A Conversation for The History of Dowsing

A881345 - The History of Dowsing

Post 101

Pimms

Glad you've been able to do some work on this Romi smiley - biggrin

On the formatting side, some of your edits have left paragraphs missing final full stops, and some of the typos already pointed out have been overlooked eg penomenon.

The entry would benefit from some headings to break up the text - if you are not using GML to format the text just put the headings in with a space above and below them, eg

Early References to Dowsing

Opposition to Dowsing

Modern Dowsing

(these are just suggestions smiley - winkeye)

Generally though I remain unhappy smiley - sadface with the assertions and generalisations made throughout that have not been justified by references or balanced by skeptical commentary. I realise that if you attempt to address this issue it will probably require considerable efforts. This topic, being one where there is considerable skepticism, is not one where you can generalise without being expected to provide evidence for your points.
Pimms smiley - smiley


A881345 - The History of Dowsing

Post 102

St Romani Angel Guardian of Crystals. Minister of Coffee now on the decaff!!

thanks pimms

smiley - weird i thought i had changed the phenoma to phenomon i'll have to take a look smiley - sadface

thanks for the suggestions for headings i'm also looking for some info on sappers being trained to dowse so that i can include a link for that also hopefully

romi smiley - angel


A881345 - The History of Dowsing

Post 103

St Romani Angel Guardian of Crystals. Minister of Coffee now on the decaff!!

a question : are only links to articles in the edited guide allowed ?

i ask because ive seen a piece on ley lines on this site that i think mikey may be taking over!!!!!!!!!!!!

romi smiley - angel


A881345 - The History of Dowsing

Post 104

sprout

Yep. Quality external sites or EG entries only.

sprout


A881345 - The History of Dowsing

Post 105

St Romani Angel Guardian of Crystals. Minister of Coffee now on the decaff!!

smiley - ok thanks sprout

im still looking for links i can use on sappers using dowsing sent off a few emails to some regiment sites and awaiting a reply

romi smiley - angel


A881345 - The History of Dowsing

Post 106

Mikey the Humming Mouse - A3938628 Learn More About the Edited Guide!

Ahhh..... the one raymondo abandoned! I had utterly forgotten about that one smiley - blush I will get into Peer Review sharpish.

Thanks!

smiley - cheers
Mikey


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 107

Recumbentman

It might be a profitable move, for the sake of balance and objectivity, to include some of what James Randi says about dowsing: http://www.randi.org/library/dowsing/

He has asked dowsers to divine a place where water will *not* be found underground. This is harder to do than finding water, he says, because there is water at diggable distance beneath some 90% of the inhabited earth's surface. They don't want to do this, understandably.

He has also asked a dowser to detect a trinket concealed in his hand, and he did so, to the dowser's extreme embarrassment; Randi is a professional conjuror and had offered an empty fist to the pendulum.


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 108

St Romani Angel Guardian of Crystals. Minister of Coffee now on the decaff!!

hi mikey yes thats the one i read it and thought it was quite good smiley - biggrin
im pleased to see its not been entirely forgotten smiley - ok

recumbentman i dont know about it being profitable but ive no problems in including links that are anti-dowsing.........after all who ever reads the article and links will make up their own minds in the end anyway.

and your quite right as earth is mainly made of water it is harder to dowse for areas where there is no water,

ive had one reply to my email looking for sappers being trained to dowse telling me where to enquire, just done that now so waiting yet again for a reply hopefully with a link that i can use on that subject too smiley - ok

romi smiley - angel


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 109

Pimms

Recumbent - excellent link smiley - biggrin (I guess I am easily swayed by things I already agree with)

A link of this sort (if not discussion in the entry) is well worth including - it will provide balance, rather than the current indication that the only opposition to dowsing has been on religious grounds.

Practical modern scepticism of dowsing efficacy should be recognised.

