Dr. Emoto’s water woo metastasizes

Indiana Jones had a saying: “Snakes. Why’d it have to be snakes?” This line was most famously delivered in Raiders of the Lost Ark after he and his friend Sallah had opened the Well of Souls and were staring down into it. Sallah noticed that the ground appeared to be moving within; so Indy shined a light down the entrance, only to see thousands of snakes waiting for him at the bottom.

Sallah then drily observed, “Asps. Very dangerous. You go first.”

As we knew from earlier in the movie, Indiana Jones hated snakes and was afraid of them; so it was only natural that later in the movie he would encounter a floor literally writhing with thousands of them. So it was when I innocently picked up the latest issue of TIME Magazine and started perusing it yesterday. What to my fearfully wondering eyes should appear but an article entitled Mind over Chocolate. Because I like chocolate, I was curious and began reading:

Move over, organic, fair trade and free range–the latest in enlightened edibles is here: food with “embedded” positive intentions. While the idea isn’t new–cultures like the Navajo have been doing it for centuries–for-profit companies in the U.S. and Canada are catching on, infusing products with good vibes through meditation, prayer and even music.

My reaction was much like Indy’s: “Intent. Why’d it have to be intent?”

To which my imaginary companion replied, “Emoto. Very woo-ey. You go first.”

So I will, because as much as the whole concept of “intent” in various “alternative medicine” and other woo irritates the crap out of me, it also holds a bizarre fascination as well.

Before I go on to deal with these products, let’s take a trip back down memory lane to nearly two and a half years ago. That’s when I first encountered the infamous Dr. Emoto and his amazing water woo. Naturally, being the…pioneer that he is, a lot of this business of “imbuing” water and food with happy “intent” can trace back to him, at least as a business plan, given his H20m water. The long story is in the link immediately preceding this; the short story is that Dr. Emoto believes that water can somehow be altered by “vibrations” sent from someone focusing his or her intent upon it and that those vibrations leave behind residue of that intent that can then be imparted to the people who consume H20m. As “evidence” for this, Dr. Emoto cites “studies” (I’m using the term very loosely here, as you might imagine) in which he claims to be able to differentiate different ice crystals on the basis of whether “good” or “bad” intent had been directed at them. Being of an entrepreneurial bent, Dr. Emoto decided to scale up his focusing of intent on water into an industrial process, infusing the water with happy thoughts thusly:

There are several distinctive vibrational frequencies that are incorporated in each bottle of H2Om.

The First is the vibrational frequency of the label. The use of words, symbols and colors on the label create a specific vibratory frequency. Each bottle also contains the sanskrit symbol of the Absolute, “Om”. It also contains the vibratory frequencies of the words “Love” , “Perfect Health” , “Gratitude”, etc. written on the label in many of the world’s languages. This represents unity among people, a subconscious reminder that we are not alone on this planet. A specific color vibration has also been chosen for each bottle, this color coordinates with the corresponding chakra.

Next are the very important Interactive qualities of H2Om. Our Trademark slogan is “Think it while you drink it.”® We encourage you to connect to the intention inspiring words on the label, create your own intention, and literally, “Drink in ” the vibration inspired intentions you’ve created. This not only reverberates in your body, but out into the world as well. It also brings about an awareness that connecting with your humanity, food and water is a sacred grateful act. As you drink, take a moment to use the words, colors, music, and vibrations as a tool to create your own personal intention! Set your world in motion, then watch as the law of attraction goes to work for you. Visualize great, extraordinary, vivid, mental and spiritual creations. For the good of you, for the good of mankind, for the good of the planet. Drink in the vibrations as you absorb the crystal clear spring water, then resonate the positive energy throughout your day.

As a bonus, (in alignment of the concepts described above in Energy, Frequencies, and Resonance) we also introduce audio frequencies to the water through sound and music. After the bottling process is complete, we charge the water in the storage facility with sound and music that was created with specific intention in mind, also utilizing frequencies known for having restorative qualities, that have been used by health practitioners throughout history. Crystal Bowls, Acoustic Piano, Spoken Word, Ancient Healing Scales and more.

