Respectful Insolence

i-52064cad4ebe1ba6698d34c4dc6ecd63-hope.jpg

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about woo in the more than a year and a half that I’ve been doing this regular Friday feature, it’s that there’s definitely a religious element to virtually all woo. In essence, it requires believing in something that cannot be demonstrated scientifically, often despite science outright refuting it. For example, there have been several “victims” (I mean subjects) for this Friday feature that have been explicitly fundamentalist Christian in nature1, 2, 3, 4, even a parody of such beliefs. Of course, if you’re a New Age-type woo, you wouldn’t call it “religious,” at least not in the same way that Christians, Jews, Muslims, or other mainstream religions are religious. Instead, they’d call it “spiritual,” which is how we end up with concepts like the “global orgasm,” “sacred science,” and “spiritual sound healing.” Heck, the ultimate in woo, namely homeopathy, can best be described as a quasireligious belief system, in which water has remarkable power to “remember” the essence of whatever it has been “succussed” with in what can only be described as a magical or religious ritual that homeopaths do to “potentize” their remedies. Although I’ve seen a lot of Christian woo and New Age-type woo, though, there are types of religious woo that I have never encountered. And this week’s target (I mean subject) appeared in a place that I would never have expected, namely the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), a group dedicated to translating and documenting media reports from various Middle Eastern countries to show what is really bing

Are you ready for some serious Koranic water woo? Sure you are.

This woo comes in the form of a translated transcript of a television show that aired on DubaiTV on December 13, 2007. It begins with an Iraqi journalist named Akran Al-Hashemi, who apparently survived an assassination attempt. He began his story thusly:

Akran Al-Hashemi, Iraqi journalist: “I survived an assassination attempt in Iraq. I was hit by bullets – more than 70 bullets. I used oils, lotions, and all sorts of medicine, but unfortunately, nothing helped. I happened to meet Hajja [Samiya], and she said: ‘I can heal you. I will recite Koranic verses over olive oil for you – the Al-Fatiha chapter, the Al-Kursi verse, and the Al-Ma’wiztein.’ From the very first night, I felt a difference, and after one week I started walking normally.”

Now, I know what you’re saying. Did he fire five woos or six? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement of the last week, with the Paulbots and antivaxers showing up I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful woo destroyer in the world, and would blow this woo clean up, you’ve got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

Sorry. I don’t know what came over me. Too many Clint Eastwood movies, I guess. In any case, you might be thinking, “What’s so special about this woo?” After all, it just sounds like your standard-issue religious miracle healing testimonial common to many religions. Nothing special there. So Hajja blessed the oil and it supposedly healed Akran? Stories like this are a dime a dozen and not a fitting topic for Your Friday Dose of Woo.

Patience, O Skeptical Ones. Have I ever let you down before? Wait, don’t answer that.

Listen to Egyptian Islamic scholar Zaghloul Al-Naggar explain:

Egyptian Islamic scholar Zaghloul Al-Naggar: “We have recently realized the value of the use of amulets. It has been scientifically proven that water is affected by what is recited over it. Japanese researcher Masaru Emoto has had a unique experience. He said that he had read in a book that each snowflake falling from the sky is unique. He said that his scientific instincts told him that this was not true. The geometric shape of the snowflake is determined by its chemical composition. The composition of water is well known – two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. So how come snowflakes that fall from the sky are different from one another? He said: ‘I was determined to prove that this theory was false.’ He built a laboratory, consisting of a deep freezer with a regulator, because no liquid subjected to sudden freezing can assume a geometric shape. The freezing must be slow, so the atoms have the chance to crystallize into the shape decreed by Allah.”

Zamzam Water Is Not Affected by Witchcraft or Jinns.

