CICAP, the Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims on the Paranormal, promotes a scientific and critical enquiry of supposed paranormal and mysterious phenomena
 
 

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CICAP
Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle Affermazioni sul paranormale


CICAP (Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal)
was born on January of 1989 thanks to the work of the scientific journalist
Piero Angela and many outstanding italian scientists, including three Nobel
Prize winners. For the occasion, Lorenzo Montali spent two months in
Buffalo at CSICOP headquarters to understand the working of the Committee
and its magazine and Massimo Polidoro lived for a year in Florida with
James Randi, the famous magician/investigator, to learn the art of "psychic
investigation".


Since its birth, the committee has conducted many investigations about
paranormal claims: poltergeists, crop circles, healers, psychic detectives,
ESP and PK, dowsing, astrology... all went under close scrutiny by the
members of CICAP and received attention from the national media. Three
members of the Committee: Sergio Della Sala (neurologist, Aberdeen
University), Luigi Garlaschelli (chemist, University of Pavia) and Franco
Ramaccini (independent researcher) received worldwide attention when their
research on the St. Januarius blood miracle was published by Nature
magazine.


Since 1991, CICAP holds an annual National Conference that attracts
hundreds of people and gets considerable publicity for the skeptics cause
by the media.


In 1992, CICAP hosted the IV Euroskeptics Convention in St. Vincent titled:
"What experimental evidence for paranormal claims?"? Among the speakers
invited: James Alcock, Henri Broch, Daniel "Chip" Denman, Ray Hyman, Paul
Kurtz, Jan W. Nienhuys, Basava Premanand, James Randi, Amardeo Sarma and
various researchers from Italy, including Cecilia Gatto-Trocchi
(antrophologist and author of a best-seller on magic belief), CICAP's
Vice-president Aldaberto Piazzoli (nuclear physicist, Univerisity of Pavia)
and Tullio Regge (physicist and member of the Europarliament).


In 1993, the theme for the National Convention was "Contacts with the other
side?". Luigi Garlaschelli presented his investigation on the famous
apports of the italian medium Roberto Setti; needless to say that the
reactions from the pro-paranormalists were very harsh. Massimo Polidoro,
as the "medium", presented a séance for the journalists which included
manifestations of all kinds, including the levitation of the medium.


On April 1st 1994, CICAP created the "Bufala d'oro" (Golden Blunder) prize
for paranormal claims (a sort of Uri and Pigasus prize): it caused quite a
rumor, especially thanks to the reactions of the winners: the BBC too was
interested in it and interviewed Steno Ferluga (astrophysicist, University
of Trieste) CICAP's president.


Big paranormal events have caught the attention of the media during 1995:
the weeping Madonna of Civitavecchia, the clamor over the tricks of a TV
hypnotist, the milk-drinking statues and the Alien autopsy.


However, for the first time in the last few years, skeptics have had a
large amount of space to present their point of view. For example, Cicap
member Luigi Garlaschelli, chemist at the University of Pavia, has become
very well known as an expert in miracles (see: "Miracles, the Italian Way",
by James Randi in Scientific American, feb. 1996) and has appeared in
countless tv shows and interviewed daily to explain how claimed miracles
may have natural explanations.


Steno Ferluga, president of Cicap and astronomist at the University of
Trieste, has become very well known to the public after his steady
participation to a popular tv show dedicated to the paranormal: Misteri.


This particular weekly tv show (which had previously been awarded our
Golden Blunder) has had as guests, for more than a year, many members of
Cicap, beside from Ferluga. Even if the space given to us was far smaller
than that given to the proponents of paranormal claims, we believe that our
participation in it has contributed a lot to the diffusion of Cicap's name
and goals among the public.


New skeptical books dealing with the paranormal are being published, and
this is something quite new: in 1978 Piero Angela published is very
successful Viaggio nel Mondo del Paranormale (Journey in the World of
Paranormal) and then nothing else has been done until now. Since 1995 over
60 skeptical books have been published in Italy thanks to CICAP's efforts.


CICAP members have also devoted a lot of time to the investigation of
psychics who willingly accepted to be tested by us at Pavia's University.
Cases like: the lady who could (not) see inside boxes, the man who did
(not) change the taste of wine, the medium with the moving table or the
psychic who thought she could impress psychic images on film proved to be
not only interesting and instructive but also entertaining.


As an example of how much the media can be interested in our point of view,
you should know that, on January 2 1996, we sent out a press release
dealing with the wrong predictions of psychics for 1995. The news obtained
an unexpected and welcome success: every single newspaper in Italy talked
about it (the second biggest one, La Repubblica, even put it on front page)
as almost all of the tv news and various talk shows did too.


For its 10th Anniversary Convetion, held in October 1999, the attention was
even stronger: almost a 1000 skeptics convened to Padua for three days
(including James Randi from the US, and various scientists and Italian
personalities, like Piero Angela and Umberto Eco). The media talked about
it for a couple of weeks: the Raiuno news team presented each day a
broadcast from the site.


In 1997 CICAP launched a fund raising campaign among our supporters to buy
a real headquarter for CICAP's offices. The campaign was successful and in
2000 CICAP was able to buy a two-floor office in Padua. The offices will
house CICAP's headquarter, Scienza & Paranormale editing offices, an
archive, a library and a warehouse.


It is only thanks to the generous work of many dedicated people that these
results are possible. And this, we think, is a direct consequence of the
fact that being skeptical is not only a healthy and socially useful
attitude, but can also be a lot of fun.


To know more about CICAP's development: http://www.csicop.org/genx/polidoro/

 

 



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