Feature Request: MetaSnark July 28, 2007 12:27 PM   Subscribe

Crawl over the grass at a moderate pace, beating your forehead against the ground at one-second intervals. The place where your head rests when you lose consciousness may be the approximate location of your septic tank. Or it may not.
posted by The Confessor to Feature Requests at 12:27 PM (47 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I realize that the premises of Ask Metafilter questions, such as when a question presupposes a belief in astrology, are not supposed to be challenged in the thread, but what about this wonky dowsing answer?
posted by The Confessor at 12:30 PM on July 28, 2007


Is this where we're all supposed to pile on the answerer?
posted by jayder at 12:44 PM on July 28, 2007


Confessor, are you a Dowsing Thomas?
posted by isopraxis at 12:45 PM on July 28, 2007 [10 favorites]


I like it.
posted by Mister_A at 12:47 PM on July 28, 2007


Your MetaTalk question/feature request is phrased like those AskMe questions that end up spawning shitstorm honeypots1 in MetaTalk. By skipping a step and then reversing the process you have created what I believe is perhaps the greatest opportunity this community has ever seen to be utterly ridiculous in every conceivable way.

And you're a DOWSERIST.
posted by carsonb at 12:48 PM on July 28, 2007


The Confessor: "I realize that the premises of Ask Metafilter questions, such as when a question presupposes a belief in astrology, are not supposed to be challenged in the thread, but what about this wonky dowsing answer?"

Oh, christ on a stick. This sort of thing is routine in AskMe, and damned well should be. The tone of AskMe is supposed to be one of, "well, some people say 'x' works. I don't know, but you could try that." If we start allowing only scientifically verifiable answers, then AskMe will start getting a lot less helpful, conversational, and interesting.
posted by koeselitz at 12:52 PM on July 28, 2007 [4 favorites]


I realize that the premises of Ask Metafilter questions, such as when a question presupposes a belief in astrology, are not supposed to be challenged in the thread, but what about this wonky dowsing answer?

If I were reading it, I'd flag it as derail. 100 posts of yes-it-is-no-it-isn't noise later, would the question be answered?
posted by dw at 12:55 PM on July 28, 2007


This really isn't a big deal, and even though I absolutely hate the "flag it and move on" answer to callouts I can't help but feel like in this instance there's no need for more action to be taken than for you to flag the answer and see if it gets enough attention for a mod to deal with it. If it doesn't, there's your answer.
posted by shmegegge at 12:55 PM on July 28, 2007


Needs more anger.
posted by kosem at 12:55 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


My sixth sense tells me that there's a lot of shit just under the surface of this callout.
posted by felix betachat at 12:59 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


No ground for Meta.

"This is not a scientific method, but there seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence. Maybe it's worth a shot."

I have no problem with it.
posted by bru at 12:59 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know, the more people grab a metal coat hanger and run out to try to find their sewer line, the more potential eyewitnesses you have to support your assertion that dowsing is voodoo. I don't think it's necessary for us to consider whether or not the poster is going to feel like an ass for taking ten minutes to walk around the backyard with a stick in order to deem an answer worthy. In other words, the answer embodies a lot less harm to anybody than dozens of other AskMe responses I've seen, so who cares?
posted by oneirodynia at 1:06 PM on July 28, 2007


Why not just ask the friendly aliens flying over the yard in their spaceship if they can use their super cool technology to map out the septic tank and drain field?
posted by caddis at 1:16 PM on July 28, 2007


Note to doubters: How do you think pioneers knew where to dig wells? There were hardly any geologists on wagon trains. Dowsing is an art.
posted by Cranberry at 1:46 PM on July 28, 2007 [4 favorites]


My lifestyle coach's astrologer's fortune cookie said try the Magic 8-ball but the outlook wasn't clear, so we threw a copper dowsing rod in the air like a spear and dug where it landed. Liquid began spurting up almost immediately, but it was so muddy we couldn't tell if we'd struck the septic tank or the well, so we asked my lifestyle coach's astrologer's Magic 8-ball if we should drink it and see. The answer was decidedly so. Now we wait. If I get dysentery. If yes, then SCIENCE! If no, then MAGIC!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:47 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


heh. I should have checked The Confessor's profile sooner. Is Salem, Massachusetts still unfriendly to witches, even water witches?
posted by Cranberry at 1:49 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Cranberry: well, I'm moving there next week, and my father in law's a dowser, and he's OK in my book, so it's about to get less unfriendly.
posted by mkb at 1:53 PM on July 28, 2007


I guess sometimes you just really really wanna call someone, anyone, out.
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:53 PM on July 28, 2007


It dowses! It's a witch! Snark it by fire and see if it bends to our lord's mighty will!! - The Confessor, Salem MA

Also, you're a tragically bad speller.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:55 PM on July 28, 2007


There were hardly any geologists on wagon trains.

