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Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
Abbreviation CSI
Formation 1976; 41 years ago (1976)
Type Nonprofit organization (1976–2015)
Program of the Center for Inquiry (2015–present)
Purpose Skeptical inquiry of paranormal claims
Headquarters Amherst, New York, United States
Region served
Worldwide
Executive director
Barry Karr
Website csicop.org

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), formerly known as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), is a program within the transnational American non-profit educational organization Center for Inquiry (CFI), which seeks to "promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims." It was founded by Paul Kurtz in 1976 as an independent non-profit organization (before merging with CFI as one of its programs in 2015), to counter what he regarded as an uncritical acceptance of, and support for, paranormal claims by both the media and society in general. Its philosophical position is one of scientific skepticism. CSI's fellows have included notable scientists, Nobel laureates, philosophers, psychologists, educators and authors. It is headquartered in Amherst, New York.

In the early 1970s, there was an upsurge of interest in the paranormal in the United States. This generated concern in some quarters, where it was seen as part of a growing tide of irrationalism. In 1975, secular humanist philosopher and professor Paul Kurtz had previously initiated a statement, "Objections to Astrology," which was co-written with Bart Bok and Lawrence E. Jerome, and endorsed by 186 scientists including 19 Nobel laureates and published in the American Humanist Association (AHA)'s newsletter The Humanist, of which Kurtz was then editor. According to Kurtz, the statement was sent to every newspaper in the United States and Canada. The positive reaction to this statement encouraged Kurtz to invite "as many skeptical researchers as [he] could locate" to the 1976 conference with the aim of establishing a new organization dedicated to examining critically a wide range of paranormal claims. Among those invited were Martin Gardner, Ray Hyman, James Randi, and Marcello Truzzi, all members of the Resources for the Scientific Evaluation of the Paranormal (RSEP), a fledgling group with objectives similar to those CSI would subsequently adopt.


Year Person Notes
1982 Martin Gardner Awarded in Atlanta, GA "'In honor of his heroic efforts in defense of reason and the dignity of the skeptical attitude.'"
1984 Sidney Hook Presented at Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA by CSICOP Chairman Paul Kurtz.
1985 Antony Flew Awarded in London by Paul Kurtz, "'[I]n recognition of his long-standing contributions to the use of methods of critical inquiry, scientific evidence, and reason in evaluating claims to knowledge and solving social problems."
1986 Stephen Jay Gould Presented at the University of Colorado, Boulder "'In recognition of his long-standing contributions to the use of the methods of critical inquiry, scientific evidence, and reason in evaluating claims to knowledge and solving social problems'".
1987 Carl Sagan Pasadena, CA CSICOP awards banquet
1988 Douglas Hofstadter Presented at the Chicago CSICOP conference
1990 Cornelis de Jager Presented at the Brussels 1990 CSICOP conference
1990 Gerard Piel Awarded at the Washington D. C. conference March 30-April 1.
1991 Donald Johanson Awarded at the 15th Anniversary of CSICOP in Berkeley, CA
1992 Richard Dawkins Presented at the CSICOP Dallas, TX Convention
1994 Elizabeth Loftus Awarded at the CSI Seattle Conference June 23–26 "For her research in memory and eyewitness testimony."
1996 Leon Lederman Awarded at the First World Congress in Amherst, NY, presented by Cornelis de Jager
2000 Lin Zixin Lin Zixin was awarded in absentia.
2001 Kendrick Frazier Awarded at the first Center for Inquiry International Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Frazier "spoke of his feelings... 'I am more a toiler in the editorial fields than an inhabitant of the lofty spires of academia, so that makes me all the more appreciative".
2002 Marvin Minsky Awarded at the Fourth World Skeptics Conference (June 2002) in Burbank, California.
2003 Ray Hyman Presented at the Albuquerque conference by friend James Alcock. "Ray Hyman, from whom I-and I am sure all of us-continue to learn so much."
2004 James Alcock Presented at the Center for Inquiry - Transnational Conference in Toronto, Canada. Vern Bullough presented Alcock with the award. Alcock stated that many scientists do not care about pseudoscience as they don't see it as a threat on science, but he reminds the audience that "fundamentalist religious viewpoints" and "alternative medicine" are "very real threats".
2009 James Randi Presented at the 12th World Congress in Maryland. Paul Kurtz presented the award saying '“Your greatest quality is that you are an educator, a teacher. You have shown that the easiest people to deceive are PhDs, a great insight to all of us. You expose myths and hoaxes.... You stand out in history.”'
