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 Masaru Emoto, Water, Crystals, and Beliefs

The proof that the little prince existed is that he was charming, that he laughed, and that he was looking for a sheep. If anybody wants a sheep, that is a proof that he exists. And what good would it do to tell them that? They would shrug their shoulders, and treat you like a child. But if you said to them: "The planet he came from is Asteroid B-612," then they would be convinced, and leave you in peace from their questions. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince by

A Visitor's Question:  Hi, how are you? My name is Patrycja and I was researching health effects of water based on ideas of Masaru Emoto when I stumbled on your website. You are obviously not a fan of his work and to be frank I would like to believe it, but would really like to see results with my own eyes. I was wondering if you had ever tried to recreate his experiment? If no, why is that?  Thanks and have a great day! Patrycja
The Bottom Line:
There is no credible scientific evidence to support Masaru Emoto’s claims that water is able to alter its crystal structure based on human words, thoughts and music. Emoto has made spectacular claims about the behavior of water molecules in response to specific stimuli - human emotions, words and music.
Masaru Emoto does not actually have to publish information that is scientifically accurate or true. There is no credible scientific evidence to support Masaru Emoto’s claims that water is able to alter its crystal structure based on human words, thoughts and music.
Masaru Emoto presents only his own evidence and ideas about water crystals. That lack of support does not by itself mean his theories are wrong, it only means that a very high level of evidence is required to support those claims as scientific.  It is the  is responsibility of the individual who proposes new theories to provide good experimental evidence that's well described so it can be repeated by other scientists under controlled conditions.
Masaru Emoto’s message is not really about water crystals. The evidence Emoto provides (a series of pictures) is neither high quality nor repeatable.  The books Emoto has published, talks he has given, and products he sells do not, by themselves, prove any of his theories.
Masaru Emoto’s message is not really about water crystals. There is no more reason to believe Emoto's claims about water and the modification of ice crystals than to believe that perpetual motion or anti-gravity are valid scientific claims.  I have discussed his books here as well.
Masaru Emoto’s message is not really about water crystals. The scientific community does not discriminate against those who have novel ideas, but well documented evidence from critical observation or controlled experiments is required for those ideas to be evaluated and published.

Hi Patrycja - You ask a very interesting question; have I, the skeptic, ever tried to recreate Emoto's experiment and test for myself the validity of his claims? 

An argument could be made that if I have not tried to duplicate his work for myself I have no right to criticize his observations or his conclusions about the alleged ability of water to change its physical properties and behavior, crystallize in different ways, or become more healing in response to input like projected human emotions, exposure to specific words, music, and the like.

Before I explain my thoughts I would like to propose several questions to consider? 

Why do you have any expectation that the behavior of water can be influenced in the manner Emoto claims?  Is there anything in your education or in your everyday experience with water that would give you any clue that you can project your thoughts at water and have it respond in some way?  Are you aware of any evidence in the world, besides the few pictures provided by Emoto, that would support his claims?  Have you checked out Emoto’s training, background and qualifications to produce high quality scientific research?  After all, if even some of his claims were true, science as we know it would be completely revolutionized!

Pretend for a moment that you had never heard of Emoto’s work Imagine now that your neighbor came up to you and told you that he was able to influence how water crystallized by first storing it in jars labeled with words like anger and peace (or projecting thoughts like hate and love).  Then he pulled out a few pictures to prove the claim.  Would you be convinced?  Remember, the ONLY evidence Emoto has ever provided to support all of his claims are a few pictures - Published books, cameo movie appearances and speaking engagements do not constitute proof that his words or ideas have any validity.

If a friend showed you a flat blue disc she claimed emitted far infrared electromagnetic radiation that could give you more energy just by carrying it in your pocket, would you believe her – how about if four friends told you it gave them more energy, would that be convincing – if you read an article on the Internet that this special blue disc provided an energy boost for those who carried it, would that provide enough evidence to order one? (as an aside, on a whim after I wrote this sentence, I Googled “energy disc” and actually found a site selling a $399 Radiant Energy Disk, another where you can order Bio Discs from $21.50 to $81.99 that produce SCALAR energy frequencies in water and a third site that sells Ch’I Energy Discs for $29.95 to $49.95 plus postage and handling.)

