CSICOP "Science Cops" at
War with Cold Fusion
(Originally Published January-February,
1999 In Infinite Energy Magazine Issue #23)
by Eugene F. Malove, Sc.D.
The collective wisdom of the so-called Committee
for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)
is that cold fusion and any other claim about an anomalous energy
source not taught in the sacred halls of academe is scientific
heresy worthy of mockery and rebuke. That is the message, by commission
and omission, that is conveyed in CSICOP's ritualistic debunking
of cold fusion and related low-energy transmutation discoveries.
(CSICOP has disdain for any other novel energy claims that may result,
for example, from Zero Point Energy (ZPE) tapping, but the organization
does not spend much time on these pejoratively labeled "perpetual
motion machines.") Since the cold fusion announcement in 1989, CSICOP's
main thrust in denying new energy sources has been to attack cold
fusion research. The abuse occurs in the organization's magazine
and in public pronouncements by some of CSICOP's dozens of
illustrious Fellows. The Fellows include five Nobel laureates, biologist-author
Steven Jay Gould, the late Carl Sagan, and Steve Allen, who is listed
as a "comedian, author, composer, pianist." Only a small number
of the Fellows are known to have attacked cold fusion. Carl Sagan,
to his credit, was relatively open-minded and polite compared to
others at CSICOP (see Infinite Energy, issue No. 20).
CSICOP, founded in 1976, is a non-profit organization
of several tens of thousands of individuals. It publishes the magazine
Skeptical Inquirer: The Magazine for Science and Reason.
This glossy, well-financed journal is now a bi-monthly publication;
before 1995 it was quarterly. Its current subscriber list is said
by CSICOP to be about 50,000 in 80 countries, and it is on newsstands.
It is undoubtedly very influential with the general media.
The current financial appeal by CSICOP to raise $10
million for its "Fund for the Future" states that CSICOP ". . .is
universally acknowledged as the media's foremost source of objective,
scientific expertise on paranormal matters. More than 35 autonomous
local groups amplify the skeptical message across the U.S., along
with more than 40 autonomous national skeptic groups abroad, publishing
some 19 magazines and journals in nine languages."
CSICOP's world headquarters is in Amherst, New York
where it has a facility dubbed "Center for Inquiry-International."
CSICOP is affiliated with the Council for Secular Humanism, publisher
of Free Inquiry magazine a journal that specializes in criticizing
religions (organized and otherwise) and mystical beliefs in general what
CSICOP founder Paul Kurtz calls "the transcendental temptation."
The Center for Inquiry "Fund for the Future" is a joint venture
by CSICOP and Council for Secular Humanism to raise $20 million
in endowment funds $10 million of that intended for CSICOP.
CSICOP's purpose is succinctly stated on Skeptical
Inquirer's cover: "The Committee for the Scientific Investigation
of Claims of the Paranormal encourages the critical investigation
of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific
point of view and disseminates factual information about the results
of such inquiries to the scientific community, the media, and the
public. It also promotes science and scientific inquiry, critical
thinking, science education, and the use of reason in examining
important issues. To carry out these objectives the Committee: sponsors
publications; conducts public outreach efforts; maintains an international
network of people and groups interested in critically examining
paranormal, fringe science, and other claims, and in contributing
to consumer education; encourages research by objective and impartial
inquiry in areas where it is needed; convenes conferences and meetings;
conducts educational programs at all age levels; does not reject
claims on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry, but examines
them objectively and carefully."
All this sounds very high-minded and fair, a policy
with which any good scientist might agree. That is, if CSICOP and
its journal were really faithful to these governing principles.
Unfortunately, virtually from the outset in 1976, CSICOP became
a politicized debunking organization. Its tiresome agenda is to
assault, often with a barrage of often bogus or flawed "studies"
and mockery, any and all scientific heresies that do not adhere
to currently accepted theories of physics, chemistry, and medicine.
Of all the claimed non-scientific heresies that CSICOP
rails against, several occupy most of the Skeptical Inquirer's
fire-power. Its favorite whipping boys are: alternative medicine;
UFO sightings and alien abduction claims; all paranormal claims
involving extrasensory perception and psychokinesis; astrology;
"creation science" and, for good measure, the activities of any
and all religious or spiritual groups especially those outside
"mainstream" organized religion.
