Dowsing

Tribble

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Just because they don't know how it works doesn't mean it doesn't work. :)
I'm in two minds about this. I know there's no scientific evidence for it (yet) and properly conducted trials give results no better than chance. However, I've tried dowsing with others with good results...
 

Cochise

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I'm in two minds about this. I know there's no scientific evidence for it (yet) and properly conducted trials give results no better than chance. However, I've tried dowsing with others with good results...
Really, I have no idea if it works or not, but many people use it as a normal thing. Assuming that if it does work it is the result of a sense we normally underuse rather than some form of witchy magic, I think it is worth proper investigation from a neutral standpoint, instead of the sceptical approach that everyone claiming to be a dowser is a charlatan.

I'm talking purely about 'direct' dowsing, not remote dowsing in which I have no belief at all.
 

Tribble

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Really, I have no idea if it works or not, but many people use it as a normal thing. Assuming that if it does work it is the result of a sense we normally underuse rather than some form of witchy magic, I think it is worth proper investigation from a neutral standpoint, instead of the sceptical approach that everyone claiming to be a dowser is a charlatan.
Strangely, when I did a hands-on demonstration of dowsing on Fringe Sunday many years ago, the results did seem to depend on attitude. The skeptics who said "Pah, it'll never work" found nothing. The open-minded ones scored a lot of hits. Might at least partially be due to the naysayers not even trying to hold the rods properly.
 

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I came upon this thread by chance and thought I would add a couple of comments. As many will know, when researching a local time slip mystery, I came upon evidence -- first noticed by the local historian -- that time slips are associated in some way with the earth energy detected by dowsers. Obviously I looked a bit into the history of dowsing, with some results that proved extremely interesting. The first thing I found was that there was no serious scientific research in this country prior to the late 1980s. Most of the studies involved burying various objects, metals, or containers of water and seeing whether subjects could detect them. This may have seemed logical at the time, but it betrayed what now seems to be a basic ignorance of both dowsing and geology. When dowsers seek water they are seeking water in movement, either through underground channels or through permeable strata. Finding a single container of water would be of no value to someone trying to find a viable supply for a village or farm. Likewise searching for oil or veins of precious metals would not be helped by finding small isolated targets just below the surface. It seems to me that most of these studies were conducted not to find out how dowsing worked -- because it does clearly work in real situations -- but to "prove" that it doesn't.

The first UK scientist to do a genuine scientific investigation of dowsing was Vincent Reddish. He had recently ended his career as Astronomer Royal of Scotland, and by accident came across an example of the use of dowsing to locate a buried pipe. He found that he could dowse himself, and began a series of systematic investigations. He found evidence that what dowsers were detecting was a kind of energy that he termed "The D Force", which behaved exactly like a classical EM wave, in that it interacted with linear structures to produce interference effects. He found that the energy came up his body from his feet, and also found evidence that, far from resulting from unconscious movements, acted directly upon the dowsing rods.

After he self published a book entitled The D-Force: A Remarkable Phenomenon, he was contacted by the Ministry of Defence. Not only were they interested in earth energy, but they were interested in possibly using it as a way of communicating with submarines. They also informed him about Russian research into a very controversial field, that of torsion energy, which they thought might underlie the D Force. Reddish went on to confirm some of the Russian findings, and with the aid of a small team of ex colleagues, showed that the strength of the dowsing energy varied with the season, confirming that the torsion fields of the Earth and the Sun were interacting to produce his D Force. He also confirmed that torsion could be modulated in on/off manner to communicate using Morse.

In addition to this, it is worth noting the work of Russian dowsing researchers. (They never made the connection between dowsing and torsion -- it seems the MoD figured this out themselves.)

Shortly before he died Reddish wrote another book, The Field of Rotating Masses. It is still possible to find 2nd hand copies of both books on Abe.

If anyone wants to check out torsion energy, note that the relevant Wikipedia entry has been hijacked by someone who believes that it is all pseudo science and fraud. In fact he is talking only about the claims of two out of around 80 Russian researchers, against whom he has conducted a personal vendetta. Sadly, as is the case with dowsing phenomena, people in the "pro" camp are all too often infected (if that's the right word) with New Age thinking, and disentangling the basic facts from the hype is difficult.
 
