Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) Membership organization based in Buffalo, New York, devoted to debunking claims of the paranormal.
CSICOP’s stated objectives are:
to establish a network of people interested in examining claims of the paranormal; to prepare bibliographies of published materials that carefully examine such claims; to encourage and commission research by objective and impartial inquirers in areas where it is needed; to convene conferences and meetings; to publish articles, monographs and books that examine claims of the paranormal; to not reject on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry, any or all of such claims, but rather to examine them openly, completely, objectively, and carefully.
Critics charge that CSICOP’s claim to unbiased inquiry is unwarranted. Although CSICOP members have successfully debunked many paranormal claims, critics say that the organization often goes too far—that it will debunk at all costs. CSICOP lumps together a large assortment of anomalous phenomena, not all of them on the same footing, from a Scientific point of view. Targets have included Hauntings, Poltergeists, Mediumship, Reincarnation, Extrasensory Perception, psychic and faith healing, divination arts (such as astrology), UFOs, Fortean phenomena, and crystals. Nonetheless, as the world’s largest organization of its kind, CSICOP provides an unequaled skeptical counterpoint to paranormal claims.
CSICOP originated as an offshoot of the American Humanist Association, following a controversy over claims made about astrology. At first an informal group, it incorporated in 1976 as a separate organization. Under the direction of founding member Paul Kurtz, professor of philosophy at the State University of New York in Buffalo, CSICOP found a dedicated following of skeptics and quickly shifted from an academic organization to one with a popular membership base.
CSICOP actively promotes the formation of local societies with similar aims; these include groups in most U.S. states and many foreign countries. CSICOP and the local groups share some characteristics: although prestigious scientists and scholars are associated with them, they also include a disproportionate number of magicians; the vast majority of members are men; and many hold religious views (such as atheism) that are antagonistic to the paranormal.
A magazine, originally named The Zetetic and renamed The Skeptical Inquirer after three issues, pursues Scientific concerns about the perceived public credulity about the paranormal.
In 1988, five members of CSICOP’s executive committee accepted an invitation from a Chinese Scientific newspaper to visit and appraise the state of psychic research and paranormal belief in China and to make Scientific evaluations where possible. Preliminary tests of children, psychics and Masters of Qigong (an Eastern healing and martial art) produced negative results.
- “CSICOP Defined.” Parapsychology Review 19, no. 1 (1988): 5. Hansen, George. “CSICOP and the Skeptics: An Overview.” Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (SPR)86 (1992): 19–63. Kurtz, Paul.
- “Testing Psi Claims in China: Visit by a CSICOP Delegation.” The Skeptical Inquirer 12 (1988): 364–375.