“The Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims of the Normal (CSICON) is featured in the writings of Robert Anton Wilson, who claims American directorship of the committee.
According to Wilson, it was founded by Irishman Timothy F.X. Finnegan, who wrote, “The normal consists of a null set which nobody and nothing really fits.” The committee claims that there is no such thing as “normal”, and there are no existing “normal” people (i.e., people existing in the average). For example, no one has 2.3 children.
The Board of the College of Patapsychology, Wilson writes, offered one million Irish pounds to anyone who can produce “a normal sunset, an average Beethoven sonata, an ordinary Playmate of the Month, or any thing or event in space-time that qualifies as normal, average or ordinary.”
The committee’s name is a parody of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, and the million-pound challenge a parody of the prize offered by James Randi for evidence of paranormal abilities.”
“In Wilson’s account, CSICON began with a conversation Finnegan heard in a pub between two men named O’Brian and Nolan. They were discussing the strange weather. Another man named Sean Murphy interjected, “Ah, Jaysus. I’ve never seen a boogerin’ normal day. And I never met a fookin’ average man neither.”
This inspired Finnegan, and the next day he wrote a two-page outline on a new science he dubbed patapsychology. The paper began with the sentence, “The average Canadian has one testicle, just like Adolf Hitler-or, more precisely, the average Canadian has 0.96 testicles, an even sadder plight than Hitler’s, if the average Anything actually existed.””
“‘Pataphysics, a term coined by French writer Alfred Jarry (1873 – 1907), is a philosophy dedicated to studying what lies beyond the realm of metaphysics. It is a parody of the theory and methods of modern science and is often expressed in nonsensical language. A practitioner of ‘pataphysics is a ‘pataphysician or a ‘pataphysicist.”
“Patapsychology is the philosophy that there is no such thing as ‘normal’. Its name is derived from parapsychology as a catch-all for paranormal studies, but it is not limited to purely psychological phenomena.
“Critical Paranoia may be considered one of Surrealism’s contributions to modern artistic thinking and interpretation. I would argue that Surrealism is more of a method and means of thought than it is en entity to be understood. Critical Paranoia should then be considered a primary exercise in attaining the, ‘pinnacled depths of that which is Surreal.’ “
“The term pseudoskepticism (or pseudo-skepticism) denotes thinking that appears to be skeptical but is not. The term is most commonly encountered in the form popularised by Marcello Truzzi, through his Journal of Scientific Exploration, where he defined pseudoskeptics as those who take “the negative rather than an agnostic position but still call themselves ‘skeptics’” .”
- The tendency to deny, rather than doubt 
- Double standards in the application of criticism 
- The making of judgments without full inquiry 
- Tendency to discredit, rather than investigate 
- Use of ridicule or ad hominem attacks in lieu of arguments
- Pejorative labeling of proponents as ‘promoters’, ‘pseudoscientists’ or practitioners of ‘pathological science.’
- Presenting insufficient evidence or proof 
- Assuming criticism requires no burden of proof 
- Making unsubstantiated counter-claims 
- Counter-claims based on plausibility rather than empirical evidence 
- Suggesting that unconvincing evidence is grounds for dismissing it 
“This is why I prefer to call myself a zetetic (as did the late sociologist Marcello Truzzi) rather than a skeptic, perhaps especially because the term skeptical is being abused by organizations such as SI.
Here is how I see the difference: given paranormal claim A, there are three categories of people with regard to the claim.
True believers will accept A regardless of any evidence against it.
“Skeptics” like Shermer believe their job is to debunk or disprove it a priori because it cannot “possibly” be true.
The Zetetic, as Truzzi noted, neither accepts A uncritically nor assumes a priori that A cannot be, but simply keeps gathering the evidence which leans toward one possibility or the other.
Furthermore, the true zetetic is as SKEPTICAL of establishment science and claims as he is alternative views. It does not mean the establishment can’t be right, but it doesn’t mean that it must be, either.
As I view it, Forteans are Zetetics – not Skeptics or True Believers. And that is why I call myself both. And hate being labeled a True Believer, since, as John Keel declared, Belief is the Enemy. Or, as Robert Anton Wilson put it, Convictions Create Convicts.”