There wasn't any internet either, or radio, or television... until the invention of electronic media, digging random holes was the fifth most popular pastime in America, behind reading, scrimshaw, needlepoint, and cholera.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:03 PM on July 28, 2007 [7 favorites]


Cranberry

To the contrary; Salem cultivates a kitschy version of witchery in an attempt to distinguish itself from otherwise more appealing destinations for Boston weekenders on the North Shore.

I actually find it disgraceful; Salem has a proud maritime and literary history, yet it panders to undiscerning tourists like a wanton whore, using one of the most heinous moments in the history of this region as a selling point!

It's like selling tours of Auschwitz to skinheads.
posted by The Confessor at 2:07 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's like selling tours of Auschwitz to skinheads Catholics.

Fixed that for you.
posted by felix betachat at 2:10 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


felix betachat

You're right, that's a much better comparison.

I probably shouldn't have posted this MeTa, eh?
posted by The Confessor at 2:15 PM on July 28, 2007


My magic pimple says no.
posted by goatdog at 2:21 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


Christ, what an asshole!
posted by Krrrlson at 2:25 PM on July 28, 2007


If I were reading it, I'd flag it as derail. 100 posts of yes-it-is-no-it-isn't noise later, would the question be answered?

I should clarify: If someone went off on how dowsing was Completely Unscientific and How Could Anyone Believe That Crap, I'd flag it. The original answer, though, I'd just ignore.

I've seen the anecdotal evidence. My father-in-law, for instance, was a water witch. He just kept that fact from the rest of the Southern Baptist church he was an elder at.
posted by dw at 2:32 PM on July 28, 2007


I'm using my MetaDiviningRod to try and find a good callout, but no luck as yet. I'll let you know when I hit it though!
posted by djgh at 2:33 PM on July 28, 2007


There were hardly any geologists on wagon trains.

That's not true. Following the precedent set by Lewis and Clark each official wagon train (as certified by the Bureau of Western Expansion) was require to have a geologist, a buffalo hunter, and a chaplain before being allowed to proceed west of St. Louis. The role of scientific staff on wagon trains is greatly underappreciated outside of certain historical circles focused on the American frontier. The modern science fair has it's roots in wagon train culture as, during the trip west, settlers would pass the evening by gathering for short presentation of practical and theoretical knowledge by the various members of the wagon train. These gatherings were known as "science bees".

Some notable contributions of these wagon train "folk scientists" (as they're referred to in academic circles) include some of the earliest geological maps of the prairies, a rudimentary steam engine, and a great number of refinements to the ancient polynesian system of celestial navigation that was used, in heavily adapted form, to aid colonists in crossing the "grass seas" of the American west.
posted by stet at 2:36 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bureau of what now?
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:48 PM on July 28, 2007


stet

Was that an oblique statement as to how easy it is to be taken in by believable falsehood versus the unbelievable supposed truth of dowsing?

If so, bravo!
posted by The Confessor at 2:59 PM on July 28, 2007


The thing about the "solid" ground under our feet is that, in many places, it's not very solid, at all. 25 feet under some lots I own in Florida is a 50 foot wide "river" that is about 20 feet deep. A hand dug well on that property put down in the 1940's has terrific flow, even in the driest years.

The location of the well was doused, I'm told, and one of the things I realized in talking with some of the old town people was that the guys who were dousing then, were, to some extent, local folk geologists. They were certainly aware of water moving in underground limestone formations common to northern Florida, and through being involved in locating and digging/drilling dozens of wells in the localities in which they worked, probably came to pretty good knowledge of the general flow and characteristics of ground water in their areas. Dowsing may not be scientific, but it isn't necessarily based on magic, any more than it stems entirely from ignorance.
posted by paulsc at 3:13 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


carsonb, thanks, but I can't take the credit for it: I was referring to cortex's comment shortly above mine in the same thread. I should have cited it right there but forgot that comments can be read outside their respective threads.
posted by Tuwa at 3:16 PM on July 28, 2007


Dowsing never worked for me. I'd walk around with the stupid wishbone stick or the little metal rods and nothing good would ever happen. I never found water.

