Dowsing

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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..
I sometimes think the dowsing ability is due to an understanding of the location, the colour of the vegetation, the pitch of the field, the type of soil, nearby natural drainage, the smell, even the feel of the land. All of this plus actual experience feeds in to the dowser's mind (perhaps subconsciously) helping him/her to work their "magic". The dowsing rod perhaps only being a prop, moved (again unintentionally) like a planchette on an Ouija Board.
 

Carl Grove

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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.
It's not entirely true to say that all psi phenomena are non repeatable. There are plenty of studies that have demonstrated repeatability for small effects. The problem for someone like myself who has been scientifically trained and knows that psi events do happen is that if the aim of science is to try to explain all phenomena, then sooner or later it will have to confront the fact that not all phenomena are making it easy for us by allowing us to exert total control over them. Partly this is down to our tendency to adopt as principles things that work in some circumstances but not others, then to say (in effect if not openly) that the other things aren't important and/or don't exist anyway. In fact it is our ignorance that's to blame. In the case of dowsing, as you say, it works in practice but (until Reddish) we had no idea how. The theories that were put forward -- it's psi, it's deception, it's unconsciously using subtle cues -- overlooked the possibility that some natural force/energy was involved. Now we know what the energy is, it should be possible to determine how exactly different minerals affect the torsion waves and how the dowsing process works in more detail.. But I'm not that interested in that, but in why this energy seems to be correlated with time slips, strange light phenomena, ghosts, etc.
 

Coal

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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)
You may not like it, but a vital part of reading any scientific study or paper is to read it 'critically' (i.e. to actively question the premises and statements therein to see if they stand scrutiny) and question the methods and results.

The writer (or the hypothesis proposer) has to make their case.

As the Royal Society motto (paraphrased) goes "Take no one's word for it".

Otherwise you're just believing what other people are saying.

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.
Point me at that study, do, that rather suggests "all the remote viewing worked". That would be an earth shattering result, especially if repeatable.

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.
That's the whole point right there. So much work has confirmed that people are susceptible to misinterpretation of events, due to a whole range of cognitive biases (all well demonstrated and verified), never mind false memories, that believing 'something' is true because 'something' happened to you has no empirical weight at all and is on the same level as believing in [insert deity of choice here] because you believe you saw a statue move once.

You're welcome to believe something yourself and you may not feel the need to prove it to or for yourself, but you don't get to state your personal beliefs as facts on that basis, without said beliefs being challenged and rightly so.

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.
Sure, but a hypothesis is just that. It's repeatable results that support or don't support. Otherwise, it's just an interesting idea, story or coincidence.

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.
That's a convenient view (for you) as is means that rigorous studies that show no support for a hypothesis in any such area can be conveniently ignored.

That's the basis of a belief system, not a scientific theory.

(For ethical reasons certain methods of control should be disallowed.)
Well that's true. For example experiments (e.g. French, Haque, Bunton-Stasyshyn Davis: "The “Haunt” Project") , trying to ascertain whether certain conditions cause people to think they are seeing ghosts, by necessity, to avoid priming the subjects, may not state this is the object, but ethically one can't scare the pants off them either as this is also unethical.

As I am sure you know,
You don't speak for me.
99% of scientific research is not subjected to the kind of ultracritical analysis that you would want to apply to psi.
Yes it is. That's the whole point of critical evaluation of papers and studies. It's part of the training, as it were.

I think any reasonable person with no particular bias would regard the evidence for psi as pretty convincing.
Any reasonable person with a modicum of critical thought and an understanding of the scientific method would find otherwise.

I think Reddish's work is good and important.
I think it's bunk. Other well-known scientists, who's reputation is sound, think the same.

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.
No, he really hasn't.

I've read some of this work, after you pointed me to them and they prove nothing. It's awful to say so, but they are poor science by any standards.
 

Carl Grove

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You may not like it, but a vital part of reading any scientific study or paper is to read it 'critically' (i.e. to actively question the premises and statements therein to see if they stand scrutiny) and question the methods and results.

The writer (or the hypothesis proposer) has to make their case.

As the Royal Society motto (paraphrased) goes "Take no one's word for it".