There are a lot of imaginative people 'out there' who would like to exchange their 'magical' products for your hard earned money.

-------------------------------

So back to your question, have I personally tried to duplicate Emoto’s work In a word, NO.

Does that disqualify me from critiquing his work?  I don’t believe so for the following reasons:

First and foremost, the scientific community is under no obligation to test every new claim or ‘theory’ about the universe that is proposed – even by respected scientists – never mind by individuals with no scientific training.

The default position on newly proposed scientific theories is skepticism.  It is always the responsibility of those who propose new claims (theories) about how the world behaves to provide convincing evidence to support those claims.  The more extraordinary the claim, the more important it is to provide high quality evidence.  If I claimed I could mentally dampen the effects of gravity and jump over a 70 foot tree, I suspect you might want to see a live demonstration that included some controls to make certain I could not cheat before you believed that claim.  The magician, James Randi, has a standing offer to pay one million dollars to anyone who can prove they have a paranormal talent (or the ability to create a special type of water, for that matter) under controlled conditions.

To convince other scientists that a new theory has value, the evidence presented must be comprehensive and must clearly explain the theories that were tested, the experimental design, the specific methods used to acquire the data, the results obtained, the analytic techniques employed and the conclusions derived.  This comprehensive requirements enables others to understand and evaluate the entire process and design their own experiments to reproduce the results if the claim is important enough. 

Members of the scientific community, those who have bothered to weigh in on the subject anyway, remain universally skeptical and dismissive of Emoto’s claims, in part because:

  1. Virtually every theory he proposes is completely contrary to the current scientific understanding of the physical and chemical properties of water, human behavior, the periodic table of elements, vibrations, the origin of life, the number of elements found in an organism, and on, and on.  Almost nothing in the two books I have read that he seems to present as ‘scientific fact’ matches my understanding of those phenomena.
  2. Emoto gives us no experimental design.  He does not provide any framework to understand exactly what his experiments are supposed to prove, how information from the words, emotions, and music is transferred to and received by the water molecules or how that information (once transmitted) could influence freezing patterns.
  3. Emoto provides no clear description of his methods.  A drop of water that freezes does not, for example, form just one crystal but many – how is the one representative crystals for each emotion, word, or music clip selected for publication?  His own rather vague descriptions indicate that he and his assistants simply pick the crystals that best demonstrate his expectations.  A real scientific experiment would be blinded – in other words, he and those who select the crystals to photograph and describe would not know which water sample had been exposed to which word/emotion/music treatment.  The results would be analyzed and only then would the exposure method be revealed.  Blinded experiments reduce the bias that has been clearly demonstrated to influence the interpretation, measurements and analyses of virtually any comparative study where the investigator is aware of the treatment methods.
  4. Emoto certainly does not provide any real results of his experimental outcomes.  A real scientific presentation would provide extensive representative pictures and list the number, types and descriptions of all crystals (or at least a sampling) that formed at different temperatures for each of the treatment methods.  There would probably be dozens to hundreds of crystals formed for each treatment.  Each treatment would perhaps be repeated several times at different temperatures and with different levels of mineral contaminants to ascertain how other variables impact crystal formation.  Instead, we are presented with pictures of individual crystals that ‘prove’ his theory.
  5. There is no analysis of results from Emoto’s ‘experiments’.  A real scientific study that attempted to determine whether words, emotions or music had an effect on water crystallization would, as mentioned, describe a number of the crystals that formed for each treatment.  These crystals would be categorized by some measurable criteria (symmetry, shape, type, and even beauty) and the results would be presented as tables that showed the distribution of the different measured criteria by treatment method.  A hypothetical example confirming the theory might be that 55% of crystals from water exposed to the word ‘beauty’ had highly symmetric crystals while only 35% of crystals from water exposed to the word ‘ugly’ had highly symmetric crystals.