Yes, it’s that Masaru Emoto! All I can say is: Koran + Emoto = Woo! Yes, it’s the same Dr. Emoto who claims that speaking over water with “intent” will impart that intent into the water, with, or so he claims, therapeutic effects. In any case, if speaking or singing with “intent” over water is so powerful, just imagine how much more power one cold impart into water with prayer! Of course, the Catholics thought of that one long ago. Heck, Catholic holy water even burns vampires. It’s potent stuff, as any horror movie aficianado knows. So how potent is the Islamic version? Apparently Dr. Emoto sought to find out, as Al-Naggar continues:

There was a deep freezer with a regulator, a cold room at a temperature of -7°C, and several microscopes equipped with cameras, so he could photograph the snowflake before it melted. The scientists working in this room wore warm clothing. He said: ‘I took samples [of water] from two faucets in the laboratory, I froze them, and each sample gave me a different snowflake. The samples came from two different wells, two different rivers, two different lakes. I almost went crazy and thought it was witchcraft.’

“A Saudi student at the University of Tokyo happened to meet him, and asked him what was wrong. Masaru told him his problem. The student said to him: ‘We have blessed water, called Zamzam water. I will give you a sample of this water so you can experiment on it. The Zamzam water is not affected by witchcraft or jinns, so using it can prove or disprove the whole theory.’

“Emoto took a sample of Zamzam water, and said: ‘I couldn’t crystallize it, even by diluting the water by 1,000.’ In other words, he turned one cubic centimeter into one liter.

[...]

“He said that when he diluted the water by 1,000 and froze it, he got a uniquely-shaped crystal. Two crystals were formed, one on top of the other, but they assumed a unique form. When he asked his Muslim colleague why there were two crystals, he told him it was because ‘Zamzam’ is made up of two words: ‘Zam’ and ‘Zam.’”

Couldn’t “crystallize” it? Is Emoto saying that the Zamzam water won’t freeze at the same temperature that water normally freezes at? Did he actually check the chemical composition of the water? After all, adding a bit of alcohol could decrease the freezing point. It’s something for Dr. Emoto to think about. I could be wrong, but I humbly suggest that perhaps the Zamzam water that he tested was really Bambam water.

Or it could just be a lot of salt in the water.

Of course, this idea naturally lead Al-Naggar to wonder: “If A Glass of Water is Affected By the Koran, Wouldn’t the Human Body Be Affected?”

Here’s where we find out that Zamzam water is even better than homeopathy. After all, there’s none of that difficult and annoying succussion or that pain-in-the-rear task of serial dilutions. All there is is prayer over the water, and it does amazing things, as Al-Naggar explains:

“Emoto said: ‘My Muslim colleague offered to recite Koranic verses over the water. He brought a tape recorder and played some Koranic verses, and we got the most perfectly shaped crystals. Then he played the 99 names of Allah. Each name produced a uniquely-shaped crystal. Then he began cursing the water. We said: Water, you are impure. You are not suited for consumption. The water, in this case, did not freeze, or produced an extremely ugly crystal.’ When they uttered bad words like ‘war’ or ‘fighting,’ the water did not freeze, or else produced an ugly shape. When the man completed these experiments, which lasted 15 years, he published a five-volume book called Messages from Water. He wrote: ‘I have proven that water, that peculiar liquid, is capable of thinking, fathoming, feeling, becoming excited, and expressing itself.’ Okay, the human body is composed mainly of water. If a glass of water is affected by the Koran, wouldn’t the human body be affected?”

I’m convinced. How about you? Of course, the real question is how this Koranic holy water imbued with the “intent” of the Muslim praying over it affects the human body. Is it better at quenching your thirst than Satanic water? Does it heal you of every ill? Does it give you wings like Red Bull? Inquiring minds want to know!

Before we can find this out, we have to know that an engineer named Sharif Shukran invented a device that contains water. He records Koranic verses in it, and the voice turns into electromagnetic waves that pass through the water, giving it healing powers. I have to ask right here how the “intent” of the person praying is put in the water if that person is not there Shukran is apparently just using an MP3 player or similar playback device to run a current through the water rather than through speakers, but perhaps I’m overthinking this. After all, as Sharif Shukran says:

Sharif Shukran: “I was trying to deal with a problem that has not been discussed so far – Satan uses humans to record negative thoughts in water.

