Thursday, 22 May 2008

The intention experiment cargo cult: results are in!

You remember Rustum Roy and his attempts to measure changes in water structure caused by people all over the world really, really wanting the structure to change? Yes, the results are in! There's good news and bad news. First the good news: apparently "something happened", but the bad news is that "we're not sure what".

The intention experiment failed to change the structure of water. I'm quite surprised, actually. My prediction that they would find some changes in the water because it was such a poorly designed experiment has not come true. The sample "had enormous variation in light scattering to begin with", but there were no profound changes recorded. I would suggest that the variation is probably instrumental noise, but no actual results have been shown, so it would be impossible to tell even if I knew much about Raman spectroscopy.

Why did the best intentions of so many people fail? You might say "because trying to change water structure through the power of the mind doesn't work". And, to be fair, the intention experiment people have this eighth on their list of possibilities. Because "Although all of our other studies have produced a measurable effect, this hypothesis must always be considered". But not considered that seriously, you understand.

What could the other reasons be? The wildest one is the suggestion that "intention works out of time" (which I suppose is no dafter than imagining that intention works in the first place). Of course, here any recorded change in the water whatsoever, at any time, could be attributed to 'intention', so this isn't what you would call testable. Other suggestions include water purity (even the purest water is grossly contaminated, and having it sat on a lab bench with a probe in it is not going to help), environmental factors (a thunderstorm during the measurement), and problems with the experimental protocol. So the experiment will be repeated in a couple of months.

Some of the comments are fun. One commenter writes "This is what experimentation is all about. You just keep trying until you can verify your conclusions...". Another writes "I'm convinced that intention works. I don't see the need for further experiments". It seems that any negative result would have to be wrong, because we all know that it works. This is how homeopaths think, and is pretty much exactly what is meant by cargo-cult science.

It's worth remembering, of course, that all of this is based on Rustum Roy's evidence-free assertions that there is such a thing as 'healing water', that 'healing water' has a different structure from ordinary water, and that you can change the structure of water by thinking about it. Obviously it would be nice to really, really want a beaker of water to cure cancer, and have it work, but I think it might be worth persevering with proper biomedical research for now.

14 comments:

holfordwatch said...

"I'm convinced that intention works. I don't see the need for further experiments".

The words definitive and clincher come to mind, eh!

Thanks for bringing us the results.

Dr* T said...

Excellent - I love it when people demonstrate explicitly their full understanding of testing a hypothesis.

To (mis)quote Alan Partridge "I've got a gambling system - I've tried it a few times in my head and it has worked every time".

teekblog said...

great post - i wonder, if intention really does work (and it clearly must cos Rustum said so...), could i 'intend' my quantitative PCR to work so I can finally publish my damm data...?!

NH said...

" Because time varies even within the time zones surely completely simultaneous intention is not possible. I recently read that before the establishment of Greenwich Mean time railroad travelers in the USA had to change their watches in each location. Have such variations been taken into account?

I think this is my favourite comment. It was their watches' fault obviously.

Or maybe this one:

I agree with the others (notably Sandy and Jan) who say that the water was already changed before the experiment officially began. I was looking at the water about one hour before the start time and saw areas in the water where the molecules were disorganized and not in beautiful patterns. So I started (intented) to organize them and they changed immediately into more coherent patterns. Perhaps monitoring the water for a longer period and comparing the time intervals to each other would give interesting results. Intention is powerful .... Eileen

This woman can see water molecules. Why hasn't she joined the X-men yet.

jdc325 said...

"Why did the best intentions of so many people fail?"
Maybe, unbeknownst to Rustum Roy, someone else was trying to keep the structure of water the same (using the power of their mind) and it counteracted the mind power of the group aiming to change the structure. Or maybe the water itself was emotionally resistant to change. Hm, perhaps I should join the intention experiment - it looks like they could do with a bit more help and I'm pretty good at thinking up weak excuses.

Paul Wilson said...

As ever, thank you all for your comments.

What strikes me is that they've given a whole lot of reasons why they didn't see any change. But if they HAD seen some change, would they have pointed these out as possible reasons for a false positive result? I doubt it, which is why this classic cargo cult science.

Paul Wilson said...

Teek:

Excellent idea. And I'll 'send intention' to the reviewers at the Journal of Structural Geology. Should make my life a hell of a lot easier.

Anonymous said...

The comments are unintentionally funny. Once again alt.science has shown its ineptitude, though this is not reflected in the the smugness of the comments. Rather depressing, really.

Dr Aust said...

"What strikes me is that they've given a whole lot of reasons why they didn't see any change. But if they HAD seen some change, would they have pointed these out as possible reasons for a false positive result? I doubt it, which is why this classic cargo cult science."

You hit the nail on the head, Paul. This is the kind of "special idiot pleading" that one talks final year undergrads out of doing in their project write-ups. But at least the students do it without a prior agenda - combine the special pleading with the one-eyed-ness of the Alt.Reality Advocates and you have a true smorgasbord of steaming bullshit. What a pack of clowns.

jollyspaniard said...

This stuff is truly awful. A friend of mine (a 65 year old woman) has bought this stuff hook, line and sinker. Since then she's broken up with her partner of 30 years, almost got arrested for assaulting a girl in a shop and has become somewhat of a recluse. It's all she wants to talk about and she gets very shouty if she senses that you're skeptical.

It's a shame because she used to be the loveliest, sweetest lady. Now nobody wants anything to do with her and she's very unhappy and angry. This crap is ruining her life. Keep taking mick out of cargo cult science this stuff needs to be countered.

cinq said...

It proves that water has a will of its own. They need a lot more people to break that will. But maybe this is already too late and the water has become resistant to their will power. Much like bacteria gain resistance to antibiotics.

All the skeptics that don't want the experiment to work, will add up to this. Their own will interferes with the will of the ones trying to change the water.

:)

BullshItting is remarkably easy. I blame religion. Science should be mandatory in all schools.

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