Talk:Committee for Skeptical Inquiry/Archive 2

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Start Mediation

Hi. I'm the mediator from the mediation cabal who is taking the mediation case Wikipedia:Mediation Cabal/Cases/2006-06-25 CSICOP. Its looking like an edit war is getting ready to get going plus a flame war so I'd like to step in. Now first let me establish neutrality:

  • I live in the US
  • I did not know there was a Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal
  • I have no knowledge of paranormal events outside of what is seen typically on TV
  • I am an atheist and typically mediate religion cases (so I'm comfortable mediating stuff I don't necessarily believe in).

OK now that that is out of the way I'd like to make my first mediation suggestion. Davkal is claiming that he can't engage in reasoned debate due to threat of reversion. KarlBunker agrees there is an edit conflict going on. So the first thing I'd like to do is establish a policy where you both agree to discuss edits here and I'll make them. That way no one is worried about being reverted. You can look at Every Nation to see a mediation where I am using this technique and what this will look like after a month. I'll sometimes ask for specific cleanups but by in large this will take the pressure off. jbolden1517Talk 12:11, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

Question investigations

Karl I would like you to address Davkal's point about CSICOP not conducting investigations fairly? jbolden1517Talk 12:27, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I don't think that phrases the question correctly. I'm not sure that represents any of the edits Davkal is currently advocating, and in any case, there is no practical way to argue that CSICOP's investigations are "fair" or not. KarlBunker 13:40, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
What I'm hearing from him is that he has sources that indicate that CSICOP conduct biased investigations. Hasn't CISCP every answered these charges? How did they establish their standards? I.E. what I'm hearing from you in this response is that you don't have any evidence that the claim isn't true. jbolden1517Talk 13:55, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
Certainly there have been complaints that CSICOP has conducted unfair investigations. Most people who fail a test of their alleged paranormal powers complain that the test was unfair. Some of the more credible or notable criticisms of an unfair investigation or of an overall "bad attitude" are included in the article. Responses to these criticisms are also given or cited.

Davkal why do you object to the preponderance of evidence vs. beyond a reasonable doubt analogy? jbolden1517Talk 12:27, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I think the analogy presents CSICOP as "ideal" skeptics when many, including a number of founder/early members, would argue that they are unreasonable doubters - ie. pseudoskeptics. I think that if the quotes are to stay then something should be said about this. I also feel that the claim about the evidence required by (all) proponents of the paranormal is pejorative and may not even be true. One can be an ideal skeptic and still have come to the belief that some aspects of the paranormal are genuine. In short, I think the analogy presents a dichotomy where none necessarily exists and may not even accurately reflect either side in the context of of an article on CSICOP. I would have far fewer complaints about this analogy in an article devoted to scientific skpticism.Davkal 13:31, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
OK can you give me 2-3 examples where evidence would have met the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard and yet the claim was still rejected? jbolden1517Talk 14:40, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
OK can you give me a few examples of proponents of the paranormal, and claims which have met normal scientific standards but not the enhanced ones? jbolden1517Talk 14:40, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

The analogy, and the accompanying Carl Sagan quote, do not claim to be a description of CSICOP activities. They are are descriptions of the skeptical, scientific approach to claims of the paranormal which CSICOP espouses. Accordingly, the phrase CSICOP attempts to approach such claims in the manner recommended by CSICOP Fellow Carl Sagan: would best be replaced with CSICOP advocates an approach to such claims...--KarlBunker 14:47, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

Firstly, jbolden's questions. I am not so much concerned with this analogy as an analogy about the respective positions of an "ideal" skeptic and a (maybe) non-scientific proponent of the paranormal. What concerns me is this analogy appearing in the CSICOP article since to me, it gives the impression that CSICOP adopts this position. I think the examples of cases (the Mars effect) where they fiddled the evidence and then finally made accusations of fraud show that they will simply move the goalposts in assessing claims - the Demkina case shows that they sometimes start with the goalposts in a peculiar position as well. So, my main concern is that the analogy does not reflect C's actual position accurately. If I understand KarlBunker's last comment correctly, he now seems to be saying that the analogy is not supposed to accurately reflect CSICOP's views in any event but is merely meant to illustrate the position of the "ideal" sceptic. I think it would be very surprising if the average reader, reading about this in a section on CSICOP's activities, were not to conclude that this was a description of CSICOP's activities.Davkal 17:53, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

Activities and People

Why the desire to list people inside of activities, particularly given there is a whole section dedicated to people? jbolden1517Talk 12:27, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

The disagreement is in the removal of this short list of particularly notable members, early in the article. I would be happy with moving this list to the end of the first paragraph, where it won't conflict with any section heading. KarlBunker 13:44, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
OK tell me if that compromise (which still hits the people but moves them down) satisfied you both? Its just a suggestion so you can revert but it was easier to do than to describe. jbolden1517Talk 14:49, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I think it would be perfectly reasonable to put this list of notable members in the opening paragraph. Davkal 15:01, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

OK if you are both agreeing on a spot go ahead and make the change. jbolden1517Talk 15:55, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I thought we'd agreed to put the list in the first section. As things stand we have a comment in the activities section that does nothing more than point to another section. Davkal 18:10, 25 June 2006 (UTC)


Karl I'd like you to give me 3 examples of investigations that CISCP has conducted in the last 10 years. jbolden1517Talk 12:27, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

Most, if not all, of the articles shown here fit the definition of "investigations" and many fit the definition of "scientific investigations." These are articles published in Skeptical Inquirer, which is published by CSICOP. A, B and C are examples of articles in which scientific method was used.

Davkal once he has done so I'd like you indicate why those 3 aren't investigations at all. jbolden1517Talk 12:27, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I think the articles are good examples of bad (pseudo) science.

Let's pause for a second. The original question was whether CSICOP conducts investigations. It seems to me like you are agreeing they conduct investigations you just disagree about how they do it? That is you are arguing they aren't good investigations. Am I missing something? jbolden1517Talk 15:40, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

That is correct, I have never claimed that C doesn't conduct investigations but that the investigations are described in a manner that I feel misleads. All of my edits have retained the claim that they conduct investigations.Davkal 15:49, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I'm going to keep going here because I think this is a useful example and we all seem to understand it. As far as I can tell from the article both sides agreed she was not using random chance (i.e. p was substantially greater than 1/7). Where the disagreement was whether p was high enough to compensate all of the other non random but non paranormal methods she might be using. Do you disagree with that? jbolden1517Talk 21:01, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I don't think it makes much difference to be honest. The point of the criticism is that one test of only seven people is not enough to demonstrate very much at all (unles she got them all wrong). But by getting 4 out of 7 she passed the tests well enough to obviously warrant further investigation. C, however, concluded that no further investigation was needed and that she had no psychic powers purely on the basis of a completely unscientific contract that had been drawn up prior to testing. In short, the experiment showed enough that anyone genuinely interested in scientific evaluation would ask for further research to get to the bottom of the observed 50-1 shot. Not C though, according to them she failed, has no psychic powers, and the 50-1 shot, well, who cares, job done.Davkal 21:50, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I don't think you read my comment. They agreed she was performing better than random, that was never in question. What was in question was whether her performance was anywhere near what someone with X-ray vision would have. I.e. random is p = .15, if she is performing at p=.35 she's doing much better than random. A tech with an X-Ray machine might perform at p=.998 or so. I'm trying to figure out how this is different that standard statistical practice when you have a biased sample and are trying to determine if it is more biased than suspected? 01:02, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

I think the answer about how you determine what, if anything, Natasha can do is through further study. But C's conclusion was that no further study necessary. I simply cannot see how anyone could arrive at that conclusion in good faith. I should also point out, though, that I have no knowldge of the use of statistics in such cases and am only going by what others (far more qualified than I have written). This link takes you to a page where Keith Rennolls, Professor of applied statistics at Greenwich University, sums up what he thinks about the test, including the claim that "The experiment is woefully inadequate in many ways" and the suggestion that Richard Wiseman's comments show "a complete lack of understanding of how experimental data should be interpreted statistically". Davkal 11:26, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

The Deminka test has been heavily criticised by numerous scientists including Nobel Laureate Brian Josephson who said that "On the face of it, it looks as if there was some kind of plot to discredit the teenage claimed psychic by setting up the conditions to make it likely that they could pass her off as a failure". He, and other scientists, have shown that the statistical analysis was flawed and that incorrect statistics were presented. CSICOP's Richard Wiseman rejected these criticisms on the basis that all parties had signed a contract prior to the test agreeing to the method of testing. As Josephson points out, "real science does not work on a basis of getting someone to sign their agreement to a long list of conditions, then later coming back saying "this is what you signed; the challenge goes to us!""

Can you elaborate more here? What was the statistical problem? It seems to me given a probability p she gets any particular guess right the 4 case is
So at p=.3 you are picking up 9.7% and at p=.5 you pick up like 27%. So it does have substantial impact whether you include the 4 case or not. jbolden1517Talk 16:17, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

Sorry, what I meant to say was that the statistical analysis in no way backed up C's conclusion. Rather, an arbitrary figure was picked and used counter to normal scientific procedures. That is, had the statistical analysis and conclusions conformed to normal preliminary testing, and given that the chances of doing as well as natasha did by chance to be over 50-1, then the irresistable conclusion would have been that further testing was warranted. Davkal 18:05, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I disagree that this is contrary to normal procedure. This seems to be exactly what is normal procedure for biased samples where you are trying to determine if you have "too much" bias. The reason I'm pushing so hard is we need at least one good example of them "cheating" to justify your links. If you want to pick one of the other ones OK but otherwise we just have a bunch of half baked claims. jbolden1517Talk 01:02, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

OK the Mars effect. Here's what another ex-member Richard Kammann had to say-

"Faced with unfaultable evidence of a connection between the position of planet Mars at birth and success in sports, skeptical Professors Paul Kurtz, George Abell and Marvin Zelen repeatedly offered fallacious statistics to deny astrology's only ray of hope. Focusing only on a small section of the Mars data, deleting the favorable results for females, dividing the sub-sample into tiny bits and applying the wrong statistical tests, the trio still could not get rid of the Mars effect. They ultimately argued that it was based on faulty data, due either to incompetence or cheating by Michel Gauquelin of France, who produced the original finding." from an article called True Disbelievers. It may also be worth looking at the WP article on Philip Klass (the critics sections) to see other info on this and other matters.Davkal 10:29, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

I think it was shown that Gauquelin's data was biased. Bubba73 (talk), 22:42, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

This discussion--on the topic of whether or not a particular article is (in the opinion of the people at attendance here)--good science, is not germane for the reason I stated below. It's not for us to decide what is or isn't good science, beyond a basic judgement of whether an apparent attempt was made follow scientific method.--KarlBunker 21:34, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I really don't see how we are going to determine if they are conducting good science or whether propagandists using science to advance another cause without looking at their arguments in depth. I mean that is the question on the table. We need to treat it seriously. If you have another method (like a peer reviewed journal which has reviewed CISCOP's stuff then great. But otherwise we need to at least figure out if the claims of propaganda appear: true, likely true, possibly true, unlikely true or definitely false. jbolden1517Talk 01:09, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

If that's how you think this should be approached, I withdraw my objection. I just thought that this wasn't the WP way, but perhaps I'm generalizing from the wrong examples. I still feel it's important, however, to try to gauge the degree to which CSICOP' is respected by "credible sources," which I take to be scientists. The number of prestigious names in their list of "Fellows" is one measure of this, the frequency with which Skeptical Inquirer is cited by scientist and science writers is another, and the frequency to which they have been criticized by scientists is yet another.
Anyway, the Demkina case is a good one, because it's a case that brought CSICOP its harshest criticism from credible sources in recent years (rare and little though it was). It was, unfortunately, a pretty sloppy piece of work, with the subject and her entourage not fully following the procedure they were told to follow, and CSICOP ending up with less-than-resounding results and giving the impression that they had to stretch to put a favorable face on those results. But it is obviously not a case of blatant pseudo-science, and given the time and resource limits they had to work under, it's obviously they did the best work they could be expected to do.--KarlBunker 01:42, 26 June 2006 (UTC)


In Rupert Sheldrake's response to the third article (it was Sheldrake's theory of the sense of being stared at that was being "tested") he notes that "The answers of these five people went against Baker's [the investigator] prediction, so he retrospectively introduced another criterion. He ruled that subjects should be able to say where he had been sitting when he was looking at them."

