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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Straws in the wind: Why did “skeptics” society CSICOP change its name?

Call me slow, but I only recently twigged to the significance of the name change that Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP, founded in 1979) underwent in 2006, to become the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI). Various explanations are given, including that the former name was “too long” and
The change comes, in part, due to the prominence of the word “paranormal” in the well-known acronym. Executive Council member Kendrick Frazier, editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, said the reference sometimes led those unfamiliar with the group to narrowly limit their concept of the organization’s goals. Also, misconceptions of motives had to be continually corrected.

The November 30 press release also goes on to say that the problem was that the old name caused people to think that CSICOP promoted the paranormal.

Oh, I doubt anyone thought that about CSICOP. And few missed the significance of the "COP" part. No doubt, for many members, that was the real attraction.

I bet the real story (whatever it is) is entangled with something that Mario Beauregard and I discuss in The Spiritual Brain: Laboratory research confirms telepathy as a low level effect, and has done so for decades. As New Scientist's John McCrone noted in 2004,
In many ways, it is the skeptical community that is on the back foot, unable to explain away the results in terms of cheating, artefact or fluke. They are back to making suspicious noises about why believers get results.

Yes, that and changing the name of an organization to bury the problem?

Whatever causes the CSI people take up, they will remain unidirectional skeptics. But they seem to be backing off wholesale disproof of the non-material elements of our lives (the paranormal).

Here’s a further explanation from CSI/CSICOP and here from founder and chairman Paul Kurtz.

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