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Marcello Truzzi
Born September 6, 1935(1935-09-06)
Died February 2, 2003 (aged 67)
Occupation professor of sociology
Employer Eastern Michigan University
Known for CSICOP
Zetetic Scholar (journal)
International Remote Viewing Association (advisor)

Marcello Truzzi (September 6, 1935 – February 2, 2003) was a professor of sociology at New College of Florida and later at Eastern Michigan University, founding co-chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), a founder of the Society for Scientific Exploration, and director for the Center for Scientific Anomalies Research.[1]

Truzzi was an investigator of various protosciences and pseudosciences and, as fellow CSICOP cofounder Paul Kurtz dubbed him, "the skeptic's skeptic." He is credited with originating the oft-used phrase "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof."



Truzzi was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. His family, a group of circus performers, moved to the United States in 1944. His father, Massimiliano Truzzi, was an outstanding juggler. Truzzi served in the United States Army between 1958 and 1960. He became a naturalized citizen in 1961.

Truzzi founded the skeptical journal Explorations and was invited to be a founding member of the skeptic organization CSICOP as its co-chairman with Paul Kurtz. Truzzi's journal became the official journal of Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (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.

Zetetic Scholar journal founded by Marcello Truzzi.

After leaving CSICOP, Truzzi started another journal, the Zetetic Scholar.[2] 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 tradition strictly adhering to the established scientific method, which is followed by most scientific skeptics.[3]

Truzzi was skeptical of investigators and debunkers who determined the validity of a claim prior to investigation. He accused CSICOP of increasingly unscientific behavior, for which he coined the term pseudoskepticism. Truzzi stated:

They tend to block honest inquiry, in my opinion. Most of them are not agnostic toward claims of the paranormal; they are out to knock them. [...] When an experiment of the paranormal meets their requirements, then they move the goal posts. Then, if the experiment is reputable, they say it's a mere anomaly.

Truzzi held that CSICOP researchers sometimes also put unreasonable limits on the standards for proof regarding the study of anomalies and the paranormal. Martin Gardner writes: "In recent years he (Truzzi) has become a personal friend of Uri Geller; not that he believes Uri has psychic powers, as I understand it, but he admires Uri for having made a fortune by pretending he is not a magician."[4]

Truzzi co-authored a book on psychic detectives entitled The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime. It investigated many psychic detectives and concluded: "[W]e unearthed new evidence supporting both sides in the controversy. We hope to have shown that much of the debate has been extremely simplistic."[5] The book also stated that the evidence didn't meet the burden of proof demanded for such an extraordinary claim.[6]

Although he was very familiar with folie à deux, Truzzi was very confident a shared visual hallucination could not be skeptically examined by one of the participators. Thus he categorized it as an anomaly. In a 1982 interview Truzzi stated that controlled ESP (ganzfeld) experiments have "gotten the right results" maybe 60 percent of the time.[7] This question remains controversial. Truzzi remained an advisor to IRVA, the International Remote Viewing Association, from its founding meeting until his death.[8]

Truzzi died from cancer on February 2, 2003.


The term pseudoskepticism was popularized and characterized by Marcello Truzzi in response to skeptics who, in his opinion, made negative claims without bearing the burden of proof of those claims.[9]

While a Professor of Sociology at Eastern Michigan University in 1987, Truzzi gave the following description of pseudoskeptics in the journal Zetetic Scholar which he founded:

In science, the burden of proof falls upon the claimant; and the more extraordinary a claim, the heavier is the burden of proof demanded. The true skeptic takes an agnostic position, one that says the claim is not proved rather than disproved. He asserts that the claimant has not borne the burden of proof and that science must continue to build its cognitive map of reality without incorporating the extraordinary claim as a new "fact." Since the true skeptic does not assert a claim, he has no burden to prove anything. He just goes on using the established theories of "conventional science" as usual. But if a critic asserts that there is evidence for disproof, that he has a negative hypothesis—saying, for instance, that a seeming psi result was actually due to an artifact—he is making a claim and therefore also has to bear a burden of proof.

