CICAP's activities

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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