A victory for common sense? Witches and skeptics.

The Rivendale Review

dowserCurious incident recently – a science blogger learns of a water-company engineer dowsing a field for a broken water pipe. She blogs it with a skeptical slant. It’s picked up by the news media who add their own spin: UK water companies wasting money on “witchcraft”. Nice one!

That little “ping” of Witchcraft on the radar then brings out the great showboating battleship, HMS Skeptic, guns blazing. Arch celebrity skeptic and CSICOP* notary Richard Wiseman is on the BBC’s Today program, reminding us of the idea-motor and confirmation bias stuff – how we’re all so thick we can’t tell when we’re being duped. Presenter John Humphrys mischievously recounts his own successful experience of dowsing, and thereby earns further snippy headlines in the following days’ newspapers. Wiseman responds by saying Humphries would have kept his anecdote to himself had it been unsuccessful (confirmation bias), and a fair point, though…

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About leeduigon

I have lived in Metuchen, NJ, all my life. I have been married to my wife Patricia since 1977. I am a former newspaper editor and reporter. I was also the owner-operator of my own small business for several years. I wrote various novels and short stories published during 1980s and 1990s. I am a long-time student of judo and Japanese swordsmanship (kenjutsu). I also play chess, basketball, and military and sports simulations. View all posts by leeduigon

8 responses to “A victory for common sense? Witches and skeptics.

  • Watchman

    I don’t much about dowsing and just as little about quantum physics. But what I do know is our understanding of reality is extremely limited. In the quantum world, what is impossible for us is suddenly possible. We think that our finite intellect, measly five senses, and small perceptions make us the final authority on the nature of reality and what is, or is not, possible. That is the very definition of egotistical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • leeduigon

      That’s why we have to have Science as the final authority on reality. Or College, if Science happens to be busy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • UnKnowable

        I’ve actually done some utility locating and have always used electronic methods. The basic idea was to hook up to a pipe, wire or whatever with a signal which could be detected by a device which could detect it. For power cables, just the sound of the AC flowing was usually more than enough, but for telephone and water pipes some sort of signal fed onto the wire was needed. (Cable TV has its own, somewhat nauseating sound.)

        Anyhow, a lot of the old pros carried dowsing sticks. I never did, and wasn’t about to, but a lot of guys believed in them. As the blog stated, scientifically it has been debunked. But that’s not the end of the story.

        I got to where I knew where the wires were and could have marked most of the jobs without any tools. Why? Because after a while you learn the logic of how things are laid out and proceed accordingly. By the time I had been locating (as a small part of my job) for one year, I could drive up to a site, verify the layout with the equipment and mark it in a matter of minutes. For safety’s sake I always verified, but I usually knew what to expect before I even got out of the truck.

        There’s no way I can prove it, but I wonder if dowsing rods are a prop for the emotions and what is really happening is that an experienced utility locator is falling themselves with a bit of ideometer involved.

        Liked by 1 person

        • leeduigon

          My point was that the very presence of the dowsing rods is enough to make know-it-alls go bats, and that’s fun to watch. It doesn’t mean I believe in dowsing. I doubt I spare a thought for it all year.

          Liked by 1 person

          • UnKnowable

            I follow you. Honestly, I don’t much care. If utilities, especially water utilities want to use this, it’s no skin off my nose.


          • leeduigon

            I know a geologist who goes positively crazy at any mention of dowsing.
            Ah, well, let’s be fair. I feel the same way when I hear people gassing about “white privilege” or “marriage equality.” To me it’s inconceivable that any sane person of normal intelligence can believe in such things.


          • UnKnowable

            IMO, it’s the same thing. Both are belief systems and when you challenge a belief system, be prepared for sparks to fly. That’s why it’s so important to believe in the One True God, it keeps us from accepting false belief systems.


  • thewhiterabbit2016

    Disagreements over dowsing is 10th on the list of why people get divorced – NOT.


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