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Sharon Hill

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This and following posts regarding dowsing transplanted from the UK Ley-Line Map thread:
https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/uk-ley-line-map.63962/page-2
---------------


Agreed, "energy" is a term that has specific meanings in certain physical contexts, but it is as good as any other in this area even if we can't precisely define it in the same way as we can in more established fields of science.
The problem for me is that I don't think dowsing involves any energy except that attributed to holding a stick and walking. We've never been able to measure ANY energy/force/signal/thing related to dowsing (except expectation). So, I reject the term entirely as applied to dowsing (and other supposed occult forces).
 
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hunck

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I never heard anything about this. What references would you recommend?



The problem for me is that I don't think dowsing involves any energy except that attributed to holding a stick and walking. We've never been able to measure ANY energy/force/signal/thing related to dowsing (except expectation). So, I reject the term entirely as applied to dowsing (and other supposed occult forces).
People find underground water by dowsing. The jury's out on how it works.
 

Sharon Hill

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People find underground water by dowsing. The jury's out on how it works.
I entirely disagree with this characterization. The water is there for anyone to find, no witching (or jury) needed. But an eye and a feel for the land does help. So, as a hydrogeologist, I don't think divination works. At all. But, as typically happens, let the "knowers" who have tried it yell at me that "it worked" for them. More stories (than you can shake a forked stick at) aren't going to sway me. See here for my professional take on dowsing. (And that's all I'm going to say about dowsing in this thread.)
 

bakelite brain

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I spoke to a hydrologist many years ago about dowsing. In his professional opinion it was bollox. He said if you dig a hole almost anywhere in the UK you will find water, at most just a few tens of feet down.

Some common sense of how the land lies helps. For example I expect it's easier to find water near the surface in a valley, than on a hill. Maybe dowsers just have a more developed appreciation of that!
 

Carl Grove

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People find underground water by dowsing. The jury's out on how it works.
There is no doubt that dowsing does work, but it is not restricted to finding water -- many professional dowsers have made a good living finding mineral deposits for big corporations. Reddish was the first person to find evidence about how it works, and it was the Ministry of Defence that first noted a connection between Reddish's findings and the Russian work on torsion. Afterwards Reddish and a small team found evidence that the energy detected by dowsers is torsion generated by the earth and the sun, refracted by geological and other features. How or why it is associated with time slips and other phenomena is the real mystery.
 
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Mungoman

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I've known Dowsers, and chatted with them and they all say the same - the body recognises what they 're searching for, and the twigs, wire, whatever that they hold is merely a display unit that magnifies the reaction that the body has.

Geobotany is another insight into what's below.

In Australia if you want deep water, search for E. camaldulensis (red rivergum). If you want gold, search for E sideroxylon (red ironbark) among others.

What do you do though when your out on the Plains where there are no observable rock formation to give you an educated guess, and you need water? You go to the local Pub and have a chat with some local colour - and nine times out of ten that fella or lady will be, or know, a Dowser.

I'm out on the western slopes and plains of inland NSW and we have a couple of local dowsers who are known for cracking it, as they say.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a believer in the science of influence and effluence, recharge and discharge, permeable and impermeable...but there is an indescribable art that is infallible, much like the rheumatic pain I get for 36 hours before rain.

What did Mr Shakespeare say :-

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

And I think that I'll leave it at that.
 

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I'll repeat that I have been present at an academic conference, hosted by a well-known, reputable university, at which I interpreted for a Russian researcher who proclaimed the efficacy of dowsing in his presentation and the attendees did not question his findings.

(Mind you, it wasn't a geological gathering or, indeed, any sort of hard science: the assembled scholars were historians and other such social scientists. Furthermore, the researcher was describing his team's work in identifying and re-interring the remains of victims of state terror in the USSR: the dowsing was employed to find the site of the mass graves. He said that they had never had a false positive. Unfortunately, there is a very grim explanation why that might be so, that does not rely on the efficacy of dowsing.)
 
