Day 991: The Subjective Science Of Getting Friendly With Your Water

originally published September 17, 2014

Good morning, water. You look lovely today. The way you have meticulously extracted the energizing essence of those crumbly brown nuggets of Sumatra in my coffee maker really brings out the glimmer in your droplets. Look, I’m a married man, but if I wasn’t, I would totally be gettin’ up in dat aqua, you feel me?

According to Dr. Masaru Emoto, I may have just created a more healthy and vibrant cup of coffee. Dr. Emoto is a revolutionary oracle of scientific knowledge, inasmuch as he has concocted his own definitions of the words “scientific” and “knowledge”. Dr. Emoto has “proven” (and it’s hard to find a source for his work that doesn’t nestle that word between the comforting pillows of quotation marks) that positive energy makes water better.

Not better-tasting, not more nutritious or refreshing… just better. Happier. More wholly fulfilled. Dr. Emoto unearthed that line where metaphysics and alternative medicine cross over into crazed Lynchian fiction, then leaped across it like a doped-up Olympian. He landed among the Technicolor bobbles of the absurd, cultivated his own particular brew of ludicrous reasoning and slapped a price tag on it.

And we bought in. Oh, how we bought in.

Masaru Emoto earned his doctorate at the Open University for Alternative Medicine in India, though I feel “earned” should be yet another resident of Quotes-Marks Manor, as I have unearthed a couple of sources which claim that such a degree can be bought for around $500. But Dr. Emoto’s doctorness is relatively moot, as he immediately set out to sail the vague ocean of alternative medicine, which contains far more fetid flotsam than it does navigable current.

His theories about water, which begin with the concept of water’s very structure being open to alteration by energy and bad vibes, and continue right through telling us that water “is a blueprint for a reality”, have not been embraced by the scientific community. They have, however, resulted in a series of best-selling books, which should serve as a reminder to all of us aspiring writers that the quality of one’s content sometimes takes a distant back seat to one’s adeptness at slinging bullshit. Perhaps you remember him from that infamously ridiculous pseudoscience flick, What The #$*! Do We Know?

Dr. Emoto deduced that by photographing the crystalline structure of water that has recently cooled to ice, we can best diagnose the water’s health. Water from a clear spring would produce symmetrical, aesthetically pleasing crystals. Water from a polluted source would result in jagged, unappealing crystal shapes. Well, no kidding – water with a bunch of crap in it is not going to look as pure and pretty as clean water. But Dr. Emoto plopped this notion on the airborne trolley to crazytown by screaming at one batch of water while praising and blessing another. He then claimed the difference was just as notable.

A few decades ago we were taught to talk to our houseplants in order to further their growth. There actually is a little sliver of truth there; our friends on Mythbusters performed an experiment to test it, and found that plants that were praised and plants that were scolded (using pre-recorded soundtracks) fared better than plants that were left in silence. So they weren’t picking up on intent, only the active presence of sound waves. But water? Water is all about the groove you’re laying down. In fact, the stuff can even read.

That’s right, the water crystals produced the same results, even in jars that were labeled with positive and negative messages. Dr. Emoto concocted another experiment involving rice: he poured water on three jars of rice, offering praise to one, insults to another and ignoring the third completely. After a month of this, the happy-rice fermented, giving off a joyous smell. The yelled-at rice turned black, while the neglected rice began to rot. Science!

Actually, a savvy representative of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry named Carrie Poppy replicated the experiment herself, even adding a fourth jar to which she did nothing but recite quotations from Minnesota Congresswoman and noted insane person Michelle Bachman. The yelled-at rice was the only one to acquire a small patch of mold, though Ms. Poppy admits this was likely due to the jar being open for longer. Presumably yelling at this rice was cathartic for her. The other three jars appeared mostly unchanged.

One of Dr. Emoto’s students is working on a ‘hado’ machine that will beautify the crystals of your water, thus sparing you from having to chat with your bottle of Evian on the subway. He also sells a variety of valuable world-improvers on his website under the ‘EM’ label – that’s ‘effective microorganisms’, which is his way of monetizing this supposed brilliance for the masses. You can get EM mouthwash ($12), EM tooth powder ($12 for 2 oz.), and stickers that will improve whatever you place them on, whether it’s your water jug, your wallet, or if you’re really creative (and suffering from erectile dysfunction), your crotch ($10 for 28 stickers!).

If you’ve shot back all of Dr. Emoto’s Kool-Aid (which is undoubtedly a very contented beverage), you can even drop $3000 to become both an instructor in his methods, as well as $3000 poorer.

Naturally, Dr. Emoto has faced a smidgen of criticism from the scientific community, at least when they could force it out between their laughter. But his resolve is strong – photographing water crystals is, as he puts it, a subjective science. He also believes that the water crystals will change their form based on who is doing the observing, and whether they have appreciation or anger in their heart. So you see? Those cynical scientists can’t replicate his findings, because they don’t believe! It’s subjective science! Which is totally not an oxymoron!

Fortunately for Dr. Emoto, there are enough naïve and malleable people out there to support his insanity so that he never has to worry about his next meal. He delivers his message in strategically-sound new-age rhetoric, linking his water crystals to the pillars of serenity, tranquility and well-being that the magic-hungry are always chasing. He claims that if we were to all collectively pray for the water in the Sea of Galilee, the water that would flow down the River of Jordan would bring peace to Israelis and Palestinians alike. Except for those militaristic bastards on both sides who only drink Coke.

Stepping back a moment to Carrie Poppy’s experiment, I feel it’s important to point out that her affiliation with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry is important; one of the folks at the head table for this organization is none other than debunker extraordinaire James Randi. Dr. Emoto was cordially invited to replicate his experiments (any of them) in 2003, under conditions agreed upon by both parties, with the purpose of awarding Randi’s $1 million prize if Dr. Emoto could truly prove that his psychokinetic hypothesis can yield actual results.

So far, Dr. Emoto has not stepped forward.

And why should he? The man is 71, he’s probably earning enough residuals off his books, his speaking engagements and his tooth powder sales to keep him comfortable for the rest of his days. Just like a happy glass of complimented water.

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