2011 Bill Nye Presented at CSIcon New Orleans conference. Eugenie Scott stated "If you think Bill is popular among skeptics, you should attend a science teacher conference where he is speaking" it is standing room only. She continues by saying that no one has more fun as Nye when he is "demonstrating, principles of science."
Year Person Media
1997 Bill Nye and Dan Aykroyd Nye received the Candle in the Dark Award for his "lively, creative... endeavor". Aykroyd "was presented in absentia the Snuffed Candle Award for hosting Psi Factor and being a "long-time promoter ... of paranormal claims" Following the awards, Joe Nickell wrote to Aykroyd asking for the research behind the "cases" presented on Psi Factor. Particularly a claim that NASA scientists were "killed while investigating a meteor crash and giant eggs were found and incubated, yielding a flea the size of a hog".
1998 Scientific American Frontiers and Art Bell Hosted by Alan Alda SAF's episode "Beyond Science" was singled out by the Council for Media Integrity for its examination of the paranormal. Art Bell was recognized by the Council for "perpetuating conspiracy myths... and mystery mongering". When Bell learned of the award he replied "A mind should not be so open that the brains fall out, however it should not be so closed that whatever gray matter which does reside may not be reached. On behalf of those with the smallest remaining open aperture, I accept with honor."
2003 Edgar Sanchez reporter for the Sacramento Bee and Larry King Awarded at the Albuquerque, New Mexico Conference. Sanchez received the Candle in the Dark award for his column "Scam Alert" where he has written about Nigerian scams, car-mileage fraud and phony police detectives. King received the Snuffed Candle award for '"encouraging credulity, presenting pseudoscience as genuine'".
Year Person Media Notes
2005 Andrew Skolnick, Ray Hyman and Joe Nickell The Girl with X-ray Eyes Shared the first award for their 2005 reports on CSICOP's testing of Natasha Demkina, a girl who claimed to have X-ray eyes.
2006 Ben Goldacre For his column in The Guardian U.K. newspaper, Bad Science Columns include "Dyslexia 'cure' fails to pass the tests", "Bring me a God helmet, and bring it now", "Kick the habit with wacky wave energy", "Brain Gym exercises do pupils no favors" and "Magnetic attraction? Shhhh. It's a secret"
2007 Natalie Angier The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science "[S}he thoughtfully explores what it means to think scientifically and the benefits of extending the scientific ethos to all areas of human life."
2008 Leonard Mlodinow The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives
2009 Michael Specter Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives
2010 Steven Novella Body of work including the The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast, Science-Based Medicine, Neurologica, Skepticial Inquirer column The Science of Medicine and the "tireless travel and lecture schedule on behalf of skepticism" '“The truly most amazing thing is he does this all on a volunteer basis.”' According to Barry Karr "'You may be the hardest worker in all of skepticism'"
2011 Richard Wiseman Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There "Wiseman is not simply interested in looking at a claim... He is interested in showing us how easy it is for us to be deceived and how easily we can be fooled and fool others."
2012 Steven Salzberg and Joe Nickell Salzberg's column for Forbes magazine, Fighting Pseudoscience and Nickell's book The Science of Ghosts - Searching for Spirits of the Dead "Salzberg regularly shines the light of reason on the false or dubious claims ... with a clear and accessible voice, and with a healthy dose of humor." And "Accessibility and humor, along with unmatched rigor and curiosity, are what famed Joe Nickell, ... has been bringing to his work for decades."
2013 Paul Offit Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine "Offit is a literal lifesaver... educates the public about the dangers of alternative medicine, may save many, many more."
2014 Joseph Schwarcz and to the creators, producers, and writers of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Is That a Fact? and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey opened the eyes of a new generation to humanity’s triumphs, its mistakes, and its astounding potential to reach unimagined heights.... Is That a Fact? unflinchingly takes on all manner of popular misinformation."
2015 Julia Belluz Vox.com "We need more people in the media doing what Julia Bellux does... "
Year Person Media Notes
1984 Leon Jaroff and Davyd Yost Jaroff as managing editor of Discover magazine established the Skeptical Eye column. Yost of the Columbus, Ohio Citizen Journal specifically for a story about a poltergeist. Frazier said of Yost "In the mold of careful, responsible journalism... [he made] a special effort to get outside expert opinion". Philip Klass stated that Jaroff has "'political courage'" for his column that offers "useful perspectives... of claims of the paranormal".