In other words, Dr. Emoto’s workers put certain words and symbols on the bottles of H20m, play music at it, and, apparently, think happy thoughts at it, all for your benefit. Of course, the bit about “encouraging you to connect to the intention” and “create your own” intention seems to be cheating a bit to me. Does the water transmit Dr. Emoto’s intent to those who drink it or not? If it does, then why should the drinker need to “create his own personal intent”? Isn’t Dr. Emoto’s intent powerful positive enough? And why couldn’t the drinker just imbue any old water with “intent”? Wouldn’t competing intents cancel each other out? Inquiring minds want to know! More importantly, what if Dr. Emoto or one of his workers has a bad day? Couldn’t that person poison all those happy thoughts of intent and either weaken the goodness of the water or even turn it evil? You know, if I were a worker at Dr. Emoto’s plant, I’d call in sick if I felt just a bit pissed off, with the rationale that I wouldn’t want to contaminate the water. I wonder if the foreman there would accept that as an excuse?

But I digress, although I can’t resist mentioning that, even before this, Dr. Emoto was branching out into the Muslim world to create Koranic Water. Be that as it may, our brief trip to Emoto Land was a fun digression, because it sets the stage for the woo that is to come.

In retrospect, I now realize that I should have been able to predict that Dr. Emoto’s water woo would metastasize, given that no bad idea from the world of woo ever stops at just one substance. Indeed, the TIME Magazine article identifies at least a couple of more:

At Creo Mundi, a Canadian maker of protein powder, employees gather around each shipment and state aloud the benefits they hope to imbue it with for their consumers–increased performance, balance and vitality. Intentional Chocolate, founded in 2007 by chocolatier Jim Walsh, uses a special recording device to capture the electromagnetic brain waves of meditating Tibetan monks; Walsh then exposes his confections to the recording for five days per batch.

Well, all right! Nothing like praying over some protein powder. However, I was very interested in how Intentional Chocolate captured those brainwaves of meditating Tibetan monks and then exposes his chocolate to them, so I went and found the Intentional Chocolate website, where Jim Walsh, the founder of the company, exclaims, “My intent is to reintroduce the ancient wisdom of embedding conscious intention and love into food.” Funny, I thought mothers for centuries had been embedding love into food. Of course, it wasn’t the kind of love that Walsh apparently means; it was simply the love of a mother for her family leading her to cook for them. Certainly it had nothing to do with “embedding” intention into the food, unless perhaps you count the old custom of saying grace before eating.

Be that as it may, like all woo-meisters, Walsh very much wants to show you that it’s all about the science, maaaaan by writing a section that has one of the best names on a woosite–I mean website–I’ve ever seen: Chocolate And Intention Research, which opines:

Intentional Chocolate™ and its research partner, the HESA Institute (www.hesainstitute.com) are leaders in the revolutionary new field of intentional nutrition proving that intention embedded into food can positively affect those who consume it.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that was published in the scientific peer-reviewed journal, Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing (October 2007) it was found that one ounce of Intentional Chocolate™ per day for three days increased subjects’ well-being, vigor and energy by an average of 67 percent and, in some cases, up to 1,000 percent, when compared to a control group…

“The mood-enhancing effects of the focused intentions embedded in Intentional Chocolate were successfully demonstrated in a statistically significant, double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment, and published in a peer-reviewed medical journal (Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing).

Explore. Why’d it have to be Explore? And Radin. why’d it have to be Radin. And all so soon after my last encounter with Dean Radin late last week?

I was briefly confused by the reference to October 2007, as there is no October 2007 issue of Explore. Undeterred, I looked at the September 2007 issue and found this little “study” entitled Effects of Intentionally Enhanced Chocolate on Mood. I don’t know if it’s fortunate or unfortunate that I can’t count on someone shelling out $10 for me to get a copy of this study, but it’s a hoot to read the abstract. For one thing, there were only 62 people in the entire study, with four experimental groups. Although it’s claimed that the groups were matched for age, gender, and amount of chocolate consumed per week, that’s pretty hard to do with such a small number of subjects distributed among four different experimental groups. Just a couple of outliers could screw the matching up. In any case, three of the groups received chocolate that had been imbued with “intent” for “enhanced sense of energy, vigor, and well-being” by three different methods, while there was one control group that received “untreated” chocolate. Every day they filled out some sort of mood questionnaire, but on days three, four and five they consumed chocolate. The claimed finding was that mood improved more in the groups receiving the “intent”-laden chocolate. One thing I notice was that the overall p-value was only 0.04, barely statistically significant, which makes me wonder if they appropriately used ANOVA (which is designed for multiple comparisons) for their statistics with the appropriate post-test correction to correct for multiple comparisons, or whether they used a pairwise comparison using Student’s t-test, which is the wrong way to do multiple comparisons because it is far more prone to produce a “statistically significant” result by random chance alone. Whatever the case, the whole experiment is another example of Tooth Fairy Science. Even more amusingly, James Walsh is one of the investigators.