It would take specialized equipment and considerable time and effort to try and replicate Emoto’s work.  The reason neither I nor any scientific group I am aware of has tried to repeat his experiments is that, for reasons described above, there is absolutely no expectation of success.  Why bother trying to repeat a poorly designed, described and conducted experiment that has no theoretical basis of support. 

What would be the benefit to the scientist investing the time and expense to try and duplicate Emoto's experiment when the outcome is almost certain failure?  With so little information about his methods available, Emoto could dismiss any failure to replicate his results as a failure to follow his procedures.  There are better and more worthy efforts in which to invest limited resources. 

Introduction: In an Advanced Placement Psychology class at Durango High School in Durango, Colorado, our group attempted to replicate Dr. Masaru Emoto’s water experiments. In his studies, described in the book "The Hidden Messages in Water," Dr. Emoto showed a correlation between thoughts or messages and the formation of water crystals.

Original Methods: In his experiment Dr. Emoto used about fifty different water sources varying from glacial water in Japanese mountains to filtered water from a faucet. Dr. Emoto attached different messages to each water sample and even had a Buddhist monk bless some of them. Some of the messages were: “Love and Gratitude,” “Thank you,” and “You make me sick.” He included a variety of positive and negative thoughts. He then froze the water samples on Petri dishes in a freezer at -4 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 hours. His stated results showed a strong correlation between the message and the formation of the water crystals. Water samples with optimistic messages on them created “nice-looking” crystals and the ones with pessimistic messages created “ugly” crystals.

Critique: Dr. Emoto’s experiment appears to have overlooked certain variables, and some of his conclusions may be based on assumptions that are not necessarily true. For example, Dr. Emoto failed to realize that there are hundreds of crystals in one drop of water, and through “experimenter bias” he may have subconsciously noticed certain crystals while disregarding others because of the suggestion of a certain message. In other words, he could have looked through thousands of crystals to find a beautiful one if he knew the message was a positive one, and – consciously or unconsciously – he could have looked for an ugly crystal if he knew the message was a negative one. Dr. Emoto does not state if the experiment was a “blind” study, a condition where the experimenter is unaware of which messages were attached to which water sample. This measure would eliminate experimenter bias. Because of Dr. Emoto does not specify whether his experimental procedure was blind or not, we do not know if Emoto only photographed the “pretty” crystals because of the positive messages or was unconsciously drawn to “scary” crystals when he looked at samples with negative messages. His experiment is also open to diverse interpretations. He implies that certain crystal structures may reflect the thought that was attached to them, but he fails to recognize that there may be other relevant interpretations for analyzing the crystal formations. Because of the unnoticed variables in the experiment, our high-school A.P. Psychology group decided to try to remake Dr. Emoto’s experiment.

Our Methods: Replicating Dr. Emoto’s experiment proved to be a little more challenging than we originally thought it would be. Dr. Emoto got most of his water samples from the mountains of Japan; we had to settle with water from the Animas River, and other various water samples. This may have created a discrepancy in our conclusions, but both experiments tested the effect of thought on water, so the water type should have had no bearing on our results. We also used a control group for each type of water: A sample that had no message attached. We had five different types of water: Dasani, tap water, river water, filtered tap water, and tap water from a different location. Each type of water was labeled with a color, and for each type we attached 5 different messages to 5 different microscope slides containing the water sample, as well as having one “control” slide with no message. So all together we made 30 slides. The messages we used were “I despise you,” “You make me sick,” “Thank you,” “Love and Gratitude,” and “You are beautiful.” We taped the messages, as well as a piece of colored paper that corresponded to the water type, onto the bottom of each slide. We were unaware of which message was on which slide in each water group. Although we took special precautions and were careful about experimenter bias, our experiment was not as wide-scale as Dr. Emoto’s. We didn’t have nearly as many samples as Dr. Emoto did. Another difficulty we faced was the temperature of the freezer and the time that we left the water in the freezer. Our freezer ranged from -2 to -10 degrees Fahrenheit, while Emoto’s was at -4 degrees. This created different freezing times for the water samples. We had to wait until a thin layer of crystals was just beginning to form on the surface of the water before we could analyze them underneath our microscope, but at the same time, we could not let the water freeze completely or else we could not observe any crystals. We also used glass slides instead of Petri dishes, another source of possible discrepancy.

