Monday, December 10, 2007

CSICOP (I mean CSI)

Let’s talk for a moment about CSICOP which has changed it’s name to CSI which I suppose it a marketing ploy to snag the unwary. I mean, if you type CSI into your search engine, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that many do and have, you’ll eventually find your way to what used to be CSICOP. They’re probably less than pleased to have me decode their plan.

CSICOP, which originally stood for Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (a worthy endeavor) is now know as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, another worthy endeavor. Unfortunately, my experience with them, and the experience of others suggest that they are more of an advocacy group rather than an organization that investigates the paranormal, including UFOs. They would rather make pronouncements about the non existence of these phenomena than actually investigate them. And it seems when the few investigations they conduct provide no real answer, they are willing to accept any conclusion as long as it does not suggest the reality of a paranormal phenomena (With the Kenneth Arnold UFO sighting, they continue to offer solutions that make no sense. Recently it was suggested that Arnold had seen B-47s in flight. None of the skeptics, and here it wasn’t a CSI explanation, bothered to learn that the first B-47 hadn’t flown until December, 1947, six months AFTER Arnold made his report.)

Just what does this mean? Well, in one of the anti-Roswell UFO crash books CSICOP, I mean CSI, published, the author wrote, "Finally as the pro-UFO Roswell researchers will admit when pressed, Beverly Bean is the only person in the Brown family who has made these claims about her father. Bean’s sister and her own mother have never confirmed the account."

The Brown in this statement in Melvin Brown who was a sergeant assigned to the Roswell base in 1947 as a cook. He told family members that he had seen the bodies of the aliens killed in the crash, but for several years only his daughter, Beverly Bean, made this claim. Later Brown’s widow, and his other daughter, confirmed that they had heard her husband and their father make similar statements.

The CSICOP inspired statement, is, of course, not true and since the author referenced the 1991 interview conducted with the Brown family (video taped by Brad Radcliffe), he should have known that both Bean’s sister and her mother confirmed the account on video tape. So, even though he must have known the truth but rather than writing, "In 1991, both Bean’s sister and mother who had failed to corroborate the story earlier, are now on the record..." he chose to conceal this evidence from his readers.

This withholding of information is exactly the same thing that the writer had been complaining that I, as well as my colleagues, had been doing. And while I can show, repeatedly, how I attempted to present all the information about the case, allowing the reader to make up his or her mind about the validity of the case, CSI, through this writer was not engaging in scientific analysis, but was involved in a debate. In debate, you never give the other side information favorable to its argument. You allow them to find it on their own.

In on

e more example, on page 91, the author wrote, "After initially refusing to confirm to Randle that he was even there at Roswell, Randle claims that Easley [that would be Major Edwin Easley, seen here, who was the provost marshal Roswell in 1947], on his deathbed, eventually confessed that not only had he "been there," but that he had also seen bodies."
This is a mishmash of testimony and statements. In my initial conversation with Easley, he not only confirmed he had been there, but that he was the provost marshal. In the taped interview conducted on January 11, 1990, I said, "I’m doing some research into the 509th Bomb Group and I understand you were the Provost Marshal there at one time."

Easley said, "That’s right."

I said, "At the 509th?"

He said, "Yes."

And I said, "During July of 1947?"

And he said, "Yes."

I wrote to CSI and asked them, based on their claims of scientific investigation, if they shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than a publisher of books on the paranormal. I mean, if you look at Berkley Books, for example, you’ll find that they publish books on both sides of the controversy. I suspect they don’t do this because they want to provide both sides of the case but because there are business reasons for it. Berkley Books, like so many other publishers, desire to make money and make their publishing decisions based on that.

CSI, h

owever, publishes books only on one side. Karl Pflock told me once that CSI (when it was still known as CSICOP) refused to publish his Roswell in Perspective because it wasn’t skeptical enough. Not that the information might be inaccurate, or that there might be flaws in the reasoning, but because its tone wasn’t skeptical enough. Eventually they published it as Roswell: Inconvenient Facts and the Will to Believe.