And this, in many ways, is my point. I have never claimed that C do not conduct investigations. I have claimed that they conduct pseudo or debunk-at-all-costs investigations that have often been criticised by scientists. These investigations are then not subject to peer review but are simply published in C's own magazine as if that was that. My main edit on this point, then, was to take out the unnecessary and misleading claim/implication that C rigorously applies accepted scientific methodologies etc. in it's investigations and to go with the more accurate claim that C has conducted investigations that follow the maxim "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" and that the paranormal claims being tested are always found to be wanting in this respect (I think this is what my last edit said). I am not even arguing that anything negative should be said about the investigations, merely that they should not be reported in such glowing terms. Or, if the manner of the investigations are described as they currently are I feel that something needs to go in at that point to make the reader aware of the charges. I should point out that the scientists who challenge C's investigations routinely complain about the methodology applied and are not merely griping at the results. This, I think, is exactly the point made by Rawlins, Truzzi and Kammann (all CSICOP members) and the scientists Josephson, Sheldrake. Davkal 14:52, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I feel it could be worth mentioning in the article that Skeptical Inquirer is not itself a peer-reviewed journal, and that the investigations it publishes are almost invariably into phenomena that have been reported only in the popular press, or pro-paranormal/pro-pseudoscience journals. Thus CSICOP is generally not directly involved in the peer-reviewed process of science.
Some scientists have criticized some of C's investigations. Anything that's done by anybody is going to be criticized by somebody. Countless other science writers and scientists writing for the popular press have cited C's investigations. One can find (non-professional, i.e. unpaid) examples of this by doing a search for "Skeptical Inquirer" in WP and looking for instances where it is cited as a source. I'm sure that Skeptical Inquirer articles have been cited in peer-reviewed scientific journals as well, though finding examples of that would be a more difficult web search. --KarlBunker 16:09, 25 June 2006 (UTC)
For us three here to attempt to decide whether C's investigations are good science would be original research and generally inappropriate. The criticism that C does not do good science is mentioned in the article. The question is, does the weight of criticism in the article represent the weight of criticism among "credible sources" in the field. That's a difficult or impossible question to answer. In the absence of an answer, the article can't stray too far from taking C's "word" that they do what they say they do, without becoming POV. KarlBunker 16:34, 25 June 2006 (UTC)

I'm not that sure that even C claim to conduct investigations in the manner you describe in the article. And I don't really see what is wrong with my wording. Given that you accept it is nigh on impossible to conclude for sure whether the investigations are good or not (and there is a significant amount of evidence for the latter) I think we should simply state that C conducts investigations following the extraordinary evidence maxim and invariably find paranormal phenomena wanting. I simply cannot see what is wrong with this.Davkal 17:35, 25 June 2006 (UTC)


Can someone else interject something here, or is this supposed to be between just you three? Bubba73 (talk), 03:35, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

I've no objection Davkal 10:31, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

I read the article about Demkina last night, and I was going to comment on that, but I'll hold off since it is not important to the main issues. Bubba73 (talk), 17:14, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
Feel free to join in the mediation jbolden1517Talk 00:01, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

Nisbett's Article

Nisbet's 25th anniversary article is entitled "The origins and evolution of CSICOP: Science is too important to be left to scientists". What could this possibly mean other than there is a place for a non-scientific organisation (i.e. CSICOP) to enter the fray. This is all my point has ever really been. Davkal 11:08, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

As is usually the case with statements in the format "XXX is too important to leave to XXXists", Nisbet was making a call to populism. He was referring to a need for scientific literacy among the general public, so the public can have meaningful input into the uses and course of science. The article is about C's role as a promoter of science education and scientific literacy:
But over time the SKEPTICAL INQUIRER (under science-writer Kendrick Frazier's astute editorship), CSICOP conferences, and the excellent courses and seminars offered through the Center for Inquiry have transformed CSICOP into a true science-education organization. [Karl, you missed the next bit out so I thought I'd add it in] Here science is conceived broadly as the cultivation of intellectual and personal dispositions that make for wise and sound judgment no matter what the subject matter." Hmm, so that's what science is. Davkal 22:37, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
The following quote, although not very well written IMO, ties the article title in with its theme:
Science is obviously too important and potentially too destructive to be left to scientists. The methods of scientific inquiry adopted as active dispositions, active habits of mind need to be defined as a central part of what it means to be both scientifically and culturally literate. A basic knowledge of central scientific concepts and achievements and their impact, for better and worse, on the wider culture needs to be a central part of what it means to be both scientifically and culturally literate.
Note also that Nisbet draws a distinction between this role for CSICOP and its media-watchdog role:
The answers to the ambivalence question explains the evolution of CSICOP from its primarily media-oriented origins to functions both more diversified and broad in scope.
--KarlBunker 22:27, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

Karl - you have spent the last five days reverting any attempt I made in the introduction to note that C was founded, even in part, as a media watchdog. Write whatever you like; I no longer care. My suggestion for the title would be: CSICOP: HOPE for the new millenium. Enjoy. Davkal 22:57, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

Um, actually, I added a quote from the Nisbet article about CSICOP's media watchdogging role 4 days ago, and it's been there ever since. But you're correct that I didn't want it in the introduction. --KarlBunker 23:41, 26 June 2006 (UTC)


I hereby withdraw any complaints about anything contained in this article. I have neither the time nor the effort to continue arguing about what the word "and" means. Suffice to say that a significant number of scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, have suggested it means "and" but a couple of magicians have refuted this and shown both that the whole notion of meaning is superstitious bunk and that the word "and" actually means "goat". If only CSICOP had embarked on their critical thinking tutorials sooner we could have all saved ourselves a lot of bother.Davkal 22:59, 26 June 2006 (UTC) Robert L Park - subsequently elected a CSICOP fellow(ship of the ring).

Well I'm going to hold the mediation for a week in case you change your mind. So far the only article change that has emerged from mediation was about names and you seemed fine with that one. We were in the process of conducting an investigation into claims of cheating. I'm not sure what the comments regarding "and" and "goat" and so on mean.
You've obviously gotten frustrated and a break may be a good idea. So I'll stick around for a week and if you want to come back you are welcome to pick up where we left off. Otherwise if you are withdrawing for good then I'll shut down mediation. jbolden1517Talk 16:54, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

I've got frustrated because no matter how many times I repeat muy intial points theynever end up getting discussed. My point was never that they were cheating (they were but that was not my point). My pints have always been (as can be seen from my previous edits):

I think your point were being addressed. If they weren't its because they weren't clear. Your point #2 was what we were discussing. jbolden1517Talk 11:42, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

1. That Csicsop was formed, in large part, to be a media watchdog. I wanted something about this to appear in the introductory paragraph. I have as yet to hear a single argument about why this should not be there. I have therefore reinserted it - and as you can see it is venomously POV, eh Karl.

I have explained my opposition to this several times, and I'll do it again:
1) In the process of inserting this edit, you are removing CSICOP's own quoted statement as to their purpose. I.e. you are giving your own opinion greater weight than the organization's quoted statement.
2) As you can see from the Nisbet article (see one of the quotes I excerpted above) and from 30+ years of Skeptical Inquirer content, media watchdogging is no longer the primary activity of CSICOP. Therefor it doesn't make sense to put this description of them into the introduction.
As for the rest of your comment below, please refrain from personal attacks and sarcasm if you want a response. --KarlBunker 18:29, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
Karl. Are you agreeing that when CSICOP was formed it was a media watchdog and no an investigative group?
Davkal. Do you agree with Karl that they have not been a media watchdog for 30 years. If not why not? Is so why then should it be part of the introduction?
CSICOP was formed in part as a media watchdog, as well as for other purposes. Their role as a media watchdog has decreased relative to other activities over the years, though of course that's hard to prove. A definition of "media watchdog activities" would be required, plus some way of measuring the proportion of CSICOP's activities. KarlBunker 13:01, 28 June 2006 (UTC)
Neither the statement at the head of CSICOP's website nor their list of objectives mentions media watchdogging. But this is obviously an important part of their activities, and the article says that. There is a paragraph that begins "A major focus of CSICOP is to play the role of 'media watchdog'..." and continues with a long quote from Nisbet's article about them being founded for this purpose. To increase the visibility of this, I would be amenable to moving these paragraphs to immediately following the list of objectives (currently referred to as CSICOP's "charter', which may be technically incorrect). KarlBunker 13:28, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I didn't remove the quote - only the quotation marks. (Virtually every word is still there as it was prior to my edit - I only moved "paranormal" and "fringe-scientific" out and replaced them with "such" so that the same words don't appear again and again in the same sentence. If you'd care to actually read the opening paragraph you would see that it makes perfect sense in relation to all further activities. And, once and for all, it is not my opinion that CSICOP are media oriented it is their opinion repeated almost everywhere in relation to their own discussion of their own organisation. If you read the paragraph you will also see the words "founded to ..." which means the reason they were founded. I simply cannot see why you want to maintain the pretense that CSICOP are not, and always have been, primarily a media-oriented organisation. And I fail to see wher you get the authority to simply revert every single thing I have put into this article over the last seven days. Davkal 19:02, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

The right way for you to get stuff in the article which is contested is to post to the talk page and open a discussion about it. Karl then will have to defend his position as will you. Once we reach a compromise, that compromise text will go in the article. jbolden1517Talk 11:42, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

2. C do not conduct scientific investigations in anything like the manner desribed by Sagan. What they conduct are debunking excercises that have left many in the scientific community concerned. I therefore wanted the description of CSICOP's phenomenally rigorous scientific approach, and the flowery quote from Sagan about what lies at the heart of science to be removed or toned down considerably. I have not seen one single piece of evidence yet suggesting that any kind of serious scientific investigation has been conducted by CSICOP. What I have seen, is an experiment that was descibed as "woefully inadequate in many ways" used to debunk, and then lay to rest, the claims of one psychcic.

This is precisely what we were discussing before. For you to prove anything nearly this strong you are going to need to show that on multiple occasions CSICOP deviated from standard scientific practice during an investigation as part of a debunking. That is for each one you'll have to find an event X where standard practice was A, they did B and because they didn't do A the claim was likely not upheld. That's a very high burden and one I seriously doubt you'll be able to meet.
It may be possible to weaken the claims enough so that you can meet the burden. But first we I want to work in detail with a few examples. Are the 3 examples above still your choices? jbolden1517Talk 11:42, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

3. I argued that the paragraph's about the respective position's re evidence to be removed because they were misleading inasmuch as they suggested this was CSICOP's approach. An approach that has been criticised regularly throughout the years by it's own members, the scientific/academic community and journalists etc. Karl Bunker now claims these paragraph's are not meant to represent C's position. Why are they there then?

