Seven Suspicious Water Claims

This is part two of my three part series on the documentary Water: The Great Mystery and it follows on from the post entitled “More Water Woo”. In this article I will attempt to address the fallacious statements which are presented as science in Water. This series is a response to an article published on news24.com entitled Can Water Remember?.

The seven theories proposed in Water, together with the skeptical interpretation of those theories are as follows;

1. Any substance which comes into contact with water leaves behind an imprint of itself , this enables water to remember everything which occurs in the space around it.

Does this sound familiar to you? If you recognised this speculation as one of the central tenets of homeopathy, you would be right. A topic such as homeopathy deserves an entire blog category of it’s own and I intend to address the matter in great detail.

For the purpose of this post however, let us stick to the basics. Water memory was proposed by Jacques Benveniste as the mechanism through which homeopathic remedies allegedly have therapeutic powers. This effect is only brought about by shaking the water at each stage of dilution of the homeopathic remedy. Such remedies are so highly diluted that not even a single molecule of the original solute is likely to remain. While Benveniste’s studies were able to show an effect, no double-blind repetition of the experiments involved have been able to replicate the effects.

The concept of water memory is not accepted by the scientific community.

2. It’s further noted that, as water records information, it acquires new properties, yet its chemical composition remains unchanged…

This point is based on a logical fallacy; the unstated major premise. We must first be willing to accept that water can retain memories before it is plausible to theorize about the formation of “memory cells” within water. This point is flawed in the most basic of ways; it is not based on any plausible science. As such we do not need to address it too closely.

3. “modern instruments have made it possible to record that within each of water’s memory cells, there are 440 000 information panels”

Again, this point is flawed as it builds upon the nonsense of the point before it. We still have no proof that water can retain any kind of memory beyond a few picoseconds. What use is it to look for “information panels”?

Secondly, exactly which modern instruments, operated by whom, and recorded in which journals?

4. Our tap water is dead and leaches energy out of people, plants and animals.

As I understand it (based on my physics education), energy is the potential to do work. Perhaps the makers of Water are referring to the mythical “life energy” or “chi”. This would suggest that by drinking tap water we are somehow draining a non-existent force from our bodies.

Talk about an untestable claim. This sounds like utter rubbish to me.

5. Water responds to our thoughts and thus, by calming our minds we can calm our bodies (which are composed of approximately 70% water).

Another completely unproven theory. The only reference I have seen made to water being able to respond to our thoughts is on psychic websites and forums. Do I need to explain why psychic forums are not going to be a suitable source of information?

They don’t do science!

To be involved in the psychic community  you have to stop asking questions and start accepting what you are told. This is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. I have a glass of water on my table and I have been willing it to change in any way whatsoever for the past twenty minutes. Nothing happened.

6. Projecting emotions at a flask of water can effect the water’s energy.

I assume that we are once again reffering to the mythical life energy. Someone must have conducted a study to determine that this is true, right?

I must ask where was this research published and by whom? Until there is evidence to back up these claims it is very hard not to be skeptical about them.

The claims of Dr. Maseru Emoto as outlined in point seven seem like a load of pseudoscience if I have ever seen it! I will address Dr. Emoto’s experiments in greater detail in my third and final installment in this series.

To summarize, if you want the credibility of science, you must be willing to do real, double-blinded, peer reviewed science. The dearth of scientific literature on any of the theories proposed in Water is a serious red-flag. Accepted science is built up over decades by scientists working independently of each other, arriving at similar conclusions. Studies are carried out and journals publish the results. When you encounter a “scientific” field in which there are only a few people turning out results there is no opportunity for the literature to evolve. When the claims made by these pseudo scientists are tested and demolished by peers it says something about the original claims. If a scientist insists on pursuing a flawed theory because of emotional investment, he runs the serious risk of being sidelined by his peers.

There is nothing in the theory of water memory which holds water.

If you have any questions you would like me to address in greater detail please feel free to post them in the comments section or to drop me an e-mail on skepticdetective{at}gmail{dot}com.

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32 responses to “Seven Suspicious Water Claims

  1. Angela, this pathetic excuse for a documentary has become a point of contention in my household as well as in my girlfriend’s extended family. The problem with all such drivel is that it appeals strongly to that part of the human psyche that loves the idea of mystery, that longs desperately to believe. And the problem with belief is that when it is applied indiscriminately to making decisions, the nature of the outcome is considered valid if nobody suffers outright as a result. Oddly, belief is such a powerful narcotic that when decisions are made that lead to pain and anguish, even the victims are willing to forgive the utterly baseless claims and pin the disaster on anything else. How many believers have denied their children medical treatment only to wind up with a dead or deathly ill child and a possible prison sentence? Worse still, how many believers administer worthless “medicines” to ailing children secure in their faith that the mysterious magic will counter their offspring’s illnesses? At least traditional medicines will acknowledge the presence of undesirable side-effects, something no charlatan will ever admit. Science courts some risks to be sure, but blind faith has no room for such “flaws.” As Ambrose Bierce defined it in his Devil’s Dictionary, “FAITH, n. Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel.” When I hear about Jesus changing water into wine and the wisdom of the Quran issuing from the mouth of a purported “scientist,” I have to take a step back and stand up for rational thought. How it can be that some people will accept without any sort of foundational evidence such opaque absurdities only confirms my observation that “Ignorance is bliss where wisdom is folly.” Wouldn’t it be truly wonderful if even a tiny fraction of this B.S. were true? Of course it would! And therein lies its appeal.