In the early 1980s, when out of curiosity I began
subscribing to The Skeptical Inquirer, I was inclined to
take at face value some of the magazine's articles on investigations
of paranormal claims and "fringe science" claims. Some of these
"investigations" I already recognized were obvious hatchet jobs
by individuals bent on dismissing all evidence based on "this
cannot be" paradigms, rather than on objective examination of evidence.
For example, the cavalier, arrogant rejection by Philip J. Klass
of the entire body of UFO evidence.
Later, when the cold fusion crisis emerged in 1989
and I witnessed first hand at MIT the bigotry and anti-scientific
hysteria of the opponents of cold fusion investigation, I was taken
aback by wanton disregard of the then growing body of experimental
evidence supporting the emerging phenomenon. Even though the microphysical
explanation then (and now) is a matter of disagreement among cold
fusion scientists, the evidence for nuclear-scale excess energy
production and various forms of nuclear ash is now very well established
in a variety of hydrogen-metal systems. This has been true at least
since 1991. But displaying its true colors, CSICOP early on joined
the chorus of knee-jerk cold fusion critics.
I still examine each article in SI on a case-by-case
basis. But overall my view is that CSICOP, as an organization, could
do much to increase its intellectual credibility. In effect, CSICOP
appears to be an organized religion for the paradigm-paralyzed.
These are philosophers, journalists, and so-called scientists who
are so convinced of the solidity of currently accepted paradigms
in physics, that they truly cannot tolerate the idea that radical
modifications to physical theory might be necessary to account for
new experimental findings. CSICOP is theory-driven, not experiment
driven its protests for being so-characterized notwithstanding.
It might be considered natural for the "science cops"
of CSICOP to feel comfortable debunking the statistical results
of parapsychology experiments or mocking unusual religious viewpoints.
But it boggles the mind that CSICOP would have the audacity to conduct
warfare against a hard physical science area cold fusion for which
there currently exist numerous scientific papers in the peer-reviewed
and non-peer-reviewed literature.
It is remarkable and revealing that CSICOP uses the
term "fringe science" at all in its statement of purpose. Any good
student of the history of science must realize that virtually all
major scientific discoveries were initially "fringe science." Anomalies
and radical scientific ideas that have turned out to be valid, have
routinely been ridiculed before their acceptance by established
science. I presume CSICOP considers cold fusion to be "fringe science."
For the purposes of this column, let us set aside
CSICOP's dismissive treatment of alternative medicine, UFO claims,
ESP, and the like, and focus on an area with which we at Infinite
Energy claim considerable expertise cold fusion. Perhaps by
seeing how improperly CSICOP treats this area, one might be concerned
that the organization's handling of other heretical topics could
be similarly distorted.
The claim by CSICOP that it "does not reject claims
on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry, but examines
them objectively and carefully," is in my opinion a intellectual
fraud in the case of its editorial stance on cold fusion. If CSICOP's
claim of "objective examination" were true concerning cold fusion,
one would have expected its members to delve deeply into the scientific
papers on cold fusion published in peer-reviewed and non-peer-reviewed
journals. We would have expected them to discuss what fundamental
errors they have found in these scientific papers. Instead, we find
essentially no such discussions within CSICOP's journal except for
highly flawed discussions of the early history of the field as
though the science stopped in 1989 with the U.S. Department of Energy's
In the case of cold fusion and related energy and
transmutation claims, it is absolutely clear that CSICOP's lack
of scientific investigation constitutes intellectual fraud. CSICOP
members who do not consider themselves mere propagandists against
cold fusion, as some of CSICOP's better known members have demonstrably
been, should have second thoughts about CSICOP's editorial position.
In the very latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer
(January/February 1999, Vol. 23, No. 1), we find a typical unsupported
attack against cold fusion. It is buried in a lengthy statement
about "Science and Pseudoscience" by a leading Russian organizer,
physicist Sergei Kapitza (Vice President of the Russian Academy
of Natural Science). Skeptical Inquirer's editor, journalist
Kendrick Frazier, wrote or let pass this introduction to Kapitza's
statement: "With the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent
profound economic crisis, science in Russia is in a difficult state.
