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3. Model Representation

When the information available about the activity of selected dowsers is considered most carefully and in great detail, the question which arises may not be whether certain aspects of dowsing techniques should deserve serious attention, but how the frequently observed phenomena could be brought to scientific attention, eventual clarification and practical use. In order to strengthen the relevancy of this statement, prior to further discussions one should consider four classical objections against dowsing successes, which are very often brought forward by skeptics and critical observers; most likely, the reader may have thought of these counter-arguments in the context of the preceding reports, so that it is helpful and necessary to discuss them more systematically.

3.1 Classical Objections

Skeptics and opponents of the dowsing scene generally assert, based on four types of objection, that a real phenomenon does not exist at all. Of course, the arguments used by critics are to be taken seriously also by the "supporters" as they are often justified. A generalization of these counter-positions, however, cannot be established with respect to all cases of dowsing success, especially when cases like the ones shown in this report are intensively checked and analyzed. On the contrary, one finds that critics—at least with respect to matters concerning water prospecting—ignore, play down or misinterpret significant experiments with traditional persistence. The four arguments can be described as follows:

As regards 1, the preceding parts of this report, for example, have demonstrated that this kind of argument is unfounded. As regards objection 2 it is certain that, on the one hand, the described situation occurs indeed with a certain probability. On the other hand, however, high success rates for large prospecting programs, as reported here, cannot be explained this way. It is accepted that a single drilling success of a dowser does not permit conclusions regarding his general reliability or the validity of the dowsing technique. A reliable judgment requires a vast data base and its statistical evaluation. This is by no means a simple task. For example, there may be areas where, due to the prevailing underground conditions, the chance for finding water at an arbitrary point and within a certain depth lies near 30%. To prove reliably an above-chance performance of the dowser, a success rate exceeding 30% is necessary. To ascertain this proof on a statistically safe basis, a considerable experimental effort is required (see part 1.1). It may be noted, though, that numerous spectacular individual results have become known which invalidate the chance hypothesis, especially when the respective predictions by the dowser had first to be considered as highly improbable according to initial assessments by experts.

Moreover, objection 2 becomes increasingly doubtful when one considers the numerous observations that the same dowser achieves routine success on occasions when other expert parties had produced nothing but dry holes.

With respect to objection 3, it must be conceded that such regions undoubtedly exist; however, dry drillings are then excluded in whatever way they are organized. If drillings are to be carried out in areas where these hydrogeological conditions are known to prevail, a dowser will hardly be appointed. On the other hand, if the underground conditions are not yet known, chance success cannot, of course, be totally excluded. However, none of the drilling projects described in this report has been carried out in areas where a success rate of almost 100% would have been unavoidable; on the contrary, the prospecting areas have all been recognized as arid areas where conventionally arranged drillings produced rather low success rates.

Objection 4 is more intricate to handle, because it may be justified in certain cases. In most single events its refutation is not possible or requires tremendous argumentative efforts, because with this objection nearly unlimited capacities and intuitions can be imputed to the dowser. The problem is rendered even more difficult, because according to the technical standard (state of art) it is not possible to establish beyond doubt whether a selected drilling point, determined by whatever criteria, will really be appropriate with respect to the relevant requirements. Prior to the drilling, different experts will probably have different opinions, and after a drilling a variety of different interpretations, arguments and suppositions regarding the success or the failure of the concerned drilling will be possible. Furthermore, one should not overlook the fact that, in contradiction to objection 4, superficial layers, soil formations and vegetation may even hinder the evaluation of the geological structure in the underground, especially when the water-bearing strata lie deep and are covered with dry and inhomogeneous layers.

Particularly competent dowsers and extensive prospecting results are needed to refute the "expert thesis" as an ultimate and necessarily valid explanation, after objections 1–3 have been dropped. To arrive at a reasonable and safe conclusion in such a difficult situation, extended test series or spectacular individual successes are necessary, like those which have been frequently described in this report. For example, when the details of the dowsing predictions are as precise as they are improbable, their practical verification renders the counter-argument unacceptable. In this respect, the reader is referred to the experiments carried out in Sri Lanka (part 1.1), the dug wells on Verde Island (part 1.2), or the identification of drilling points in the plain desert of Sinai (part 1.9).

A final argument against the expert-thesis arises from observed cases where apparently very narrow fissures exist and have to be hit in order to be successful. The necessary accuracy of point location may be in the range of 1 m or even below (see examples in part 1.2 and 1.10). When these cases are accepted—there is overwhelming evidence for them—it must be stated that even the best experts, making use of all conventionally applicable knowledge, are in general not able to pinpoint a drilling site with the quoted precision. Along these lines, it is well known that conventional prospecting does not aim at all at such precision. In addition, it is accepted that in the cases under discussion (apart from very special and appropriately extensive research programs) not even the application of all available measuring techniques, reflecting the present state of art, allows such a refined spatial solution. The described successful pinpointing by dowsing procedures, therefore, must still be viewed as a very special particularity.

