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Asteroids Named for CSICOP and Founder Paul Kurtz

News & Comment

The Editors

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 20.5, September / October 1996

The contributions to public education of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) have earned both the organization and its founder, Paul Kurtz, cosmic honors. An asteroid has been named for CSICOP, and another asteroid has been named for Kurtz, a surprise announcement at CSICOP’s twentieth-anniversary conference revealed.

The honor to CSICOP recognizes its contributions to science education and skepticism and was timed to coincide with its twentieth birthday. The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the body that officially names asteroids, accelerated its procedures so that the names would be approved in time to be announced at the conference, says CSICOP scientific and technical consultant James McGaha, director of the Grasslands Observatory in Tucson. McGaha initiated the process and made the announcement at CSICOP’s Saturday night awards banquet, June 22. Kurtz, CSICOP’s founding chairman, was not told of either honor in advance.

CSICOP’s asteroid — its numerical designation is 1982 VA1 (6630) — was discovered November 15, 1982, by E. Bowell at the Anderson Mesa Station of Lowell Observatory. Although named for CSICOP, its actual name will apparently be ‘Skepticus,' from the Greek word for skeptic. McGaha says the IAU preferred that to an acronym. Here are the complete citations:

Skepticus 6630 CSICOP, U.S. Organization

Named for the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) on its 20th anniversary. CSICOP is a nonprofit education organization, founded in 1976 to investigate paranormal, occult, and fringe claims, using rigorous scientific methodology. Articles and reports generated by investigation are published in its journal The Skeptical Inquirer. CSICOP has spawned a grassroots movement of some seventy autonomous groups worldwide. Through public education and outreach, CSICOP has become a voice of reason to counter pseudoscience and superstition.

Kurtz 6629 U.S. Philosopher

Named in honor of Paul Kurtz (1925- ) of State University of New York at Buffalo. Kurtz is professor emeritus of philosophy, chairman and founder of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism, and founder and chairman of Prometheus Books. A noted author and philosopher, he has written over 30 books and 650 articles on philosophy, humanism, and skepticism. He has been influential in bringing philosophy back from a pure analytical study to a more activist stance. Kurtz actively promotes science and refutation of pseudoscience.

These asteroids join asteroids Gardner and Randi (for Martin Gardner and James Randi) among asteroids named after prominent skeptical authors and investigators. The designation of Randi’s asteroid came this spring.