CSICon or CSIConference is an annual skeptical conference typically held in the United States. CSICon is hosted by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), which is a program of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). CSI publishes Skeptical Inquirer, subtitled The Magazine for Science and Reason.
CSI Executive Director Barry Karr speaking at CSICon 2011
|Genre||science and skepticism|
|Location(s)||Las Vegas since 2016|
|Attendance||500 in 2015|
|Organized by||Committee for Skeptical Inquiry|
1983–2005: CSICOP conferencesEdit
CSICon's current format stems from 2011, but similar conferences by CSI (until 2006 known as CSICOP, the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) go back as far as 1983, when the first was held at the State University of New York at Buffalo (SUNY). The second international CSICOP conference, themed "Paranormal Beliefs: Scientific Facts and Fictions", was held at Stanford University in 1984. The third, the first European CSICOP conference, was held at University College London in Britain, themed "Investigation and Belief".
Throughout the 1980s, the European readership of the Skeptical Inquirer was increasing, while CSICOP members James Randi and Paul Kurtz were visiting several European countries to help found national skeptical organizations with their own magazines. In 1989, the second European CSICOP conference occurred in Bad Tölz, Germany, co-organized by the GWUP and also known as the 1st European Skeptics Congress. It was followed by the formation of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations in 1994, that would henceforth host international skeptical conferences in Europe.
Subsequent CSICOP conferences were always held inside the United States. These included the First World Skeptics Congress at SUNY Buffalo (1996), "That’s Entertainment! Hollywood, the Media, and the Supernatural" with the Council for Media Integrity in Los Angeles (1998), "Science Meets 'Alternative Medicine'" in Philadelphia (1999) and others.
Around 2005, the CSICOP conferences that were on average held every year and a half, usually at a major American university in conjunction with the relevant faculties such as physics, psychology and philosophy, went into a seven-year hiatus. According to Kendrick Frazier, the organization struggled with its leadership, focus and future perspective, prompting amongst other things the 2006 renaming from CSICOP to CSI, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. In the meantime, the annual skeptical conference in Las Vegas, The Amaz!ng Meeting run by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), started to fill the gap and grew larger every year.
When CSI stabilized in 2011, it held its first newly styled CSICon in New Orleans, Louisiana. At this first CSICon, Planetary Society president Bill Nye was presented with the "In Praise of Reason" Award for his efforts in science communication with shows such as "Bill Nye the Science Guy" and later series and lectures. Bill Nye is a frequent speaker at the conference, with speaking slots in 2011 and 2013. He also attended the conference in a non speaker role in 2018.
At The Amaz!ng Meeting in 2011 (TAM 9) the Independent Investigations Group (IIG) organised a tribute to James Randi. The group gathered together with other attendees, put on fake white beards, and posed for a large group photo with Randi. At CSICon 2017, in absence of Randi, the IIG organised another group photo with leftover beards from the 2011 photo. After Randi was sent the photo, he replied, "I’m always very touched by any such expression. This is certainly no exception. You have my sincere gratitude. I suspect, however that a couple of those beards were fake. But I’m in a forgiving mood at the moment. I’m frankly very touched. I’ll see you at the next CSICon. Thank you all."
In October 2013, CSICon 3 was held as part of a larger CFI conference, including the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH), called the CFI Summit in Tacoma, Washington. This combined congress was an experiment, as some people like Ray Hyman and Daniel Loxton feared or argued the goals and focus of skepticism and humanism differed too much from each other to be discussed at a single conference.
On the other hand, Ronald A. Lindsay and Eddie Tabash defended the decision of a joint conference, and Susan Gerbic wrote afterwards she was "completely impressed" by how well the two camps overlapped (citing the creation–evolution controversy as the most important common ground), and "have to work together". In June 2015, again a joint CFI conference was organized under the banner "Reason for Change", with almost 500 people attending. Frazier opined that "[s]cientific skepticism and secularism/humanism blended fairly seamlessly" in Amherst, New York, the headquarters of CFI.
There are active efforts to bring more students to CSICon, such as by Oregonians for Science and Reason (O4SR) which in 2016  and 2017  gave three scholarships that included conference fees, travel, hotel and food costs.
One Skeptical Inquirer article covering the 2018 conference profiled volunteer Scott Romanowski, who also volunteered at TAM, while another noted a large number of first-time attendees, and included interviews with several of these people from around the world to gain perspective on what they experienced.
For the 2019 conference an effort was made to lower barriers for younger people to experience CSICon to encourage skeptical inquiry amongst a demographic largely absent from skeptical conferences. Susan Gerbic, Mark Edward, Kenny Biddle, John Anglin, Ron Lee and Stuart Vyse visited the Coral Academy of Science to talk to students shortly before and during the conference. The Skeptic community rallied around the cause and more than $4,000 was donated which paid for 16 students and 2 teachers to attend.
