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400px-Four Founding IIG
The Independent Investigations Group (IIG) is a volunteer-based organization founded by James Underdown in January 2000 at the Center for Inquiry-West (now Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles) in Hollywood, California. The IIG investigates fringe science, paranormal and extraordinary claims from a rational, scientific viewpoint, and disseminates factual information about such inquiries to the public.


IIG offers a $50,000 prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.[1] The IIG is involved in designing the test protocol, approving the conditions under which a test will take place, and in administering the actual test. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant is asked to perform a simple preliminary demonstration of the claimed ability, which if successful is followed by the formal test. Associates of the IIG usually conduct both tests and preliminary demonstrations at their location in Hollywood or affiliates.


While the IIG conducts scientifically based experiments, its membership is composed primarily of lay-people. Members' collective professional experience includes the fields of architecture, archeology, education, electronics, engineering, film making, law enforcement, , medicine, psychology, and visual effects. The chair of IIG is James Underdown, Executive Director of the Center For Inquiry-Los Angeles.


The IIG in 2011 announced an affiliate program, allowing other skeptic groups across the world to have access to the $50,000 challenge award, as well as participate in investigations. The first to join was Washington DC (IIG DC), then Atlanta, GA (IIG Atlanta) and the latest in Denver, CO (IIG Denver). 2010-2011 Steering Members for IIG West are James Underdown (Founder & Chairman), Wendy Hughes, Brian Hart, Spencer Marks, Paula Lauterbach, Jarrett Kaufman, and Mark Edward.


InvestigationsEdit

On October 28, 2010 Olympic Champion Gymnast Dominique Dawes working for Yahoo Weekend News and The Independent Investigations Group IIG tested Power Balance Bracelets for their claim that they improve balance, flexibility and strength. She states "The fact is, all athletes know that nothing can replace good old-fashioned hard work — practice, practice, practice...Can a silicone wristband with a hologram sticker really give you an added edge?" According to IIG investigator Dave Richards "There was one 'legitimate' Power Balance bracelet, and 3 'sham' bracelets that had had the hologram removed from them. The experiment was double-blinded, all bracelets were wrapped with tape so no one present knew which bracelet was real and which were fakes." One of the control bracelets contained PEZ candy. "Neither the participants nor the people recording the scores knew which bracelet was which until after all participants had completed their runs and their scores were recorded." From Wendy Hughes' report "The claim was that if the hologram worked, the speed of the participants would increase, and it would show on the graph. But it didn't. Out of 64 heats, 16 participants using 4 bracelets in 4 random heats, the results were almost flat. The main result was that if there was any change, the familiarity with the course caused a slight increase in efficiency. The Pez didn't make a difference either." Dawes's conclusion is that superstition makes the Power Balance bracelets seem to work.[2][3][4][5]


File:36 Wendy PB Picture.jpg
File:25 Wendy PB Picture.jpg


On November 21, 2009, the IIG administered a Preliminary Demonstration for IIG $50,000 Paranormal Challenge applicant Anita Ikonen. The demonstration consisted of three trials, wherein Ikonen was faced with six people who were sitting away from her, and whose faces were obscured. In each of the three trials, one person was known to be missing a kidney. That meant that of 12 possible kidneys, one was missing. Anita had to determine which kidney was missing. On her sheet, she was to mark which kidney was missing (right or left) on the diagram of the person corresponding to the kidney. She had to choose correctly on all three trials in order to succeed, and move onto a formal test which, if she was successful, would earn her $50,000. Anita did not succeed. She chose incorrectly on trial one, chose correctly on trial two, and chose incorrectly on trial three. Anita failed the Preliminary Demonstration and this failure has falsified her claim to be able to see inside of the human body and accurately determine if a person is missing a kidney or not.[6]


Owen Hammer & James Underdown report on the on-going investigation into California nursing standards concerning teaching therapeutic touch as continuing education units (CEUs).[7]


The Independent Investigative Group looked into 14 cases Carla Baron claims to have assisted detectives on, including JonBenét Ramsey, Elizabeth Smart and Nicole Brown Simpson. In all 14 cases the IIG contacted the police (or in the case of Nicole Simpson, they received an email from Denise Brown) all mostly saying the same things, "we have never heard of this person" or "the information provided (by Baron) did not produce any new leads in the investigation". IIG's conclusion is that she has never provided any help in any investigation, and her claims stating such are unsubstantiated.[8][9]


In 2003 the IIG attended a taping of James Van Praagh's syndicated series “Beyond,” in order to document the difference between what actually occurred at the taping and how it appeared on TV after editing. As suspected, there were many significant differences, the IIG concluded that Van Praagh’s power emanates from the editing room.[10][11]"[12]


IIG tests Sparky the "wonder dog" and deduce that the dog was reacting to movements from his owner Gordie Rosenberg and not to telepathy as was claimed. Also discussed in this article by newspaper New Times Los Angeles, Inc. are tests of Mark Joramo and his telekinesis foil flap device (failed test, air movement from Joramo's hand made the flap move) and dowser Frank Mashenko (failed test, ideomotor effect).[13]


The IIG AwardsEdit

On August 21, 2010 the IIG honored several key members for their involvement in the skeptical field, Wendy Hughes, Ross Blocher & David Richards. Also recognized for their contributions to critical thinking and skepticism were Eugenie Scott, Carol Tavris, Brian Dunning, Martin Gardner, Harriet A. Hall, Michael Shermer, Mr. Deity, Eureka (TV series) and The Mentalist.[14][15]