Pimms smiley - ok


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 110

Felonious Monk - h2g2s very own Bogeyman

The most sceptical account I have come across is at http://www.csicop.org/si/9901/dowsing.html . And it should be noted that the most frequent but ultimately groundless objection to the methodology, that the investigators' sceptical attitude upset the 'energies' of the process, didn't apply here. Faced with this kind of evidence, a rational person would be forced to conclude that dowsing didn't work.
When I was a little boy I got it into my head that there was buried treasure in the field behind our back garden. I eventually managed to pester my granddad to go out and dig with me. We dug and dug, and eventually even I had to admit there was no treasure. I was disappointed, but I learned an important lesson. My advice to anybody who wants to write about the paranormal or occult phenomena, be it crystal therapy, dowsing, spellcasting or whatever, is 'stop digging'. And if you can't stop, then at least be honest enough to admit that a rusty old piece of iron is not the gold nugget you've been so eagerly looking for.


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 111

sprout

Yeah, but did you find water? smiley - winkeye

More seriously, I'm not sure Romani needs to include the 'most sceptical' account - a link to a rational site, plus being careful with the general tone would be OK.

If someone wants to write an article on why dowsing, crystal balls, ley lines etc is all a load of hooey, then fair enough (personally I would certainly tend to agree) but that is a separate piece.

sprout


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 112

Felonious Monk - h2g2s very own Bogeyman

It's an issue of where the story ends. If the story is told up to the point where dowsing becomes a practice which hasn't been scientifically tested, then that would be disingenuous. The *whole* story would acknowledge that scientific methods *do* have a role to play in verifying whether such claims exist and *have* been tried in this case, with very inconclusive results. So I personally don't see this as a seperate issue. You can't disentangle claim, counterclaim, and the process for telling which one is correct and which one isn't


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 113

Recumbentman

Felonious's link is extremely scientific and informative in its presentation. A well-funded and well-run experiment was undertaken in Munich, with no sceptics involved. The author of this report, Jim Enright, a professor of behavioral physiology in the University of California at San Diego, was not one of those involved. He specialises in data analysis for evaluating scientific literature; he has taken their figures and worked out the statistical implications, and he concludes "the Munich experiments constitute as decisive and complete a failure as can be imagined of dowsers to do what they claim they can."

This is not what I would call "very inconclusive" results. The enthusiastic researchers claimed that they *had* found traces of skill in their best dowsers, but Enright shows that their own figures do not support any such claim.

"The researchers themselves concluded that the outcome unquestionably demonstrated successful dowsing abilities, but a thoughtful re-examination of the data indicates that such an interpretation can only be regarded as the result of wishful thinking. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a set of experimental results that would represent a more persuasive disproof of the ability of dowsers to do what they claim. The experiments thus can and should be considered a decisive failure by the dowsers."


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 114

Mikey the Humming Mouse - A3938628 Learn More About the Edited Guide!

But then you come up against the whole difficulty of conclusively proving a negative bit.

At the most, the re-analysis can conclude that the specific subjects involved did not show statistically significant results in their dowsing (i.e., better than random chance) - and perhaps by extension that those who were measuring dowsing ability were not doing so accurately. But neither of those things proves that dowsing is impossible, or that people who are truly capable of dowsing don't exist.

That's why I'd agree with FM that it's inconclusive. That, plus the fact that anyone going in to do a re-analysis under such circumstances would be expected to have their own biases -- and as someone who does such analyses for a living, let me assure you that I always have to be conscious of whether I'm letting my own inherent biases affect the methodology. For any one experiment, there are many many different statistically sound ways of analyzing the data, and they will not all come to the same conclusion.


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 115

Recumbentman

Mikey, have you looked at Enright's graphs? What do you make of the section which he claims shows that, had they consistently geussed that the water course was exactly central, they would have done consistently better than they actually did?


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 116

Mikey the Humming Mouse - A3938628 Learn More About the Edited Guide!

I haven't been able to find an online copy of Enright's original article, only some other bits and pieces here and there quoting or referencing it.