3.2 Spectrum of Dowser's Statements

A discussion about conceivable hypotheses requires knowledge concerning the frame which has to be considered as being realistic for the quality of possible dowser's statements. Although only future, specially designed experiments will finally provide this knowledge, the already available observation data allow a number of suppositions indicated below.

Precision of Drilling Site Locations

From a geoscientific view, it is extremely difficult to imagine a very accurate location to, say, a meter, of a deep lying water carrying fracture of small extension. At least, no technical procedure presently exists which would generally guarantee such accuracy. For this reason, the actual pin-pointing of conventional sites does not take place as a result of technically obtained data, but is determined by practical considerations. Of course, this does not mean that future improvements of prospecting methods will not be possible; the trend of technical development rather suggests such progress. For example, during the last years, a considerable progress can be observed in the field of instruments designed to receive long-wave electromagnetic radiation (VLF range); this technique allows the detection of inhomogeneities of the conductivity in the underground and, thus, interpretations with respect to site and depth of certain fractured zones.

The site-precision stated by dowsers should not be overrated either. First, location-dependent reactions are not always limited to an extremely restricted area; second, different successful dowsers do not always exactly agree with respect to the exact location of a determined target area. From a careful observation of dowsers actions it becomes obvious that they sense the relevant signals over larger areas and not at all just at the final drilling point. The actual identification of such a point seems to result from a (possibly unconscious) subjective selection process, effective due to experience and possibly inherited skill, and subject to errors as any other human performance.

This way of interpretation of the observed proceedings seems to be compatible also with elementary facts derived from geo-scientific knowledge. In general, fracture zones are not oriented vertically but run at a certain angle. Thus, the domains which are supposed to carry water are -- seen from above -- necessarily extended even if the fracture is indeed only a few centimeters wide. The presence of transverse fractures and weathered zones increases the indetermination of a "precise" location. In general, there is not an optimal point, but an extended area for the drilling site. A successful dowser has merely to hit that area whose location and extension he generally cannot reliably predict.

Nevertheless, it has been proven that quite precise locations can be pinpointed by dowsing especially for narrow and shallow aquifers (see dug wells in part 1.2): a very precise location of, say, a 7 m deep streamlet cannot, in principle, be dismissed from a physical point of view. Successful deep drillings, though, have not yet been analyzed with respect to the effective extension of the water-bearing domains in the underground; therefore, in these cases the possibility cannot be excluded that very precise points provided by dowsers may only reflect 'by mistake' an extremely accurately localized promising zone and that successful drillings might be equally possible within a much larger area.

The latest news from the GTZ program in Namibia indicates, to our knowledge for the first time, that dowsing may be surprisingly accurate even for deep drillings. Schröter had sunk a successful well of some 100 m depth after the initial drilling, performed less than 2 m away, had remained dry up to the same depth (part 1.10). Of course, more reliable interpretations of this isolated event require verification by more thorough tests.

Specification of Depth, Yield and Quality of Groundwater

If dowsers were unable to give any indications concerning both depth and attainable yield of alleged groundwater, their practical assignment would not be meaningful. The data from experience undoubtedly show that such indications are indeed possible, at least in approximation. Although an explanation of these facts is more difficult than for the mere identification of a site, basic physical principles cannot be used to argue against the possible existence of such a phenomenon. For example, the most recently developed VLF-technique allows just such detailed information on both a site and the depth of fracture zones, provided that certain conditions are met. The signals perceived by dowsers may provide a higher degree of information than a single YES/NO statement. In the field of measuring techniques, it is not unusual to infer the distance of a transmitting source by analyzing the intensity, phase angle and time-dependent form of the signal. It is not surprising, therefore, that dowsers can give indications about these variables at all; incomprehensible is rather the precision which—at least in some cases—is apparently or realistically attained.

It must be noted that successful dowsers may not always simultaneously produce reliable information on depth, quantity and quality of the located groundwater. There is some evidence that, in agreement with geophysical arguments, the individual relevant and influential field parameters characterizing the underground, cannot be safely extracted from and distinguished within the total signal received at the surface. It seems, for example, that dowsers are usually not generally able to differentiate between groundwater with low electrical conductivity (drinking water) and a smaller aquifer with a larger conductivity (mineral water).

Finally, it must be emphasized once more that dowsers do not necessarily sense water in the underground, but rather some kind of discontinuities such as parting linears, fault and fracture zones and vertical interconnections at great depth which, however, usually act as natural drainage of the groundwater in the fractured and hard rock. To corroborate this evaluation, it may be pointed to the repeated observation that dowsers are able to find weathered rock formations which do not carry any water (see e.g. part 1.6). Furthermore, the Munich tests revealed that competent dowsers could not successfully locate artificial pipelines, even when the flow was exceedingly high (such as 4000 l/sec); it may be speculated that in these cases the pipe network did not represent a sufficiently significant perturbation of the underground or its surroundings.

These quoted circumstances carry much weight because they reduce the apparently extreme performances within the dowsing spectrum in accordance with scientifically plausible expectations, and because they may provide an important indication for a possible explanation of the dowsing phenomenon.

