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Metaphysics & Psychology

'Water witches' pit science against folklore

By T.K. Randall
July 29, 2021 · Comment icon 132 comments

Can you really find water by dowsing ? Image Credit: Thomas Pennant
Can dowsers really find water sources using nothing but a wooden stick or is dowsing a centuries-long con ?
The demand for dowsing, the age-old practice of using either a forked stick or two metal rods to locate hidden resources under the ground, has been on the rise in recent years, mostly due to the extreme droughts to have hit parts of the United States and the desperation of the people affected by them.

Dowsing is thought to have originated in 15th-Century Germany where it was first used to find precious metals however it soon became synonymous with the hunt for hidden sources of water.

While scientists these days tend to shun the practice as nothing more than pseudoscience, dowsing is still proving popular - especially in the worst hit regions of California where some farmers have come to rely on the efforts of dowsers to locate water for their crops.

The jury is still out, however, on whether or not dowsing actually works in the way that is implied.
"There's been at least some research testing the dowsers' skill," said Todd Jarvis of Oregon State University. "And for every study that says there's nothing to it, there's a study that says there's something to it."

In an article on its website, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) writes:

"The natural explanation of 'successful' water dowsing is that in many areas water would be hard to miss. The dowser commonly implies that the spot indicated by the rod is the only one where water could be found, but this is not necessarily true. In a region of adequate rainfall and favorable geology, it is difficult not to drill and find water!"

While there is little doubt that some dowsers do achieve success when searching for water, it's going to take some pretty strong evidence to convince the scientific community that this is down to anything other than random chance.

Source: How Stuff Works | Comments (132)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #123 Posted by Desertrat56 2 years ago
There is one thing that "science" ignores, unscientifically, and that is that our concsiousness does not reside in our brain.  Some scientists are looking at this now but a lot of us have proof for ourselves (very unscientific proof) but enough that what you say is not going to convince me that science can't proove something, unless you add the word "yet" at the end of that sentence.
Comment icon #124 Posted by joc 2 years ago
 Science ignores the entire consciousness does not reside in our brain debate because...consciousness resides in our brain and can reside no where else without the brain, and is most definitely created by our brain,    No brain...no consciousness! But that's another thread somewhere else...
Comment icon #125 Posted by psyche101 2 years ago
It's not ignored what a nonsense claim. It's been a theory for hundreds of years starting with Descartes. It's been disproven over and again. We have actually filmed memories being chemically stored in the brain. Dualism is a refuted myth. Looking at it now you say. I suggest a little research might revise that comment.  It's unscientific to ignore the plethora of information that refutes dualism. 
Comment icon #126 Posted by Desertrat56 2 years ago
It has never been disproven, it has been ignored.   But some scientists are looking in to it again.   Science has always been shackled with the Powers who have the money to decide what to investigate and sometimes what proofs to accept and which to ignore.
Comment icon #127 Posted by psyche101 2 years ago
Not true at all. Dualism has been debated since Aristotle and was seriously considered in the 1600s by the aforementioned Descartes.  And yes it's refuted over and again. It's not disproven in the same way unicorns aren't disproven. It violates conservation of energy laws too. Physics also refuted it. https://philosophyofbrains.com/2013/10/09/the-libet-experiment-as-a-refutation-of-dualism.aspx As I said, we have actually filmed memories being chemically stored in the brain. That pretty much destroys the dualism argument altogether. Dualism is merely a philosophical concept. It has absolutely... [More]
Comment icon #128 Posted by stereologist 2 years ago
The difference in gravity across the surface of the Earth is extremely tiny and takes specialized equipment to measure it. http://curious.astro.cornell.edu/about-us/42-our-solar-system/the-earth/gravity/93-does-gravity-vary-across-the-surface-of-the-earth-intermediate This is across the whole Earth. Think of 1/10000 this way. If you had a sack with 10000 sand grains in it could you tell easily if 1 more was added or if 1 was taken out? And that is a difference across the Earth. Here is a gravity measurement system in space. https://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/k-4/features/F_Measuring_Gr... [More]
Comment icon #129 Posted by stereologist 2 years ago
Reading about gravimeters is interesting and I realized that the differences in gravity are exceeded by the movements of the dowser's hands. Gravity cannot be differentiated from an acceleration. That's from relativity. The motions of the dower's hands are accelerations and these cause greater changes than the differences in gravity. Gravimeters are designed to detect and remove accelerations from the results. As far as the effects of the moon and sun on gravity, gravity is 9.8 m/s2 and the Sun and Moon cause an effect up to 1000nm/s2 = 1um/s2. That roughly 1 ten millionth of the gravity value... [More]
Comment icon #130 Posted by Alchopwn 2 years ago
Yeah, water tables in deserts are more unpredictable, but the level of vegetation in any given region is a major 'tell' about what the water table is doing. 
Comment icon #131 Posted by Desertrat56 2 years ago
If you have never been to the desert you probably would not recognize the "tell".  And there are places where there would not be one as the river is over 300 feet to 800 feet below the surface.
Comment icon #132 Posted by the13bats 2 years ago
I believe its BS based on many things, i believe intuitions play a huge part, a seasoned service person has a good idea where a power or water line likely is, i found several here at this house without breaking out my metal detector. a person tells a story they saw a person do it or those who claim they can, but in that its just a story The sticks, wires whatever really up the BS cheese factor for me if it was a special power a person wouldnt need a silly prop. Not once has an unbiased test proven this special power, but it sure has exposed countless hoaxers, and back when it was a more popula... [More]

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