Regardless, I don't consider what you're describing a valid statistical measure -- by it's definition, it is too post-hoc and open to bias.

If I was going to design a study around this, here's what I'd do:

* get a consensus from people on both sides what should constitute a "hit" -- i.e., within 1 meter or half a meter. Look at it dichotomously.

* use a pre-defined area, and before the test, grid it out. for each grid square, determine whether a detection in that square would consitute a "hit" or not. you'd want an area big enough to have a decently large number of squares -- at least in the 500-1000 range -- and the ideal % of squares that would be hits would depend on whether you were trying for a two-tailed or one-tailed test. Enright seems to be trying to make a two-tailed conclusion, although inappropriately so. If you were planning one a one-tailed analysis, the ideal field would have a relatively lower number of total hits than for a two-tailed test.

* you then calculate the number of hits you would expect someone to get if they were guessing randomly -- all this comes down to is the % of squares that are hits, and the number of guesses each dowser is allowed.

* the order of the dowsers is randomized, and the observer marking which grid square the dowser selects is blinded to which grid squares are "hits". each dowser is allocated a certain number of guesses (say, 10 or 20) -- this number should be conisderably smaller than the total number of potential hits, and each dowser should do the full complement of guesses. The higher the number of guesses each dowser is allocated, the greater the statistical power of the results. If each dowser is only doing a few guesses, the results will be meaningless. Repeated trials can be conducted to increase the number of rounds per dowser, but then you have to take into account the non-independence of these for the analysis.

* for each individual dowser, you'd then examine their results to see whether they had significantly more hits than would be expected due to random chance. The p-value of the test will, in effect, tell you the chance that the person could have obtained the same results by random dumb luck -- anything under .05 (i.e., 5%) is considered statistically significant in many fields, but obviously the smaller the better. Regardless of how incredibly wonderful the results, it is still always theoretically possible that they were achieved through random chance -- that possibility just becomes smaller and smaller as the p-value shrinks.

* looking at the results of all the dowsers together has relatively little utility for deciding whether or not the ability exists, and here is where my biggest problem with enright's apparent analysis is. If you had a very large sample size, you could look at whether the distribution of % hits was normally distributed. The interpretation of this kind of analysis is decidedly fuzzy, though, because you're making the assumption that absolutely nothing other than a positive dowsing ability or lack thereof is influencing results, which may not be an accurate assumption.

* it makes far more sense to simply look at the results of the individual level, and try to assess whether this individual has dowsing ability, and not the broader question of "does this ability exist at all?" the former is what the randi foundation appears to do, by the way.

* once you've done all of this, it would make sense to do a post-hoc analysis, examining those events that were "hits" -- does a logistic regression model find any common characteristics, either of the land, or the dowser, the timing, etc?

yes, yes, I really should get back to work.....
smiley - cheers



A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 117

Recumbentman

I just had a quick scan through your points, Mikey, because I'm tied for time.

They do seem to be well covered by the article on the site Felonious links to a few posts back.


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 118

Felonious Monk - h2g2s very own Bogeyman

'What do you make of the section which he claims shows that, had they consistently geussed that the water course was exactly central, they would have done consistently better than they actually did?'

What I make of it is the same as what I make of claims for a method of ancient divination I read about which boasted 40% accuracy. Presumably, its practitioners were very grateful for the invention of currency, as flipping a coin shows an increase in accuracy of 10%.


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 119

St Romani Angel Guardian of Crystals. Minister of Coffee now on the decaff!!

hi every all
I think I may have found something that will suit everyone smiley - ok

its a list of sites that are pro and againts dowsing

http://www.phat.org/e/dowsing.htm

romi smiley - angel


A881345 - THE HISTORY OF DOWSING

Post 120

six7s

The above link doesn't lead to a << list of sites that are pro and againts dowsing >>, instead it automatically redirects to the www.phat.org home page where there is a 'search' box but searching for 'dowsing' only leads to links (sort of like a google search would) for three 'spiritual' websites and amazon.com


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