[...]

“For 14 centuries, we’ve known for certain that Koran verses are recorded in water, but we never imagined that everything that is said is recorded in water. I found out that one of the methods employed by Satan is to make human beings think certain thoughts, while cooking, for example. When a human being is near any type of liquid, he might pass his negative thoughts on to the water.

So watch out around swimming pools. Your negative thoughts may cause someone to drown. But I digress. Let Shukran continue:

“When a mother cooks… I’ve asked many mothers what they think about when they are cooking, and they said they were thinking about problems. Without realizing it, they insert all the problems into the food.

[...]

“What does this device do? It supplies enough water to offset the water in the body that carries negative words. A person cannot go every day to someone who would read the Koran over him, nor can he recite it himself all day long.”

I’ll admit that this is a problem. Imagine how many problems it would cause if everyone had to have someone following them around reciting Koranic verses over him or her all day. And who would recite the Koranic verses over the reciters? Or are they protected by their own recitations? What languages does water understand? Do the prayers have to be in the original Arabic, or would a translation of the Koran work? After all, According to Dr. Emoto, apparently “intent” is more important than language, but my understanding is that, to Muslims, the only true Koran is the Koran in the original Arabic.

I know, I know, I’ll stop.

I lied.

I can’t stop. I can’t stop mainly because I think I have found an early candidate for the absolute best woo-quote of 2008:

If a Person Replaces Most of the Water in His Body With Koranic Water, His Body Begins to Emit Steam Which Contains the Koran.

Because there’s nothing more powerful than millions of steaming Muslims emitting the Koran. I imagine they could convert the world to Islam. Against such awesome might, even Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, or P.Z. Myers might struggle in vain to remain atheists. Expect mass conversions to Islam soon, if this report is true.

But wait! Just when you thought that millions of steaming Muslims emitting the Koran aren’t powerful enough, it turns out that Zamzam water has an even more useful property to Muslim men:

A couple on the verge of divorce began using the water. The wife used to complain all the time. After a month and a half, she stopped entirely. Things that she used to make a fuss over seemed simple all of the sudden. I asked myself how this could be, and I realized something – or at least, this makes sense to me. If a person replaces most of the water in his body with Koranic water, his body begins to emit steam which contains the Koran. This creates a halo of steam around him, containing the Koran, which fends off Satan.

That’s right. The Koranic holy water fends off Satan. That’s to be expected, though. What holy water worth its salt, be it Christian or Koranic, can’t fend off Satan? After all, isn’t that a minimum expectation of holy water of any kind? No, fending off Satan isn’t enough. The water makes uppity women who complain too much become docile. Sadly, to some that’s a far more useful property than merely curing disease and fending off Satan.

Lest you think, though, that the whole holy water thing is limited to just Catholics and Muslims, I just learned that Madonna is spending $10,000 a month to supply herself and her family with Kabbalah Water. Of course, it’s “scientific” too:

Just as it did at the first moment of Creation, the growth of every living organism should follow this blueprint. All the metabolic and regulatory processes of life require information — and because of its unique crystalline structure and fractal design, Kabbalah water is an excellent information transmitter. Positive, health-giving information is defined by symmetry and high energy, while low energy and entropy — like static in TV or radio reception — characterize muddled information. Therefore, the condition of the water we take into our bodies determines the quality of the information being transmitted to our immune system, digestive system, circulatory system, and even to every atom of our bodies.

The scientific findings regarding Kabbalah Water are fascinating and important. But the essence and foundation of Kabbalah Water is the consciousness of sharing which infuses it. Once, all the waters of the world were imbued with this consciousness. The Kabbalistic blessings and meditations that are used to create Kabbalah Water, for example, bring about elegant and balanced crystalline structures in water, while negative consciousness has an opposite effect. This is hugely important. In a very literal way, Kabbalah Water is life’s original blueprint information brought into the modern world.

