Does dowsing work?

Discussion in 'Parapsychology' started by Bondo, Jan 5, 2023.


Does dowsing work?

  1. Yes

  2. No

  1. Bondo Registered Member

    I think any credible experiment must relate to the original phenomena in question. Can people use dowsing rods to accurately detect buried lines or objects?.

    From my research most prior studies were inaccurate, biased and outside the context of what was actually being studied. Most past experiments were set up to look for a nonsensical "psychic phenomena" not a subconscious reaction (ideomotor effect) to the surrounding environment. In effect, they designed the experiments to fail by introducing unnecessary elements they knew would probably fail which is clearly biased.

    For example, it's well know hunter/trackers can track animals for miles from the smallest environmental details 99% of other people are completely oblivious to. Should we deem the tracker a psychic and test there physic abilities?. Maybe we could put the animals in closed containers and then have the tracker guess which one contains an animal. It sounds completely absurd yet this is exactly what many supposed dowsing studies did in the past.

    In any credible dowsing experiment were trying to measure the dowsing wire motion relative to the position of known/unknown buried targets. Who the dowser is, there opinions or beliefs have nothing to do with it. Most people like to confuse an issue with there own biases which is why they need to be removed from the equation. Were simply measuring the dowsing wire motion relative to a target then correlating the data to determine how accurate the process is.
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  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    That has been tested.

    For instance, experiments have been done involving burying lots of pipes in an area of ground, then filling one of the pipes with water. Dowsers who claimed they (or their rods) could find water in pipes underground were then tested to see whether they could accurately find the buried pipe with the water in it. Enough data was collected to make the analysis statistically significant. It was found that the dowsers couldn't do what they claimed they could do, for this specific claim.
    In the test I just described to you, no questions were asked about how the dowsing was supposed to work. Whether it was by psychic energy, subconscious cues, a magical field of a dowsing rod, or whatever was irrelevant. All the dowsers were asked to do was to demonstrate they could do what they said they could do. Turned out they couldn't, which makes an investigation the particular mechanism by which dowsing might work irrelevant.

    Curiously, many dowsers claim that their psychic energies are mysteriously damped whenever they are subjected to a controlled scientific test of their ability. It might be bad psychic vibes from the skeptical investigators, perhaps. Funny, that.
    This could be tested. For example, if we were to blindfold the tracker, that should not dampen any psychic ability to track, right? If it turns out that trackers can still track accurately while blindfolded, then I guess psychic power remains an open possibility. If, on the other hand, they can't, then it seems very likely that tracking accurately relies to some degree on being able to see things in the environment. Do you agree?
    In the studies I am aware of, such as the one mentioned above, the dowsers were allowed to go about their dowsing in exactly the way they normally would, with all of the equipment they said they required. Also, importantly, they were asked in advance of doing the experiment about whether they thought anything in the setup of the test would prevent their abilities from operating as they normally would. Any complaints or objections as to the conditions of the test were dealt with by making suitable modifications to the test protocol, until both testers and dowsers were confident the test was fair.

    Maybe you've been reading about have been low-quality ones. Probably bad luck for happening to stumble across poorly designed studies. I assure you, there have been many well designed ones.
    The test I mentioned did all the things you suggest. Skeptical investigators did not choose which pipe would contain water, for instance and did not communicate with the dowsers during the test. The kinds of biases you are worried about were avoided. All the dowsers had to do was to perform as they said they could, under conditions they agreed were fair.
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  5. Bondo Registered Member

    The tests your referring to was to see whether the dowsers could detect water in a pipe or not. Obviously this is a "psychic" test similar to one ball hidden in three cups or the container test. It's not a valid dowsing test it's a psychic test designed to fail. When they changed the context and environment they biased the results of the tests which is amateur science at best.

    I'm not claiming trackers are psychic, I used them as an example to show how some skilled people can use there senses like vision to detect very small environmental changes. I believe something similar to this could explain the dowsing phenomena. For example, a dog can smell a person a mile away which could seem psychic to some but we all know it isn't.