Can one of you expand on this? I read the article as pretty clearly setting out CSICOP's position as "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence" and then providing an analogy to explain that statement. Are you asserting:
  1. This isn't the criteria, rather the criteria is something else?
  2. The analogy doesn't explain the criteria?
  3. The analogy does explain the criteria but another piece of text would do a better job?
jbolden1517Talk 11:49, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

4. I felt that the criticism section was unwieldy and spent about as much time, with another flowery quote from Sagan, defending CSICOP against fairly nebulous charges. I would have liked to see a more concise section dealing with the ongoing criticisms from significant sources. The only argument against this has been Karl Bunker's claim that this would slant the article too far against CSICOP. How does he know what I intend to write here.

Good. Then lets start this off. Lets make a list of the ongoing criticisms, and who they are from and what they are about. Start the list off. jbolden1517Talk 11:49, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

In short, all I have spent the last week doing is arguing about stupid irrelevant points while all the time my actual points remain unaddressed and the artile remains as is. Oh sorry, Karl Bunker now accepts, but only after a mediator was brought in, that people are not activities. Hallelujah. Davkal 17:11, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Who exactly do you think was charging that the Daminka case was a good examples of bad (pseudo) science? That was you. Karl doesn't think that. We are all happy for you to pick a point and address it. jbolden1517Talk 11:53, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I would like the mediation to continue, but I would like it to continue, if possible, one point at a time. I feel that this the only way we can avoid being drawn into irrelevant and prolonged discussion. Since it is my proposed edits that are the source of so much contention I think the discussion should deal specifically with them. My first suggested edit is that something about the media-oriented origins and continuing activity of C should be noted in the intro (see my last -reverted within about 10 seconds- edit).Davkal 19:15, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

One point at a time is fine with me. In keeping with the mediation process, I'll wait for jbolden to pose a question or raise a point for one or the other of us to respond to. KarlBunker 19:42, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
OK will do I will start a new section on this point. jbolden1517Talk 11:53, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

Media Orientation Debate

AS evidence for my claim I will cite the Nisbet quote, the quote from Sagan "But from my point of view CSICOP serves an important social function — as a well-known organization to which media can apply when they wish to hear the other side of the story" (my emphasis), and to the fact that their 1987 handbook for sceptical organisations devotes seventeen pages to handling the media and public relations while only 3 pages are given to scientific investigation.

Excellent. Lets address the second piece. Karl, can you indicate to me why you don't feel that the 17:3 ratio is reflective of CSICOP priorities? jbolden1517Talk 11:58, 28 June 2006 (UTC)
I'm not familiar with the document. However, 1987 was 19 years ago, and Nisbet's article, among other documents, refer to CSICOP's evolving role and activities. Also, from the sound of it, the purpose of a "handbook for sceptical organizations" would to act as a "what you can do" sort of guide. Interacting with their local media is likely to be the major part of what smaller local skeptical organizations are able to do. KarlBunker 13:16, 28 June 2006 (UTC)
I would agree but let me rephrase what you are saying in language you would probably object to. The purpose of the handbook is to train grass roots activists to interface with the local media while the national organization produces the high budget research. That's I think what Devkal is arguing for.
Let me run the into sentence by you with one change, you both can comment:
The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, or CSICOP, is a U.S. advocacy organization founded to "encourage the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminate factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public."[1] It is
I"m throwing this out as a compromise. I think Davkal has proven that much and this might satisfy both sides.... jbolden1517Talk 04:16, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

I think the addition of "advocacy organisation" would be good as well.Davkal 07:40, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

JBolden, your comments above about the high-budget research demonstrates everything I think is currently wrong with article. Let me put my cards on the table. The article currently still makes CSICOP look like an organisation genuinely interested in paranormal phenomena but concerned that the current poor quality research on, say, ESP, and the excesses of the media, means that the subject is not getting the rigorous scientific attention it deserves. The purpose of CSICOP, then, on this reading, is to rectify matters and to bring to bear, and to encourage academic/scientific institutions to bring to bear, on ESP the same rigorous scientific methodologies that e.g. Sagan espouses, so that these phenomena can be once and for all become serious subjects for scientific investigation. That was the kind of idea that, just maybe, Marcello Truzzi had when he jointly founded the organisation but he found himself out on his ear after about a week. Now nothing could be further from the truth re CSICOP. The aims of this organsiation right now and throughout their history is to vehemently attack any claims, and anyone making claims, in suppport of anything paranormal or fringe-scientific in order that these notions disappear without trace. Please note I am not arguing that this is a covert agenda of CSICOP behind the public face currently accurately described in the article; this is simply what CSICOP does day in day out and is common knowledge to anyone familiar with their activities. The fact that you acknowldge not knowing that CSICOP existed when you started the mediation and the fact that you now have the opinion you do is, I think, in large part down to the fact that the article still portrays CSICOP in this light. The truth is that nothing would make CSICOP happier than if ESP (and all other paranormal phenomena) simply ceased to be considered by the public, the media and certainly by serious scientific institutions. They are trying to close the book on it and what they do is simply offer "sceptical" counterclaims anywhere and everywhere a supposedly paranormal claim is made. As I say, this is not me arguing for some wild conspiracy theory about the covert actions of a scientific organisation, this is simply common knowledge to those interested in the field. I am not saying that their motives are necessarily malicious, they may indeed believe that they are protecting the poor gullible public from themselves and from the charlatans who would make off with their hard-earned for the latest batch of snake-oil; but the notion that they are genuinely interested in bringing supposedly paranormal phenomena into the mainstream is not so much a case of getting the wrong end of the stick as getting nowhere even near the stick at all. Now, I am not arguing that the article should describe CSICOP in the terms I have above but their current portrayal is quite ludicrous - it is not merely a case of CSICOP dressed up in their Sunday best but dressed up in clothes that even CSICOP wouldn't have the temerity to wear. Their website and articles are full of words such as bunk, garbage, nonsense, search and destroy missions, superstition bash etc. AS co founder Dennis Rawlins put it: I am still skeptical of the occult beliefs CSICOP was created to debunk. But I have changed my mind about the integrity of some of those who make a career of opposing occultism. I now believe that if a flying saucer landed in the backyard of a leading anti-UFO spokesman, he might hide the incident from the public (for the public's own good, of course). He might swiftly convince himself that the landing was a hoax, a delusion or an "unfortunate" interpretation of mundane phenomena that could be explained away with "further research". The irony of all this particularly distresses me since both in print and before a national television audience I have stated that the conspiratorial mentality of believers in occultism presents a real political danger in a voting democracy. Now I find that the very group I helped found has partially Justified this mentality. Davkal 08:30, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Further evidence for the continuing media role of CSICOP. On it's website CSICOP currently lists around 100 email addresses for US Newspapers and TV companies and encourages readers to "directly influence the media by sending you comments via email directly to the networks, TV shows, and editors responsible for the way it portrays the world."

There is also the Council for Media Integrity (strangely absent from the article at present) which according to CSICOP's website is "an educational outreach and advocacy program of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)"

OK. Karl any disagreement that Council for Media Integrity is part of CSICOP? jbolden1517Talk 11:58, 28 June 2006 (UTC)
No disagreement; it's An educational outreach and advocacy program of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. KarlBunker 13:11, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

And here's a quote from a 1996 CSICOP fundraising letter:

"you sometimes wonder what CSICOP can do to counter this torrent of foolishness [...] CSICOP has mobilized thousands of scientists, academics and responsible communicators to criticize media's most blatant excesses and provide a responsible alternative point of view. As America seemingly rushes headlong into fantasy, our achievements may seem modest. But imagine if CSICOP never existed!"

The torrent of foolishness is mentioned earlier in the letter: The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I should say that I have pointed all of this out before on the talk page. The only response so far is that this is merely my POV. Davkal 19:57, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Well Karl is going to have to give you a real response. I'm focusing on the two most damming pieces. If they are upheld then the rest won't matter since those two pieces in and of themselves would prove your case. If not I'll address the others. jbolden1517Talk 11:58, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

Sorry, you lost me here. What are "two most damming pieces"? Prove what case? KarlBunker 13:10, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I think the two most damning pieces are the ones JBolden referred to above; 1. the fact that CSICOP has a branch called the council for media integrity; and 2., the fact that they devote 17 pages to media versus 3 pages for scientific investigation in theor handbook. And I think the reason a "real" answer is needed is that re point 1., some may, myself included, find the definition of something called the "Council for Media Integrity" as an "educational and outreach program" quite baffling. That is, the name seems quite clear re its orientation but the description seem like it can in no way straightforwardly tally with this. Is it mere double speak? What could this branch of C actually do that would not be directly related to the media and yet earn it the name "council for media integrity". Re point 2., the fact that the document is from 1987 shows that C, in addition to being founded to tackle the media, still saw this as a central purpose 11 years later. And since my point is that C has been media oriented, in (large) part, at it's inception (you don't dispute this) and throughout it's history right up to the present day, the two points show clearly, unless an argument can be produced to show otherwise, that there is indeed a continuing and important media aspect to C. This is why I think we really need to say something about this in the intro. Finally, I think the "case" referred to is the case that C has, and always has had, a significant media aspect to it. Davkal 13:57, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

If there's something "damning" about #1, I woke up on the wrong planet this morning (or, under the precept that a less-extreme explanation is more likely, there's some misunderstanding somewhere).
No. 2 I have addressed, and you haven't responded to either of my 2 points.
However, we're in agreement that CSICOP has a significant media aspect to it. Where we're currently in disagreement is in your desire to feature this aspect of them prominently in the introduction, which would indicate that this is their primary work.
If you would care to, you could change my mind about this as follows: from here take a look at each SI article listed (starting at the present and working back). Name each article that you think reports on or constitutes a media-oriented activity, and briefly explain your reasoning. If the percentage over the most recent 20 articles is 40% or more, I will agree to putting a reference to their media activity into the introduction. I will still want their mission statement (using the term informally) to remain, in quotes and referenced. KarlBunker 14:31, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I think it may be appropriate to look at my proposal for the intro (see my edits) and to say what is wrong with it. My point would be that it is common practice to say in introductions when and why an organisation was founded especially if the reason it was founded is still relevant today. The changes I am suggesting are actually quite trivial and so obviously true that I find your ongoing opposition to them quite baffling. With regards to the specific points you raise: the first point is not damning of C as an organisation (nobody ever suggested it was), it is damning evidence of C's continuing media orientation which you now seem to accept. Your responses to the second point do nothing to suggest that anything I want to include in the intro should not be there. The fact that I chose something from 1987 was deliberate: the reason was that the Nisbet quote from 1976, the handbook from 1987, the X Files letter from 1996 and the council for media integrity in 2006 = ongoing media importance. As regards your request that I trawl through hundreds of SI articles: I think not. What is almost certain is that the vast majority of these articles will be intended "to counter a perceived uncritical attitude towards paranormal and fringe-scientific topics in the media and in society at large" - which are actually the words I want to put into the intro. Davkal 15:16, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

If the change you want to the intro is trivial, then you shouldn't mind forgoing it and moving on to whatever your next point is.
Alternatively, I said 20 SI articles, not hundreds. If you would accept the same terms, I'll go through them and flag (for your approval) the ones that I believe are not media-watchdog related. If at least 12 of 20 (60%) are not media-related, can we move on from this point? KarlBunker 15:28, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I do mind forgoing it. I would be grateful if, in the light of the evidence I have provided, you could explain your reasons for non-inclusion. It might also be helpful if we focused on what I actually want to have included, that is, NOT the claim the C is primarily a media watchdog, but the claim that C was founded to counter a percieved uncritical attitude in the media and in society at large.Davkal 15:43, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