Shades of Masuru Emoto! It makes me pine for the straightforward honesty of the Catholic Church when it comes to holy water. It doesn’t make any claims for “intent” or “consciousness.” It just says that the water is blessed by God through the bishop who blesses it. In any case, I guess it’s a good thing that Emoto apparently shows no inclination one way or the other to favor one religion over another. To him, it’s all good.

Good woo, that is.

Comments

  1. #1 inkadu
    January 11, 2008

    On the plus side, “Zamzam” and “Emoto” are both excellent cat names.

    I always want to stop into one of those little shops near churches that sell holy water. I’d plunk my $5 down, open the bottle, take a swig, belch, and say, “Hit me again.” I’d keep going until they refused to sell me any more water, or I contracted dysentary — whichever came first.

  2. #2 Marcus Ranum
    January 11, 2008

    70 bullets!? That’s a lot. If they came out of modern weaponry, someone hit by 70 bullets would probably look like a plate of spaghetti. Unless they all hit in more or less the same place. Like his brain.

  3. #3 Niobe
    January 11, 2008

    Last time I was in Indonesia, I watched a program about a Muslim doctor treating the mentally infirm. What I gathered from the show was that he threw cold water over them while they were praying, so they shivered from the cold and steam came up. There were patients with varying degrees of mental illness (one woman behind bars with a wet hijab doing that crazy cackle of a paranoid schizophrenic) but they were all happy the power of prayer and hypothermia was healing them of their mental illness. Translated the Koran doctor was called “mental health scientist”. It broke my heart.

  4. #4 Y.S.
    January 11, 2008

    Hmm, Interesting.

    Please, are there any books on scientific thinking or epistemology that you recommend reading?

    Thanks in advance.

  5. #5 Liesele
    January 11, 2008

    When I got to the part with the text of how they “cursed” the water I almost snorted coffee all over my keyboard. Just think about what we’re all doing when we’re drinking our morning coffee and cussing out our co-workers under our breath. Just think what a change to that could mean to US productivity. They could fix the economy for us in one day just by having us stop eliminating all muttering at Starbucks! Has anyone notified the US presidential candidates?

  6. #6 Aaron
    January 11, 2008

    Diluting… water. Diluting water.

    I have nothing to add at this time.

  7. #7 Crosius
    January 11, 2008

    The whole time I was reading the article I was waiting for you to use the term, “Koranic Irrigation.”

    Maybe it’s just funny to me.

  8. #8 Donnie B.
    January 11, 2008

    Diluting the Zamzam water with regular, unblessed water, perhaps?

    The one that got me laughing was the “two words: zam and zam” line.

  9. #9 Elf M. Sternberg
    January 11, 2008

    There’s a scary bit of misogyny there, too, isn’t there? “Women cook, and women worry. It is women who introduce satanic influences into the bodies of their children through their Koranic nega-woo.”

  10. #10 Matt
    January 11, 2008

    Well no wonder talking to your plants helps them grow. Here we thought we were affecting the plant, when actually we were blessing the water with our happy thoughts. Or maybe since most of us living critters here on earth are mostly water if we just said good happy stuff, the water in our bodies would change their molecular structure on the spot as we asked them too. Yup, I’m going to try that right now…….

    ….. It didn’t work, darn.

  11. #11 Phy
    January 11, 2008

    Just because water’s the most commonly used solvent doesn’t mean it can’t itself be diluted. I occasionally like to partake of a little water, diluted by about 60 mL of flavoured alcohol…

  12. #12 DuWayne
    January 11, 2008

    Crosius -

    I am serious when I say that I just hurt myself laughing at that one.

    I was surprised to see them move away from the olive oil, into the water. I recall seeing Benny Hinn with my mom, years ago. At the book, tape and tee-shirt table, they were also selling blessed olive oil for something like fifteen dollars for three drams (yes, that is the unit of measure they used). It was intended for anointing during prayer, but I overheard the discussion of another, with the person manning the table suggesting that yes indeed, it would probably be very useful for making especially blessed food. The person buying bought more than one of the tiny bottles.