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I spoke to a hydrologist many years ago about dowsing. In his professional opinion it was bollox. He said if you dig a hole almost anywhere in the UK you will find water, at most just a few tens of feet down...
Without discounting the possibility that this may all be true, it's worth pointing out that - at least in some circumstances - dowsers claim to be able to follow the course of underground water. This is less easily explained by the 'dig a hole anywhere, you'll find water' claim.

I was brought up in a rural, upland, limestone area - there's a lot of rain, but most disappears underground and there is often, ironically - given the high levels of rainfall - a serious shortage of surface water. It was already a dying art, but when I was a kid there was the odd local who would be called upon to pinpoint likely water sources, but also to trace the routes of sub-surface water courses*.

Again, I'm kind of on the fence here - but it strikes me that if, in order to address a claim, one oversimplifies that claim, then one is also in danger of over-simplifying the debunking.

*Edit: Worth pointing out that these were not professional New Age types, but people embedded within the rural community; generally I think, farmers or farm workers, although the only one I remember specifically was actually a local mechanic, who spent most of his working life under ancient tractors.
 
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bakelite brain

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Indeed, dowsing has been used for locating many things from minerals to people - or so it is reported.

Uri Geller told me (it's not big to name drop, Mick Jagger told me that!) that he made much of his money by map dowsing for minerals. Maybe he did make money that way, maybe he didn't.

I'm inclined to think there might be something in it - even if dowsing usually fails sceintific tests - simply because the idea won't go away. I realise that idea is not a rigorous application of logic; lots of crazy ideas won't go away, and some even gain ground (Flat Earth anyone...?).
 

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Indeed, dowsing has been used for locating many things from minerals to people - or so it is reported.

Uri Geller told me (it's not big to name drop, Mick Jagger told me that!) that he made much of his money by map dowsing for minerals. Maybe he did make money that way, maybe he didn't.

I'm inclined to think there might be something in it - even if dowsing usually fails sceintific tests - simply because the idea won't go away. I realise that idea is not a rigorous application of logic; lots of crazy ideas won't go away, and some even gain ground (Flat Earth anyone...?).
Well, dowsing doesn't fail scientific tests, except when the tests are structured inappropriately. As I pointed out in my dowsing appendix, putting small containers of water a foot or two down doesn't relate in any way to the reality of the water dowser's task, which is to find a reliable and sustainable water source in a rock stratum to provide a constant supply for a community. Some Russian researchers have concluded that water diviners actually detect the movement of water through small subsurface channels. In Africa, some researchers have found that the most effective ways of finding water supplies in desert regions is through a combination of dowsing and hi-tech electronic scanners. If Sanderson was right, even the dowser might be dropped and a machine employed instead!
Yes, I heard Geller was hired by a number of mining companies. Of course, map dowsing, which seems to be nearly as effective as dowsing on the spot, raises a whole new set of questions!
I'm not sure why anyone should think the idea of dowsing crazy per se. It was (and still is, in Scotland) regarded as a useful tool which can quickly find underground linear structures, a lot faster and much cheaper than ground penetrating radar! I think the unhealthy relationship between energy dowsers and New Age crankiness is probably the cause of much misunderstanding today. But that is the situation and we have to live with it!
 

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Cite your sources!

Sir!

Being the Polymath renaissance, Wiccan anarchist Italian man that you claim to be - I would've thought that proclaiming stridently "Citation", would've been below you...

I remain your trusted colleague,
Jonathan DW Mullen Esq. Dip CALM, Dip Hort, Dip. Ag.....actually, just generally Dippy.




(Pardon my frivolity, the coffee has just kicked in.)
 

Carl Grove

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Cite your sources!
I have cited a major review paper of dowsing research up to the 80s in my revised report. "Scientific" research prior to Reddish's groundbreaking work was patchy and much of it irrelevant. Reddish seems to have been the first scientist in the Western world to have systematically studied the phenomenon from first principles, in other words applied a straightforward commonsense approach. In contrast many Russian scientists have -- however almost nothing of their published work is available in English -- but as a result dowsing, "biolocation", is widely accepted and used there.
 