Karl, I should also say at this point that I find your tactics unacceptable. I am asking, re this point, for an obviosuly true statement of the purpose of the organisation made by its executive director to be included alongside another obviously true statement from thier website about how the organisation attempts to fulfil that purpose. I have now been engaged in this debate for over a week - every edit I have made has been reverted almost immediately - none of my evidence has been seriously challenged - and I am now requested to demonstrate not only that the organisation is in line with what I have clearly shown it be, but also that the organisation does nothing else besides. I see this, if I am honest, as mere delaying tactics designed to frustrate me to the point that I will give up. At no point so far have you addressed anything like the actual edit I am requesting and said what is genuinely wrong with it. On the contrary, you merely labelled it POV - it is clearly not. You claim I removed the quote you put it - I did not. You claim that I want to say in the intro that C is primarily a media watchdog - I do not. You request that I show that x% of C's articles are about the media - I never claimed they were. At no point have you presented any evidence to suggest that the reason C does all the things is does is not, in part, to "counter a percieved uncritical attitude in the media and in society at large". This is what I want to say and the reasons for saying it have been laid out in excruciating detail both above and in the now archived talk page.Davkal 16:12, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

If this discussion is going slowly, it has to be in part because you persist in entering long comments like the above, that contribute nothing to it.
1 Re. the phrase "to counter a perceived uncritical attitude..." The effect and purpose of the word "perceived" is to express doubt regarding what follows. Thus, the very first words of the article would express doubt over CSICOP's stated purpose.
2 Re. the phrase "paranormal and fringe-science claims in the media, and in society at large..." in the light of the evidence I have provided, this gives undue emphasis to the media. Also it's badly written: are the claims in the media (and in society at large) or the perceived uncritical attitude?
No. 1 is my major objection, and I apologize for not expressing that more clearly sooner. I got distracted by other things in this discussion. Mea culpa.
KarlBunker 16:28, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

OK, I think "percieved" may not be the best word but I would be reluctant to have nothing there at all since it is CSICOP's view that such an uncritical attitude exists and is not a demonstrable fact like, say, such-and-such a medical organisation was formed to combat the 1925 smallpox outbreak - here "percieved outbreak" would be peculiar. How about, "C was founded to counter what they saw [or "what was seen"] as the uncritical attitude towards paranormal and fringe-scientific topics held in the media and in society at large by (Website quote)..." Davkal 16:58, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

That's better, but "what they saw as" is essentially the same as "perceived." Rather than giving an opinion as to why they were founded (which is of little relevance if, as they state, their purpose has evolved), why not just quote their current statement of purpose and leave it at that? KarlBunker 17:05, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

Their purpose is still exaclty the same - it is their methods, if anything, that have evolved. All of their "science" education programmes, their articles, etc., are still primarily intended to counter what they see as the uncritical acceptance of, and support for, paranormal claims by the media and by the public. Why else would someone try to educate the public and the media unless they saw a need for it. The statement I am trying to include details C's own account of this need. The fact is that C was set up, and still continues to operate, as a counterbalance to something. As it stands, there is nothing in the opening section to suggest this. Also, I am not really giving an opinion as to why they were formed, I am stating the fact that they were formed on the basis of an opinion about something. How about "what they identified as an uncritical attitude" which gives more of an impression of an objective viewpoint accurately picking some real thing out.Davkal 17:25, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I agree that their "purpose" in that sense hasn't changed. Saying that they were set up as a counterbalance to something is one way to look at it, but not the only way, and perhaps not the way they would prefer. So to present their purpose in this way inserts a degree (admittedly small) of POV. And "what they identified as..." still carries a note of doubt. There's plenty of doubt expressed about their methods and reliability and whatnot later in the article. For the first few words, the article should just stick to their own statement. Also, note that the presence of quotes around that statement serves to emphasize "this is what they say their purpose is." while not expressing doubt, those quotes prevent the statement of purpose from being presented as fact by the WP article. KarlBunker 18:14, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

1. There's nothing wrong with POV per se, especially when the POV in question is the stated, and central, POV of the organisation the article is about presented as their POV with a view to elucidating matters. 2. I could also just as easily put the nisbet quote in quotes at the start. 3. To be honest, I don't think it matters much what CSICOP would prefer, I'm interested in putting together an article that accurately represents what the organisation is about. To this end I think it is important that we acknowledge open facts about the organisation's raison d'etre. 4. If you insist the quote must stay then I can write the opening sentence the other way round and connect my claim using "in order to"

So "(website quote)in order to counter what was identified as an uncritical attitude...."Davkal 18:24, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I'll accept that. I don't like it; I think that now it's awkward, and has an air of "hmm, what hidden meaning is the editor trying to convey with that awkward phrase?" to it. But I'll accept it. KarlBunker 19:16, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I don't like it either and think it is awkward, that's why I originally chose "perceived". Having thought about this for some time I think "counter an apparent uncritical ..." is better since it still does not present it as hard fact but at the same time portrays the idea that anyone could see it if they looked.Davkal 23:42, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I agree that "counter an apparent uncritical..." is a little better. looking at the proposed first sentence as a whole, however, it's still awkward to the point of awful. What about putting that phrase into the second sentence? Instead of "...founded by Paul Kurtz, it could be "founded to counter an apparent etc.", and we could put "(founder and chairman)" next to Paul Kurtz's name in the list of fellows. Thus, the first two sentences would be:
The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, or CSICOP, is a U.S.organization founded to "encourage the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminate factual information about the results of such inquiries to the scientific community and the public."[1] It is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1976 to counter an apparent uncritical acceptance of, and support for, paranormal claims by the media and the public.
Is that acceptable?
KarlBunker 01:29, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

That's fine by me. I think you could keep Paul Kurtz in the same sentence though. "non-profit org founded in 1976 by Paul Kurtz to counter an apparent..... I've added this in to the start with a few tweaks.Davkal 07:08, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Recent edits

Gentlemen (or ladies), I thought that edits were supposed to be discussed with the mediator first, and then the mediator would make the changes. (I made some minor edits after the mediaton began, but only to clean up some links.) Bubba73 (talk), 20:52, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Opening section

I am going to propose an expansion to the opening section. I should point out here what I take the opening section to be for. The opening section should contain key information and a general level summary of all the main points to be discussed more fully in the body of the article. This is so the reader will get the gist of everything in the article without having to read the whole thing. Is there any disagreement about my view re this point?Davkal 07:31, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

I have no objection to any of that in principle, but I think the intro is fine as it is, and I would prefer not to prolong this process over any point that you consider less than essential. KarlBunker 09:52, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Ok, I've made the change. My next request would be to put something into the intro about how C has evolved. I think a paraphrase of the Nisbet quote sums it up nicely:

Over the years CSICOP has broadened its scope and through conferences, courses and seminars, now sees itself as a science-education organization conceiving science “broadly as the cultivation of intellectual and personal dispositions that make for wise and sound judgment no matter what the subject matter”.

I think this could be inserted just prior to the notable members.Davkal 10:00, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Sorry, no. That statement, as you yourself pointed out in one of your rants, is silly and unclear. I don't think Nisbet meant it as a general purpose "conception of science." As we've established by the fact that you utterly missed the point of his article, and it took me a couple of tries to get it, Nisbet is not a good writer. Even if he was, that statement is not, AFAIK, anything like an official statement of CSICOP policy. Let's move on from the intro section. Do you have any changes elsewhere in the article that you think are required? KarlBunker 14:36, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

I'd like some serious consideration of the point I have just made. I never said it was unclear at all, on the contrary it is very illuminating as to C's purpose. Far more illuminating in actual fact that the three paragraph speculation about what may lie at the heart of science and the differences re evidence between the ideal sceptic and the imaguned proponent of the paranormal. As I said I am interested in putting together an article detailing what CSICOP is and does rather than what we have at present.Davkal 18:42, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

It's also good to see that I am the only person you feel has to be respectful while allowing yourself considerable leeway in the manner you describe my contributions.Davkal 18:43, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

I made no description of any article contribution of yours. I described one of your rants as "one of your rants." As soon as I type out a rant (it's been known to happen), you are welcome to refer to it as one of my rants. Anyway, what you are suggesting is to take a rather odd and badly written statement from an article by a CSICOP founder, remove it from its context, and present it as an official CSICOP position. This is obviously non-negotiable. Let's move on. KarlBunker 18:59, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

I think it should be included. I have not taken it out of context. I have taken it from an article about the evolution of CSICOP and it is pretty much the conclusion. What I suggest you don't like about it is that it shows CSICOP in their true light: that is, as an organsiation pushing Scientism as a way of life and not as the (non-existent)impartial organisation encouraging open investigation of paranormal claims currently described by the article.Davkal 19:19, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

I know you think it should be included. I also know what your opinion of CSICOP is. Neither of those stands as a logical justification for your proposed edit. Now let's move on to your next point, if you have one. KarlBunker 19:32, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

1. How have you become sole judge of such things? 2. The logical justification comes from you. You have regularly argued that the media quote should not go in because it puts too ucvh emphasis on that in light of CSICOP's evolution into a science education organisation. I now want to put something in to suggest this evolution and now you object to that. I should point out that quote I am requesting is one already useed by you above in your arguments. The only additional thing I am suggesting is the definition at the end so that the reader can see what the quote means to CSICOP.

Now, if you any arguments as to why the evolution of CSICOP into the science education organisation you keep going on about should not be included, as the opposed to the bald statement that you will not accept it, perhaps you would care to put them forward. Davkal 20:01, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

I was not objecting to the "evolution" part of your edit. It is (as I stated) the quoting out of context of a badly written passage as if it were official CSICOP position that is unacceptable to me.
Your proposed edit:
1: Over the years CSICOP has broadened its scope and through conferences, courses and seminars, now sees itself as a science-education organization...
2: ...conceiving science “broadly as the cultivation of intellectual and personal dispositions that make for wise and sound judgment no matter what the subject matter”.
Of course, #1 by itself wouldn't work either, as it sounds like CSICOP is a school or whatnot.
If you're going to persist with this, then we are at a stalemate, and should ask jbolden1517 for input.

OK, we can ask him about that.

OK a quote from a scientist in an unofficial capacity doesn't in and of itself deserve to go in the article. If it is the best statement of a position which is reasonable held then it would go in the article, but I don't think either of you are contesting that. I think the way this is going to work is a paragraph addressing the "scientism" issue followed by a half dozen references and this quote should be among those references. Having someone in CSICOP confirm the criticism is important but as more than a reference it would need to a selection from a collection. Do there exist enough quotes of this nature (I noticed one other in the references) to put something like this together? jbolden1517Talk 21:03, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

(I think we can agree that jbolden1517's comment was based on a misunderstanding of the issue and can be ignored; correct?)
I've been thinking about this Nisbet quote. I've called it "silly" a few times, but actually, when one works through the incredibly convoluted language and considers the context, it's quite reasonable.
The article is largely about the need for the public to understand science--not just the facts of science, or even scientific method, but how to think scientifically. And all that passage is trying to say is that thinking scientifically is something that can be applied to everyday life.
The problem with quoting the passage the way you want to is simple: To use a seasonal analogy, suppose one finds an article about barbecuing in which Chef Smith says that beer makes a good marinade for steak. It wouldn't be accurate to describe Chef Smith as someone who "thinks beer is a steak marinade." It's a matter of the difference between "can be used for" and "is"; between describing a use for something and giving an overall definition of that thing.
KarlBunker 10:28, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

CSICOP & the media

The next thing I want to do is expand the media paragraph in the activities section. I think the following gives much more details re CSICOP's activities here.

