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Earth Science

Drought Inspires a Boom In Pseudoscience, From Rain Machines To 'Water Witches' 266

Posted by timothy
from the hi-cousin-barry dept.
merbs (2708203) writes Across drought-stricken California, farmers are desperate for water. Now, many of them are calling dowsers. These "water witches," draped in dubious pseudoscience or self-assembled mythologies—or both—typically use divining rods and some sort of practiced intuition to "find" water. The professional variety do so for a fee. And business is booming. They're just part of a storied tradition of pseudoscientific hucksters exploiting our thirst for water, with everything from cloudbusters to rainmachines to New Age rituals.
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Drought Inspires a Boom In Pseudoscience, From Rain Machines To 'Water Witches'

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  • by polyphemus (473112) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @05:14PM (#47779525)

    People who are suffering, ignorant, and afraid are more willing to turn to the supernatural - be it religion or superstitions - as a 'solution' to their problems.

    Definitely.

    I see parallels between this and any number of other situations that make people desperate:

    * Cancer patients turning to stem cell "remedies" from quacks who don't bother looking for evidence

    * People with autistic children who can't find a cause so they blame vaccines

    * People who can't see any obvious good options, so they turn to psychics

    Fear is a wonderful tool if you're a charlatan, as it makes your victims less likely to pause and ask whether you're actually qualified to do (or to know) any of the things you claim.

  • Devil's Advocate (Score:2, Informative)

    by ihtoit (3393327) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @05:20PM (#47779595)

    OK, if someone claims to be able to find water with a stick, takes your money then doesn't find water, are they committing fraud?

    Let's test this: Did they *guarantee* to find water? If yes, then fraud happened.
    If no, then fraud did not happen.
    Why? Because they only claimed to be able to find water, they did not guarantee that there would be water under the test area.
    HOWEVER, if it is known that water is under the test area (and this can be proved contemporaneously with the dowsing), then fraud did occur because that would prove that either the stick operator knows the stick is broken or someotherhow malfunctioning, or his method is hokum as either way he FAILED to detect what he claimed to be able to detect yet it was present at the material time.

    (up until 1951 witchcraft was illegal in England, since then it has been the burden upon the accuser not to apply an ambiguous label to someone's behaviour, but to prove that his actions were of a malicious and criminally fraudulent nature, ie a medium stacking tarot cards).

  • by Jerrry (43027) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @05:51PM (#47779843)

    "but it's California, so they may be hard to find."

    Only if you restrict said virgins to females. There are plenty of male nerd virgins living in their parent's garage (we generally don't have basements here).

  • by blackest_k (761565) on Thursday August 28, 2014 @06:23PM (#47780083) Homepage Journal

    once you get below the level of the water table you find water.
    similar story just outside blarney apart from no douser involved just a big drill that went down until water was found. Ireland has no shortage of water. Outside the cities septic tanks are usual and wells are fairly common place. With water charges coming in for domestic water, there may be a little boom in well digging.

  • by SparkleMotion88 (1013083) on Friday August 29, 2014 @11:45AM (#47785313)

    You have a source for that?

    The poll that you supplied supports GP's argument. From the data, 40% of people change religion after birth, but over half of that is caused by people switching "within the same tradition" (e.g. changing from Baptist to Methodist or Agnostic to Atheist), and most of the rest is people leaving the church altogether. Only 4% of people in the survey were raised outside of religion and later joined a religion. So of all religious people in the survey, 96% got there by being born, and the other 4% were raised non-religious and then later became affiliated with a religion. By any reasonable definition, 96% is a "vast majority".

    As to your anecdote, some denominations (e.g. Charismatic) cater to the "born again" crowd and so will be composed of a lot of converts, which others (Catholic, Episcopal) are composed almost entirely of people who were born or married into the faith.

When I left you, I was but the pupil. Now, I am the master. - Darth Vader

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