  13. #13 Carpworld
    January 11, 2008

    Personally, i quite like my water to be affected by Gin, also ice and a slice of lemon.

  14. #14 Jeff
    January 11, 2008

    “I was hit by bullets – more than 70 bullets. I used oils, lotions, and all sorts of medicine, but unfortunately, nothing helped.”

    I love this line. I mean, if you got hit by 70 bullets wouldn’t you naturally turn first to oils and lotions?

  15. #15 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 11, 2008

    Wow. I imagine steam lines like those stink lines following pigpen around whirling all around the true-believers

  16. #16 Marcus Ranum
    January 11, 2008

    Please, are there any books on scientific thinking or epistemology that you recommend reading?

    I highly recommend Alan Cromer’s “Uncommon Sense”

  17. #17 Bill H
    January 11, 2008

    Burton wrote (Personal Narrative of a Pilgramage to al-Madinah and Meccah) about Zamam water “Sale is decidedly correct in his assertion: the flavor is salt-bitter, much resembling an infusion of a teaspoon of Epsom salts in a large tumbler of tepid water.”

  18. #18 Sastra
    January 11, 2008

    I’ve had the “experiments” of Dr. Emoto brought up to me as good, scientific evidence for spiritual causative powers of the mind. He’s a real scientist, and he’s doing real science. When I pointed out that his claims are so extraordinary that they’d change the entire world of science if accepted — so he can’t be part of the general mainstream — they were unfazed. They’re not concerned with consistency.

    If Emoto doesn’t “fit in” with everyone else in science, that’s no different than the Catholics following a different scripture than the Muslims, or the pagans believing something different than the Hindus. Because they’re used to contradictory religions, the concept of contradictory sciences apparently seems normal.

    By the way, Tanner Edis’ book An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam has been on my wish list for a while. It’s right on this topic, and supposed to be excellent.

  19. #19 Ahistoricality
    January 11, 2008

    Without realizing it, they insert all the problems into the food.

    I didn’t realize Like Water For Chocolate was a documentary!

    If Emoto ever encounters Chaos theory, I suspect his head would implode.

    Just sayin’

  20. #20 DLC
    January 11, 2008

    Woo!
    Wacky Water Woo !
    checking around the post — Nope, no science here, just pure undiluted woo.

  21. #21 Prometheus
    January 11, 2008

    I have to admit that I was speechless after reading this post. To my long-suffering spouse, this was as good as ZamZam water.

    Seriously, though, does Emoto think that snow falling out in the middle of nowhere (which isn’t too far from where I work) is made up of identical crystals?

    Just kidding! “Dr.” Emoto has no scientific background that would allow him to realize the stupidity of his beliefs, so he is free to “visualize” the world as he sees fit.

    From his website:

    I was born in Yokohama in July 1943. I graduated from the International Relations course in the Department of Humanities and Sciences at Yokohama Municipal University. In 1986 I established the I.H.M. Corporation in Tokyo. In October of 1992 I received certification from the Open International University as a Doctor of Alternative Medicine.

    From the website of the “Open International University”:

    DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY IN ALTERNATIVE MEDICINES- Ph.D. (A.M.)

    Eligibility:

    Those persons who have passed any degree course from an authentic institution.

    OR

    Those persons who have completed the M.B.B.S., D.M.S., D.H.M.S., B.H.M.S., B.A.M.S., B.U.M.S., N.D., N.O. etc

    *Practitioners/Research Workers who are practicing for the last 10 years. Minimum basic qualification is exempted.

    The awarding authority of PhD(AM) degree is New Age International University, U.S.A.

    Requirement for the Award: The candidate has to submit an original & authentic research work (thesis) of at least 300 pages (on full scape paper) in any branch of alternative medicine under the guidance of a competent person or institution after obtaining the prior approval of this institute

    Duration: One Year.