The rampant social disruption has been accompanied by a veritable
flood of pseudoscience. The rise of irrationality and decline of
reason may also be part of a wider global trend."
In Kapitza's statement that follows we find this paragraph:
"Pseudoscience is even observable in high
levels of the academic establishment. A well-known mathematician
is publicizing for a new chronology of world history where there
is no place for the Middle Ages and a thousand years of history
are thrown out. . . these works are published and discussed in mass
media. Work on cold fusion and other marginal effects are supported
and publicized, for the level of expertise and often the great persuasive
power of these pseudoscientists leads to the support of their ideas.
[Editor's Note: Our Italics.] Where then are the limits
of public debate and of professional honesty? Or is this all a transient
phenomenon? Out of chaos will a new order finally come? These are
not easy issues to resolve. Time and again the public is persuaded,
if not fooled, on important matters of professional interest, often
amplified by the media."
Kapitza is listed on the roster of CSICOP Fellows
and for ten years he was "in charge of the Russian edition of Scientific
So, Kapitza says that cold fusion is "pseudoscience"
and he alludes to "limits of public debate." Does he, like his CSICOP
brethren outside Russia, want "pseudoscience" like cold fusion expunged
from public discussion? Apparently. I would ask Kapitza: Where are
your limits of "professional honesty"? Do you have any? Have
you read the cold fusion literature published by your scientific
colleagues in Russia, or is it just your habit to fling bigoted
words toward experimental results that you have not examined? Have
you attended international cold fusion conferences? Have you attended
the cold fusion conferences in Belarus? We know you haven't, so
why not just hold your peace on this matter refrain from claiming
to be knowledgeable on the important scientific issue of cold fusion.
Lack of intellectual curiosity (or is it lack of integrity?)
is common among the leadership of CSICOP in the matter of cold fusion.
On the morning of July 14, 1998, I called Skeptical Inquirer's
editor, Kendrick Frazier, to ask him, among other things, what research
or literature search he had done on cold fusion. He rebuffed me,
saying that he was too busy to talk, because he was on deadline
on an editorial project. We spoke briefly; he was transparently
irritated. He said, "I know who you are." He said that he did not
want to talk with me because, "We would have diametrically opposed
views." I said, "Oh, what research have you done to come to your
conclusions about cold fusion." I had thought that the careful investigation
of "diametrically opposed views" was part of the work of CSICOP.
Perhaps I was mistaken. Frazier said, "I am not an investigator,
I am an editor." The conversation ended with Frazier stating that
he had nothing further to say. I would have thought that CSICOP's
journal editor should have been delighted to have a conversation
with the "other side." He could then cite his exchange as part of
CSICOP's "research by objective and impartial inquiry in areas where
it is needed."
I note that we have extended to CSICOP a continuing
complimentary subscription to Infinite Energy as we
often do to other influential national media. CSICOP's library has
been receiving IE almost since our magazine's inception.
Now in 1998 I have extended to editor Frazier himself a complimentary
subscription directly to his New Mexico address. Prior to
my phone conversation with Frazier, I had told the person who answered
the phone that Frazier should contact cold fusion scientists in
New Mexico Dr. Edmund Storms, formerly of Los Alamos National
Laboratory (LANL); Dr. Tom Claytor, still at LANL; and Dr. Dennis
Cravens. She took down their names. None of these people were contacted
by Frazier-not that I am surprised. This is part of the intellectual
bankruptcy of CSICOP, its Fellows, and its science journalist editor.
In SI's July/August 1998 issue (Vol. 22, No.
4), Frazier highlights two items from Robert Park's American Physical
Society "What's New" electronic newsletter. The banner headline
of the piece (signed by Frazier) is "APS Worries about Nonsense
in Name of Science-Cold Fusion Transforms Again." Park's April 17
barb against cold fusion follows his note about the "alarming spread
of nonsense calling itself science." Park: "Cold Fusion-7: Vancouver
meeting reports more than heat The preferred term among believers
is now 'chemically assisted nuclear reactions.' Nowadays it seems
to transmute gold into base metals, neutralizes radioactivity, and
works fine with ordinary water. We note that the probability of
N miracles is equal to the probability of one miracle to the Nth
power." If SI readers imagine they are getting the straight
story about cold fusion from thoughtless assaults such as Park's,
they are mistaken.
