Do try this at Home – the Mustard Seed Experiment

Do try this at home…

I created this a few years back now as a light hearted joke on another forum, and we tried it on Why not try it here?

Assuming that we wish to demonstrate a paranormal or supernatural claim first (they are not the same, but we have no effective way of distinguishing at this stage in the experiment) I think we should start there.

It won’t prove a God, let alone our Christian one, but I’m not that ambitious.

One thing at a time.

The Mustard Seed Experiment

(first suggested by me back in 2004 on Christianforums!)

Equipment:-– You will require two saucers, two packets of mustard seeds or cress (either – they are cheap fast growing, but do make sure both packets are one or the other!), some tissue or soil for them to grow in (follow the instructions on packet) and a window sill.

You want two locations, and heat and light and condensation etc to be the same on each – so the same windowsill?.

Mark the locations with paper, label A and B. Your seeds will sit in saucers here. You will also need a ruler, paper and pen.

Get the seeds. Now we don’t know what has happened to them in their packets, and they might be from different batches. Tip the seeds in to a glass, and mix them very thoroughly. Now divide them in to two piles. Next take your saucers. Add your tissue, flannel, soil or whatever medium you grow cress or mustard seeds in in your part of the world: they must be exactly equal in depth, water etc.

If you use soil mix it thoroughly then divide into heaps only after finely stirring it. Then add the seeds, and label the two saucers “annie” and “bob”, or “rhubarb” and “custard”, or — you get the idea… Next place the two saucers on the places A & B. The Experiment. Each day, you will do three things. Firstly, you will swap the saucers each morning or night so they move location. This is to average out any inequalities caused by the environment.

Secondly, you will have noted a “good” saucer, and a “naughty” one. You will think positive thoughts of, sing to, pray for, or otherwise encourage growth in the “good” saucer. You will just ignore the “naughty” saucer. You may feel a bit off sending “good vibes” to a saucer. I encourage you not to explain what you are doing to neighbours. Once someone is institutionalised it can be hard to get them released. No when praying/singing/thinking tenderly/asking God to bless your crop – stay away from it. Possibly in the next room? We don’t want the vibrations, heat, or some other natural factor effecting the growth!

Testing the Hypothesis

Null Hypothesis: given exactly equal conditions, prayer/positive thoughts/healing energy/asking God to bless it/etc has no effect on a crop. We set an exact deadline. 12 noon on day 8. We measure, an more importantly we get someone who does not know the good from the naughty cress, or even the nature of the experiment, to measure the height of the crop. If your seeds have turned in to a mighty tree, you take photos and post them here.

If one saucer, the naughty one was blasted like the fig, you pat the cat on the head, but some stuff from the vet to stop him spraying in the house, and post pictures here.

If the “good” crop is 10% taller or more bountiful than the “naughty one”, then it’s a success.  Ensure the ruler measures from the saucer. Hopefully you will find the results are visually apparent.

It seems to work, and its cheaper than the Templeton Prayer Experiment (see TGD) by a factor of several millions. To give that authentic big money research programme feel, do feel free to paypal me some cash however.


Well it either works or it doesn’t. Either way, post your results here (negative results still vital – do post! No File Drawer here please…). Might be interesting to measure the crops each day and record their progress. If it works, what does it prove? It proves we need to try tightening the controls and trying again. