CICAP

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Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle Affermazioni sulle Pseudoscienze
CICAP.png
Abbreviation CICAP
Formation 1989
Type NGO
Purpose Scientific skepticism
Location
Region served Italy
Official language Italian
Executive Director Massimo Polidoro
Affiliations European Council of Skeptical Organizations
Website www.cicap.org

CICAP (Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle Affermazioni sulle Pseudoscienze; in English Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Pseudosciences) is an Italian, non-profit, skeptic educational organization, founded in 1989. CICAP's main goals are the promotion of the scientific analysis of alleged paranormal and pseudoscientific phenomena.[1] It is a member of the European Council of Skeptical Organizations.[2]

History[edit]

CICAP was started by the Italian science journalist Piero Angela together with a group of scientists including Luigi Garlaschelli and others. The first attempt at creating an organization that investigates alleged paranormal phenomena in Italy dates back to 1978, only two years after the founding of CSICOP (today CFI), when following Piero Angela’s television show Indagine sulla parapsicologia (Inquiry on Parapsychology), 22 scientists and researchers of various disciplines released a common declaration calling for the establishment of a committee for the examination of alleged paranormal phenomena.[3]

Piero Angela, national convention of CICAP (2001)

The initiative didn't come into being until 1987-1988, when Piero Angela organized numerous meetings amongst the Italian subscribers of Skeptical Inquirer magazine that terminated with a meeting in Turin on October 9, 1988. During the meeting, the association’s goals and objectives were defined along with the name for the committee: Comitato italiano per il controllo delle affermazioni sul paranormale (Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), chosen because the acronym “CICAP” resembled “check-up” in English.[4][5]

The Committee was formalized on June 12, 1989. Lorenzo Montali was appointed executive director and Massimo Polidoro the director of the association’s magazine. Two Nobel Prize laureates are or have been members: Carlo Rubbia and Rita Levi Montalcini. Other notable members include the philosopher, semiotician and novelist Umberto Eco.[6] As of 2009, the executive director is Italian skeptic investigator and writer Massimo Polidoro.[7]

In the beginning, CICAP was primarily concerned with parapsychology (telepathy, psychokinesis, etc.). With time, CICAP began branching out into other areas of pseudoscience (such as alternative medicine), both historical (such as those involving dragons or the sword in the rock) and above all, contemporary legends (urban legends).[5] The rise in popularity of other pseudoscientific phenomena prompted the organization to change its name.[4] In September 2013, CICAP announced a change in its name altering the P of the acronym from paranormale (paranormal) to pseudoscienze (pseudosciences).[8] The new name includes not only supernatural phenomena, but also pseudoscientific ideas and claims regarding treatments whose efficacy is not scientifically proven, conspiracy theories, urban legends and historical falsifications.

A short list of CICAP investigations during its history includes verifying astrological predictions, powers of magicians, dowsers, healers and fakirs, UFOs, the blood of St.Januarius and contacts with the afterlife. CICAP also deals with verifying astrological predictions.[9] In fact, every December, it collects a sample of astrological predictions made by astrologers and clairvoyants during the year and publishes a year-end report on the outcomes of the predictions. Since 2009, CICAP organizes an annual “Anti-Superstition” day in various cities during a Friday the 17th.[10][11]

The organization has always worked closely with Italian media to help insure accurate coverage of paranormal topics.[12]

In October 2004, CICAP and the CSI co-sponsored a World Skeptics Congress in Italy.[13]

CICAP's Logo is based on the grid illusion. Designed in 1992 by Franco Ramaccini, was amended in 2009 with the inclusion of the words, "Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle Affermazioni sul Paranormale".[3]

Goals and objectives[edit]

CICAP’s objectives include investigating the authenticity of “mysteries”, alleged paranormal and pseudoscientific phenomena in the media and disseminating the results of these investigations through meetings, conferences and publications.[1] Through the dissemination of this information, CICAP aims to encourage the diffusion of the scientific method and critical thinking; that is to promote rational thinking. "Polidoro envisions CICAP's main role as 'letting people have all the facts, so they can make up their mind. We are not trying to convert people. Often people are asking questions about cases that have already been solved. We are trying to give information to people.'"[12]

Scope[edit]

Marta Annunziata fire-walking

The subject matters investigated by CICAP [9] can be divided into three categories:

Method[edit]

CICAP applies rational skepticism in its activities that is the criterion by which every empirical statement to be believed, is in need of experimental verification. CICAP applies the scientific method to its investigations.[3] CICAP often employs the collaboration of magicians in its investigations to ascertain the possible use of tricks. For example, Silvan is a CICAP sympathizer and has collaborated with CICAP in some of its initiatives.

Limits[edit]

CICAP does not cover metaphysics, in particular religion and faith, because these phenomena cannot be studied scientifically. CICAP investigates religious claims regarding material manifestations such as relics or the St. Janarius blood miracle in Naples because these phenomena are subject to scientific examination.[14] CICAP is interested in informing the public. Its members have different religious and political beliefs, but they all agree that alleged pseudoscientific phenomena must be investigated and the results publicized.[3]

Organization[edit]

From the left: Francesco Grassi, Marino Franzosi, Beatrice Mautino, Piero Angela, Marta Annunziata, Paolo Attivissimo, Francesca Guizzo, Steno Ferluga, Massimo Polidoro, Luigi Garlaschelli, Paola De Gobbi

The association is self-financed [15] and its supporting members are its only sustaining force as shown in the fundraising campaign implemented in early 2000: “Progetto CICAP 2000” (Project CICAP 2000) whose aim was to give the committee a permanent headquarters. The goal was to raise the 300 million lire for the acquisition of the necessary infrastructure. The goal was achieved and the office space was purchased in Padua. Curious, given that his fortune was based on the artistic and literary paranormal, was the adhesion of Tiziano Sclavi, who contributed five million lire. Sclavi is in fact a supporter of CICAP and declared that the occult and paranormal are great in fiction but that reality is a whole other thing.[16]

The national headquarters is located in Padua while the bulk of the outreach activities and the national press archive are located in Turin. Some regions have local groups or chapters[15] with their own CICAP branches. Currently, there are local groups in Abruzzo-Molise, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Liguria, Lombardy, Piedmont, Apulia, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto. Furthermore there is a local group in Canton Ticino, Switzerland.

CICAP Members:[3]
Honorary members Umberto Eco, Carlo Rubbia
Scientific guarantors Edoardo Boncinelli, Silvio Garattini, Umberto Veronesi
Presidents Emeriti Steno Ferluga, Adalberto Piazzoli
Steering Committee Sergio Della Sala (President), Lorenzo Montali (Vice President), Massimo Polidoro (Executive Director), Marino Franzosi (Treasurer), Andrea Ferrero (Education Supervisor)
Active Members Piero Angela, Stefano Bagnasco, Paola De Gobbi, Silvano Fuso, Luigi Garlaschelli, Francesco Grassi, Beatrice Mautino, Marco Morocutti
On behalf of the local groups Marta Annunziata
Contributing Members Luciano Arcuri, Cesare Baj, Piero Bianucci, Riccardo Luccio, Danilo Mainardi, Claudio Marciano, Piergiorgio Odifreddi, Silvan, Roberto Vacca
Scientific and technical advisers Andrea Albini, Edoardo Altomare, Simone Angioni, Paolo Attivissimo, Matteo Borrini, Francesco Chiminello, Marco Ciardi, Gianni Comoretto, Diego Cuoghi, Sergio De Santis, Armando De Vincentiis, Giorgio Dobrilla, Mariapiera Marenzana, Ennio Peres, Massimo Picozzi, Telmo Pievani, Matteo Rampin, Gian Marco Rinaldi, Paolo Russo, Enrico Scalas, Galeazzo Sciarretta, Mariano Tomatis Antoniono, Giacomo Torzo, Paolo Toselli, Roberto Vanzetto

Conferences and main events[edit]

CICAP organizes a national conference every two years where internal and external speakers meet to discuss a paranormal or pseudoscientific theme. The conference is open to the general public, but requires a participation fee that is used to finance the group’s activities.[3]

CICAP member excursion to San Galgano Abby during CICAP's XII National Conference in Volterra 5–7 October 2012
Year Conference Theme Place
1991 I National Conference Science and the paranormal Padua
1992 IV Euroskeptics Convention
II National Conference
"What experimental evidence for Paranormal Claims?” Saint-Vincent
1993 III National Conference Contacts with the other side? Cormons
1995 IV National Conference Mysterious Energies Macerata
1997 V National Conference New Age: New Era or old ideas? Padua
1999 VI National Conference Science, the paranormal and mass media Padua
2001 VII National Conference Alternative medicine: between real necessities and irrationality Reggio Emilia
2003 VIII National Conference The return of magic Turin
2004 V World Skeptic Congress
IX National Conference
Solved Mysteries Albano Terme
2004 I International conference Urban legends, Contamination Turin
2006 X National conference Paranormal, Watson? Padua
2008 Conference And yet one believes...superstitions and beliefs at the turn of the XXI century Padua
2009 XI National Conference The evolution of mystery Albano Terme
2011 Conference The numbers don't add up - The fascination of numbers between science and mystery Turin
2012 XII National Conference 2012 - Whomever can, save himself Volterra

Investigations[edit]

Francesco Grassi during a circle making session

The organization has investigated a number of paranormal phenomena including:

In September 2005, National Geographic Channel's program Is It Real? (episode 10) asked for a demonstration of "Knockout" Chi (a no-touch knockout technique), during which instructor Leon Jay was unable to knock-out Luigi Garlaschelli, an investigator from CICAP.[21][22]

Publications[edit]

CICAP continues its dissemination activities through conferences and public lectures, radio and television appearances, through the publication of Query a quarterly magazine (formerly Scienza & Paranormale, Science & Paranormal), books and articles regarding these topics, through the conservation of a library and an archive of articles.[9]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "STATUTO del Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle Affermazioni sul Paranormale". www.cicap.org (in Italian). Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  2. ^ "Skeptics Organisations ECSO Members". Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "FAQ - Tutto quello che vorreste sapere sul CICAP" (in Italian). Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Polidoro, Massimo. "CICAP: 1989-1999: Bilancio su 10 anni di attività e prospettive future". http://www.cicap.org (in Italian). Retrieved 17 September 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Mangiardi, Umberto. "Il Cicap di Torino : scopriamo che cos’è" (in Italian). Retrieved 18 September 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c McMahon, Barbara (October 6, 2005). "No blood, sweat or tears". The Guardian. Retrieved July 28, 2009. 
  7. ^ "About CICAP". cicap.org. CICAP. 2007. Retrieved July 29, 2009. 
  8. ^ "Il CICAP cambia nome: non più solo 'paranormale' ma 'pseudoscienze'". cicap.org (in Italian). CICAP. September 9, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b c "CICAP's activities". Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Venerdì 17 luglio 2009: Il CICAP lancia la "Prima Giornata Anti-Superstizione"" (in Italian). Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  11. ^ "Venerdì 17, la gimcana contro la superstizione". http://milano.repubblica.it (in Italian). Retrieved 25 September 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Nisbet, Matt (August 31, 2000). "Introducing Italy's Version of Harry Houdini". Generation SXeptic (Ithaca, NY: Committee for Skeptical Inquiry). Archived from the original on 2009-08-02. Retrieved July 29, 2009. 
  13. ^ "World Skeptics Congress 2004". cicap.org. CICAP. Retrieved 2009-07-29. 
  14. ^ Minotti, Andrea. "Esiste davvero il paranormale? Intervista a Massimo Polidoro, esperto del CICAP". Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  15. ^ a b "Interview with Massimo Polidoro (47:20)". SGU Productions. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "Umberto Eco e Tiziano Sclavi parlano del CICAP". Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  17. ^ Garlaschelli, L.; Ramaccini, F.; Della Sala, S. (1994). "The blood of St. Januarius". Chemistry in Britain 30 (2): 123. Retrieved July 28, 2009. 
  18. ^ Williams, William F. (2013) [2000]. "Januarius, St., Miracle Of". Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy. Routledge. p. 168. ISBN 9781135955229. 
  19. ^ Polidoro, Massimo (December 12, 2000). "Secrets of a Russian psychic". cicap.org. CICAP. Retrieved July 28, 2009. 
  20. ^ "SPECIAL CROP CIRCLES". Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  21. ^ Polidoro, M. (May–June 2008). "Just like Jedi Knights (if only)". Skeptical Inquirer 32 (3) (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry). p. 21. 
  22. ^ "George Dillman explains Chi K.O. nullification". YouTube. Retrieved July 28, 2009. [copyright violation?]

External links[edit]