Throughout its history, CSICOP has been involved with the media in a number of ways. As CSICOP executive director Lee Nisbet wrote in a 25th anniversary issue of Skeptical Inquirer":

"CSICOP originated in the spring of 1976 to fight mass-media exploitation of supposedly "occult" and "paranormal" phenomena. The strategy was twofold: First, to strengthen the hand of skeptics in the media by providing information that "debunked" paranormal wonders. Second, to serve as a "media-watchdog" group which would direct public and media attention to egregious media exploitation of the supposed paranormal wonders. An underlying principle of action was to use the mainline media's thirst for public-attracting controversies to keep our activities in the media, hence public eye."[2]

This media-orientation continues to the present day, with CSICOP even co-producing its own documentary series Critical Eye hosted by William B. Davis (The X-Files’ Smoking Man). CISCOP members can also be seen regularly in the mainstream media offering their perspective on a variety of paranormal claims, and in 1999 Joe Nickell was appointed special consultant on a number of investigative documentaries for the BBC. In its capacity as a media-watchdog, CSICOP has “mobilized thousands of scientists, academics and responsible communicators” to criticize what it regards as “media's most blatant excesses.” While much of this criticism has focused on factual TV programming or newspaper articles offering support for paranormal claims, CSICOP has also been critical of programmes such as The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer which it feels portray skeptics and science in a bad light and help to promote the paranormal agenda. CSICOP’s website currently lists the email addresses of over 90 US media organisations and encourages visitors to “directly influence” the media by contacting “the networks, the TV shows and the editors responsible for the way it portrays the world.” Davkal 20:31, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Amazingly enough, that looks okay. It gives way more attention to their media activities than I feel is warranted, but that's no big deal. I would say also that it's nicely written. KarlBunker 20:42, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

If you're agreed I'll put it in and start working on the sources. Davkal 20:46, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Leaving wikipedia

I've decided to leave wikipedia User:Jbolden1517#I'm done. You may need to find another mediator. Good luck in resolving this and remember try and be nice to each other and build up general principles from easily resolvable facts. jbolden1517Talk 21:28, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for your help, I hope it wasn't this argument that drove you away Davkal 22:04, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Evidence for a paranormal event

In the intro it says CSICOP was founded in 1976, yet in the criticism section it says CSICOP published an article in 1975. Explain that! Davkal 22:30, 29 June 2006 (UTC)

Psychokinesis by telepathic alien poltergeists, obviously. :-) KarlBunker 01:19, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

Criticisms and response

I've rewritten the criticism section, as follows:

Over the years CSICOP's activities concerning the paranormal and fringe-science have earned it considerable criticism, as well as the nickname “the PSI Cops”. Much of this criticism has come, as one might expect, from those individuals or groups that have been the main focus of CSICOP’s attention. Israeli psychic Uri Geller, for example, had until recently been in open dispute with the organisation for many years and had filed a number of lawsuits against them. A small but significant amount of criticism, however, has come from within the scientific community and, indeed, from within CSICOP itself. Marcello Truzzi, for example, one of CSICOP’s co-founders, clamed that, “They tend to block honest inquiry, in my opinion. Most of them are not agnostic toward claims of the paranormal; they are out to knock them. [...] When an experiment of the paranormal meets their requirements, then they move the goal posts.” Truzzi even coined the term pseudoskeptic to describe the attitude he felt was prevalent in CSICOP.

Another founder member, Dennis Rawlins, launched an even more scathing attack on CSICOP over its analysis of claims by French statistician Michel Gauquelin that champion athletes are more likely to be born when the planet Mars is in certain positions in the sky - the so-called Mars effect. Rawlins, a professional astronomer involved in CSICOP's research into the Mars Effect, claimed that other CSICOP researchers used incorrect statistics, faulty science and outright falsification in an attempt to debunk Gauquelin’s claims. In an article in Fate magazine, Rawlins concluded: "I am still skeptical of the occult beliefs CSICOP was created to debunk. But I have changed my mind about the integrity of some of those who make a career of opposing occultism."[4] CSICOP’s Philip Klass investigated Rawlins' claims and wrote a lengthy article attempting to refute them. Klass’ article, however, was heavily condemned by another CSICOP fellow Richard Kammann who agreed with Rawlins and promptly resigned from the organisation.

More recently CSICOP has come under attack for its “debunking” of claimed Psychic Natasha Demkina. Nobel Prize winning physicist Brian Josephson argued that CSICOP’s testing of Demkina looked to have been “some kind of plot to discredit the teenage claimed psychic by setting up the conditions to make it likely that they could pass her off as a failure”. CSICOP fellow Richard Wiseman, who co-designed the experiment to test Demkina, rejected Josephson’s criticisms as unscientific and branded Josephson himself a crank. However, Keith Rennolls, Professor of applied statistics at Greenwich University, countered that Josephson’s criticisms were indeed scientifically accurate, the experiment was “woefully inadequate in many ways” and Wiseman’s responses to the criticism showed “a complete lack of understanding of how experimental data should be interpreted statistically.”

On a more general level, CSICOP has been regularly criticised for an overly dogmatic and sometimes arrogant approach based not on science but on a priori convictions. With qualifications, Carl Sagan concedes that some of this may be accurate:

"Have I ever heard a skeptic wax superior and contempuous? Certainly. I've even sometimes heard, to my retrospective dismay, that unpleasant tone in my own voice. There are human imperfections on both sides of this issue. Even when it's applied sensitively, scientific skepticism may come across as arrogant, dogmatic, heartless, and dismissive of the feelings and deeply held beliefs of others... CSICOP is imperfect. [...] But from my point of view CSICOP serves an important social function — as a well-known organization to which media can apply when they wish to hear the other side of the story, especially when some amazing claim of pseudoscience is judged newsworthy." (Source: The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan, 1996.)

On the question of dogmatism or a priori convictions, CSICOP points out that dedicated paranormal research has been ongoing for many decades both by skeptics and pro-paranormal researchers; in that time, no convincing and independently replicable evidence of the existence of any paranormal phenomena has ever been established to the standards required to persuade the scientific community. On the other hand, many cases of purported paranormal forces or events have been demonstrated to be false, either through misinterpreted data or as intentional fraud. While most critics accept the latter point, some maintain that the former can only be made if one ignores the significant amount of data now published in peer review scientific journals apparently showing evidence for some paranormal abilities. The constant citation of this claim despite this evidence, critics argue, merely serves to demonstrate CSICOP’s a priori position.

On at least one occasion, CSICOP was the intended target of an attack more serious than mere criticism. In 1977, a government raid on the offices of the Church of Scientology uncovered considerable evidence of a plot against CSICOP by the Church; this included plans 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.)

Davkal 10:55, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

This is way over-long, and in all cases you give the "last word" to critics, as well as using POV phrases like "attempting to refute them", and "However" (which connotes that what follows as the final resolution of the issue). Still, I'll accept it with a few small changes:
1) Remove this: While most critics accept the latter point, some maintain that the former can only be made if one ignores the significant amount of data now published in peer review scientific journals apparently showing evidence for some paranormal abilities. The constant citation of this claim despite this evidence, critics argue, merely serves to demonstrate CSICOP’s a priori position.
CSICOP doesn't argue that no paranormal-supporting research has ever been published in peer-review journals, only that the evidence for paranormal phenomena is considered inadequate by the scientific community.
2) Shorten this: CSICOP’s Philip Klass investigated Rawlins' claims and wrote a lengthy article attempting to refute them. Klass’ article, however, was heavily condemned by another CSICOP fellow Richard Kammann who agreed with Rawlins and promptly resigned from the organisation.
To this: CSICOP’s Philip Klass wrote a lengthy article in rebuttal.[5]
3) Change this: However, Keith Rennolls, Professor of applied statistics at Greenwich University, countered that Josephson’s criticisms were indeed scientifically accurate, the experiment was “woefully inadequate in many ways” and Wiseman’s responses to the criticism showed “a complete lack of understanding of how experimental data should be interpreted statistically.”
To this: Keith Rennolls, Professor of applied statistics at Greenwich University, also criticized the experiment calling it “woefully inadequate in many ways.”
KarlBunker 13:30, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

I'll make the changes but I think the claim about point 1 needs to made somehow otherwise CSICOP are misrepresenting the views of many in the scientific community.Davkal 13:44, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

It could be worded "to the standards required to persuade the majority of the scientific community." In my opinion this exagerates the level of acceptance of PSI claims by the scientific community to the point of being an outright misstatement of fact, but what the heck; it's only a Wikipedia article. KarlBunker 14:01, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

The problem with it is that the claim is disingenuous inasmuch as it makes the current evidence, which has certainly not beem refuted, look like it does not really exist. That is, there is a vast amount of evidence for PSI currently out there but scientists have not really accepted it because there is, as yet, nothing remotely like an explanation for how it could happen. Anyway, I'll leave it out, and have made some other small amendments to the section. Davkal 14:32, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

"There is a vast amount of evidence for PSI"?????? Pardon? And where is this vast amount of evidence? Anecdotal? Certainly. Repeatable? No. I think this is a vast overstatement of the evidence. Maustrauser 14:33, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

If you're interested there is a significant amount of evidence now in peer review scientific journals. Non-anectdotal but the result of thousands of experiments, and repeatability is not something that is necessary in all fields. Davkal 20:00, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

There would be a vast amount of evidence for PSI, if there was such a thing as "quantity" of evidence as a separate thing from "quality" of evidence. A whole bunch of people claiming to have been abducted by aliens still adds up to "not much evidence." KarlBunker 14:54, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

Yes yes Karl, yawn yawn.Davkal 20:00, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

In addition to that mature and edifying response, do you have an answer to the question below? Are we finished here? KarlBunker 20:36, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

Have we reached an acceptable compromise? Can I close this mediation case? Ideogram 14:37, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

How about it, Davkal; are we done? I hope? KarlBunker 14:54, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

The sections I wanted added are complete. I atill have some concern that the activities section consists almost entirely of theoretical claims about science "in general" and evidence "in general" and at no point provides examples of what CSICOP has actually done, but what the heck, it's only a WP article. Davkal 01:40, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

Ok I'll close the case. You can reopen it if you need to or leave me a note on my talk page if you have any questions. Ideogram 01:51, 1 July 2006 (UTC)

I also found the following claim which, it seems, debunks the theoretical claims made in that section: Nickell believes that examining the preponderance of evidence and demonstrating how each piece supports the other makes the strongest case. Never let the truth stand in the way of a good theory.

