SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE --- A TRAVESTY OF SCIENCE

James Randi --- Wizard (randi-hotline@ssr.com)
Thu, 18 Jan 1996 01:02:47 -0500

The January issue of the Smithsonian magazine ran a major article that
is extremely shocking, bearing in mind the reputation of this
periodical. It's hard for me to imagine who on the staff of
Smithsonian made the decision to run the piece. It's a highly
positive article on dowsing, a seven-page paean to the wonders that
are accomplished with pendulums and forked sticks -- such as choosing
medications, vitamins and foods, finding water, deciding upon which
"Personal" ad to answer, and even assessing videotapes for
entertainment value!

There is, of course, the obligatory token skeptical content in the
article, amounting in this case to 1.5 inches of type, in an article
that runs 78 inches, with nine illustrations extolling the truth of
this mythology! That's LESS THAN TWO PERCENT of the entire piece!
And that small portion is only mildly critical. There are no tests of
the validity of the claim, only demonstrations and stories of wonders.

The author of this trash writes, "The relationship between dowsing and
established science has always been distant, mutually suspicious."
Nonsense! There IS NO RELATIONSHIP! Science is logic, rationality,
careful investigation, and experimentation that works: dowsing is
wishful thinking, superstition and mythology that doesn't work. Was
there any mention in this Smithsonian magazine article of the numerous
carefully-controlled tests of dowsing that have been done, tests that
showed it was totally without merit? No, in the pages of this
prestigious SCIENCE magazine, only anecdotal experiences are given,
and blatantly unproven "theories" and "facts" from wide-eyed dummies
who don't know logic from lingerie.

This article will be touted and distributed by the American Society of
Dowsers (who adamantly refuse to allow their claims to be tested, and
have vigorously avoided tring to win my prize!) and no retraction will
EVER serve to neutralize this irresponsible attack on rationality.
When New Scientist magazine, in the UK, ran a very positive 3-page
piece on dowsing back in December of 1979, reporting experiments that
gave 100% positive results, it began with the statement, "Dowsing
works; that much is certain." Then, when a skeptic (Denys Parsons)
repeated the experiments with the author of the article, this time
double-blind, the results were 121 correct, 129 wrong, with an
expectation of 50%. Parsons' article lay about the editor's desk for
TWO YEARS, and then the summarized results (but never the article
itself) appeared on a back page, and occupied less than that one page.
The dowsers have been citing the former article for years now; the
refutation is never mentioned.

I urge my readers to do something about this travesty. Write to the
editor of Smithsonian and express your dismay. The address is:

The Editor
Smithsonian
900 Jefferson Drive
Washington, DC 20560

You might mention that I am offering the $502,000 prize to ANY of the
dowsers who are mentioned in this article, who can perform
successfully with their dowsing device. I can predict quite safely
that there will be no takers. Why? A good question, and I believe
you know the answer.

James Randi.

{Please forward this message to any forum or interest group you
believe will have an interest in it. Thank you.}

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