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No. 52: Jul-Aug 1987

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Dowsing Skeptics Converted

A while back, New Scientist ran an article on the "dowsing sense." Two letters prompted by the article were from scientifically trained people who originally were very skeptical about dowsing.

The first letter from P.L. Younger, a university hydrogeologist, first mentioned that most dowsers are convinced that they are hunting underground streams of water. In actuality, he says, most underground water flow is intergranular and laminar. There are no underground streams to find! Then, he continued:

"Having said all this, while conducting hydrogeological fieldwork in Colorado, I was involved in 'dowsing' the exact location of buried metal pipes using two L-shaped metal rods, which were balanced on the fingers (not clutched at all). Surface and subsurface pipes gave clear deflection of the rods. I was led to conclude that the rods operated as a crude magnetometer."

B.W. Skelcher originally did not believe that any variation in the magnetic field or any other natural force would cause a hand-held stick to move. But:

"One day, on the undeveloped plot of land adjacent to my abode, I spied a 'nutter' pacing to and fro with hazel in hand. When the fellow assured me that he was seriously checking the site for hidden water mains, power cables, and so on, I expressed my grave doubts. At this he handed me the twigs and after a brief instruction goaded me to try. After a few paces I was astonished to feel the two bent twigs move in my hands. I am not skeptical any more, I know it works."

(Younger, Paul L., and Skelcher, B.W.; "Dowsing-Sense," New Scientist, p. 62, April 9, 1987.)

Comment. Such testimonial evidence, abundant though it is, will not be accepted by the scientific community. In stead they point to their controlled experiments, which are strongly negative. Why do so many individuals experience psi phenomena casually, but when controls are applied, the effects are most elusive? Most people, at one time or another, have had a profoundly shocking psychic experience. Are these events real, and, if so, why don't they manifest themselves in the labs?

From Science Frontiers #52, JUL-AUG 1987. 1987-2000 William R. Corliss