Broader input

You could try to appeal to a broader community for consensus on these issues by asking at the Village pump, posting a Wikiquette alert, or filing a Request for Comment. Ideogram 12:38, 30 June 2006 (UTC)


I have removed the POV flag. I still think the activities section (except the media bit) is vague inasmuch as it's mainly about theoretical stuff rather than what CSICOP actually does. I could try adding some stuff to it but I can't think of much that they actually do other than issuing press-releases, appearing on TV, and publishing general interest articles slating whatever is not to their liking. Davkal 08:38, 2 July 2006 (UTC)

Neutrality of criticism section

KarlBunker asked for someone to initiate discussion of this tag. so I'll start it off. I agree with that the criticism section is "way too slanted against the organization". It reads as if it were written by people who actively dislike CSICOP. Bubba73 (talk), 02:51, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

Sheesh, Bubba73, where were you when I was trying to defend this article from Mr. "Synaesthesia sufferers should get the Randi prize because they have a brain disorder that causes them to see 'auras'"? When it was just the two of us, the current content was the best compromise I could arrive at. If you would care to edit the section to make it less weighted in the direction of criticism, I'll support you. KarlBunker 10:17, 21 July 2006 (UTC)
I was there for part of it, and I made several comments. I've had to reduce my Wikipedia hours. Bubba73 (talk), 20:25, 21 July 2006 (UTC)
I don't see "aura" mentioned in the article. What section are you talking about? Bubba73 (talk), 20:29, 21 July 2006 (UTC)
That was an argument Davkal was making in the discussion page. I made the mistake of trying to reason with him--a mistake I'm trying to avoid making again. KarlBunker 20:33, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

The notion of "reason" is as alien to you Karl as Stanton Friedman believes the weather balloon found at Roswell was to people of this earth!Davkal

The usual nonsense Karl - I should point out the the article as it stands was reached through mediation and so was not simply the "two of us". We can go down that route again if you like. Davkal 10:21, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

To address Bubba's point, then: in what way is it slanted? It merely lists some of the more incisive criticism of CSICOP from within the scientific community and the organisation itself. Karl's only suggestion so far has been that some of it be excluded completely so that there is less criticism on display. Davkal 10:40, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

I think the criticism section lacks NPOV. For example, I don't like the word "considerable" from "Over the years CSICOP's activities concerning the paranormal and fringe-science have earned it considerable criticism, as well as the nickname “the PSI Cops”." Other verbage, like "even more scathing attack" doesn't strike me as being quite right in tone. On the other hand, I believe that whatever its original intentions, C now serves as an avocate group. One I consider valuable and worth of support, mind you, but the people who actively work for it (like many activists) are likely to suffer from a type of self-selection bias that easily lends itself to group-think or systemic bias. A possible result: unintentional a priori conclusions. I am skeptical of these skeptics' skeptical conclusions. That is my POV. I'm making an edit to the section to document the changes I would like to see in the article. Everyone involved should feel especially free to revert it. I respect that all of you have put much much more time into this article than I have. Adelord 21:42, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

I think that "considerable" is there because it's simply true (there are hundreds of criticisms from many sources); the nickname is there because it's an interesting fact that even CSICOP don't shy away from; "even more scathing" should be removed because it was Karl Bunker who wrote it and therfore it has little chance of being right - "heavily criticised" was my original choice. I should say that I think the criticism section is too long given the rest of the article but it was written at a time when Karl Bunker was going to extend the section on activities but didn't do so when he realised that CSICOP hasn't actually promoted any serious scientific investigation of paranornmal claims in 30 years, and not wanting to simply add to the list of fictional TV programmes that C has condemned chose instead to add nothing. I have rewritten the criticism section in light if this and will post on the discussion page tomorrow.Davkal 00:08, 22 July 2006 (UTC)

Your most recent edits seem much more NPOV. Adelord 14:35, 22 July 2006 (UTC)

Adelord, believe me I am trying - but since virtually everything I try to do is reverted numerous times while I am in the process of editing it is very difficult to keep track of what I have written. I think that the article could do with extensive work but it is hard for me to see how it can be done - Karl Bunker will discuss virtually nothing on the talk page any more preferring instead to simply revert anything I write. Davkal 00:21, 23 July 2006 (UTC)


I have removed once again the word "fad". Your claim that it is "appropriately dismissive" shows all that needs to be shown about why this word should go and be replaced with a more neutral description.Davkal 13:19, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

It is perfectly appropriate to be dismissive of pseudoscience. Indeed, the term "pseudoscience" is inherently dismissive--look up "pseudo". KarlBunker 14:02, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

That's why the word "fad" has been removed and the words "what it regards as" have been added. Davkal 14:19, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

scientific literacy

I've added Nisbett's clarification of what "science" is to CSICOP since without it, given the passage about scientific literacy, the reader might imagine that they were actually promoting (solely) scientific literacy in the normanl sense. Davkal 14:44, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

As I explained to you a while ago:
[Nisbett's] article is largely about the need for the public to understand science--not just the facts of science, or even scientific method, but how to think scientifically. And all that passage is trying to say is that thinking scientifically is something that can be applied to everyday life.
The problem with quoting the passage the way you want to is simple: To use a seasonal analogy, suppose one finds an article about barbecuing in which Chef Smith says that beer makes a good marinade for steak. It wouldn't be accurate to describe Chef Smith as someone who "thinks beer is a steak marinade." It's a matter of the difference between "can be used for" and "is"; between describing a use for something and giving an overall definition of that thing.
I know Nisbett's writing is convoluted, but I've already walked you through this and other difficulties you had in understanding his article. KarlBunker 15:00, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

I didn't have any difficulty understanding his article. It is a tract (from an organisation) advancing scientism and the quote quite nicely illustrates this. Nonetheless I have taken out the word "science" from the quote so that it doesn't look like I was suggesting that C was offering a peculiar definition of science. Now it reads that improving ones scientific literacy is conceived broadly as the cultivaton of..., which is pretty much exactly what Nisbett meant. Davkal 15:49, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

POV tag

user:Davkal is re-adding his POV to the article, so I've added a POV tag to the article head. At the moment, I'm not feeling inclined to go through another round of 1-on-1 debate with Davkal, so unless some other editors start contributing and helping out in the removal his anti-CSICOP bias, I'm content to let the article become the slanted and worthless piece of nonsense that Davkal wants it to be. KarlBunker 15:14, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

It's interesting how a quote from the organisation's director stating what the organisation does is considered POV simply because it does not conform to the sanitised (and often just plain wrong) view that Karl Bunker would like to present. Karl, you may feel it is appropriate to mislead the readers by claiming that C performs all these laudible duties like scientifically educating the public and to skip over what this actually means to CSICOP. And you may feel that it is appropriate to call things "fads" when they are clearly not fads because that helps to diminish them. And you may feel that it is appropriate to pretend that no serious criticism of the organisation has ever been made from reputable/scientific/acxademic sources. I don't. Davkal 15:44, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

I removed the POV tag because nobody has made any points about it on the discussion page for several days. If anyone wants it there so be it. It seems though, that several editors edits are simply being reverted with any justifcation being given here. Davkal 11:57, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

The POV tag belongs there because I and other editors have stated the opinion that the article is slanted, and the issues we have mentioned have not been corrected. You're correct that there is no ongoing debate about particular edits or particular issues, but that's simply because, at the moment, I don't wish to repeat the experience of getting into a 1-on-1 debate with you. KarlBunker 12:12, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

If you're not prepared to defend the changes you keep making to people's edits on this page then I don't think you should keep making them. Many people are now trying to improve this article and you just keep changing everything back to the way you want it. As a result of your constant reverting it is next to impossible to do any genuine work on the article because many reverts are made while the process of editing is ongoing.Davkal 13:11, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

I am prepared to defend and debate my edits. I am simply not prepared to do so with you, as I know from experience that you are persistently abusive and childish in your discussions. Also, you have reinserted edits that we specifically agreed you would not insert in our recent round of mediated debate. If you're not going to stand by your agreements, there isn't much point in my spending hours arriving at an agreement with you, is there? So in the future, when I don't respond to some comment of yours, you can take that as an indication I have chosen not to read it, not an indication that I agree with it. KarlBunker 14:22, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

You constantly want me to show you a level of respect you are quite unprepared to recipropcate. Why should I put up with your constant name-calling, insults and sarcasm without responding in kind. Davkal 14:28, 23 July 2006 (UTC)

Slanted amount of criticism to an article is highly POV

The bottomline here is that spending an inordinate amount of time discussing the controversy of a group compared to the rest of the size of an article is inherently POV-pushing. Just about every organization that exists have people critical of it. This one is no different, other than those criticisms are being shoved onto this article in both excessive detail and with statements that presupposes the anti-CSICOP side are right, especially be the selective use of quotes and choosing to publish the comments of otherwise nonencyclopedic and unnoteworthy people solely because they disagree with this group and not because what they would have to say would meet criteria for inclusion here.

Creating objective articles that follow WP:NPOV policy really isn;t all that difficult, it's just that so many people don't want to. This article needs quite a bit of editing to get it up to acceptable standards. 17:02, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

I agree. There are members of the USCF who disagree with it. There are members of the ACBL who have even sued it. I agree that there is an inordinate amount of space discussing controversy. I'm not actively following this page, but you can leave a message on my talk page if you want me to vote on something, etc. Bubba73 (talk), 01:30, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

If you actually look at the history of CSICOP you will see that it is organisation set up as a "counterbalance" to what they percieve as paranormal and as a result have been almost constantly "at war". Some aspect of this should be portrayed in the article somehow. I agree that there is too much criticism in comparison to the rest of the article and feel that a shorter snappier section would be better. Unfortunately virtually every edit to this section is reverted before I finish it so it's difficult for me to do. I also think that the criticism section is over long because almost half of it is just pro-csicop fluff rather than details (e.g., another flowery quote from Sagan then the old chestnut about "in 100 years of paranomal research..."). Get that stuff out, then fill the much smaller section with details of two or three very specific complaints - the result would be a criticism section about half the size it is, better than it is, and not slanting the article against the org. Two additional points about the criticism section though: one, there is very little doubt that in the Mars' effect case and the Demkina case that CSICOP were caught fiddling - so portraying the critics as right is taking a fairly neutral stance; two, the only poeple quoted/mentioned are (except for Keith Rennolls) CSICOP (founder members), a nobel Prize winning physicist (who has his own Wikipedia entry) and probably the most famous living "psychic" in Uri Geller - so it's clearly not simply a case of picking everyone and anyone who doesn't like the organisation.Davkal 18:40, 24 July 2006 (UTC)

Iv'e cut down the criticism section significantly - the Mars effect controversy has it's own subsection as it is a different type of issue from the general criticism - I have removed the fluff and the nebulous charges and think the section is now much shorter and to the point.Davkal 09:54, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

"there is very little doubt that in [..] the Demkina case that CSICOP were caught fiddling" - surely you are joking. Anybody who claims to have X-ray eyes must be able to detect a metal plate in a head! The choice of five out of seven was generous, and demanding even more generosity afterwards is preposterous, especially given the fact that Demkina picked up a clue she shouldn't have by (contrary to prior agreement) watching the test persons entering the building, including a person with an artifical hip. --Hob Gadling 12:16, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

As Brian Josephson points out "real science does not work on a basis of getting someone to sign their agreement to a long list of conditions, then later coming back saying "this is what you signed; the challenge goes to us!" This may be CSICOP science and it may even be to your liking but it is worthless nonetheless. And the reason Demkina turned up "early" for the test was because that was when she was told to turn up so that, in the case of 5, 6 or 7 successes out of 7, CSICOP would still, as Randi likes to put it, "always have an out".Davkal 18:07, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

Goodness, Davkal! Stick to the facts and stop sticking in your opinions. The researchers used no out. From the beginning of the test negotiations, all parties had agreed that for Natasha Demkina to pass the test, she would have had to match at least five of the conditions to the correct subjects. She failed to do that and the only "out" that has been heard in this affair is coming Woo-woo community: "Cheaters! The passing score should have been set lower!" As is usual, psychics and their supporters are the ones who offer "outs" to explain their failure to demonstrate anything paranormal under controlled conditions. Askolnick 14:43, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

The researchers (Hyman) used the "mobile phone out", the "turned up early to spy out", and the "subjects could have been identified anyway with guesswork [who picked them?] out".Davkal 15:49, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

And it's somehow invalid for the researchers to mention ways in which the subject violated the agreed-upon protocol, or to mention weaknesses in the nature of the test which allowed opportunities for cheating? KarlBunker 15:53, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

requested mediation

I have requested mediation since I am trying to change the article in light of the claims of POV and Karl Bunker keeps simply changing it back to the claimed POV version even though he is one of those claiming it is POV. I have probably now reverted Karl's stuff more than 3 times but my new edit was reverted by him more than that. Davkal 10:42, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

I could be wrong, but I thought mediation was a 3-or-more person process: Two (or more) people debating, and a neutral party to act as mediator. As I've stated, I'm not interested in debating with you again, with or without a mediator. We already did that, and after we arrived at several agreements over a weeks-long process, you went ahead and broke your agreements, inserting edits that we had mutually decided would not be inserted. If not keeping your agreements is part of the process for you, I don't see why anyone would be willing to get into protracted debates with you. As for your purported attempts to make the article less slanted against CSICOP, your method seems to be to make the criticisms and responses "shorter and more to the point" by removing the responses. I fail to see how this makes the article less slanted against CSICOP. KarlBunker 15:10, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Karl, I should point out that your "call to arms" for Bubba and others to edit the mediated criticism section (edits which you said you would support even before you'd seen them) is not exactly the most respectful way to treat mediated edits. It was primarily as a result of your intention to start reversing everything that had been agreed that I started editing again.