You might wondering, by now, what was CSI’s response to my inquiry. Well, there hasn’t been one. They have never really responded to anything I asked of them. The main example comes from the late Phil Klass. We corresponded regularly over the years. We traded barbs a number of times and I have often thought that Phil got backed into his anti-saucer and therefore anti-Roswell corner in the 1960s. Phil came up with the idea that ionized air, glowing in the night, was the cause of UFO sightings. The idea was quickly killed by physicists, and Phil went on to other, similar ridiculous explanations but he had become the resident UFO expert.

In the 1990s I hosted a radio show on KTSM radio in El Paso, Texas (as seen here). The topic was the paranormal, and Phil appeared on the show a couple of times. I asked for others from CSICOP (as it was kno wn then) but never got any response. Phil said he’d arrange some interviews, but no one ever came on. I thought this a strange response from a group of skeptics who wanted to get their message out.

My philosophy on the show was to allow the guest to make his or her point, talk with the listeners, and to defend his or her points of view. I was more of a facilitator than a participant. If the guest had a point of view I didn’t like, well, it was his or her opinion and on the next show we might discuss that or move on to another topic.

Irene Hughes, one of the most celebrated psychics in the country appeared once. During a commercial break, she commented that I was protecting my guest very well. I figured if she was a good psychic, she’d be able to defend herself and didn’t need me to step in. Her comment sort of annoyed me because when the tables were reversed, meaning I was on someone else’s show, I always felt it was my job to defend my position rather than rely on the host.

I will note here, apropos of nothing at all, that I asked Hughes who was going to win the Super Bowl. There were four teams left in the running because the companionship games had yet to be played. She said it would be the Packers. After she left the show, I said, on the air, and recorded on tape, "Everyone knows its going to be the Cowboys over the Steelers by 11." In fact, it was the Cowboys over the Steelers by 10 (27 to 17 if you must know). She didn’t even get the two teams right and I missed the spread by a single point.

The point here, however, is that I provided the guest a chance to present his or her point of view without a challenge from me. CSICOP (or CSI) had nothing to fear from me and Phil Klass did the show a couple of times. No one else from CSI even bothered to respond to my invitations.

So I’m not surprised that they didn’t answer my question about having a higher standard. It is clear from some of the books they have published that reality means little to them. Debunking is their business so why allow facts to get in the way.

I could, of course, support their cause because I have debunked my share of stories. I have provided answers to mysteries when I have them. But I do not create answers out of nonsense, I do not invent witness testimonies that do not exist, and I do not enter an investigation believing in one answer because that answer happens to be my favorite. I can, of course, provide more examples of CSI caring little for the truth but there is no point.

And I will mention, once again, that yes, those of us on the other side of the fence are often guilty of selective use of the data (cherry-picking it), or of leaping to far-ranging conclusions, but we do not hold ourselves up as an authority whose only mission is to explain the nearly inexplicable. We don’t claim to be the only rational thinkers on the planet with a self-selected mandate to remove the paranormal, the unusual, or the exotic from the minds of those too dumb, stupid or ignorant to see the light.

CSI does and with that comes an obligation to get it right. Tell us that UFOs don’t exist, that the evidence for the Roswell UFO crash is thin, but don’t wrap that pronouncement around poor research, sloppy investigation and half-truths. Make your case without a superior attitude and you probably will have an easier time with it.

CSI won’t answer questions. They will not consider alternative answers which explains why they believe some of the dumbest things on the face of the planet. Oh, it removes the extraterrestrial from the discussion but it certainly doesn’t explain anything.

(Yes, I know you all want to know what I mean. Remember Lonnie Zamora, the New Mexico police officer who saw a landed UFO and two occupants back in the 1960s? Well, Phil Klass explained the case. Zamora and the mayor of tiny Socorro, New Mexico were attempting to create a tourist interest in their town and would build a museum close to the site where the UFO was spotted... on land already owned by the mayor. No evidence of this ever surfaced, but to many in CSI, the Socorro case is explained as a hoax. It is not.)

CSI should do a better job of policing themselves and they shouldn’t accept a solution because it is mundane rather than exotic. They should take their own advice and they should do what they originally set out to do, which is investigate claims of the paranormal... Oh, wait, they took that out of their name. Now they’re just the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. I guess investigation was too tough for them. Now they’ll just ask questions and ignore the answers they don’t like. They have become what they have accused us on the other side of becoming... True Believers... The evidence be damned.

13 comments:

Bob Barbanes said...

