“Watered down” (Masaru Emoto experiments)


I wanted this post be about Michael Tellinger, who purports to fuse creationism with abiogenesis and evolution. He claims his research reveals how “evolutionists and creationists can finally co-exist in one pond,” presumably one comprised of holy water and primordial soup.

He asserts that God made a deliberately inferior hominid species 250,000 years ago, but that evolution began with Abraham and was further advanced by Jesus, who was the messiah without knowing it. Tellinger came to these conclusions through reinterpretations the Bible, Sumerian clay tablets, and genetic engineering principles.

Alas, most of his work requires a subscription and the Moline Skeptics monthly budget is about four mills. So I will instead be testing the claims of Masaru Emoto, as doing so requires only access to water and rice, plus working vocal chords.

Emoto, who died in 2014, asserted water could be influenced by words. He separated water into 100 petri dishes and half of the samples were praised and half were scorned. Then each petri dish was frozen and Emotos said that when viewed under a microscope, the water which had been praised was in the shape of beautiful crystalline structures, while the berated beverage lacked symmetry and sported a jagged appearance.

However, in a post for Skeptoid, Carrie Poppy quoted former Stanford University William Tiller as saying it is easy to manipulate water’s crystalline structure with contaminants or by tinkering with its cooling rate. Emoto had no controls for this and there is no way to tell anything about the water’s temperature or other conditions when he made his observations.

More significantly, Emoto offered no evidence of water having auditory capabilities or language comprehension skills. Another problem is that he made no attempt to falsify his hypothesis, a necessary step in the Scientific Method. He did, however, follow the Pseudosceintific Method, mixing misused and undefined terms with the obligatory reference to vibrations. He said the water responded to flattering or belittling words because of “intrinsic vibrational patterns at the atomic level that is in all matter and is the energy of human consciousness.”

Emoto said even large bodies of water would believe it if they were told they were a bad little lake. He described observing one such body that appeared to him to resemble a pained person. He then chanted loving words in its direction and the lake made a smiley face, or some such pattern. Later, the body of a drowning victim was found in the lake, causing Emoto to conclude, “Perhaps, through the crystals, the spirit of this woman was trying to tell us something, and her suffering was alleviated in part by the incantation.” Short of submerging additional corpses, there is no way to test this theory.

Emoto expanded his repertoire to include food, specifically rice, to which hot water was added. The doused grain was split into three beakers, one being lauded, one being scorned, and the third being ignored. Emoto reported that the fawned-over rice had a pleasing aroma and texture. The insulted rice was blackened, and the ignored rice fared the worst, turning moldy. Emoto attributed this to “negligence and indifference being the absolute worst things we can do.” And here I’ve been letting my sack of rice languish in the cupboard, without adoration, criticism, or inquiring if it and the can of black beans were an item.

Emoto never revealed his protocols or if he used any controls, so his experiment cannot be replicated with certainty. But if it really was just a monologue with rice, there have been many attempts to copy it on youtube, and Poppy performed one as well for Skeptoid. None of these experiments showed any change in the rice, meaning that Emoto was either fraudulent or unusually persuasive when gushing over his Uncle Ben’s.

The High Wizard of Skeptics, James Randi, pointed out the lack double blind testing. To test properly, Emoto should have had someone else love or loathe the samples, then give them back to him without Emoto knowing which samples had been subjected to which words. Upon further review, to do this properly, one wouldn’t waste time and scientific resources on seeing if calling water your good buddy would make for happy H2O molecules.

Randi offered Emoto the chance to test his ideas under controlled conditions as part of the Million Dollar Challenge, but Emoto declined. No worries, I attempted my own test.

I gave my 4- and 6-year old sons one Twix bar apiece and instructed them to either encourage or belittle the chocolatey caramel confectionary while I was out of the room. I came back five minutes later, but the test subjects had been consumed by my compatriots. That’s OK, we have plenty of candy bars, so this test is repeatable.


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