Otherwise you're just believing what other people are saying.



Point me at that study, do, that rather suggests "all the remote viewing worked". That would be an earth shattering result, especially if repeatable.



That's the whole point right there. So much work has confirmed that people are susceptible to misinterpretation of events, due to a whole range of cognitive biases (all well demonstrated and verified), never mind false memories, that believing 'something' is true because 'something' happened to you has no empirical weight at all and is on the same level as believing in [insert deity of choice here] because you believe you saw a statue move once.

You're welcome to believe something yourself and you may not feel the need to prove it to or for yourself, but you don't get to state your personal beliefs as facts on that basis, without said beliefs being challenged and rightly so.



Sure, but a hypothesis is just that. It's repeatable results that support or don't support. Otherwise, it's just an interesting idea, story or coincidence.



That's a convenient view (for you) as is means that rigorous studies that show no support for a hypothesis in any such area can be conveniently ignored.

That's the basis of a belief system, not a scientific theory.



Well that's true. For example experiments (e.g. French, Haque, Bunton-Stasyshyn Davis: "The “Haunt” Project") , trying to ascertain whether certain conditions cause people to think they are seeing ghosts, by necessity, to avoid priming the subjects, may not state this is the object, but ethically one can't scare the pants off them either as this is also unethical.


You don't speak for me.


Yes it is. That's the whole point of critical evaluation of papers and studies. It's part of the training, as it were.



Any reasonable person with a modicum of critical thought and an understanding of the scientific method would find otherwise.



I think it's bunk. Other well-known scientists, who's reputation is sound, think the same.


No, he really hasn't.

I've read some of this work, after you pointed me to them and they prove nothing. It's awful to say so, but they are poor science by any standards.
I can see that you are the sort of person whose mind is made up and I doubt that any evidence, presented in any way, with high levels of significance, would make any impact on you.
Just to correct one false comment that you made regarding me, I do not "believe in the paranormal."
 

Coal

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I can see that you are the sort of person whose mind is made up and I doubt that any evidence, presented in any way, with high levels of significance, would make any impact on you.
Just to correct one false comment that you made regarding me, I do not "believe in the paranormal."
Nice 'out' for you there Carl. Don't have to prove anything now do you?
 

Carl Grove

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As I thought I made clear, "proof" is not a scientific concept -- it is a logical concept and a mathematical concept. It is also a legal term but I think everyone would accept that plenty of theories "proven" in court by virtue of convincing 12 jurors turn out to be totally wrong. I don't therefore have to prove anything, and if you examine any of my posts regarding this or any other Fortean topic you will find that I have studiously avoided ever using the term. Like I would think most people on this site, I have a great interest in the topics that "science" (as a social phenomenon) has either dismissed or (more often) ignored completely. I have experienced some of these myself -- I have never made a big thing about this, although I have referred to a few of these occasions in context. So I don't have to "believe" anything either. If you have seen a rainbow, you don't say "I believe in rainbows" -- that would be absurd. Belief is something, a kind of crutch, for when you don't know something. If you know it at first hand, the term is not appropriate.
I am in a kind of quandary with people like you, because decades ago, I would probably have thought, and argued, in the same way that you do -- dissecting someone's statements, analysing them, seeing their logical and factual weaknesses, citing scientific principles etc. I realise now that that is a kind of game that I don't want to play any more. (One change, for the worse, I think, that has taken place in science since my younger days is the accent on "peer reviewed papers" and such stuff, as a kind of general principle guiding research and thought. I personally think that demanding this kind of conformism is disturbingly similar to religious orthodoxy assessing ideas for possible heresy, or political witch hunts.) Sorry, interpret it how you will, but I don't get engaged in long ultimately pointless debates of this kind any more.
If you want to discuss dowsing or any other borderline topic in an open-minded and relaxed way, that's fine -- but I feel that trying to force spontaneous phenomena into a presently available theoretical framework is often a way of maintaining your mental status quo. Maybe one day you will experience something really significant yourself, and when that happens you will be faced with a very difficult choice. Whether to trust your own senses or your theoretical framework. I hope if that happens you will come here and post details of it and your reaction to it.
 