    I would automatically reject the water in a pipe test you mentioned as biased on several levels.
    It is inherently flawed because:
    1)It is a psychic test similar to the ball in a container test not a credible dowsing test. They simply replaced the containers with pipes and the ball with water. It's not even very clever and any rational person should have been able to see the flaws. I would automatically reject the test as biased.

    2)Any credible test must try to replicate the natural conditions which led to questions and testing in the first place. For example, I would go to other acreages similar to my own and dowse then have the land owner show where all the buried lines actually are after the fact. Now we have a meaningful comparison between where dowsing thought any buried lines were and where they really are. You do realize this is vastly different from the flawed water in a pipe psychic test don't you?.

    This statement could describe the bulk of our disagreement on credible testing methods. Having seen some positive results dowsing and some understanding of what could be occurring I would also get bad vibes about the testing proposed. In some sense the dowsers in question may have known they were being set up to fail using flawed tests. I do agree it is funny and I would be chuckling as I rejected the tests as patently biased and walked away.
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  7. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    No. You put the onus in the wrong place. The science is not to blame.

    It is the erstwhile dowser's assertion how he manages to do what he does. If he thinks it's psychic then that's what will be put to the test.
    I am pretty certain that, of the dowser thought he was doing it by subconsciously detecting subtle changes in ground cover, he would be the first one to call a halt to the test when they tried to put it in a tupperware container, or whatever.

    The first step in setting up an experiment, is to be clear about exactly what you're testing for. The dowser is in charge of that.

    Now, you may have a new hypothesis - a different hypothesis - about subconscious signs, and that may be fine, but you've got to start from scratch. You can't complain about past experiments, designed to detect evidence for a different hypothesis.
    James R and origin like this.
  8. Bondo Registered Member

    I understand what your implying and tend to agree however it sounds off to me. It's sounds like the wolf (scientist) inviting the lamb (dowsers) in to have a conversation on the best way to roast lamb chops. It goes towards our intent and performing more psychic tests which we already know cannot work could be seen as confirmation bias. More so when those who object to dowsing most often use the psychic tests as reason to dismiss it.

    The reasoning some are using eludes me, why would we perform a psychic test or use it as justification one way or another when we should already know it doesn't work?. In my opinion the only thing it can prove is that our way of justifying some things needs improvement.
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    The dowsers are not lambs. They are making the claim.
    The adjudicants are not wolves; they are simply skeptics who are not about to have the wool pulled over their eyes.

    But a point-of-order:

    By labeling the claimants and the skeptics as lambs and wolves, it kind of feels like you're trying to generate sympathy and rancor.

    You call out debate pitfalls like confirmation bias, but here you are looking like you're trying to move this debate to an emotional arena - perniciously tilting the field against the adjudicants - rather than having this debate in an objective science arena.

    Well, here's some disingenuous debate tactics for you: straw man, appeal to emotion, special pleading. They all apply to that tactic.

    So let's just pretend you had a little brain bloop, and didn't mean all that, and we'll stay here in the science arena and you just defend your hypothesis?
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2023
  10. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

    Wolves gotta eat. Doesn't make them bad guys.
  11. billvon Valued Senior Member

    No, it's a dowsing test. Dowsing is determination of where water is by divination i.e. by supernatural means. Practitioners claim that their methods will detect water. If they cannot detect water via that method, then they cannot dowse.
    Sure, but that's not dowsing. There are plenty of well companies that can send an expert out to your property and tell you with a very high degree of accuracy where water can be found. They do this by using hydrological science - they understand things like drainage, soil permeability, vegetation growth vs water availability, geology and nearby water sources. Thus simply by observing the property they can be very accurate. If greater accuracy is required they can run tests - via conductivity meters, inclinometers, soil percolation tests, even ground penetrating radar.

    None of that is dowsing.
    If the dowser cannot detect the water, then he cannot dowse.

    If the dowser utilizes the skills that a well expert uses (i.e. observations of the land, observations of vegetation etc) to find water, then cause their rods to point at those areas where they think there would be water, that's also not dowsing. That's doing exactly what the well expert does, just with more theater.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2023
    origin likes this.
  12. Bondo Registered Member

    I don't see it that way and that's not what I said. I implied the "scientists" were the wolves because they obviously have superior knowledge, methodology and reasoning skills. I'm not sure how you came to the conclusions you have. I used the wolf/lamb analogy to imply the more knowledgeable party (scientists) should try to not let the other party (dowsers) fool themselves.