The thing about Roswell is this: Why does the story persist so tenaciously? No other such event is wrapped in as much controversy as "Roswell." Other sightings, including those right here near me in Gulf Breeze, Florida seem to fade from our consciounsess. Not Roswell. For all of our government's wishes and attempts at making it go away, it does just the opposite.

Yes, it's become something of a rye joke, but I'll bet that most Americans think on some level that "something" happened there and we don't yet know the full story. I mean, you'd think that if nothing really happened there, then whole thing would have died by now, as others have.

Thanks for keeping us posted, Kevin. There are a lot of us out here who appreciate your work.

starman said...

Yes KDR has debunked his share of UFO stories, like Walton, Mantell and Walesville. Not everybody agrees though. KDR seems surprisingly skeptical of the Walton case considering that several men claim to have seen the UFO initially and none AFAIK, retracted their report.

CDA said...

Kevin:
The book you are talking about is not published by CSICOP (or CSI) but by Prometheus Books. I don't know how big is the connection between the two but it is pointless to write and complain to CSI when you ought to be complaining to the publishers, namely Prometheus.

The title of the book is "The Roswell UFO Crash" and the author is Kal K. Korff. Can you not bring yourself to mention his name?

He seems quite willing to mention yourt name, so why cannot you mention his? Why this reluctance?

In answer to Bob Barbanes, the reason Roswell story persists so tenaciously is this: It died (once) in 1947. 32 years later Stanton Friedman (a highly pro-ETHer) revived it when he interviewed Jesse Marcel. In 1947 nobody was interested in UFOs as visiting spaceships. By 1978 the whole UFO atmosphere was entirely different, fully geared towards ETH. Hence the story has been kept alive by repeated books, endless magazine articles, radio/TV shows, videos etc. ad nauseum. Also the USAF and GAO report added an official touch. And don't forget that alien autopsy film either. Such is the Roswell imprint on the public, that it can never die. It is even in the tourist literature for the city. It is assured of a permanent place in New Mexico's history and culture. And of course it generates plenty of $$$ for the city.

Afterthought: In 1950 came Frank Scully's famous crashed saucer book. (In fact his early articles were in 1949) At that time all the first-hand Roswell witnesses were still alive and the case was still reasonably fresh in their memory. These people could easily have added their vast knowledge of Roswell to the crashed saucer saga. Think how ufology would have benefited. Not one of these people ever came forward to relate their story. Not a one! All they had to do was confirm that Scully was right, but that he had the wrong location.

Most strange.

Steve in TN said...

"In the 1990s I hosted a radio show on KTSM radio in El Paso, Texas"

Shred it! :D

--A former El Paso resident and Saturday Night listener

starman said...

cda: Sure in 1950 Roswell was fresh in the memory of many but so was the government intimidation! And while nobody came forward until Marcel sr did so, with an impunity that must have emboldened others, some witnesses told family members of their experiences long before Marcel's testimony. Btw the UFO community was not "fully geared towards ETH" in 1978. Vallee and Keel IIRC didn't favor it. There were MUFON Journal articles critical of it. One pointed out that had it not been for happenstance (Chicxulub)higher intelligence would never have appeared; dinosaurs might still rule the Earth. I don't buy that but it's beside the point.

starman said...

Of course I meant higher intelligence wouldn't have appeared here, supposedly; the writer was opining that dependence on a lucky break (elimination of dinosaurs so mammals could radiate and evolve higher intelligence)should make higher intelligence exceedingly rare in the Universe. I don't buy that.

KRandle said...

CDA -
Let's see...

Prometheus is in Amherst, NY
CSI is in Amherst, NY
Hmmm....

The editor I wrote to had an
email address on the CSI site
Hmmmm....

Phil Klass told me the two were
related as I attempted to get
guests from my radio program
Hmmmm....

I see a connection here.

CDA said...

Yes there is a connection. Agreed.
But I do not see any mention of CSICOP in Korff's book, and he is listed as being president of an organisation called TotalResearch. (This was in 1997). So presumably Korff does not go along with all CSICOP, or CSI, stands for. Therefore my comment still stands. What has Korff's book got to to with CSICOP? Did they endorse it?
Did CSICOP endorse Jim Moseley's and Karl Pflock's book (it too was published by Prometheus)?