  2. Again suffers from spectacular lack of actual evidence. And that is fine but because of it will never convince sceptics, believers or people who keep an open mind, like most of us. You use point 2 where you use a somewhat strange scienctific argument to throw out the rest of the points…

    While the documentary might have the same problem, they instantly have more validity then some random person on the internet and that being said if what they said what so above all doubt incorrect shouldnt including some links be possible?

    Lastly where is number 7? You say 7 things at first but only reply to 6 of them?

    While debunking things using definitions is very easy, bashing the use of energy while probably being of higher structural order and saying nothing of the water you tried to change actually did. But how on earth is that ever an sounds argument? Thats just nitpicking in order to find an argument.

    While I understand why you use those arguments, for you what they say is so outright bullshit and so utterly inconceivable that its damn near the only way you can respond. But next time you make an article try to keep an open mind because many more people would believe you if you just used proper arguments regardless of how outlandish the claims you are trying to disprove are.

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  4. I would invite you to read ex IBM scientist Marcel Vogel,who says that water is an information storage device in liquid-crystal state…
    See also the last Luc Montagnier’s experiment whit dna and water 🙂

    • Very entertaining, thank you.

      From Respectful Insolence on Science Blogs: “As I pointed out recently, after having been awarded the Nobel Prize, Montagnier has gone woo. But not just woo, the most hilariously bogus woo of all, a woo that, for it to be true, would require that much of what we know about physics, chemistry, and biology be not just wrong, but spectacularly wrong.”

      Here’s a link to the full article, you should read it.
      http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2011/01/14/the-nobel-disease-meets-dna-teleportatio/

  5. I agree with all of these comments including number four but I would like to note that in some fashion water could absorb or “leach” energy from our bodies when it enters at a lower temperature than our own and absorbs heat energy

  6. My question always is, How does thinking at water work? What type of energy from which part of your body and or mind is used in what format and at what intensity for how long and what focus? Show that type of data and we have something to work with.

  7. BBC Horizons had a great episode on this once. With James Randi and everything, lol.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2002/homeopathy.shtml

    Anyway, lots of scientific evaluation, blind trials, zero result. You’ll like it. Apparently this form of homeopathy is big in the UK, and some skeptic societies or other hold light-hearted protesta of sorts where they lined up outside a homeopathic apothecary and “overdoes” to prove its impotence.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/merseyside/8488946.stm

    There was even a bit about it in an episode of Dawkins’ “Enemies of Reason”, I don’t remember which one but many are available on YouTube. It might have been this one on alternative medicine.

    That taxes pay for unproven methods is scary.

  8. Great read. Thanks! Used your pic on my blog. Attached your link for connect purposes. Hope you don’t mind.

    Thanks “)

  9. Hi im making a poster promoting saving water. I was wondering if i could use your image.
    Thanks!’
    – Shane

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  12. “the formation of ‘memory cells’ within water.” I’m thinking Nature (or Science) published a piece on that ten-or-so years ago.

    Psychics “don’t do science” Check out Dean Radin!!! [I see your exclamation-point, and raise you two]

    “I have been willing it to change in any way whatsoever for the past twenty minutes.”
    Can I ask you a question?…”exactly which modern instruments, operated by whom, and recorded in which journals?” Who was it who said,
    “They don’t do science!”?

  13. Hi, I was wondering where you got that picture or if it’s yours? I really like it and was wondering if I could use it for a design project I’m doing.

    Thanks!

  14. I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and will be telling my skeptic (and non-skeptic) friends about your web site. People need to be better prepared to question things in life, and you demonstrate some ways of doing this in this article.

    Over time I’ve observed that as science proves certain facts, that the fairy tales and other types of superstitions that used to explain them suddenly lose popularity (due to no longer having any credibility at all), yet the masses still faithfully insist on clinging to the remainder of their beliefs without further question…

    Metaphorically, I picture something like an octopus but with thousands of arms that each represent a different belief. When one of these beliefs is disproved beyond consideration, that metaphorical arm simply gets amputated in the name of protecting the remaining beliefs from being further questioned by logic and reason.

    By the way, that picture of the candle with the water-flame (was that made with ice, or special effects?) is so beautiful! Can you put up a full shot of that candle some day? I’d like to use it as a wallpaper on my computer (be sure to include your web site address in a subtle shade in the bottom-right corner).