To review some of the attacks on cold fusion by other
From magician James Randi, a long-time CSICOP member
and founder: "The 'cold fusion' farce should have been tossed into
the trash heap long ago, but justifiable fear of legal actions by
offended supporters has stifled opponents. . . cold fusion is a
dead duck, the earth is not flat, and the fault lies not in our
stars, but in ourselves." (From American Physical Society News,
June 1994). Leap to SI July/August 1998 (Vol. 22, No. 4)
and we find a report on Randi's latest "Pigasus Awards," one to
ABC-TV News "for their unquestioning and enthusiastic endorsement
of 'cold fusion,' ESP. . .[etc.] and all sorts of junk science.
. . [blah, blah, blah]." We profiled Randi's nonsense in "Words
to Eat" (IE No. 20).
Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman, another Fellow of CSICOP:
"If those university of Utah chemists who thought they had discovered
cold fusion had understood Faraday's law of electrolysis better,
perhaps they would never have embarrassed themselves as well as
the rest of us." (In The God Particle, by Lederman and Teresi,
1993), See Words to Eat IE No. 21.
CSICOP Fellow, Nobel Laureate Glenn Seaborg played
a major role in getting the U.S. DoE and the scientific community
at large off on the wrong foot in 1989. By his own admission, on
April 14, 1989 (Only three weeks after the Utah announcement!),
Seaborg told President Bush in the Oval Office of the White House,
". . . it is not due to nuclear fusion, but on the other hand it
must be investigated." Thus was launched the sham investigation
by the DoE, leading to its rush-to-judgement negative report only
several months later. CSICOP editor Frazier is apparently so enthralled
by his Nobel Laureate Fellows that he had no problem with this Seaborg
statement on its face a bald-faced admission of "rejecting
claims on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry," contravening
the supposed principles of CSICOP. These words appeared in Skeptical
Inquirer's November/December 1997 (Vol. 21, No. 6) interview
profile of Seaborg, "The Elemental Man." (See IE No. 15/16,
p. 3, pp. 66-67).
Another CSICOP Fellow, John Maddox, editor emeritus
of Nature magazine, played a major role in unleashing anti-scientific
bigotry against cold fusion. He wrote slanderous editorials. Violating
all the canons of scientific ethics, while Maddox was editor Nature
refused to publish scientific correspondence from several Ph.D.
electrochemists that criticized precise mathematical and procedural
points in the allegedly null-results in Caltech's cold fusion calorimetry,
which had been published in Nature. (The devastating correspondence
was subsequently published in several other peer-reviewed journals,
thus circumventing Nature's unethical suppression of scientific
discourse about its own publication.) This was not surprising with
Maddox at the helm. Early on Maddox had written: "It seems the time
has come to dismiss cold fusion as an illusion of the past four
months or so." (July 6, 1989, Nature). "I think that, broadly
speaking, it's dead, and will remain dead for a long, long time."
(1991, in the NOVA television program "Confusion in a Jar." See
IE No. 18, "Words to Eat.")
CSICOP Fellow, Nobel Laureate Murray Gell-Mann, had
this to say at a public forum (lecture at Portland State University,
as reported in IE No. 19, p. 47). in 1998: "It's a bunch
of baloney. Cold fusion is theoretically impossible, and there are
no experimental findings that indicate it exists."
Though CSICOP's Fellows are among the leading people
who trash cold fusion research, it is interesting that cold fusion
has not so regularly come under fire in the Skeptical Inquirer's
pages certainly not in the manner that other heresies come
in for ritual brutality. Perhaps there is a conscious or subconscious
awareness that CSICOP figureheads are in no position to adequately
judge cold fusion? But I fear that gives them too much credit! CSICOP
members could not possibly be unaware that many scientists continue
to perform cold fusion research, participate in international meetings,
and even engage in commercial activities involving cold fusion energy
and low-energy transmutation. The glib CSICOP explanation for these
continued studies and activities is, of course, "pathological science."