Sunday Morning Papers SessionEdit
One part of TAM that was carried over directly to CSICon is the Sunday Morning Papers Sessions. As described by Ray Hall, who has been in charge of vetting the Sunday Papers since TAM2 in 2002 and continued in that role for CSICon 2016, "The Sunday Papers are an opportunity for anyone with specific expertise to lend their skills to the [skeptical] movement . . . Proposals that make it to the stage have some or all of these characteristics: they are well researched (with citations), introduce new data and analysis, discuss successes in media outreach, and the speaker’s credentials are well matched to the content of the proposal." As Jay Diamond described them, "The Sunday Papers are 'best of' the skeptical community. Grassroots skeptics get fifteen minutes to discuss their passion, so they are concise and clear." Speakers are given a strict time limit of 15 minutes. According to Diamond, " It’s much easier to do an hour-long talk than fifteen minutes. For the short talk, you need to be very well rehearsed."
Rob Palmer wrote an article for the Skeptical Inquirer titled, "So, You Want To Speak At CSICon?" in which he describes his experience of applying for and being accepted as a speaker for the 2018 Sunday Morning Papers Session. The article is aimed at those who are "considering submitting a proposal for the chance to address the conference - or are even just curious as to what the application experience is like."
In 2016, the wide-ranging topics included Creationist attacks on genetic algorithms, Rh-negative blood types, Homeopathy, concussions in American football, teaching critical thinking in college, and chemtrails.
In 2017, the Sunday Papers presentations included teaching people to recognize pseudoscience, the history of phrenology and parallels to the current misuse of functional MRI, the influence of prayer on sports outcomes, the belief in the paranormal among university students, and a review of aberrant treatments promoted on naturopath websites.
In 2018, the Sunday Papers presentations included speakers from the US, Brazil, India, and Denmark:
- Politicization of Science: CAMs in the Brazilian Public Healthcare System, by Natália Pasternak Taschner
- Our Fight to Bring in the Anti-black Magic Law in India, by Shantanu Abhyankar
- Patented Woo: Why does the Patent Office issue patents on homeopathic “cures" and other pseudoscience?, by Rick McLeod
- Pseudoscience Ruins Adolescence: Myths About Sex, Drugs, and Self-Control, by Stephen Hupp
- Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia: Your Pathway to Skeptical Activism, by Rob Palmer
- The Harrit Syndrome: A New Explanation of Why and How People Become Evangelical Conspiracy Theorists, by Steen Svanholm & Claus Flodin Larsen
The 2019 Sunday Papers session consisted of five presentations, including two given by speakers from 2018 and one from the session moderator, Ray Hall:
- From Boob Tube to Woo Tube: A Method for Examining Science and Pseudoscience in Video Social Media, by Jessica E. Tuttle
- Belief in Psychics: What’s the Harm?, by Rob Palmer
- Brazilians Love and Support Science! Or is it Pseudoscience?, by Natália Pasternak Taschner
- The False Experts Among Us: Why Some (But Not All) Novices Exhibit the Dunning-Kruger Effect, by Kathleen Dyer
- Promoting Science on Social Media: Is the Public Willing to Believe Physics is Fun?, by Ray Hall
Indre Viskontas leading the Skepticism and the Media Panel CSICon 1
Joe Nickell as a zombie at CSICon 2
Massimo Polidoro participating in "The Investigators" panel at CSICon 2011 in New Orleans
Sharon Hill speaking about weird news at CSICon 2
Harriet Hall, a frequent CSICon speaker, in Tacoma 2013
Ron Lindsay "Why Skepticism?" 2016
Mini Skeptic's Toolbox 2016
Paul Offit "Opioids" lecture 2016
Science Moms panel discussion at CSICon in 2017
Julia Sweeney "Older and Wider" 2019
Leighann Lord 2019 CSICon emcee
- Frazier, Kendrick (September 2015). "'Reason for Change': Quacks and Cranks, GMOs and Climate, Science and Philosophy". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. 39 (5). Archived from the original on July 17, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- "The Conference Dedicated to Science and Skeptical Inquiry". CSIConference.org. CSI. Archived from the original on October 27, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- Adam Isaac (October 5, 2011). "CSICon – The Conference Dedicated To Scientific Inquiry And Critical Thinking". Point of Inquiry. CFI. Archived from the original on October 26, 2016. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
- Frazier, Kendrick (June 2001). "CSICOP Timeline". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. 25 (3). Archived from the original on February 23, 2017. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- Gábor Hraskó. "Earlier European skeptic events". Hungarian Skeptic Society. Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
- Frazier, Kendrick (March 2015). "Organized Skepticism: Four Decades ... and Today". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. 39 (2). Archived from the original on October 3, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- "Bill Nye Wins In Praise of Reason Award". CSI website. CSI. January 20, 2012. Archived from the original on September 17, 2016. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
- Palmer, Rob. "CSICon 2018: Meet the First-Timers". CSI. CFI. Retrieved 20 January 2019.