Coal

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I have cited a major review paper of dowsing research up to the 80s in my revised report. "Scientific" research prior to Reddish's groundbreaking work was patchy and much of it irrelevant. Reddish seems to have been the first scientist in the Western world to have systematically studied the phenomenon from first principles, in other words applied a straightforward commonsense approach. In contrast many Russian scientists have -- however almost nothing of their published work is available in English -- but as a result dowsing, "biolocation", is widely accepted and used there.
Can you give me the names and authors of the papers from your report?
 

Coal

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Being the Polymath renaissance, Wiccan anarchist Italian man that you claim to be - I would've thought that proclaiming stridently "Citation", would've been below you...
I respectfully draw you attention to my signature quote :)

(give me proof any day...)
 

Carl Grove

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Can you give me the names and authors of the papers from your report?
Reddish, V. D. The D-Force, A Remarkable Phenomenon, 1993.
Reddish, V. D. The Field of Rotating Masses, 2010.
Gribbin, J. What lies beneath. Focus, July 2004.
Hansen, G. P. Dowsing, a review of experimental evidence. J.Soc.Psychical Res., 1982, 51, 343-367.
 

Frideswide

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Reddish, V. D. The D-Force, A Remarkable Phenomenon, 1993.
Reddish, V. D. The Field of Rotating Masses, 2010.
Gribbin, J. What lies beneath. Focus, July 2004.
Hansen, G. P. Dowsing, a review of experimental evidence. J.Soc.Psychical Res., 1982, 51, 343-367.
Thank you! I love things to follow up :) much appreciated.
 

Coal

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Reddish, V. D. The D-Force, A Remarkable Phenomenon, 1993.
Reddish, V. D. The Field of Rotating Masses, 2010.
http://www.second-physics.ru/lib/books/reddish.pdf

I'll take a look at that some other time, but you can all access it here. It's short, 40 pages or so, so isn't a huge read.

Did find this review of "The D Force" by the same author.

http://dowsing-research.net/dowsing/book_reviews/Wiseman - review - The D-Force A remarkable phenomenon.pdf

I also found an article by the same; "Dowsing physics: interferometry"

https://www.cambridge.org/core/jour...terferometry/3DAE8060882DCFC9049DAA839E410A71

My academic access has lapsed, if anyone can point me at the full paper I'd be most grateful.

Gribbin, J. What lies beneath. Focus, July 2004.
This chap?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gribbin

In any event, I cannot locate this article.


Hansen, G. P. Dowsing, a review of experimental evidence. J.Soc.Psychical Res., 1982, 51, 343-367.
This is a review of experiments that don't pass muster, and are even described as such, so nothing in this review actually supports the hypothesis that dowsing is real. Even the odd occasion where there appears to be a significant finding, statistically speaking, the methodology is unclear and the experiment can't be replicated.

As it says in the paper:
"In spite of the large number of investigations made into dowsing, its status remains unclear. This is largely a result of sloppy experimental procedure and or report writing. "
And;
"As indicated previously, to prove that dowsing is a function of psi, more successful, strictly controlled tests will be required. In most of the studies testing this idea, sensory cues were not ruled out. Of the three map dowsing experiments reviewed, one obtained marginally significant results. Further experiments testing the psi hypothesis should utilize map dowsing to rule out sensory information to the subject. It would also be desirable to conduct the testing with a 'real' problem. In short, the work investigating dowsing from a biophysical and physiological standpoint is promising but not totally compelling. Considerably more experimental work is required to support the case that dowsing is a psi process. "

I'd add to that last that one first has to prove psi is a real thing.

This paper better supports the proposal "Dowsing is not real".
 

Carl Grove

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http://www.second-physics.ru/lib/books/reddish.pdf

I'll take a look at that some other time, but you can all access it here. It's short, 40 pages or so, so isn't a huge read.

