CSICOP

The SoS page, following, gets the current name not quite right. It is Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Has CSICOP Lost the Thirty Years’ War?

This is the best article I’ve ever read on the history of CSICOP/CSI. The name change actually reflects the take-over that Truzzi objected to. “Scientific Investigation” — which would be, by definition, as a field, parapsychology — becomes “skeptical inquiry,” which, in practice, readily favors an unbalanced and unscientific, highly critical approach, even though CSI claims it “Does not reject claims on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry, but examines them objectively and carefully,” CSI activists and authors blatantly and sometimes explicitly do this, and CSI does not correct or balance this. This is common for ideological activists, they will quote their ideals as if those are evidence as to actual behavior.

I’m going to explore Examples on the subpage, from my own study. CSI, in general, attacks as unscientific or pseudoscientific, people and fields based on the alleged opinion of the “majority of scientists,” whereas it would be rare that the “majority of scientists” would be aware of the evidence involved. CSI activists often assert “there is no proof,” sometimes taking that down to “there is no evidence.” There is no “proof” is true of much of science, at the edges or “fringe.” Only in mathematics is proof abundant, and mathematics is ordinarily highly cautious about assumptions and logic. To say “there is no evidence,” however, is to completely neglect the most common legal evidence: human testimony. Pseudoskeptics commonly confuse evidence with proof, discounting evidence because they do not consider it proof. The reality would be “I have not seen evidence that convinced me,” sometimes shortened just to “convincing,” perhaps extending this to “me and my friends or those who think like me.”

This is often visible in Wikipedia editing. In the case of cold fusion, the position of cold fusion in the journals flipped many years ago. In the first year after announcement, “negative” papers — as assessed by Dieter Britz, a skeptical electrochemist — outnumbered “positive” ones. The next year they were about equal. After that, positive papers dominated and negative papers almost entirely disappeared. Pseudoskeptics claim that this is because “most scientists” no longer considered it worthwhile to even consider the subject. (There may be some truth to that).

However, years ago, I did a study of mainstream publications from 2005 on, and found not just primary sources, but many reviews, with critical response being rare to non-existent. Supposedly peer-reviewed secondary sources, i.e., reviews, are golden for Wikipedia articles on science, but uniformly and rapidly, citations of these were removed by the “skeptical” faction.

Somehow, authors on cold fusion were able to pass peer review, and in one case, one of the Wikipedia¬† editors called that “something strange.” Policy has not been followed. An editor there, Manul, shows up in my studies of an editor who appears to support extreme skeptical positions, and when his name was mentioned, that disruptive editor went totally ballistic, as if Manul had been attacked (which was not the case, he was merely mentioned) Manul claimed that he was being harassed off-wiki and had changed his user name (which is pretty useless), and that was mentioned, because he had filed sock puppet reports attacking a favorite target of the disruptive editor, and without that knowledge, it could be assumed that this was two independent editors. Manul has since disappeared, but what I notice here is the threat of reporting the editor he is arguing with for “personal attack.” This was a common tactic of the entire skeptical faction. I see here that Manul is actually a disruptive editor (I would have been blocked in a flash if I had behaved like that), but he has apparently retired, which, when attention might start to be focused on them, disruptive editors, especially those acting in collaboration with a faction, often do.

In one case, in a mainstream chemistry journal, which had published a review of the field of LENR or “cold fusion,” there was a critical Letter published, and one of the original authors and a phalanx of scientists in the field responded, and the critic was left sputtering that the journal would not publish his rebuttal. I find it fairly obvious that journals were refusing to publish knee-jerk pseudoskeptical rejection, and that the shallow (and blatantly incorrect, in a critical way) Letter was the best they got.

“Most scientists” would be completely unaware of this situation, so they would base their opinions on what became widely believed in 1989-1990, that it was all a mistake. I thought that until I actually started to review the field, not as a believer, but as neutrally skeptical (and understanding the theoretical reasons for rejection, they are rather obvious to anyone with knowledge of nuclear physics.)

Something is happening that we don’t understand. For people who have based their identity on “Scientism,” that is terrifying. In theory, humanists and skeptics don’t have a belief system, but in reality, humans do, and denial of it leads to much mischief.

And here is an example of how I learn by writing. To link to the Wikipedia article on Scientism, I needed to look at it, at least briefly. There I saw reference to Schumaker, A Guide for the Perplexed. (1977) And that, for me, immediately brought to mind a book by Nate Hoffman, A Dialogue on Chemically Induced Nuclear Effects, A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED About Cold Fusion (1995). This was one of the first books I read on cold fusion.

(Schumaker’s title was itself a reference to a 12th century book by Maimonides.)

Hoffman has been excoriated by at least one “cold fusion believer” for being Wrong about this or that and probably hostile. However, the book is written from a genuine skeptical point of view, one that does not demand conformance to “expectations” and it actually skewers common pseudoskeptical arguments. Hoffman, I see now, was clearly referring to Shumaker’s book in his title, and skewering scientism in general, i.e., the smug, satisfied belief that challenges to orthodoxy (what “scientists believe,” generally neglecting diversity of opinion among scientists) can be a priori dismissed.