    For example, if a dowser claimed dowsing is a psychic ability to find water I would correct them.
    1)We don't know how dowsing could work or whether in fact it does work in some people or any.
    2)We can exclude psychic abilities because all psychic tests in the past have failed. Why do psychic tests if they always fail anyways?.
    3)Dowsing is not only finding water, dowsing 1. A method of divination used to locate things, often using special rods, under the earth, including water, mineral deposits, bodies, archaeological sites, cables, pipes, tunnels, lost property or hidden treasure.

    Thus we come full circle back to my original point, why would we perform a psychic test or use it as justification one way or another when we should already know it doesn't work?. It's nonsensical in my opinion because it amounts to asking a person who just dowsed a gas line to try bending a fork with there mind. It sounds like a false cause fallacy presuming a perceived relationship between things where one (an imaginary psychic ability) is the cause of the other (dowsing a gas line).
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2023
  13. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    ANY thoughts how this even started?

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  14. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member


    Your lamb/wolf analogy was about "ROASTING lamb chops". i.e. the wolves KILLING and EATING the lambs.
    You are being dishonest.

    Now, drop the appeal to emotion and let's get back to the science.
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    The kinds of tests I mentioned do not assume any particular mechanism for dowsing. In particular, there is no assumption that either its psychic or it doesn't exist.

    All that the tests are testing is whether the dowsers can do what they claim they can do.

    Questions about how dowsing works are secondary to the question of whether it works at all. It is only after we've established that dowsers can do what they claim that it becomes relevant to examine just how they can do what they can do.

    Unfortunately, all controlled tests that I am aware of have so far have failed to establish that dowsers can do what they claim they can do, regardless of how they think they can do it.

    Your response to the pipe test that I described previously was essentially to claim that the test was unfair to the dowsers. But the particular dowsers who participated in that test all agreed in advance that the test was fair. That is, they all thought in advance of actually doing the test that their dowsing abilities would be sufficient to give a better-than-chance result on the test, regardless of how they thought their dowsing abilities worked.

    It appears that you would not have agreed that the particular test protocol was fair. What that tells us, then, is that we need to work with you to devise an alternative test protocol that you believe would be a fair test of your own dowsing abilities. Again, it doesn't much matter how you think dowsing works. All that is needed, in the first instance, is to come up with a test that you believe can show that you can do what you say you can do, under appropriately controlled conditions. That is, any test would have to involve a discussion between yourself and a skeptic such as myself, to come to agreement on a protocol that we both consider a fair test.

    If we were to carry out such a test and you could perform at levels superior to what we would statistically expect by chance, then it might be interesting to delve into how you managed to do what you did. But step 1 would be to establish that you can do what you claim. Working out how you do it is a subsidiary consideration, to be considered after a successful demonstration of your ability.
  16. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Because dowsing, by definition, has a supernatural component. If you are just doing the usual things that hydrogeologists do, then you are not a dowser - you are a hydrogeologist. And that's not a bad thing at all; it means you can find water, which is a useful skill.
    Correct! Divination is an attempt to learn hidden knowledge (or the future) through supernatural means. If you say "well, there are no supernatural means of course" then there's no such thing as (real) dowsing.

    Again, we do know that trained people can locate water in nature, and they do this through their knowledge of science. If such a guy walks around with a rod and makes the rod point at where he thinks water might be, that's not dowsing. That's just hydrogeology with more theater. If it works for him, great - he finds water and then people are happy.[/quote]
    James R likes this.
  17. Bondo Registered Member

    I agree and believe some people could detect buried gas, water and power lines for similar reasons.
    By your own reasoning dowsing could be the detection of very small changes in topography, geology, biology or other environmental variables with more theater.

