormal factions have exerted a vast amount of energy, time, and money to ensure that the "grey areas" surrounding their fields of study remain in flux, largely in order to protect their profits and sources of revenue. The group's investigations into pseudoscience have shown that the field of paranormal phenomena, alternative medicine, and pseudoscience is often quite profitable. One of CSICOP's major concerns about the persistence of the belief in magical thinking and the paranormal is the significant risk it poses to the people who depend on pseudoscience to treat various life-threatening ailments and situations. One slogan originated by CSICOP concerning the profitability of pseudoscience states: Junk science books sell far more than real science.

There is an asteroid named in honor of CSICOP called (6630) Skepticus.

The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal with The Council for Secular Humanism and The Commission for Scientific Medicine and Mental Health is an affiliate of the Center for Inquiry Transnational.

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