3.3 Hypotheses

As it seems to be impossible to explain the hard core of the available observations by means of chance success or normal sensory effects, new attempts have to be made in order to reach a solution. The hypothesis offers itself that human beings exhibit a still unknown biological sensitivity to naturally existing fields of physical origin, especially well developed by some dowsers. The conceivable reaction chain is then composed of four parts:

The third part (interpretation) especially seems to be decisive as to whether someone is particularly qualified for dowsing or not. The ability to process that kind of information (which may be principally perceivable) in an effective manner must be expected to vary considerably from person to person. Unfortunately, there is presently no clear conception with respect to the kind of signals which might be utilized by dowsers. It has been repeatedly observed that conventionally measured data on anomalies in the subsoil correspond well with dowsing reactions at the same locations; with this, though, only the reality of the unconventional prospecting technique is verified, but no insight is gained about the underlying mechanism.

It may be added that questioning of experienced dowsers about their location-dependent reactions does not help to clarify the situation, but reveals once more the high degree of complexity of the phenomenon.

The efforts to understand the process are made more difficult not only by the many persons who claim themselves dowsers while exhibiting high failure rates, but also by the few successful dowsers who have at their disposal an exceedingly impressive and improbable potential to correctly predict subsoil conditions. Numerous systematic examples proved that their performance can be exact to a degree which cannot be understood by our current scientific and technical conceptions. Thus, a twofold explanation deficit persists, on the one hand with respect to the primary biophysical mechanism and, on the other hand, with respect to the power to make goal-oriented statements.

Although it must be clearly conceded that one is far from a final explanation, and that only unproved hypotheses can be forwarded, aspects in three directions can be noted which should get attention in future investigations. These are:

  1. electromagnetic radiation with the inclusion of static fields,
  2. infra- and ultrasonic, and
  3. direction of the gravitational field.

When these matters are discussed it is important to point out that the sensitivity necessary for the perception of the supposed signals or environmental stimulation is certainly not available while the dowser finds himself in a normal state; he must rather increase his sensitivity, for example by exerting muscular strain while appropriately holding a divining rod in a labile balance. Supporting this argument, the GTZ expert dowser Schröter, as well as other experienced dowsers, claim that they sense virtually nothing while crossing a drilling point without holding a dowsing rod in the described way; only in the sensitized state are they able to get the sophisticated reactions.

Although a number of such observations are available, precise scientific assessments referring to the relation between the above mentioned three types of field variables and dowsing reactions are lacking, as well as the respective minimum sensitivity levels required for an external stimulation of the dowsing reactions.

Independently of the type of signal to which a person seems to be sensitive, it is to be expected that the relevant field variable does not represent a local singularity, but is spatially extended. Therefore, local specific characteristics (patterns) have to be recognized within the extended field in order to succeed in exactly locating an anomaly. Consequently, it is highly probable that one deals not only with the problem of signal reception, but also with a complex analysis of the field information which is likely to be weak and noisy. Therefore, it must be reckoned that a future technical simulation of dowsing performances will not be possible without considerable effort, and it might become understandable why measuring techniques not specially designed have failed so far and have not yet resulted in an acceptable explanation of the phenomenon.

It is important to stress again that experienced dowsers sense a locally confined water-bearing area not only while actually crossing the site, but also when dowsing quite a distance from it, and are capable of heading right towards the site (see part 1.9). This ability is absolutely necessary for scanning large areas quickly and successfully. Incidentally, the illustrated fact is of further consequence: firstly, it proves that the dowsing rod does not function as a YES/NO device, but indicates a well differentiated perception of intensity or quality. Second, the reaction pattern signifies a spatial extension of the relevant signal field—just as one expects on the basis of elementary physical principles.

Three circumstances indicate the possible importance of long-wave electromagnetic radiation in an explanation of the dowsing phenomenon. First, geological perturbations of the underground are usually linked with anomalies of electric conductivity; in particular, the rock surfaces inside a system of water-bearing fractures exhibit clearly modified electrical conductivity, due to aggradation (e.g. clay silicates) or weathering products. Second, there are already measuring procedures (EM methods in various frequency ranges) which are operated at ground level and allow detection of such anomalies to a certain degree. Third, it is now known that biological organisms are sensitive to EM fields in the non-thermal range (see the detailed discussion in [2] and [3]). The future will tell whether a discussion along these lines is promising and whether the relevant frequencies and interaction mechanisms can be found.

Vibrations of the soil may also help to clear the way towards a solution of the problem. As investigations have shown and geoscientific results reveal, fractured and weathered zones are linked with local anomalies of soil vibrations (part 2.2). The strength of soil vibrations is bigger when the rock exhibits less density and less elasticity. However, two difficulties arise: measurements can be carried out with extremely high precision, but the signals are generally covered and masked by perturbation effects of different origin, so that an interpretation referring to underground structures becomes problematic. Furthermore, it is unknown whether a person acting as an active dowser may also exhibit sufficient sensitivity to detect exceedingly small soil vibrations as has been found, to general amazement, to be the case for a variety of animals.

Although the presented arguments still need some criticism and refinement, they are already sufficiently well-founded to enable and promote future scientific discussions which, hopefully, will bring the complex problem nearer to its solution.