Still, whenever there is a tid-bit of ironic cold
fusion bashing to purvey, Skeptical Inquirer obliges. A sampling:
In SI May/June 1998 (Vol. 22, No. 3) Kendrick
Frazier, ignorant of the quality and magnitude of the scientific
effort in cold fusion physics, and unwilling even to contact cold
fusion scientists who live near him, makes hay over the University
of Utah's abandonment of its cold fusion patent application. He
does not tell his audience, of course, of the reason for this Utah
action: the U.S. Patent Office's killing of the Pons-Fleischmann
patent on spurious grounds a matter that we have discussed
extensively in Infinite Energy (see in particular IE
No. 11). Frazier's signed News and Comment is bannered, "Cold
Fusion Saga Ends at Its University of Utah Birthplace." Frazier
is in no position to discuss the end of anything in cold
fusion, but of course his propaganda no doubt delights CSICOP "true
believer" skeptics. He labels cold fusion scientists "remaining
die-hard devotees." He cites the 1989 DoE report like a mantra and
says, "With only a few exceptions, the results [of initial cold
fusion attempts at confirmation] were negative. The claims did not
In SI January/February 1998 (Vol. 22, No. 1),
we have science writer Robert Scheaffer, whose "beat" is usually
UFO debunking, mocking one of the world's greatest electrochemists:
"Another advance in science receiving belated recognition involves
Professor John Bockris of Texas A&M University, who was recently
awarded the celebrated Ig Nobel Prize for Physics by the Annals
of Improbable Research at Harvard. Bockris is a leading researcher
in the field of cold fusion, whose accomplishments have been prominently
featured in Infinite Energy magazine. However, the prize
was actually awarded for his experiments demonstrating the chemical
transmutation of base metals to gold. Bockris did not travel to
Cambridge to pick up his prize."
In SI May/June 1997 (Vol. 21, No. 3), New Mexico
colleague of SI editor Frazier, John Geohegan, president
of the CSICOP affiliate, New Mexicans for Science and Reason, praises
the John Stossel program on ABC Television ("Junk Science," January
9, 1997). He begins with, "What a pleasure it is to see responsible
treatment of science and pseudoscience on network television." He
praised Stossel's treatment of cold fusion: "Next came an analysis
of incentives for scientists to jump to the wrong conclusions: greed;
powerful empires wishing to control science; fame and glory, as
in the case of cold fusion. . ." Gee, "powerful empires wishing
to control science"? For a moment I thought Schaeffer was talking
about the hot fusion program, whose members at MIT and Princeton
played such key roles in assaulting cold fusion! Stossel's journalistic
travesty, by the way, was dissected in Infinite Energy, No.
Ironically, Kendrick Frazier began Skeptical Inquirer's
coverage of cold fusion in the Summer 1989 (Vol. 13, No. 4) issue
with a relatively balanced appraisal, in part: "The case, it seemed,
could turn out to be an epochal scientific achievement of overarching
importance, or it could turn out to be an artifact, a mistake, or
a delusion. Or perhaps it could be something in between, some previously
unknown reaction that is new and important, but less significant
scientifically and practically than originally claimed." Frazier
signed off that article on May 2, 1989-the day after MIT Plasma
Fusion Center's planted a story in the Boston Herald alleging
that cold fusion was "scientific shlock" and "maybe fraud."
Frazier was even then beginning to buy onto the emerging
propaganda line against cold fusion by MIT hot fusioneers and their
Caltech colleagues: "By early May, with several major research institutions
reporting negative results in their own experiments and serious
flaws in the Utah ones, the balance seemed to tip strongly against
the Utah results." It was downhill from there with Frazier at the
Editor Frazier had not a word about cold fusion
in the next issue Fall 1989 (Vol. 14, No. 1) nothing, in fact
until the Winter 1990 issue (Vol. 14, No. 2), therefore a significant
gap in coverage in the crucial first phase of the cold fusion controversy.
In this Winter 1990 issue we find Milton Rothman's "Cold Fusion:
A Case History in 'Wishful Science'?" He concluded: ". . . overenthusiasm
and apparent greed and hubris changed a minor event into a major
embarrassment for all of science. The manner in which scientists
are perceived by the public has been diminished by this affair."