Did find this review of "The D Force" by the same author.

http://dowsing-research.net/dowsing/book_reviews/Wiseman - review - The D-Force A remarkable phenomenon.pdf

I also found an article by the same; "Dowsing physics: interferometry"

https://www.cambridge.org/core/jour...terferometry/3DAE8060882DCFC9049DAA839E410A71

My academic access has lapsed, if anyone can point me at the full paper I'd be most grateful.


This chap?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Gribbin

In any event, I cannot locate this article.



This is a review of experiments that don't pass muster, and are even described as such, so nothing in this review actually supports the hypothesis that dowsing is real. Even the odd occasion where there appears to be a significant finding, statistically speaking, the methodology is unclear and the experiment can't be replicated.

As it says in the paper:
"In spite of the large number of investigations made into dowsing, its status remains unclear. This is largely a result of sloppy experimental procedure and or report writing. "
And;
"As indicated previously, to prove that dowsing is a function of psi, more successful, strictly controlled tests will be required. In most of the studies testing this idea, sensory cues were not ruled out. Of the three map dowsing experiments reviewed, one obtained marginally significant results. Further experiments testing the psi hypothesis should utilize map dowsing to rule out sensory information to the subject. It would also be desirable to conduct the testing with a 'real' problem. In short, the work investigating dowsing from a biophysical and physiological standpoint is promising but not totally compelling. Considerably more experimental work is required to support the case that dowsing is a psi process. "

I'd add to that last that one first has to prove psi is a real thing.

This paper better supports the proposal "Dowsing is not real".
It doesn't support that proposal at all, it shows that many of the previous studies of dowsing prior to Reddish's work in the 80s were flawed by wrong assumptions, ignorance of dowsing and geology, and poor methodology -- which is just what I remarked. By the way, I forgot to reference Ivan Sanderson's Things which devotes a chapter to dowsing and his own demonstration of automated dowsing.

As for psi being "a real thing" and wanting "proof" for that or anything else, I would remind you that proof is not a scientific concept, in science one can only find evidence in support of an experimental hypothesis which shows that the null hypothesis (of no real effect) can be rejected at a high level of significance. The number of studies of various types of psi showing high levels of significance is (in my experience in the more conventional field of psychology) far higher than many of those supporting more conventional hypotheses. In any case, where dowsing is concerned, there is certainly no clear evidence for the psi theory.
 

Coal

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It doesn't support that proposal at all, it shows that many of the previous studies of dowsing prior to Reddish's work in the 80s were flawed by wrong assumptions, ignorance of dowsing and geology, and poor methodology -- which is just what I remarked. By the way, I forgot to reference Ivan Sanderson's Things which devotes a chapter to dowsing and his own demonstration of automated dowsing.
I agree, possibly I was being a little facetious when I suggested it arguably provides better support for dowsing not being real than for it being real. It's a quibble though, in any event, there's no repeatable properly conducted studies that have produced results that can be replicated.

Reddish's dowsing work in contrast is anecdotal, uses himself as a self-report subject and generally fails to use decent experimental protocols (and I refer to Reddish, V. D. The Field of Rotating Masses, 2010. ). It seems scientific prima facie, but isn't. In reality he's showed nothing in this field either, he's perpetuated the poor protocols, methodology and personal confirmation biases so evident in the Hansen dowsing review above.

You stated clearly dowsing is real (you hypothesis that 'dowsing is real' is supported), I asked for evidence, I've seen nothing to support this hypothesis.

As for psi being "a real thing" and wanting "proof" for that or anything else, I would remind you that proof is not a scientific concept, in science one can only find evidence in support of an experimental hypothesis which shows that the null hypothesis (of no real effect) can be rejected at a high level of significance.
Re. proof: quite right, one's results only support or do not support a hypothesis. When I typed that I was thinking in rhetorical terms rather than experimental ones.

The number of studies of various types of psi showing high levels of significance is (in my experience in the more conventional field of psychology) far higher than many of those supporting more conventional hypotheses. In any case, where dowsing is concerned, there is certainly no clear evidence for the psi theory.
In any event, there is no support for the concept of 'psi' nor a definition for it in this context.

