The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Holmes on Homes on...Crack?

I saw his hands first, the light grip on the wires. I thought, "it couldn't be...not on this show." Sadly, it was.

I was watching a home-improvement show that I enjoy called Holmes on Homes tonight and Mike, the show's namesake, was in the midst of major home renos. It really seems that his heart is in the right place and he certainly knows what he's doing with respect to contracting. He's a guy you'd do well to look up to and admire. Then I saw something that just stuck in my craw.

There had to be a new septic tank installed and I saw a guy on the lawn with Mike from some septic company (I can't recall the name). He was talking about the lines from the house and I could see something in his hands and I thought, "nooooo..." Sure enough, the next shot was the guy walking across the grass and the bent wires were crossing and he was saying, "there's one line...there should be five...yep, there's another one..." and blah blah blah.

Mike was impressed and said that he had to try it. They showed Mike with the divining rods and they crossed, as they do, when he went over where the other guy had the rods cross. Mike was amazed. The fella let Mike keep the rods and said, "you can do it know, so you keep those."

This is a perfect example of a person who kicks all ass at his job but doesn't have the specialized knowledge of trickery or, more to the point in this instance, self-deception that would keep him free of magical thinking. I'm sure I don't have to tell too many people who read this site about dowsing and if you haven't seen the video of James Randi testing dowsers in Australia (yes, it's long, but it's worth it), get to it, sirs and madams.

All Mike Holmes needs to do is read the entry in the Skeptic's Dictionary on dowsing to realize how...what's the term? Retarded it is. It's been around for a very long time and has been derided by pretty much everyone who came across it - as an example, I give you the words of the 16th century bad motherfucker Georgius Agricola who said:
(A minor)...should not make us of an enchanted twig, because if he is prudent and skilled in the natural signs, he understands that a forked stick is of no use to him, for ... there are natural indications of the veins which he can see for himself without the help of twigs.

Ok, so if some guy in the 1500's could figure it out, why is it still around? Well because it seems to work and because people have no idea about the ideomotor effect. People don't believe that their muscles will work when they're "not doing anything." Mike knew where the pipe was because the guy before him "found" it with the rods, therefore Mike's muscles worked to cross the wires without him knowing it. Done deal?

No, not quite. How did the guy from the septic company find the water lines? Well, there's a couple possible answers there: either he knew from before where the lines were and just faked it; he may have used visual clues to know where the pipes were and just convinced himself that it was the wires that located them; maybe he got lucky; or just maybe he didn't find shit and the backhoe had to dig in an entirely different area and they just didn't show that on TV.

Dowsers plain don't work. Sadly you will probably never convince Mike Holmes of that because it seemed to work for him. The power of reinforcement is pretty strong. Mike, by all appearances, is a great guy who is supremely skilled at his crafts - he just needs a little skeptical education.

6 Barbaric Yawps:

At 19/9/06 9:35 am, Blogger Paul said...

I saw that episode several months ago, and had the same reaction you did. I called up the show's website, and fired off an e-mail to Mike's attention including links to several info pages on dowsing, as well as links to the various dowsing debunking videos availble on the net. I never got a reply.

At 21/9/06 6:14 pm, Anonymous modusoperandi said...

Apropos of nothing, Agricola is the worst tasting soft drink ever.

At 23/3/10 11:18 am, Blogger Scott said...

OMG calm down ! Did Mike Holmes ever once make an endorsement in the rods ? Have you seen him make the recommendation to use them in the field to anyone ? Have you ever seen Mike use them again ?
Come on pal....lets get a grip. Any person with 1/4 of their brain cells in working order can tell the difference from a guy that's entertained by the mystical use of something & a guy that's backing it 110%.

At 23/3/10 2:16 pm, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

Scott: Seriously, are you telling me to calm down on THIS post? Have you read any of my other posts on stuff that *really* gets me going? You need to take a step back and get your shit together before you start standing up and yelling at this table, sir.

Although Mike doesn't explicitly endorse the dousing rods, his use of them and his saying that they work is enough to get my back up, so howzabout you calm your nut. If not, get your own motherfucking blog, asshole.

At 27/11/11 4:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Randi said the Earth was flat - would it be flat? Grow up!

At 27/11/11 8:01 pm, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

No, it wouldn't, Anon, because of...what's that stuff called? Oh, right, "evidence". That same stuff that shows conclusively that dowsing is nonsensical horse-shit.

If you have evidence that dowsing is NOT horse-shit, please point it out to me. I'd love to see it.


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