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#Dowsing: The Skeptics “Fix Wikipedia”

Posted on 23 June 2014, 13:37

“You can personally correct any Wikipedia article. As long as you can cite references, you can add the best available skeptical information to any article that needs it. When you add footnote references, you can even link directly to skeptical websites. You don’t need anyone’s permission. For simple text edits, you don’t even need web coding skills. Best of all, it’s rewarding and fun to use your skeptical knowledge to enhance an essential public resource.” See link [From an article entitled, “Fix Wikipedia”]

The message is directed to “Skeptic Activists”. 

I must begin by noting that for the organisers of Wikipedia studies of the paranormal in general, and dowsing in particular, are regarded as “pseudoscientific”. While I strongly disagree with this, I must acknowledge that to some degree the Skeptics are in line with Wikipedia guidelines. Nevertheless, when I see some of their attempts to “enhance”, it looks to me very much like an attack on open-minded science.  It behoves us to be aware of the bias of Wikipedia, and also to consult other reputable and sound sources about matters relating to consciousness studies and the paranormal.

In my previous blog, “Stolen Harp Recovered Using Dowsing”, a reader commented that we shouldn’t accept that dowser Harold McCoy in Arkansas, using a pendulum and a map, had located a stolen harp in town where it was stolen. The reader noted that there had been a letter drop,(inviting its return, “no questions asked,”) and that its recovery could simply have been due to that. But he failed to note that the dowser had mentioned a specific house on the corner of two specific streets, in Oakland CA, a town of 400,000. The letter drop had just been in the neighbourhood of that house. 

As for the Skeptics, if we Google “The harp that came back” together with “Skeptical” we will find them also giving the same misinformation.

“Fixing Wikipedia”

Let us now look up “Dowsing” in Wikipedia. There are signs of a Skeptic “fix” in the first paragraph: We read, “There is no scientific evidence that dowsing is effective.”(Justifying this claim is a footnote referring to Skeptic critiques. Do not non-Skeptic scientists exist as well?) Later we come to a heading “Scientific Appraisal” where we can suspect there may be another “fix”. We have no way of telling whether there have been any accounts of research into the phenomenon of dousing by non-Skeptic scientists. If a Skeptic “fixer” has removed such accounts, then we have a case of special pleading, where counterevidence is ignored, making the entry on dowsing valueless for the general reader. Skeptics have the right to be put forward their views, but not to remove counterevidence. In any case we do learn that the German branch of the Skeptics conducted tests for dowsing abilities without positive result. We also see that dowsing-denier, leading Skeptic, James Randi, a magician, not a scientist, is pictured giving a lecture on the subject at Rockefeller University.

James Randi demonstrates the reality of Dowsing

But do please look, however, at this 1980 video which shows a Discovery programme comp red by Arthur C. Clarke. We see the same James Randi testing for abilities to dowse for metals, and then for water. It turned out that the dowsers were not successful with the metals, but according to Clarke, with regard to water, they were quite successful, with odds against chance being 100:1.  This of course didn’t suit Randi, who averaged the results, declared the experiment to be a failure, added insult to injury by lecturing those taking part on their superstition, and thus saved himself paying out the considerable prize money on offer.  The video concludes with Clarke disagreeing with what Randi had done, and declaring that dowsing had just been successfully demonstrated.

How then are we to regard statements such as, “There is no scientific evidence that dowsing is effective”? Well, one successful test such as Randi’s, as just shown in our video, will disprove it. But the telling point for me, at least is, how do we imagine the practice of dowsing persisted throughout the centuries if dowsing never worked? An even more telling point for me, is that I know successful dowsers.

In a similar vein a reader of my blog wrote, “The communicable inter-connection of all matter is a belief not a fact of science.” Skeptics make such pronouncements, and they may convince the unwary. But can this statement be justified? What about the Einstein-Podolski-Rosen effect, confirmed by Alain Aspect? What about quantum entanglement? What about the observer effect in quantum mechanics? What about Bell’s theorem denying local causation? The science is too complex to describe here, but if we look these topics up in Wikipedia, we may get some idea. (Provided that Skeptical activists have not been finding things “rewarding and fun” and “fixed” the entries.)