  15. This site name should be changed to The PseudoSkeptic Detective. A true skeptic does not take a stance on the validity of a supposition, other than it has not been proven.

    By your claims that this film is false, the burden of proof is yours to prove them wrong. Can you scientifically disprove any of these claims any more than they can scientifically claim their veracity?

    As for me, I will doubt the claims made in the movie and your claims, until one side or the other is 100% proven. Based on your arguments and (some of)their studies, I am currently leaning to their side.

    • Actually, the burden of proof lies on the people making the extraordinary claim. I do not have to prove them wrong, they have to prove themselves right.
      Furthermore, skepticism is a process, not a position.

      • Ofcourse you dont have to prove them wrong… But maybe just maybe if you wanted to do more then just sling mud and dirt around you would… If what they say is so vastly wrong and incorrect maybe you could provide with information as why they are wrong…

        You suffer from the same flaws the documentary did, they claim a whole bunch of stuff half of it is building on strange assumption to begin, like your point 2 by which you disprove all the others… I know a substance that doesnt change chemically and can imprint information. Its called a metal plate I just smashed with a hammer. See how that leaves why too much room for debate.

        I like your article but all it does is people who agree with you already did so beforehand and those that dont wont change their mind because you dont actually provide any material to actively change their mind.

        See how that doesnt work? If you are really willing to be sceptic you cant simply make an article and so called debunk something while not actually disproving anything… I mean you can ofcourse but its never gonna change someone opinion…

  16. i watched the first half of this film last night and during the first ten minutes i still hoped that it was going to pick up and deliver some science and some relevant information but as the movie carried along it was clear that this was not the case. However i was amazed that the production quality was fairly high and that it seemed to have some monetary funding. it was disturbing to say the least since it has the feel of a “real” documentary. i almost felt a bit brainwashed when i decieded to turn s**t off. i will probably stick to david attenborough narrated documentaries from now on. the question remains who puts up the money to produce this kind of rubbish?
    i happy you felt the same way and wrote something about it.

  17. Hi Angela – I’m that island fanatic ‘Nesomaniac’!!!!
    What a GREAT website (or is it a Blogsite – I never know the difference ;-)) and I’ve only just found it. Fantastic – please keep it going.
    We’re on the exact same frequency when it comes to mythology and the sort of tripe so many people believe in.
    Have you looked at ? One of my favourite websites and one where loads of pseudo medical bunk is trashed?

    I’ll be ‘visiting’ here a lot more often now that I’ve bookmarked it.

    Thanks and take care,
    Robin

  18. Hi Michiel

    Thanks for your comment. And yes, my point is an argument, an unstated major premise such as the one proposed in point 2 is flawed.

    Please try and understand that this blog is less about pure science and more about critical thinking. I agree that open minded science is critically important, but not so open that your brain falls out.

    Furthermore, there is proof that the earth is spheroid, long before Columbus was to set sail Eratosthenes calculated the Earth’s radius by using the distance between two cities and the angle of the suns rays made at midsummer at noon.
    There is no convincing ecidence that water can retain any kind of “memory” for a period longer than a few picoseconds.

    Lastly, trying to strengthen your argument by insulting me is what is known as an ad hominem attack. It is also flawed reasoning and actually serves to undermine your argument.

    I shall read your link and reply to it after work.

    SD

  19. “It is not based on any plausible science. As such we do not need to address it too closely.”

    Are you’re kidding? Is that an argument??

    Before anything else, I think you should first think a bit about science itself… If everybody would think like you, we’d still think the earth was flat.

    This guy doesn’t believe Emoto either, but at least he has an open mind! Check it out:
    http://www.entelechyjournal.com/toddstark.html

    Greets

    • Michiel,
      When a person makes a claim about the nature of the universe it is not up to everyone else to disprove it; many things cannot be disproved – god exists, fairies live at the bottom of the garden etc. It is the person making the claim must provide testable proofs.If they can’t do that, there is no basis for discussion. It is only through this method that we now know the earth is not flat. If it were otherwise we would still be looking for the giant turtle on the back of which the earth has been said to ride. We don’t have to do that because the proponent could not provide a testable proof. So, in answer to your question: No, Angela is not kidding – it is an argument.

      • Yes I agree with you but one problem… Lets say for example Someone claims fairies exist, well then you can either reply with thats so false I dont even need to reply or you could maybe post links to studies and researchers who discuss and debunk the topic.

        The person behind this article doesnt need to do anything. but this article will never change anyones mind because it proves as little as the documentary did…

        With the author saying wildly open for debate things liket his: “If earth-life can survive without water, surely life can evolve without water.”

        He doesnt need to do anything but if he wanted to really make a case he would himself incorporate more science in his arguments… No matter if his opponent dont.

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  21. I enjoyed reading the this and I’m looking foward to part 3.

    It’s amazing how people can imbue the most innocuous thing/substance with a whole lot of woo, mix in a little superstition, and then convince others that their theories are true. It’s so sad.

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