“Pyrrhonism, or Pyrrhonian skepticism, was a school of skepticism founded by Aenesidemus in the first century BC and recorded by Sextus Empiricus in the late 2nd century or early 3rd century AD. It was named after Pyrrho, a philosopher who lived from c. 360 to c. 270 BC, although the relationship between the philosophy of the school and of the historical figure is murky. Pyrrhonism has become influential during the past few centuries when the modern scientific worldview was born.
Whereas ‘academic’ skepticism, with as its most famous adherent Carneades, claims that “Nothing can be known, not even this”, Pyrrhonian skeptics withhold any assent with regard to non-evident propositions and remain in a state of perpetual inquiry. According to them, even the statement that nothing can be known is dogmatic.
For example, Pyrrhonians might assert that a lack of proof cannot constitute disproof, and that a lack of belief is vastly different from a state of active disbelief. Rather than disbelieving in God, psychic powers, etc. for instance, based on the lack of evidence of such things, Pyrrhonians recognize that we cannot be certain that new evidence won’t turn up in the future, and so they intentionally remain tentative and continue their inquiry. Pyrrhonians also question accepted knowledge, and view dogmatism as a disease of the mind.
A brief period in western history is referred to by philosophers as the Pyrrhonic Crisis, during the birth of modernity. In Feudal society absolute truth was provided by divine authority. However, as this fell from legitimacy, there was a brief lag before the enlightenment produced the nation-state and science as the new sources of absolute truth. Relativist views similar to those held in Pyrrhonism were popular among thinkers of the time.
“Truzzi founded the skeptical journal Explorations and was invited to be a founding member of the skeptic organization CSICOP. Truzzi’s journal became the official journal of CSICOP and was renamed The Zetetic, still under his editorship. About a year later, he left CSICOP after receiving a vote of no confidence from the group’s Executive Council. Truzzi wanted to include pro-paranormal people in the organization and pro-paranormal research in the journal, but CSICOP felt that there were already enough organizations and journals dedicated to the paranormal. Kendrick Frazier became the editor of CSICOP’s journal and the name was changed to Skeptical Inquirer.
After leaving CSICOP, Truzzi started another journal, the Zetetic Scholar. He promoted the term zeteticism as an alternative to skepticism, because the term skepticism, he thought, was being usurped by what he termed “pseudoskeptics“. A zetetic is a “skeptical seeker.” The term’s origins lie in the word for the followers of the skeptic Pyrrho in ancient Greece and was used by flat-earthers in the 19th century. Truzzi’s form of skepticism was pyrrhonism, as opposed to the Academic tradition founded by Plato, which is followed by most scientific skeptics.“
Charles Fort in 1920.
Some skeptics and critics have frequently called Fort credulous and naïve, a charge his supporters deny strongly. Over and over again in his writing, Fort rams home a few basic points that were decades ahead of mainstream scientific acceptance, and that are frequently forgotten in discussions of the history and philosophy of science:
- Fort often notes that the boundaries between science and pseudoscience are ‘fuzzy’: the boundary lines are not very well defined, and they might change over time.
- Fort also points out that whereas facts are objective, how facts are interpreted depends on who is doing the interpreting and in what context.
- Fort insisted that there is a strong sociological influence on what is considered ‘acceptable’ or ‘damned’ (see strong program in the sociology of scientific knowledge).
- Though he never used the term “magical thinking“, Fort offered many arguments and observations that are similar to the concept: he argued that most (if not all) people (including scientists) are at least occasionally guilty of irrational and “non scientific” thinking.
- Fort points out the problem of underdetermination: that the same data can sometimes be explained by more than one theory.
- Similarly, writer John Michell notes that “Fort gave several humorous instances of the same experiment yielding two different results, each one gratifying the experimenter.” Fort noted that if controlled experiments - a pillar of the scientific method - could produce such widely varying results depending on who conducted them, then the scientific method itself might be open to doubt, or at least to a degree of scrutiny rarely brought to bear. Since Fort’s death, scientists have recognized the “experimenter effect“, the tendency for experiments to tend to validate given preconceptions. Robert Rosenthal has conducted pioneering research on this and related subjects
Filed under: Philosophy | Tagged: Agnosticism, Committee for Surrealist Investigation of Claims o, critical paranoia, CSICON, Marcello Truzzi, pataphysics, patapsychology, pseudoskepticism, pyrrhonism, reality, Robert Anton Wilson, skepticism, surrealism, zeteticism | Leave a comment »