Skeptics with their Materialist dogma are anti-science because science consists of a series of investigative tools, used by people of all races, religions and beliefs. The moment religious or philosophical conclusions are made about reality, we no longer have science. Instead we have dogma. The science that each of us uses, needs to have humility in the face of hard data. It tries to gain some approximation to what is the case, with further investigations always possible.

The Skeptics prescribe the conclusions, and therefore attempt to preclude the research. Many of their members are not scientists, and only once as a group did they engage in serious research. Here is one of many sites that spell this out. They exist to influence the media, and unfortunately they have the ear of the media. If a paranormal event is reported, the Skeptics are invited to present an opposing view, in the name of “balance”.  The public of course would be much better served if a real scientist competent in the field were to be consulted.

Recently a group of twenty Nobel Prize winning QM scientists, and seventy other leading academics, signed a joint letter pleading that a more open approach to the study of consciousness be permitted in some academic circles. In other words they were pleading that research should not be stymied by Materialist dogma. They need to plead because there are indeed leading scientists who back the Skeptics, but doing so, step from science into dogma. They claim to have a final and unalterable understanding of reality.  It is very human of them, but it is still not science.

Here is an address delivered by Nobel Prize winner QM physicist Prof. Brian Josephson, of Cambridge, to a meeting of other Prize winners, on the damage to the cause of science caused by closed-minded Skeptics.

For non-dogmatic and genuinely sceptical scientists, the Skeptics’ access to the media is a big problem, because important discoveries are publicly laughed at, making getting research funds harder, discouraging further research. We can grant that it takes self-discipline and scientific rigour for individual scientists to overcome the tendency to come to unalterable conclusions. It is very human of   scientists to want to believe that they have come to some final truth. But the truth is that supposed facts are often contradicted by later work, or seen differently in a wider context.

In the real world scientists’ personal religious and scientific beliefs differ widely:  they can be Catholics, atheists, Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, Materialists, or just spiritually minded. In the Materialist West some surveys suggest that as many as 40% of scientists would not be Materialists.

In a world of warring religions and warring beliefs, open-minded careful investigation using scientific methods and those of the law court, is our only hope. There are all sorts of rubbish out there, in the field of psychic research, scientific research in general, and no end of superstition and bad religion. The world cries out for open-minded i.e. sceptical research. Religions, philosophies, communities, traditions, and indeed some scientists, all need to take reality checks. It is such a tragedy that the Skeptics are not sceptical in the proper sense and take such reality checks as well. 

For further reading on this theme go to the April 2008 issue of The Ground of Faith.

Michael Cocks edits the journal, The Ground of Faith.
Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr by Michael Cocks is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.
His forthcoming book, Into the Wider Dream will be published summer 2014 by White Crow Books.

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I read somewhere that the person who founded Wikipedia—I don’t remember his name—is a dedicated materialist who scoffs at psychic and spiritual matters. Thus, it is unlikely that any progress can be made with them.

Michael Tymn, Fri 1 Aug, 06:36

Thank you Loes for that comment. No, I was not aware of Wisewiki. It looks wonderful, and I will put a notice about it, in The Ground of Faith. In the best of all possible worlds,it would have been wonderful to have had a Wikipedia that allowed dogma free science. But that is not how it is.

Michael Cocks, Tue 24 Jun, 23:58

You know about the promising WISEwiki initiative, recently started by a number of USA and Canadian scientists from the SSE? Its objective is to form a well informed alternative for Wikipedia on everything ‘fringe’, and also to collect a huge amount of digitalized magazines on the site regarding the same subjects. They are well under way, and everybody can participate in this worthy goal.

Loes Modderman, Tue 24 Jun, 06:07

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