 Conclusion: We did not find sufficient evidence to refute or accept Emoto’s hypothesis that thought influences water crystal formation. We noticed one interesting similarity between two separate groups of water samples: Similar crystals formed on the same message, “I despise you,” in two types of water. But, for the most part, the crystal formations in each water sample resembled each other, regardless of the messages attached to them. We concluded that in order to make a significant finding, further research would have to be done. So, for now, we will have to live with our curiosity and continue to wonder if our thoughts have the power to influence water and ultimately ourselves.

Respectfully submitted by: Amanda White, Robbie Else, Scott Wilson, Damian Nash (teacher). AP Psychology Class Durango High School Durango, Colorado May 25, 2004

The one attempt to duplicate Emoto’s work I am aware of was by a high school AP Psychology class at a Durango, CO high school in 2004 – A submission of the results can be found to the right (the original link to the report has disappeared).  Their limited experiment "did not find sufficient evidence to refute or accept Emoto’s hypothesis that thought influences water crystal formation."

http://sharathchandrahc.wordpress.com/tag/emotos-works/ - additional skeptical information about Emoto.

People like Emoto, who come up with eccentric theories to describe the natural world (hypotheses that are outside the realm of traditional science), often claim unfair discrimination against their ideas. They assert that members of the scientific community are a bunch of thugs who protect their turf, beat up on weak, underfunded outsiders, and summarily dismiss any new ideas without giving them a fair hearing. This is a completely false accusation. Scientific theories – even big ones that concern the behavior of light, electricity, atoms and gravity – can and do change - - - provided the new evidence supports the new theory, there is a reasonable theoretical underpinning presented and the experiments can be repeated by other skeptical scientists.

There are literally hundreds of exotic theories (and products based on them) promoted on the Internet that claim to enhance health in some way. Many of these theories and products, as I describe on my page (www.cyber-nook.com/water/alteredwater.htm), involve claims that specific characteristics of water molecules (oxidation state, energy, cluster size, bond angle, etc.) can be modified by some process (ionization or exposure to magnets, catalysts, energy fields, vortexes, electromagnetic radiation, centrifugal force, thoughts/intention, and other processes with completely made up names). Claims are made that the new characteristics of these ‘altered’ water molecules are stable and can somehow survive the digestive system, absorb into the blood stream and interact differently from untreated water in the body to improve some attribute of health.

If you conduct even the most basic investigation of these products, though, you will inevitably discover that they have exactly the same characteristics and limitations as Emoto’s claims described above. The only evidence you will find that they have any effect on the body, is provided by the company promoting the product. The only support for the claims is testimonials allegedly from people who profess to have experienced a health benefit. You will find no evidence (or a very limited mention) to support the theory or product in the published scientific and medical literature. 
Of course, to complicate matters, the human mind can react powerfully to belief and expectation. There are health conditions that react positively to the suggestion that a treatment or product will work. The placebo effect is one of the primary phenomena that keep promoters of these products in business.  However, if you take the time to try these ‘altered’ water products or processes in a blinded, experimental situation, you will find no difference between them and regular water – that’s my money-back guarantee.

Ultimately you will need to determine whether to believe the word of someone who is trying to sell you an idea, product or process that is claimed to provide a health benefit but who is unable to actually provide any hard evidence to support those claims - either that the underlying theory is valid or that the product/process works at all.
Although this is probably far more than you wanted to hear, I hope my explanation helps you understand why I remain completely skeptical of Emoto’s claims and those of his kindred spirits and why I am passionate about trying to help others understand why skeptics demand good evidence to support claims that go beyond the boundaries of traditional scientific understanding.

Randy

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Copyright © 2005 Randy Johnson. All rights reserved.

Updated November 2011