As regards your point about my intention to produce "worthless nonsense" I should point out that several sections (the only sections at the time) detailing the specifics of what CSICOP actually does were written by me. Prior to my involvement no mention of the media was made at all - an extraordinary ommission given that countering what C sees as media bias is, and always has been, the main focus of CSICOP's activity - its raison d'etre if you will. Even the great Carl Sagan acknowledges that the social purpose C serves is media centred.Davkal 18:02, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

I would probably disagree with something in this comment, if only I had some idea what you were talking about. No need to clarify, however. I'm probably happier not understanding whatever it is you're trying to say. KarlBunker 18:56, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

The points are simple enough even for you. One, you invited Bubba (and others) to edit the mediated section on criticism, so the idea that I am the one who "broke the agreements" is nonsense since it was in fact you who was trying to break (by proxy) the agreement. Two, you said above that the article I was trying to produce was "worthless nonsense" and I pointed out that about the only factual info in the article (rather than fluff) was written by me. Davkal 19:06, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

In that opinion, Davkal, you appear to be a majority of one. Askolnick 14:45, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

Vote on content

Could interested parties take a look at the two versions compared here and post their opinions? The right side is somewhat less weighted in the direction of criticism, though not hugely so. Do you think there's still too much criticism on the right side version? Not enough on the left side? One or the other "just right"? Speak out. KarlBunker 14:31, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

I agree with the changes, for the most part. One thing, I think the nickname "PSI cops" could be mentioned on the right. IIRC, when CSICOP started, they stated that the second "C" was to be pronounced "S", but I don't know where I read that. However, the criticism still reads sort of like an attack ad, where you dig up all of the dirt you can and blow it out of proportion. Bubba73 (talk), 15:01, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

Bubba, the version you're agreeing to now is (virtually) identical to the version you previously said was way too slanted. All Karl has done is revert to that version from a new version written to take account of your complaints of bias. On your second point you merely seem to unaware (or have forgotten) exactly how much criticism there is of CSICOP - as you mentioned earlier they have been sued (repeatedly), many organisations have many accusations to make against them, and many scientists could also be mentioned - Pons and Fleischman, Jacques Benveniste, Rupert Sheldrake and many others. It is simply false to suggest that that the few examples cited above are either all the dirt or blown out of all proportion.Davkal 17:02, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

Read my entire comment. I agreed with the changes. What I said later clearly indicates that I think it is too slanted in its criticizm. Bubba73 (talk), 17:12, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

There weren't any changes from the one you originally criticised - that's what's puzzling.Davkal 17:30, 26 July 2006 (UTC)

POV tag

The POV tag has now been on the srticle for over a week - Karl Bunker put it there and has done nothing to the article other than reverting any change back to the one he claimed was POV in the first place. Is there any real point in it being there?Davkal 16:29, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

Your characterizations of my activities and the history of the article content are both incorrect, but no matter. Since, as of a few hours ago, you were trying to make large changes to the article which (IMO) considerably changed its POV balance, and since the current revision is a lot closer to "my" version than "yours," I would think that you would be the one arguing for the POV tag at this point. If you want to remove the tag from this revision, that's fine with me. Just be sure to put it back the next time your 24 3RR time is up and you revert the article to something like "your" version. KarlBunker 18:19, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

I've removed the POV tag (didn't even use a sock-puppet to do it), and have replaced "fads" which you have already acknowledged was deliberately dismissive with the more neutral version. Davkal 00:26, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

...and I've put it back, since you added your POV with the same edit that you removed the tag. To describe pseudoscience in such a scrupulously "non-dismissive" way is POV and technically inaccurate, by virtue of the definition of "pseudoscience." Time for me to go back to not wasting my time by reading your comments, I think. KarlBunker 02:42, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

I don't think you really understand what you're saying anymore. How can it possibly be POV to simply describe something in a neutral fashion and let the topic speak for itself. Your point here speaks volumes about your POV and the manner in which you have been trying to use this article to push it. As I have said many times before - this is not an article about the paranormal or about pseudoscience or about the value, or otherewise, of either - it is an article about an organisation. Davkal 10:59, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

Suggested Compromise

Could I suggest the following compromise...


"This is analogous to the standard required by U.S. criminal courts, in which the claimant must prove their claim beyond a reasonable doubt."

until a reference is produced to support this statement. Even then, preferably reword to "Media sources have frequently supported this approach indicating this is analogous to...". In terms of what media sources "New Scientist" or "Nature" would be fine. Also mainstream media such as the New York Times, CNN or BBC would be Ok.

Also remove:

"standard analogous to that required by U.S. civil courts, paranormal proponents may offer" replacing with "and offering"

until such time a reference is produced. Even then, I would suggest rewording this statement so it is less US centric, possibly to balance of evidence.

Similarly remove:

"While CSICOP’s attention has mainly focused on phenomena that clearly fall into the paranormal or pseudoscientific bracket, the organisation has also been heavily critical of professional scientists whose findings, if true, might require substantial changes to current scientific thinking. These include Jacques Benveniste, whose partially replicated findings offered some support for homeopathy; Rupert Sheldrake who has postulated the idea of morphogenetic fields to explain some aspects of telepathy; and Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann for their work on Cold Fusion."

again until references are found to support the information contained in this paragraph. References should prove that Rupert Sheldrake is a professional scientist, for example. There should be references again either from sources such as Nature or CNN indicating that morphogenetic fields are considered to be a scientific theory and so forth. To keep this precise wording you would have to find a mainstream reference that implies telepathy is not in the bracket of paranormal. If this proves to be difficult, I would suggest rewording, possibly not including paranormal and being more precise about pseudoscience, for example indicating that practitioners do not have recognised qualifications.

My overall advice is that you only reinsert controversial statements after you have found sufficient citations to fully justify the information. Addhoc 17:55, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

I agree with your points on the "weird science" paragraph, but not with the analogy. Making a simple analogy that clarifies a point shouldn't require a citation or reference. As far as I recall, although Davkal has argued for the removal of this analogy, his only reason was that it represents an ideal which, in his opinion, CSICOP does not live up to. The lack of a cited source doesn't make that objection a reasonable one, nor would the addition of a cited source address his objection.
In general, the absence or presence of citable sources isn't the major problem here. There are a bazillion potential sources that either praise CSICOP to the heavens or damn it as despicable. The disagreement is in where the balance of the article should be. KarlBunker 18:19, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

I'm happy to drop Sheldrake from the paragraph altogether but I think the point needs to be made CSICOP is not just going after obvious cases (UFOs, Bigfoot, Erich von Daniken) but also after scientists. The reason is that I think a reader who did not know the organisation would never suspect this from the article as it stands.

As regards the analogies (and Sagan's first quote), my reasons for not liking these were: a) they are theoretical points about skepticism in general and it is not clear why there is so much theory in the "activities" section; and b) I don't think CSICOP conducts itself in line with these ideals in any case. I also think they add to the impression that CSICOP is a scientific organisation whose primary pupose is to investigate and? encourage investigation by rigorous scientific means, when it is actually closer to a bunch of armchair critics who give their view of current scientific thinking to the media whenever what they regard as paranormal or pseudoscientific claims are made. As I have said before, I don't think the article should describe them in line with my opinion of them but I think the "what lies at the heart of science" stuff should be toned down.Davkal 18:41, 29 July 2006 (UTC)

Ok, that sounds reasonably positive. My comment would be that according to burden of evidence, these sentences could be removed because they lack citations. However, if you find citations for them and reinsert them, I don't think just removing them again would necessarily be legitimate. I recognise there is such a concept as overall balance, but in the context of an overall article that isn't too long, I personally would be dubious about just removing sentences that have appropriate references. Addhoc 14:10, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

What sentences are you referring to? KarlBunker 14:48, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Ok, my comment was that if you reinsert your wording without references, then any editor could remove them again. However, if you add references, then in my understanding, just removing them again wouldn't necessarily be legitimate. Addhoc 15:39, 30 July 2006 (UTC)


Citations are required to verify that "extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence" is equivalent to the standard required by U.S. criminal courts and "preponderance of evidence" is equivalent to the standard required by U.S. civil courts. Addhoc 15:56, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

It's an analogy; "a comparison between two things, typically on the basis of their structure and for the purpose of explanation or clarification." (Oxford Dictionary). The key phrase here is "for the purpose of explanation or clarification." An analogy makes no statement of fact, and asking for "verification" is contrary to the definition of the word. KarlBunker 16:36, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Yup, its an analogy I don't agree with. That's why I am requesting citations. Extraordinary evidence sounds more than reasonable doubt to me. Preponderance of evidence sounds less than balance of evidence. Addhoc 16:41, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Ah, well, that's different. What you're asking for is this to be made a quotation, as in: "Physicist Joe Blow compared the requirements of scientific method to..." rather than the analogy being something that some WP editor invented. That's not a matter of "verification," that's finding POV in the editor's choice of words, and making that POV acceptable by having it be a quotation. As for the specifics of your objection, I have to disagree with you again. "Preponderance is not "less than balance of evidence"; it is "the quality or fact of being greater in number, quantity, or importance" (Oxford Dictionary). You should get yourself a Mac; there's a dictionary built into the OS; very handy. KarlBunker 17:25, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Two points, One, re extraordinary evidence - what does that even mean - surely for any claim just good old evidence (if it is strong enough) will do the job. I have also pointed out that criminal courts may convict on the basis of eyewitness testimony yet eyewitness testimony is listed in the "bad" category of things people who believe in the paranormal will cite. I think Addhoc has it right that what is being required here is more than reasonable doubt and so the analogy doesn't match in a number of relevant respects. Two, re "fads", why don't we go for my wording which Karl described as scrupulously "non-dismissive", ie. "the popularity and prominence of different aspects of...". Davkal 17:32, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

KarlBunker, we understand the "preponderance argument" differently. Persons who believe in ghosts sometimes assert there must be some truth in these observations because of the preponderance of ghost stories. This in my opinion, is a very low burden of proof. Have a look at WP:Verifiability "articles should contain only material that has been published by reputable sources". Essentially, I agree, inserting your own POV constitutes original research, while as you put it - finding POV in the editor's choice of words, and making that POV acceptable by having it be a quotation - is fine. Davkal, I'm pleased we agree that extraordinary evidence is more than reasonable doubt and so the analogy doesn't match. Also we agree that "fads" isn't very encyclopedic, I'll support any judicious rewording. Addhoc 18:08, 30 July 2006 (UTC)