Marcello Truzzi, On Pseudo-Skepticism, Zetetic Scholar, 12/13, pp3-4, 1987

The term has found occasional use in fringe fields where opposition from those within the scientific mainstream or from scientific skeptics is strong. In 1994, Susan Blackmore, a parapsychologist who became more skeptical and eventually became a CSICOP fellow in 1991, described what she termed the "worst kind of pseudoskepticism":

There are some members of the skeptics’ groups who clearly believe they know the right answer prior to inquiry. They appear not to be interested in weighing alternatives, investigating strange claims, or trying out psychic experiences or altered states for themselves (heaven forbid!), but only in promoting their own particular belief structure and cohesion...I have to say it—most of these people are men. Indeed, I have not met a single woman of this type.[10]

Commenting on the labels "dogmatic" and "pathological" that the "Association for Skeptical Investigation"[11] puts on critics of paranormal investigations, Robert Todd Carroll of the Skeptic's Dictionary[12] argues that that association "is a group of pseudo-skeptical paranormal investigators and supporters who do not appreciate criticism of paranormal studies by truly genuine skeptics and critical thinkers. The only skepticism this group promotes is skepticism of critics and [their] criticisms of paranormal studies."[13]

"Extraordinary claims"

"And when such claims are extraordinary, that is, revolutionary in their implications for established scientific generalizations already accumulated and verified, we must demand extraordinary proof." (This statement is often abbreviated to "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.")

Editorial in The Zetetic (Vol. 1, No. 1, Fall/Winter 1976, p 4)

Truzzi is credited with originating the oft-used phrase "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof," which Carl Sagan then popularized as "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."[14] However, this is a rewording of a quote by Laplace which goes, "The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness."[15] This, in turn, may have been based on the statement "A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence" by David Hume.[14]

Books by Truzzi

  • Lyons, Arthur and Marcello Truzzi, The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime, The Mysterious Press, 1991. ISBN 0-89296-426-X.
  • Truzzi, Marcello (ed.). Chess in Literature, Avon, 1974. ISBN 0-380-00164-0.


  • Carroll, Robert Todd. "In Memoriam"
  • Coleman, Loren. "Marcello Truzzi, 67, Always Curious, Dies". 2003.
  • Kurtz, Paul. "Skeptical gadfly Marcello Truzzi - 1935-2003", Skeptical Inquirer, News and Comment - Obituary. May-June, 2003.
  • Martin, Douglas. "Marcello Truzzi, 67; Sociologist Who Studied the Supernatural, Dies". The New York Times, February 9, 2003, Section 1, page 44.
  • Mathis, Jo Collins. "Expert on the Paranormal Dies: Longtime EMU Sociology Professor Marcello Truzzi Explored 'Things That Go Bump in the Night'". Ann Arbor News, February 9, 2003.
  • Oliver, Myrna - "Professor Studied the Far-Out From Witchcraft to Psychic Powers". Los Angeles Times, February 11, 2003, Home Edition, p. B.11.
  • Smith, Paul H. - "Marcello Truzzi: In Memoriam"
  • "Marcello Truzzi, Sociologist was Student of Magic". Detroit News, February 12, 2003.

See also


  1. ^ Society for Scientific Exploration Founding Members
  2. ^ Zetetic Scholar archives
  3. ^ in memoriam Skeptics and Scientists
  4. ^ Skeptical Odysseys: Personal Accounts by the Leading Paranormal Inquirers edited by Paul Kurtz, Prometheus Books, 2001, p 360
  5. ^ Marcello Truzzi, The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime, The Mysterious Press, 1991., p. 284, paperback edition
  6. ^ Marcello Truzzi, The Blue Sense: Psychic Detectives and Crime, The Mysterious Press, 1991., p. 252, hardback edition
  7. ^ Marcello Truzzi, Detroit Free Press Science Page, 26 Oct 1982
  8. ^ About IRVA
  9. ^ Truzzi, Marcello (1987). "On Pseudo-Skepticism". Zetetic Scholar (12/13): 3–4. Retrieved 2008-10-10. 
  10. ^ JE Kennedy, "The Capricious, Actively Evasive, Unsustainable Nature of Psi: A Summary and Hypotheses", The Journal of Parapsychology, Volume 67, pp. 53–74, 2003. See Note 1 page 64 quoting Blackmore, S. J. (1994). Women skeptics. In L. Coly & R. White (Eds.), Women and parapsychology (pp. 234–236). New York: Parapsychology Foundation.
  11. ^ Association for Skeptical Investigation website
  12. ^ Skepdic article on positive pseudo-skeptics
  13. ^ Robert Todd Carroll "Internet Bunk: Skeptical Investigations." Skeptic's Dictionary
  14. ^ a b Paper
  15. ^ A sense of place in the heartland, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online

External links

Truzzi's writings

List of Marcello Truzzi's articles in The Zetetic Scholar



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