I've yet to see (in quarter of a century of Fortean interest) any properly conducted double-blind study of any type which provided replicable and replicated results to support the existence of any kind of physic abilities. By all means direct me to some as you've stated there are a number of studies showing high level of significance "far higher than many of those supporting more conventional hypotheses".
 

Carl Grove

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I agree, possibly I was being a little facetious when I suggested it arguably provides better support for dowsing not being real than for it being real. It's a quibble though, in any event, there's no repeatable properly conducted studies that have produced results that can be replicated.

Reddish's dowsing work in contrast is anecdotal, uses himself as a self-report subject and generally fails to use decent experimental protocols (and I refer to Reddish, V. D. The Field of Rotating Masses, 2010. ). It seems scientific prima facie, but isn't. In reality he's showed nothing in this field either, he's perpetuated the poor protocols, methodology and personal confirmation biases so evident in the Hansen dowsing review above.

You stated clearly dowsing is real (you hypothesis that 'dowsing is real' is supported), I asked for evidence, I've seen nothing to support this hypothesis.


Re. proof: quite right, one's results only support or do not support a hypothesis. When I typed that I was thinking in rhetorical terms rather than experimental ones.



In any event, there is no support for the concept of 'psi' nor a definition for it in this context.

I've yet to see (in quarter of a century of Fortean interest) any properly conducted double-blind study of any type which provided replicable and replicated results to support the existence of any kind of physic abilities. By all means direct me to some as you've stated there are a number of studies showing high level of significance "far higher than many of those supporting more conventional hypotheses".
Well, a definition of psi would I suppose talk about events that appear to run counter to contemporary concepts of physics and psychology. Obviously this would change as science develops and culture changes. There are many places and cultures where contemporary views accept and employ psi without any contradiction. I am not going to start quoting individual studies (and I suspect you would in any case find some reason to quibble or find reasons not to accept the results) but I seem to recall a meta analysis of just about all available studies of remote viewing that generates values of p that are all but zero.
I think the real difference between our viewpoints is that I have through much of my life experienced many "psi" (for want of a better term) events and so they are part of my background and as I know that they have happened I don't have to worry about "proving" it or finding evidence for it. But my impression is that the people who research such things have moved on from that anyway, and are (thankfully) getting more interested in a wider range of hypotheses about how and why it works. My own personal view is that 99% of such events happen spontaneously and that attempts to control them (which is what experimentation demands) will be unsuccessful. You can only try to simulate situations which might promote psi and there is no guarantee it will work. (For ethical reasons certain methods of control should be disallowed.)
As I am sure you know, 99% of scientific research is not subjected to the kind of ultracritical analysis that you would want to apply to psi. I think any reasonable person with no particular bias would regard the evidence for psi as pretty convincing.
I think Reddish's work is good and important. For a retired man in his 70s and 80s, working mostly on his own, he has explained a lot that seemed puzzling about dowsing and pointed the way for people with more time and resources to conduct the kinds of more intensive research that you might find convincing. If nobody -- not the new age dowsers, nor critics, nor open-minded scientists -- has taken up the challenge, I think that tells us a lot about contemporary science. Maybe the MoD have found someone else to follow his lead in a quiet and discreet way, and it is possible that the members of his informal group are still conducting work in this area. I hope so, because he made a real breakthrough, and it deserves to be extended.
 

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As I am sure you know, 99% of scientific research is not subjected to the kind of ultracritical analysis that you would want to apply to psi. .
That is a rather sweeping statement.

The single problem with PSI is, as you allude to, it's non-repeatability under test.

Almost all fields of scientific endevor have to fill this criteria.
 

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I would emphasise, that in rural areas dowsing is accepted as a normal fact of life. No we don't know how it works. Does that automatically mean it doesn't work?

My next door neighbour is a dowser (and a steeplejack) and is frequently employed in that capacity, not by some deluded maiden aunt trying to contact the dead, but by serious contractors wanting to avoid ancient drainage etc..
 
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