    Medium of instruction: English.

    Total Fees: The total fees is U.S $850. Full fees should be sent with the Form.

    ‘Nuff said?

    Prometheus

  22. #22 mark
    January 11, 2008

    I met a person who told me that a small bottle of holy water that she bought at some shrine in Canada adversely affected her dowsing ability when she placed it in her pocket.

  23. #23 phil
    January 11, 2008

    I thought you said Klingon not Koran…..

  24. #24 Koray
    January 11, 2008

    70 bullets? That is some motivated yet incompetent assassin.

  25. #26 Old Ari
    January 11, 2008

    Next, “Heavy”, water which has been activated with a tuning fork , set to the frequency of Venus, for the girls, or Mars for the boys, should cure most anything. I’m not sure if tuned to Mercury it would be good as an anti-vaccine.

  26. #27 Rjaye
    January 11, 2008

    And what’s an ugly snowflake? What’s the science behind an ugly snowflake?

    As I read this, I kept imagining the Church Lady reading this aloud.

  27. #28 Ebonmuse
    January 12, 2008

    Positive, health-giving information is defined by symmetry and high energy, while low energy and entropy — like static in TV or radio reception — characterize muddled information.

    I feel I have to point out that this is completely backwards. As anyone who knows about information theory will tell you, static or other random sequences contain more information, because they’re incompressible. You have to transmit the sequence unaltered to recover it. On the other hand, high-symmetry patterns contain less information, because you can reproduce the pattern exactly by transmitting fewer bits.

  28. #29 Alan Kellogg
    January 12, 2008

    It’s funny, but the guiding principles behind homeopathy were first proposed back during the Italian Renaissance in an attempt to put psychic abilities in general, and specifically magick, on a scientific basis. The operating premise being that people had psychic abilities and magick worked. These principles being The Law of Contagion (Things once in contact stay in contact) and The Law of Similarity (Things that are alike in appearance can have the same effect). You’re most apt to hear of this sort of thing among cultural anthropologists and in the occult community.

    To simplify things, homeopathy is an attempt to legitimize magick in the scientific community. The people who support homeopathy rather blatantly ignore the fact science is not interested in neat ideas, but in what works. Homeopathy has been tested and found wanting. In that adherence to homeopathy is indeed a quasi-religious matter.

  29. #30 Warren
    January 15, 2008

    Zamzam Water Is Not Affected by Witchcraft or Jinns.

    Well, that at least is 100% factual.

  30. #31 itworks
    April 22, 2008

    I know a psychiatrist who told me about a guy who was a schitz for 18 years since a teenager and was a muslim but not religous. He was an intelligent young man studying physics when he started having problems. He would not get better after being prescribed various drugs over several years, these drugs caused him problems such as chronic bloating, made him sleepy and very docile. His speach was somewhat slurry and it would take him a few mins to answer a basic question. He changed psychiatrists eventually but still felt the same. He was given a quran by his family and started listening to the recitation everyday. His personality changed and his behaviour improved almost overnight, but when he stopped listening to the recitation or reading the quran and doing his prayers he would get bad again. He asked for a muslim psychiatrist who wasnt religous but saw a major improvement in him and asked him to carry on. The man is now alot better, is on minimum medication and has been discharged from hospital. Afew months before that his family was told he would probably remain in the psychiatric unit for life and that he was paranoid of everyone and his condition was deteriorating!!.

  31. #32 itworks
    April 22, 2008

    it works, if i dont read the koran or listen to it i feel like hurting peeple. Esp pushing them down the stairs if they are infront of me. I have violent thoughts but when i listen to the quran my personality changes?. My colleagues at work and freinds have noticed im so different when i pray. The church never did anything for me , neither did reading the bible (KJV). Peace and serenity are the order of the day now, alhumdolullah that im muslim. Im sure i wouldve ended up as a schitz like my older bro.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!