Coal

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As I thought I made clear, "proof" is not a scientific concept -- it is a logical concept and a mathematical concept. It is also a legal term but I think everyone would accept that plenty of theories "proven" in court by virtue of convincing 12 jurors turn out to be totally wrong.
OK. Let's be clear. You have offered no solid support to several assertions that a phenomena is 'real'. E.g.

There is no doubt that dowsing does work,
I don't seek proof (leaving aside the semantic differences between 'proof' and 'supporting a hypothesis'). I only sought solid studies or experiments that support this (your) hypothesis. You offer works that do not support your assertion and no studies that do.

As you made the assertion, it falls to you to show supporting evidence that is decently put together according to well trusted principles. If you cannot do so, yet cling to your assertion, it is a belief system.

I don't therefore have to prove anything,
You do if you state something as a fact, as you have done above.

and if you examine any of my posts regarding this or any other Fortean topic you will find that I have studiously avoided ever using the term. Like I would think most people on this site, I have a great interest in the topics that "science" (as a social phenomenon) has either dismissed or (more often) ignored completely. I have experienced some of these myself -- I have never made a big thing about this, although I have referred to a few of these occasions in context. So I don't have to "believe" anything either. If you have seen a rainbow, you don't say "I believe in rainbows" -- that would be absurd. Belief is something, a kind of crutch, for when you don't know something. If you know it at first hand, the term is not appropriate.
I am in a kind of quandary with people like you,
Patronising.
because decades ago, I would probably have thought, and argued, in the same way that you do -- dissecting someone's statements, analysing them, seeing their logical and factual weaknesses, citing scientific principles etc. I realise now that that is a kind of game that I don't want to play any more.
Naturally. You'll always come of badly in this 'game' as you have no verifiable empirical support for your beliefs. If you have well supported hypotheses you can state them as facts. If you do not, then they're beliefs. You have a belief system.

(One change, for the worse, I think, that has taken place in science since my younger days is the accent on "peer reviewed papers" and such stuff, as a kind of general principle guiding research and thought. I personally think that demanding this kind of conformism is disturbingly similar to religious orthodoxy assessing ideas for possible heresy, or political witch hunts.) Sorry, interpret it how you will, but I don't get engaged in long ultimately pointless debates of this kind any more.
As you have no repeatable significant results that support you belief system, that's probably best.

If you want to discuss dowsing or any other borderline topic in an open-minded and relaxed way, that's fine -- but I feel that trying to force spontaneous phenomena into a presently available theoretical framework is often a way of maintaining your mental status quo.
My status quo is fine. I'm willing to believe in things we have not yet discovered or understood. But, even if a mechanism is not understood there must be cause and effect because, without cause and effect any phenomena are indistinguishable from chance.

I'm willing to embrace: the existence of a phenomena, or the absence of it, or it's attribution to (for example) the strange workings of the human brain.

You on other hand dismiss everything that doesn't accord with you beliefs and reject or obfuscate any request for evidence supporting them.

Which of us is more open minded?

I suggest, the reverse is the case, that you need to believe in supernatural phenomena as you cannot accept that your life-events can be explained otherwise. Random chance would be far too mundane.

Maybe one day you will experience something really significant yourself, and when that happens you will be faced with a very difficult choice.
You assume this hasn't already happened. You assume that I'd take such a thing in with utter credulity. And frankly the 'pretending to pity me' thing is very very old hat.

Whether to trust your own senses or your theoretical framework. I hope if that happens you will come here and post details of it and your reaction to it.
As has been very strongly supported by literally thousands of papers, studies and experiments, one's own senses simply cannot be trusted.

So, to be clear. Dowsing, when stripped of bias and other cues a dowser might use as a method of detecting anything at all, on all the available evidence, is not a real phenomena. We might say 'irrational belief in dowsing' is a phenomena.

There is no doubt that dowsing does work,
To state this is simply untrue. At best it's self delusion. At worst it's peddling nonsense to gullible.

In any event you're quite simply wrong.
 

GNC

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As an aside, there was a clip of a dowser on that Arcadia film on BBC Four last Sunday who was comically over the top. Like howling and jerking along with the twig. It's on iPlayer if you're interested.
 
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