I would like to know the reference where Korff wrote the bit about finally admitting that Beverley's sister and mother had confirmed what Beverley told Tim Good, Stan & yourself. It is not in his 1997 book, so where did he write this?

Actually some of what Korff wrote about the Brown/Bean affair is true; e.g. when did Brown first talk about meeting ETs to his daughters (and how old were they at the time?). Was it during the Apollo landings or was it in 1980 whilst reading an article about the Roswell Incident book?

You, and Stan & Tim Good, ought to have cleared this up years ago. None of you did so. And yes, it does matter. So Korff is quite right in this respect.

And for goodness sake, stop this practice of suppressing the author's name. It is all hush hush is it? (Just like Roswell is, officially).

KRandle said...

CDA -

Sorry, I got the quote wrong... I meant to write that he must have known the truth but choose to ignore it. I'll repair that in the blog so that it is accurate. This is one of the things that I like about blogs, you can correct the errors rather than spend the next couple of years explaining them.

Bob Barbanes said...

CDA, I think you misstate some things! In 1947 most Americans got their news from newspapers. Television did not come into widespread use until 1948 or so. Even then, there were no extensive networks with satellite feeds, and certainly no instant-news internet.

So the news of a "flying saucer" was big when it happened. But when the government came out and said, "Nope, just a weather balloon!" people just believed it and let it go at that. Why would they do otherwise? Geraldo Rivera wasn't around to snoop into it and, more importantly Americans still believed their government at that point.

So "Roswell" didn't die - the government killed it. And we, being the gullible schnooks we were/are, went right along with the story.

Kevin's extensive research into the matter has shown us that it was not in fact a "weather ballooon"...could not have been! And it could not have been that other atmosphere-sniffer-thingee either. We know this. So it was something else. Maybe some high-tech (at the time) espionage device that the military didn't want the russkies to know about? Fine, but if so, why haven't they admitted it by now? I mean, the technology cannot still be so secret.

There are loads of people who'd like us to believe what "Roswell" was not. But nobody on the debunker side has come out with a satisfactory explanation of what Roswell *was*. And, despite the U.S. government's staunch claims to the contrary, there is just too much other evidence that something very peculiar happened there.

I do not wear a helmet of tin-foil; I am no "conspiracy nut." But I smell a rat in the case of the "something" that happened in New Mexico in 1947.

KRandle said...

CDA -
Oh yes, I meant to also point out that CSI through their magazine, The Skeptical Inquirer did, in fact endorse the book... So, rather than be sure of the facts, they, who are constantly complaining that we ignore, conceal and cherry pick the facts, were unconcerned of those problems in this book.

Jime said...

The history of CSICOP (now CSI) is very interesting. Take a look at this detailed and documented critical article:

http://www.tricksterbook.com/ArticlesOnline/CSICOPoverview.htm

The connection between Prometheus Books and CSICOP is PAUL KURTZ: He is the founder and chairman of CSICOP, the Council for Secular Humanism, the Center for Inquiry and Prometheus Books:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Kurtz

Pseudoskepticism is a movement with a concrete philosophical agenda: the promotion of metaphysical naturalism (and ontological materialism) as the only rational and scientific philosophy. The try to spread atheism and secular humanism too and this is the reason that most pseudoskeptics are hard-core atheists (the exception is Martin Gardner, who's a theist).

Take a look at these critical links on pseudoskepticism:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoskepticism
http://paginas.terra.com.br/educacao/criticandokardec/criticizingskepticism.htm
http://michaelprescott.freeservers.com/FlimFlam.htm
http://www.parapsych.org/psiexplorer/blackmore_critique.htm
http://www.nderf.org/NDE%20Rhetoric.htm
http://www.suppressedscience.net/skepticism.html
http://www.orgonelab.org/skeptics.htm
http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/New/Examskeptics/index.html
http://www.happierabroad.com/Debunking_Skeptical_Arguments.htm
http://www.anomalist.com/commentaries/pseudo
http://www.fiu.edu/~mizrachs/truzzi.html
http://www.canlyme.com/quackwatch.html
http://www.humanticsfoundation.com/barrettvsrosenthal.htm

starman said...

Believe me, UFOlogy has holy joe enemies too. Pat Robertson called UFOs the work of the devil or some nonsense like that. I'm atheistic but believe in UFOs, on the basis of ample evidence.