    For example an AI with LIDAR to measure detailed topography/ground elevation and wide spectrum video sensors(UV, IR, 4K color recognition for plants/soil) should have no problem calculating where any buried lines are. In fact many corporations are already using a variation of the above technology to detect lines and leaks. Obviously this is not a psychic phenomena it's science. So if a skilled person had even a fraction of the sensory input and understanding of the AI example above we would have a simple explanation for how dowsing could be perceived to detect buried lines.

    This is why I reject others obsession with psychics and psychic tests because I know it cannot work. There must be a reasonable scientific explanation for why dowsing seems to work in some instances and I want to find that reason.
  18. billvon Valued Senior Member

    No, dowsing is divination of where water is by supernatural means.

    Around here you can detect buried gas, water and power lines by calling 811. It's a number set up specifically to tell you where those pipes are so you don't dig through them and knock out power to a neighborhood. Or use a magnetometer, or use ground penetrating radar, or even just go by where the asphalt patches are. None of those things are dowsing.
    Correct! It is not dowsing, it is science.
    It "seems to work" because people (for example) call 811 before they get out those rods and do some acting.
  19. sculptor Valued Senior Member

    It seems that many(most?) dowsers think that water flows in underground streams and rivers.
    The old well pounder explained it to me thusly: Water flows underground much like the blood flows in your arm, there are capillaries, veins, and arteries.
    Dowsing, then would be to find one of those waterways(hopefully a good vein or artery.), and put the well such that it penetrates into one of those waterways.
    To my experience: It works.
    However, my experience is limited to a small area of southern wisconsin where the water table was within 30 feet of the surface.

    The experiment:
    One day, the old well pounder, me, and a local farmer all dowsed the same field and tried pounding 3 wells where each thought that they had dowsed water(an underground waterway).
    One well was dry, one had little water that didn't rise more'n 10 feet into the 30 ft. pipe, and one had hit water that rose to within 3 feet of the top of the pipe.
    All in the same field, all within 50 feet of each other.
    Thereby giving credence to the concept of underground streams.

    Based on advice from the old well pounder, we dowsed with fresh cut willow branches.
  20. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    A few posts back I actually looked up the definition, intending to post it, but didn't becaude this is what Wiki says:

    "Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, claimed radiations [etc] and materials without the use of a scientific apparatus."

    So I had to look up "divination":

    "Divination ... is the attempt to gain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standardized process or ritual."

    It's not quite as restrictive as I supposed.
  21. Bondo Registered Member

    Indeed, in the time it takes to respond to a post we could easily do a quick google search on the subject to ensure were up to speed. Yet many don't and prefer to wing it which I always found strange. For example not three posts ago billvon said "No, dowsing is divination of where water is by supernatural means." which appears to be false.

    It's also strange that many claim to not believe in psychics or the supernatural then offer it as a supposed explanation to dismiss something. Which seems to be a false cause fallacy, presuming dowsing cannot work because of an imaginary relationship to the supernatural which is also imaginary. To be clear, I don't believe in psychics/supernatural and don't accept it as a reasonable explanation to dismiss something. Otherwise we could call anything we don't like or understand supernatural as a means to avoid the problem. For example, any response to my wife's questions always being completely wrong could be seen as supernatural.

    I just think there may be more to dowsing than meets the eye and see it as an opportunity for further testing.
  22. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    That's neither practical nor fair. There are as many definitions are the are Google results.

    I'd argue that this:
    is the generally understood meaning.

    We have this happen a lot in science forums. In a vacuum of explicity, no definition is really wrong. It is best that you, the OP, offer the definition you wish to use, rather than everybody finding their own source.

    It sure would be if that happens.

    Do you find that happens? You're not suggesting it's happened here are you?

    And you are in the position of many visionaries, where no one is going to invest time in your idea unless it has some legs - and you're the only one to provide the legs.
  23. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Good one

    QUOTE="sculptor, post: 3708947, member: 270768"]Based on advice from the old well pounder, we dowsed with fresh cut willow branches.[/QUOTE]

    Are the branches cut Y shape and you hold the V portion? Which would be obvious choice

    When did this configuration change to the two long sections becoming longer and then becoming the new detection branches

    With the old detection branch section become shorter, divided into two and becoming the handles?

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