In the Fall 1990 issue (Vol. 15, No.1), Frazier noted
that Gary Taubes had an article in Science magazine (June
15, 1990) in which, Frazier said: " [It]openly discusses for the
first time questions that have been raised about the possibility
that the tritium [in Texas A&M University cold fusion experiments]
may have resulted from, if not inadvertent contamination, 'something
more insidious.' Reports that researchers both at A&M and elsewhere
have asked that questions about 'possible fraud' be resolved." Quoting
Taubes approvingly, he wrote that the episode. . . "has become a
case study in the damage done when questions of fraud, legitimately
raised, are not seriously addressed by either the lab chief or his
institution." Just to be sure everyone got the point, Frazier cited
the Taubes article again in the Winter 1991 issue (Vol. 15,
No. 2), and for good measure cited the negative conclusions of the
U.S. DoE cold fusion final report.
Frazier, in all the tawdry pages of CSICOP's subsequent
cold fusion coverage has never told his readers that the "fraud"
allegation by character-assassinating journalist Taubes was officially
found to be false. It was disproved by real scientists. Frazier
has never informed his readers that there were subsequent publications
by others in peer-reviewed journals, compellingly proving the production
of tritium in cold fusion experiments. Yes, nothing excites CSICOP
people more than the word "fraud" for claimed phenomena that don't
fit their paradigms.
By the spring of 1991 (Vol. 15, No. 3), Frazier had
"gone all the way." He quotes approvingly an article by journalist
Bill Broad of the New York Times (October 30, 1990), "Cold
fusion Still Escapes Usual Checks in Science": "Excellent report
on the cold fusion debacle, focusing on why the conventional checking
mechanisms of science apparently failed to resolve the issue decisively
enough and how the process of science 'can be subverted by dedicated
mavericks who defy the canon's of science."
This is by no means an exhaustive listing of all the
ignorant insults flung at cold fusion research in the pages of Skeptical
Inquirer, but I should mention that my book Fire from Ice:
Searching for the Truth Behind the Cold Fusion Furor (Wiley,
1991) was, as expected, unfavorably reviewed. NASA physicist Steven
N. Shore published his review in the SI spring 1992 issue.
(Frank Close's Too Hot to Handle, 1991 had been favorably
reviewed two issues earlier.) Shore's review appeared under the
line: "Seeking 'Resurrection' for Cold Fusion." He concluded: "If
you want to see the other side of this issue, and to have a very
clear look at the way that science can be distorted in its presentation,
then Mallove's book is essential reading."
If it is an honor to be attacked by science bigots
such as Shore who never took the time to study the archival papers
or attend scientific meetings on cold fusion, I am honored. On the
other hand, I prefer what Nobel Laureate Julian Schwinger (who was
maligned for his cold fusion theorizing) had to say about Fire
from Ice on the book's jacket: "Eugene Mallove has produced
a sorely needed, accessible overview of the cold fusion muddle.
By sweeping away stubbornly held preconceptions, he bares the truth
implicit in a provocative variety of experiments."
Frazier promoted John Huizenga's book Cold Fusion:
The Scientific Fiasco of the Century (University of Rochester
Press, 1992), quoting favorably Huizenga's bottom line: "The cold
fusion fiasco illustrates once again, as N-rays and polywater have
done earlier, that the scientific process works by exposing and
correcting its own errors."
Yes, indeed, Frazier et al. are being corrected
even as we speak, in laboratories worldwide. Unfortunately, as these
true believer skeptics are being corrected, their mouths and fingers
operate open-loop, powered by brains apparently devoid of scientific
curiosity. In the matter of cold fusion, the twitching corpse of
skepticism run amok-the egregious malfeasance of Skeptical Inquirer
and CSICOP- is all too evident.
Kendrick Frazier's subsequent and continuing intellectual
fraud in Skeptical Inquirer's coverage of cold fusion is
commensurate with the smear of outstanding scientists such as Prof.
John Bockris by journalist Gary Taubes. For some time we expect
it will continue to be "case closed" on cold fusion for the pontificating,
fact-avoiding science cops at CSICOP. In the pages of SI
more knives will no doubt come out, wielded by the professional
debunkers of cold fusion. These are the pathological skeptics, who
solemnly intone about "pathological science," "wishful thinking,"
and "fraud." In due course, these hypocrites at CSICOP and their
allies will receive long-overdue recognition as betrayers of the
truth. Science will correct them.