CSIRO chief and water divining

It was recently reported that the newly appointed head of the CSIRO, entrepreneur, venture capitalist and possibly Australia’s most gullible scientist, Dr Larry Marshall, is promoting the “technology” of divining or dowsing for water, as a solution to Australia’s drought problems. Go back and read that again, I’ll wait.

No, it’s not April 1st.

“I’ve seen people do this with close to 80 per cent accuracy and I’ve no idea how they do it,” he said. Perhaps Dr Marshall is unaware of the Australian Skeptic’s prize of $100,000 for anyone who can successfully locate underground water by divination with a consistent success rate above random chance. With recent funding cuts, the CSIRO could certainly do with the extra money.

The fact that a diviner can sometimes find water is no more impressive than a fisherman sometimes catching fish or a punter sometimes backing a winner. In Australia there have been several conclusive blind trials done on dowsing, clearly showing that even sincere practitioners suffer from confirmation bias, an effect that the head of any science department should be familiar with. Perhaps the CSRO could investigate the possibility of transmuting coal into gold in their new Alchemy Research Department?

Peter Rowney
Lemon Tree Passage

http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2639993/letter-divination-just-random-chance/?cs=315

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It was recently reported that the newly appointed head of the CSIRO, entrepreneur Dr Larry Marshall, is promoting the “technology” of divining or dowsing for water, as a solution to Australia’s drought problems. He claims that he’s “seen people do this with close to 80 per cent accuracy” but has “no idea how they do it,” and that “the CSIRO can ‘push the envelope’ with such projects and contribute to improving agricultural productivity”.

New CSIRO head wants to help farmers find water

As a result I would like to nominate Dr Marshall for the Australian Skeptic’s prestigious Bent Spoon Award for the perpetrator of the most preposterous piece of paranormal or pseudo-scientific piffle Perhaps Dr Marshall is unaware of the Australian Skeptic’s prize of $100,000 for anyone who can successfully locate underground water by divining or dowsing with a consistent success rate above that of random chance. With recent funding cuts the CSIRO could certainly do with the extra money.

The fact that a diviner can sometimes find water is no more impressive than a fisherman sometimes catching fish or a punter sometimes backing a winner. In Australia there have been several conclusive blind trials done on dowsing and divining, clearly showing that even sincere practitioners suffer from confirmation bias, an effect that the head of any science department should be familiar with. I feel that Dr Marshall is an ideal candidate for the Bent Spoon Award. As the head of the CSIRO and a spokesman for science in Australia he is responsible for representing science as an evidence based discipline and not one based on anecdotes and confirmation bias.

Peter Rowney
Lemon Tree Passage

http://www.skeptics.com.au/features/bent-spoon/nominations/

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