The 3rd Annual IIG Awards recognizing the promotion of science in popular media was held on May 18, 2009. The IIG presented awards to actress Amanda Peet for her pro-vaccine work, and to career paranormal expert Joe Nickell. Other honorees include The Mythbusters, Bill Maher's Religulous, and Lewis Black's Root of All Evil. The awards recognize productions and artists that promote scientific values, encourage critical thinking, and dispel myths. Celebrity presenters at the ceremony included The Root of All Evil's Kathleen Madigan, The Aristocrats' Paul Provenza, Mystery Science Theater 3000's Frank Conniff, and comedian Dana Gould.[16]


June 23, 2008 the IIG Awards included In the Shadow of the Moon received by Producer Duncan Copp, (Discovery Films), Phenomenon received by Producers Michael Agrabian and Dwight Smith (NBC), South Park (Comedy Central), Is It Real? (National Geographic), and Penn and Teller’s Bullshit! (Showtime). The Truly Terrible Television Award was presented to Paranormal State (A&E) and Ghost Hunters (SciFi Channel). James Randi was honored for exceptional ongoing achievement by his induction into the "Houdini Hall of Honor", his name joins Harry Houdini and Carl Sagan. Presenters Julia Sweeney, Dean Cameron and comedian Paul Provenza were also in attendance.[17]


August 18, 2007 the IIG celebrated those rare individuals and shows in the media that encourage science, critical thinking, and ridicule those shows that peddle pseudoscience and superstition. The 2007 winners of the IIG Awards were The Simpsons, for the episode "The Monkey Suit", and Psych, for its pilot episode. Lifetime achievement awards went posthumously to Harry Houdini (Ehrich Weiss) and Carl Sagan. The Truly Terrible Television (TTTV) Awards were given to Court TV's Psychic Detectives, and to the Montel Williams show for every episode featuring Sylvia Browne. Accepting for The Simpsons was "The Monkey Suit" episode's writer J. Stewart Burns, and accepting for Psych was staff writer Daniel Hsia. Ann Druyan sent a letter acknowledging the recognition and thanked IIG for the lifetime achievement award presented to Carl Sagan.[18]


IIG in the media Edit

  • On the Meet the Skeptics! podcast, steering member Ross Blocher discusses his 4-year involvement with the IIG. He feels that it really helps paranormal investigations to have people with many different skills, "We find that you put enough of those people together you get some great talents". Blocher also announced the expansion of the affiliates, skeptic groups can form into an IIG branch, have access to the $50,000 prize and show people that they are really serious about testing claims of the paranormal.[19]


  • In Voices to Visions magazine, Mark Edward states that "common sense should tell us what these charlatans (psychics) do is an act and nothing more; otherwise, they would be ruling the planet." Concerning the ghost hunting shows, Edward thinks that there would be more interest in finding out what is really making noises in these homes but first they need to "turn the f****ing lights on...and (stop) promulgating obvious storytelling."[20]


  • The IIG's John Rael interviewed Mark Edward outside Hollywood's Magic Castle asking him about his work with the Independent Investigation Group. Edward states "over the years I've been looking for a real psychic or paranormal event...its been over 30 years and I'm still looking."[21]


  • Interviewed on Christopher Brown's "Meet the Skeptics!" podcast, IIG steering member Mark Edward states "When people want answers, there's always someone willing to sell them one."[22]


  • Harold Camping's intensely media driven rapture prediction inventively gave atheist and skeptic groups a platform to get their message that end-of-the-world predictions are fodder for ridicule. Groups such as American Atheists and IIG gathered across the country with counter-protest signs attracting attention away from Camping's followers who were in seclusion. "The issue is the Bible is mythology," said Larry Hicok, state director of the American Atheists, bluntly laying out his case."[23]
File:Skeptics at Rapture 8.jpg


  • Are there similarities between the paranormal claims people make today and the miracles found in the bible? Paranormal investigator and founder of the Independent Investigations Group James Underdown takes a look at 5 miracles in the bible and relates them to real-life paranormal investigations at ReasonFest May 2011.[24][25]



  • James Underdown does an experiment for "Miracle Detective" Oprah Winfrey Network which replicates exactly the angelic apparition that people claim cured a 14-year-old severely disabled child at Presbyterian Hemby Children's Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. The "angel" was sunlight from a hidden window, and the little girl is still severely handicapped.[27]


  • Investigator Wendy Hughes writes an exposé of the Glen Ivy hot springs spa, separating the realities of relaxation from spiritual speculation.[28]


  • Mark Edward Mentalist & IIG member discusses the $50,000 IIG Challenge on Para Quest Radio Network at SoCalParaCon, October 2, 2010[29]



  • IIG discussing Robbie Thomas on the June 4, 2010 episode of The BadCast[31]


  • IIG discussing the Regen Traynor Paranormal Challenge on the March 26, 2010 episode of The BadCast[32]


  • IIG discussing the Anita Ikonen Paranormal Challenge on the March 13, 2010 episode of The BadCast[33]


  • IIG discussing the Anita Ikonen Paranormal Challenge on the February 12, 2010 episode of Skeptically Speaking[34]


  • Senior Research Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and "Investigative Files" Columnist for Skeptical Inquirer Joe Nickell writes about his induction into the Houdini Hall of Fame at the IIG awards May 19, 2009.[35]


  • IIG was featured on KCET's Life and Times on December 19, 2007.[36]




ReferencesEdit


External links Edit

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