I did find three bodies, a hellmouth, the skeletal remains of a yeti, and several pirate caches, but no water.

Now I just use dynamite. That seems to work. Eventually.
posted by quin at 3:33 PM on July 28, 2007 [2 favorites]


"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes -- and ships -- and sealing-wax --
Of cabbages -- and kings --
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

Farewell AskMeFi, it's time you spread your wings and fly.
posted by Sailormom at 3:54 PM on July 28, 2007


It was a kooky suggestion that was acknowledged as kooky by the answerer. "Challenging" it in the thread to any degree other than an in-kind comment within the context of the question would be out of line. dw pretty much has it on the nose:

I should clarify: If someone went off on how dowsing was Completely Unscientific and How Could Anyone Believe That Crap, I'd flag it. The original answer, though, I'd just ignore.

Getting in someone's face for offering an already qualified suggestion about something actually topical (if considered by many to be silly/superstitious) would be thread shitting, plain and simple.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:14 PM on July 28, 2007


Tuwa: mouse over my link.
posted by carsonb at 4:16 PM on July 28, 2007


Ooh, the HTML magic: he has it.

As you were--
posted by Tuwa at 4:18 PM on July 28, 2007


Note to doubters: How do you think pioneers knew where to dig wells? There were hardly any geologists on wagon trains. Dowsing is an art.

Half-assed pseudo-science, ahoy!

Do us all a favor. Go fall down in a forest and see if anyone hears you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:11 PM on July 28, 2007


Pretentious pricks, vent your superiority here -------->
posted by veedubya at 5:53 PM on July 28, 2007


The dowsing: does it work? argument is enormous in folklore studies. There are camps on both sides, and each presents evidence. It's a bottomless pit of a conversation.

My favorite answer to the dowsing conundrum is akin to paulsc's: in most Eastern regions (at least) with any history of human habitation prior to this century, it would be rare to drill a hole and not strike water at some point between a few and 100 feet. In some sense, dowsing in most settled regions always works.

What kind of water you strike is a different story.
posted by Miko at 6:17 PM on July 28, 2007


Monster Parties: Do They Exist?
Some say maybe; others aren't so sure...

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:18 PM on July 28, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think dowsing is bullshit but I'm not all bothered by that answer. You're just not making the convincing argument you expected to be making. There's no veracity test for allowable answers. The only test we have is peer pressure in MeTa for unreliable answerers, but we know that doesn't work either because Steven Den Beste is still here.

The beauty of AskMe is that it forces people to develop skills that most of them don't have. They are forced to evaluate competing claims of veracity. People generally don't want to do this, critical thinking is hard. AskMe self-evidently has more general reliability in relative to sites like Yahoo! Answers, and therefore questioners trust it, yet they are nevertheless forced to actually think for themselves and evaluate whether dowsing seems like bullshit.

This is a good thing. Even if we have to suffer Den Beste's frequent stetlike answers. He's a community resource if properly utilized, like night soil.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:55 AM on July 29, 2007


I've been beating my forehead against the ground at one-second intervals but I haven't lost consciousness yet. What am I doing wrong? I want to make the pain go away!
posted by languagehat at 7:44 AM on July 29, 2007


Note to doubters: How do you think pioneers knew where to dig wells? There were hardly any geologists on wagon trains. Dowsing is an art.
posted by Cranberry at 1:46 PM on July 28


I'll bet you a thousand dollars you can't successfully dowse for water with 90% accuracy in a controlled double-blind test by December 31, 2007. Email me if you would like to take this challenge.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:58 AM on July 29, 2007


I've been beating my forehead against the ground at one-second intervals but I haven't lost consciousness yet. What am I doing wrong?

Losing consciousness is an art. Maybe you just don't have the knack. Either that, or you're not using the right kind of forehead.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:20 AM on July 29, 2007


I'll bet you a thousand dollars you can't successfully dowse for water with 90% accuracy in a controlled double-blind test by December 31, 2007.

I'll take it on the condition that I pick the general location for the test to be conducted in.
posted by yohko at 9:22 PM on July 29, 2007


I'm going to dowse right in the middle of the Mississippi River. $1000, here I come!
posted by inigo2 at 8:31 AM on July 30, 2007


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