Gee, I wonder if he paid for the study. (I love it when I can send the conflict of interest charge right back at “alternative” medicine mavens.)

Most amusing of all is Radin’s explanation:

The effect seems to involve a form of energetic coherence which arises through the intentions of intensely focused and highly trained minds. Some speculate that such mind-matter interactions resemble the “observer effect” in quantum physics (i.e., observing a system changes that system.) This is one of several possible explanations for the observed effect that are currently under investigation.” (www.deanradin.com)

Quantum woo. Why’d it have to be quantum woo? But what else could it be? Once again, quantum effects, such as the “observer effect” don’t work the way woo-meisters like Radin think they do, especially at the macroscopic level. That doesn’t stop him from making this astoundingly brain dead analogy:

“If the Pope blessed water, everyone wants that water. But does it actually do something?” Radin asks. “The answer is yes, to a small extent.”

I suspect that it probably does about the same as what focusing “intent” on chocolate does: Nothing.

Still, I wondered exactly how Walsh thinks he’s recording the brainwaves and intent of meditating Tibetan monks and injecting them into his chocolate. Fortunately, Walsh is happy to explain on his blog:

I began looking for technology to restore its whole informational/intentional pattern. The research led me to the physics department of several major universities, including the University of Wisconsin. Expecting them to suggest new methods of restoring quantum coherence through non-local interactions, I was surprised when instead they talked about an existing technology. One perfected over 3000 years. Tibetan meditators, they told me, have consistently demonstrated mind-matter interactions and there are workable theories on how to embed and capture patterns of intentional coherence that stem from meditation – particularly long term meditators (practice apparently does make perfect!).

We tried it. We tested it. It worked.

I wonder who at the University of Wisconsin is having his or her work abused in this manner. Of course, it would be interesting to know exactly what this wondrous technology is and exactly how Mr. Walsh showed that it “worked,” whatever that means. He sure does have a lot of glowing testimonials, though!

If you don’t want chocolate, though, you could always head on over to Creo Mundi and check out its intent-laden line of products, such as Intentional™ Bamboo Tees and Intentional™ Hoodies. For you nasty, unbelieving skeptics out there, there’s even a FAQ that sites Masuru Emoto and tells you how “intent” is imbued in Creo Mundi clothing:

At its simplest explanation, it is the Power of Words and how words make us feel. The saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is completely untrue as no doubt many people have all experienced the pain of words at some point in their lives, either as children or as adults. At its most complex explanation, our concept is about quantum physics and the fact that everything is energy – and how high vibrational energy like that found in positive words affects the body. We have spent a lot of energy ourselves trying to understand how our concept works the past year. In the end, we realized that it really doesn’t matter how it works, just that it does for people who are open to possibilities. Perhaps it is our belief in the Power of Words that gives our shirts the energy. Perhaps it works for people because once they have the shirt on their subconscious starts looking for positive events to reinforce their belief. We don’t know. There are many experts out there that can perhaps explain the phenomenon. To us, all that matters is that we are already starting to see a difference in the lives of people who have tried the shirts with open minds.

More quantum woo. Why’d it have to be more quantum woo? Unfortunately, it’s also a heaping helping of The Secret as well.

I don’t know if I’m being a ridiculous optimist, but this infiltration of “Secret”-like “intention” into numerous products could be just the thing that destroys the movement. After all, familiarity breeds contempt, in this case much deserved, and the more products that bear these sort of nonsensical claims of “intent,” perhaps–just perhaps– the more people will view such claims for the pseudoscience they are. As the TIME Magazine article shows now:

Still, not everyone is keen on the idea of packaging spirituality. Once the profit motive comes into play, “it’s difficult to keep things pure,” says George Churinoff, a monk at Deer Park Buddhist Center in Oregon, Wis., who was involved with Intentional Chocolate in its early stages. “Then [the product] may not be blessed in any way with motivation except maybe to make money.”

And this would be different from Dr. Emoto’s H20m exactly how? In any case, here’s hoping that “intent” becomes the new “green,” a catchphrase in advertising that no longer means anything and that no one takes particularly seriously anymore. Be that as it may, I just thought of something. This whole “intent” thing could be a goldmine if done properly. It makes me wonder: What other products would you like to see imbued with “intent” and, even more important, what specific intent?