Addhoc, you're using the word "preponderance" in a way that has nothing to do with how it's used in the article, and in general I can't locate any connection between your arguments around this analogy and the actual text of the article. However, I'll accede to the removal of the analogy, since it's hardly crucial to the article, and because I'm tired of discussing it. In the future, if you want to argue convincingly about any important change to an article, you're going to have to be a lot more careful and more clear about the meaning and context of the words you use. Sorry to be so uppity, but them's the facts as I see 'em. KarlBunker 01:00, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Ok, fair enough. Addhoc 11:03, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Re "fads". I still think the best wording here is "CSICOP changes its focus with the changing popularity and prominence of different aspects of pseudoscience and paranormal belief." Davkal 12:28, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Ok, I personally don't object. KarlBunker, what are your thoughts? Addhoc 13:33, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Given that what's being referred to are the capriciously changing public tastes in a popular cultural phenomenon, I think that "fads" is obviously the most correct word. But I won't argue the point any further at the moment. KarlBunker 13:41, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

I will just make one point. The example given (not my example) is "Intelligent Design" which, as I understand it, is a form of creationist thinking. Creationism is as old as (written) human history and some form of it has been believed by almost every person who has ever lived; evolution on the other hand is about 100 years old and is a fairly prominent belief amongst (Western) people today - what's the "fad" here? A similar argument could be made for a whole host of CSICOP targets, e.g, ghosts, astrology, alternative medicine (accupuncture), spiritualism/channeling etc. What these are in many cases are the modern manifestations of ancient-right-through-to-the-present-day beliefs. Quite irrespective of any question of validity, to call them "fads" is, I think, absurd and pejorative. People will be claiming there's a God next! Davkal 14:11, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Possibly there are cultural considerations here, in the UK "fads" is very informal. From KarlBunker's description, I think "trends" would probably be more appropriate. Anyway, is the current version acceptable or should we discuss a compromise? Addhoc 15:04, 31 July 2006 (UTC)

Mars Effect

One of the other sections being disputed is the criticism section. I think the Mars Effect paragraph should have it's own heading and should contain a bit more detail than is currently the case. The main points I would like to see added are that the controversy lasted for many years and that it resulted in a number of resignations. The section below was previously removed - I think it should be included again.

"Perhaps the most serious internal criticism of CSICOP concerned its analysis of French statistician Michel Gauquelin’s claim that champion athletes are more likely to be born when the planet Mars is in certain positions in the sky - the so-called Mars effect. Founder member Dennis Rawlins claimed that other CSICOP researchers used incorrect statistics, faulty science and outright falsification in an attempt to debunk Gauquelin’s claims. The controversy dragged on for nearly five years before Rawlins went public with his version of events in an article for Fate magazine. In the article Rawlins made the accusation of a cover-up at the highest levels within CSICOP and concluded, "I am still skeptical of the occult beliefs CSICOP was created to debunk. But I have changed my mind about the integrity of some of those who make a career of opposing occultism." [5] CSICOP's Philip Klass investigated Rawlins' claims and wrote a lengthy article in rebuttal. [6] Klass' article caused further division, however, and was labelled "a disgrace" by CSICOP fellow Richard Kammann who, with a number of other members, left the organisation shortly after."

Davkal 11:13, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

I disagree. Such an edit is an overlong example of criticism which unbalances the article, and you given any good reason for putting the Mars effect criticism in its own section. KarlBunker 14:15, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

The paragraph in question is only a few words longer than the version that was there - and if you count the superfluous stuff that was removed then the whole sectionis significantly shorter.Davkal 01:22, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

Also, the Mars-effect controversy is of a completely different order from, say, Uri Geller's disputes with the org inasmuch it was a bitter five year internal dispute that led to a number of resignations. I know you would like to pretend it didn't happen, but it did, so I think it should be noted prominently. Davkal 17:07, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

the Psi-Cops

CSICOP have been known as the "Psi-cops" almost since their inception. The organisation were certainly aware of their nickname prior to 1980 when I used to read it in the SI (to which I used to subscribe). Getting a reference to state "this is officially their nickname" will be difficult but you can find it everywhere on the web as it is a fairly well-known fact (put "CSICOP Psi cops" into a search engine). A couple of places that might be acceptable to use here are Uri geller's site, and it is also cited in Valerie Vaughn's article 'Re-Bunking the Debunkers' which can be found at Davkal 13:45, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

Sorry, my revert was unnecessarily quick. Given the SI is the official journal of CSICOP, then Psi Cop is reasonably well established nickname. Addhoc 14:02, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

Not that it makes much difference since Karl Bunker has decided that it shouldn't be included so it looks like we are in for 16 weeks of belligerent reverting on this point also.Davkal 11:17, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

criticism section

1. What is the point of including, afetr every criticism, some line to the effect "but CSICOP disagrees". I think the readers can judge that CSICOP would not agree so to write it every time simply takes up space and makes the article look very petty.

Ok, I think concerns relating to overall balance are worth discussing. However, in my limited experience, most Wikipedia articles have a section labelled "criticism" instead of "criticism and response". Addhoc 14:24, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

That's pretty much my point - all the responses do are make the section far too long. I have tried amending this section to a much shorter, sharper section but Karl just keeps reverting.

I should also point out that prior to my editing there was no real criticism at all. All there were were some nebulus claims followed by the paragraphs from CSICOP's point of view dismissing them. I think the criticism section should simply reflect the fact that CSICOP, as an organisation, have attrracted a significant amount of criticism for their activities over the years - and this, with examples, can be written fairly straightforwardly without the adversarial style of the current section.

I also note that Truzzi's quote (agreed at the last bout of mediation) has been removed without discussion.Davkal 15:47, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

suggested compromise

Karl, you can't just write nonsense in the article and then agree to remove it if you get your way on other things. I'll agree to remove "CSICOP are a bunch of losers" if you give me carte blanche for the rest of the article - yes yes.Davkal 10:59, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

Considering Karl has modified the wording to your version, we could agree the overall proportions of the article. For example should the criticism be about 25% total length or 33%. Addhoc 11:08, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

The modification of "fads" was needed because it was unencyclopedic, unnecessarily dismissive and factually incorrect - it was rejected long ago. It was only brought back to pave the way for a "compromise" - ie. to be used as a bargaining chip for removal of parts of the criticism section. The criticism section, as I have pointed out, can be made very much shorter and sharper - I have already tried to do this but Karl keeps reverting to the longer version which is padded out with nebulous straw-man criticism placed there for no other reason than to allow more pro-CSICOP quotes. This is the reason the criticism is so long right now and not because of the odd additional sentence in the sections I wish to keep. Just for the record - the criticism section as I have rewritten it would be less than 20% of the article's length. Davkal 11:26, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

Karl, would you agree the ciriticism section should be around 20% of the articles length? Addhoc 14:20, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

Karl, could you give your thoughts on what proportion of the overall article length the citicism section should be? Addhoc 11:53, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
Criticism can't be measured as a percentage of words. There are such matters as the quality of the criticism and the quantity and quality of responses to the criticisms. And in this case, there's apparently some question as to whether something magically ceases to be criticism if you put it under a section heading that doesn't have the word "criticism" or "critic" in it. KarlBunker 14:06, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

If you look at the heading I am suggesting (i.e. "CSICOP's critics") and then apply all your powers of critical thinking and the application of a rigorous scientific methodology, you may just be able to detect the word "critics". But on a serious note - the quality of the criticism is something I have striven hard for. That's why I am trying to exclude the nebulous stuff you want in (these are no more than straw men set up to pave the way for CSICOP's "incisive" ripostes), and that is why I have not just gone to obviously partizan groups/individuals and then produced some of the countless defamatory remarks that can be found there, and that's why I am trying to include the criticism from two of CSICOP's founder members (and another respected "fellow" of the organisation) and a Nobel prize winning physicist. I realise their credentials pale in comparison to that of the average stage-magician but they were about the best I could find. Davkal 23:39, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

Could I suggest "Criticism of CSICOP" as being slightly more formal. Addhoc 09:47, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Davkal, I hate to throw even a little water on your lethally witty deconstruction of my obtuseness, but I was referring to the criticism that you moved under the heading "The Mars-Effect Controversy." Granted, in at least some of your edits you made this section a subsection of "Criticisms," and that fact escaped my notice until now. So to that extent, your lethal wit stands undampened. You may consider me slain. KarlBunker 10:23, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

This heading was ALWAYS a sub-heading in the criticism section and so nobody was ever trying to pretend otherwise. It would be helpful, though, if you concentrated on the serious point of why the criticism I have provided of CSICOP (founder members, fellows, Nobel prize winning scientists etc.) does not come up to your mark. Davkal 13:39, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

I would be helpful if you concentrated on the words I write. I didn't question the quality of the criticisms you provided; I was merely pointing out that the "amount" of criticism in an article can't be measured as a simple percentage of words.
However, let's consider the following text:
Marcello Truzzi, one of CSICOP's co-founders, left the organisation after only a short time claiming that “They tend to block honest inquiry, in my opinion. Most of them are not agnostic toward claims of the paranormal; they are out to knock them. [...] When an experiment of the paranormal meets their requirements, then they move the goal posts.” Truzzi even coined the term pseudoskeptic to describe the attitude he felt was prevalent in CSICOP.
In the first place, this criticism does not refer to any particular act or investigation on CSICOP's part, but rather to "them" in general. Thus it's not a substantial criticism, but rather an expression of Truzzi's personal impression of "them". In the second place, it's roughly 30 years old, and therefor has no established relevance to the current makeup of CSICOP.
If you would agree to removing this text I would agree to the removal of the POV tag, and hopefully we can stop edit-warring. KarlBunker 15:10, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

This quote was chosen because it came from a founder member who expressed his concerns at the nature of the organisation he set up - on this count I think it highly relevant, i.e. it's not just some guy off the street. It is also fairly clear, even from a quick scan of the internet, that identical claims are still being made now, and have been made throughout CSICOP's history - on this count it is also relevant. For these reasons I feel it would be wrong to exclude the charge of pseudoscepticism, and Truzzi's quote nicely illustrates it.Davkal 23:24, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

Section moved from "CSICOP" talk page

The CSICOP redirect was not put in place for the page Talk:CSICOP, and I just found the following comment there, so I'm moving here to join the appropriate archive. I'll put in the redirect.Mike Christie (talk) 17:12, 3 September 2006 (UTC)

Hello, I changed the following sentence: "On the question of dogmatism or a priori convictions, CSICOP points out that dedicated paranormal research has been ongoing for many decades both by skeptics and pro-paranormal researchers; in that time, no convincing and independently replicable evidence of the existence of any paranormal phenomena has ever been established to the standards required to persuade the majority of the scientific community."

I made this change because this was mostly a rhetoric device. It implies the author of the sentence does know what all members of a weakly defined "scientific community" know and think. Furthermore it constructs a distinction between the scientific community and paranormal researchers, where an overlap would be more accurate. There are enough published, peer-reviewed and degree-holding paranormal researchers, even teaching and researching at colleges and institutions, that certainly qualify as belonging to this vague scientific community. Charles Tart comes to mind.

I do not know whether this sentence as a whole is even correct. There is an important difference between what is proven with a certain degree of formal rigor, which can be said of a lot of experiments regarding the paranormal, and what is acknowledged and accepted by the majority of scientists. Prejudice and a priori beliefs are not restricted to "normal humans", but nearly as common among scientists. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 11 July 2006