- Bob Smietana (October 26, 2012). "Skeptics, atheists share their doubts at conference". The Tennessean. Gannett Company.
- Frazier, Kendrick (March 2013). "Ideas and Insights, Inquiries and Investigations". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. 37 (2). Archived from the original on August 8, 2016. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
- Kyle Hill (November 14, 2012). "How Long Will a Lie Last? New Study Finds That False Memories Linger for Years". Scientific American Blog Network. Scientific American. Archived from the original on November 28, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- Gerbic, Susan. "CSICon Photo Tribute to James Randi". www.csicop.org. Retrieved 6 March 2019.
- Frazier, Kendrick (March 2014). "CFI Summit: Highlights. Skeptics, Humanists Come Together in Tacoma in First Joint Conference: Skepticism, Humanism, or Both?". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. 38 (2). Archived from the original on October 3, 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
- Gerbic, Susan (March 2014). "CFI Summit: Impressions. Conference Report". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. 38 (2). Archived from the original on November 8, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- Brian Dunning (March 19, 2016). "Are you frustrated that TAM & the JREF are no more, and the skeptical community has disintegrated?". Skeptoid blog. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
- Susan Gerbic (September 22, 2016). "From TAM to CSICon: An Interview with Ray Hall and Katie Dyer". CSI website. CSI. Archived from the original on October 25, 2016. Retrieved October 21, 2016.
- Gerbic, Susan. "Let's Bring More Students to CSICon - CSI". www.csicop.org. Archived from the original on 2017-02-13. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
- Gerbic, Susan. "2017 O4SR Scholarship Winners for CSICon - CSI". www.csicop.org. Archived from the original on 2018-04-25. Retrieved 2018-05-31.
- Gerbic, Susan (21 August 2018). "King Of Volunteers – An Interview With Scott Romanowski". Skeptical Inquirer. Archived from the original on 13 November 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
- Gerbic, Susan. "A Cunning Plan – Bringing Students to CSICon". Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved 5 December 2019.
- Gerbic, Susan. "Fifteen Minutes of Skepticism: The Sunday Papers, An Interview with Jay Diamond - CSICon Las Vegas". CSIConference.org. Archived from the original on February 11, 2017. Retrieved February 8, 2017.
- Palmer, Rob. "So, You Want To Speak At CSICon?". Skeptical Inquirer. Archived from the original on 21 November 2019. Retrieved 21 November 2019.
- Gerbic, Susan. "CSICon Las Vegas: "Go for the speakers, return for the people" - CSI". www.csicop.org. Archived from the original on 2017-02-13. Retrieved 2017-02-12.
- Gerbic, Susan. "CSICon Sunday Papers 2017". CSI. Center for Inquiry. Archived from the original on 15 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
- "CSICon 2018: Speakers and Schedule". CSIConfernce.org. CFI. Archived from the original on 10 October 2018. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
- "CSICon 2019". CSIconference.org. CFI. Archived from the original on 1 November 2019. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
- Palmer, Rob. "CSICon 2019: Meet The First-Timers". skepticalinquirer.org. Skeptical Inquirer. Archived from the original on 14 November 2019. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
- Lavarnway, Julia (March 2012). "CSICon New Orleans 2011 - Where Meeting Awesome Skeptics Is As Easy As Saying 'Hello'". Skeptical Inquirer. CSI. 36 (2). Archived from the original on October 10, 2016. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
- Lee Speigel (November 1, 2011). "UFO At NFL Game: TV Camera Captures Strange Object In Flight During Broadcast". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on October 26, 2016. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
- Barry Karr. "CSICon ad final". CSIConference.org. CSI. Archived from the original on October 26, 2016. Retrieved October 25, 2016.
- "CSICon Las Vegas: Speakers". CSIConference.org. CSI. Archived from the original on October 27, 2016. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
- "Ross Blocher at CSICon 2017". centerforinquiry.org. CFI. Archived from the original on 13 May 2019. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
- Randi, James. "Video message to CSICon attendees". Facebook. CSICon - Skeptical Inquirer Conference. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
- "CSICon Las Vegas 2017". CSICon Las Vegas 2017. Archived from the original on 6 May 2017. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
- Hupp, Stephen. "SIUE's Hupp Produces Skeptical Film Premiering this Weekend". SIUE.edu. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Archived from the original on 18 November 2017. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
- "CSICon Las Vegas 2018". CSICon Las Vegas 2018. Archived from the original on 2 May 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
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