1986 Boyce Rensberger and Ward Lucas Rensberger, science reporter for Washington Post and Ward "anchor and investigative reporter KUSA-TV Channel 9 Denver" Presented at the University of Colorado, Boulder, "'In recognition of contributions to fair and balanced reporting of paranormal claims'".
1987 Lee Dembart, Ed Busch, and Michael Willesee Dembart from Los Angeles Times, Willesee, Australian journalist and Busch, Texas radio talk-show host Presented at Pasadena CSICOP award banquet.
1988 C. Eugene Emery, Jr. and Milton Rosenberg Emery is a science and medical reporter for the Providence Journal and a contributor to SI. Rosenberg is the host of Extension 720 a program on WGN-Radio in Chicago Presented at the Chicago CSICOP conference Emery researched claims of faith-healer Ralph A. DiOrio and wrote about the results in his journal.
1990 Stephen Doig Science Editor for the Miami Herald Awarded at the Washington D. C. conference March 30-April 1st.
1991 Keay Davidson Science editor for the San Francisco Examiner With co-writer Janet L. Hopson who were both recognized for their work into the investigation of the claims of Koko the talking ape. Print Category - Awarded at the 15th Anniversary of CSICOP in Berkeley, CA
1991 Mark Curtis Reporter for WEAR-TV Channel 3, Pensacola, Florida Investigation into the Gulf Breeze UFO incident exposing trick photography. Awarded at the 15th Anniversary of CSICOP in Berkeley, CA
1992 Andrew Skolnick Associate editor of Medical News & Perspectives for the Journal of the American Medical Association Presented at the CSICOP Dallas, TX Convention
1992 Henry Gordon Columnist, magician and author Presented at the CSICOP Dallas, TX Convention
1994 Jack Smith Columnist with the Los Angeles Times Awarded at the CSI Seattle Conference June 23–26
1996 Phillip Adams, Piero Angela and Pierre Berton Presented at the First World Congress in Buffalo, NY the 20th Anniversary of CSICOP.
Year Person Media Notes
1986 Paul MacCready AeroVironment Presented at the University of Colorado, Boulder "'In recognition of his innovative and creative contributions to technology and his outstanding defense of critical thinking'".
1987 Murray Gell-Mann Presented at Pasadena CSICOP award banquet.
Year Person Notes
1990 Richard Berendzen Presented at Pasadena CSICOP award banquet.
1991 Eugenie Scott Awarded at the 15th Anniversary of CSICOP in Berkeley, CA
1992 Sergei Kapitza Presented at the CSICOP Dallas, TX Convention
1994 John Maddox Awarded at the CSI Seattle Conference June 23–26
1996 Dean Edell Presented at the First World Congress in Buffalo, NY the 20th Anniversary of CSICOP.
2000 Richard Wiseman Presented at the Third World Congress held in Sydney, Australia.
Year Person Notes
1990 Henri Broch Awarded for "his pioneer work with Minitel and making scientific critiques of the paranormal available to a wider audience in France. Presented at the Brussels 1990 CSICOP conference.
1991 Susan Blackmore Awarded at the 15th Anniversary of CSICOP in Berkeley, CA
1992 Evry Schatzman Presented at the CSICOP Dallas, TX Convention
1994 Philip Klass Awarded at the CSI Seattle Conference June 23–26
1996 James Randi Presented at the First World Congress in Buffalo, NY the 20th Anniversary of CSICOP.
1998 Amardeo Sarma Presented at the Second World Congress
2000 Barry Williams, Joe Nickell Presented at the Third World Congress held in Sydney, Australia. Williams was recognized for his "yeoman service to organized skepticism".
2001 Harlan Ellison Presented at the Fourth World Skeptics Conference in Burbank, CA.
2002 Marcia Angell (citation needed)
2003 Jan Harold Brunvand Presented at the Albuquerque, New Mexico Conference
Year Person Notes
1994 Carl Sagan Janet Asimov when informed that Carl Sagan would be the first recipient of the Isaac Asimov Award, "There is no one better qualified... than his good friend and colleague Carl Sagan. Isaac was particularly fond of Carl. He was also in awe of Carl's genius, and proud that he was so adept at communicating science to the public... thank you for remembering my beloved husband in this way."
1995 Steven J. Gould Presented at the First World Congress in Buffalo, NY the 20th Anniversary of CSICOP

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...
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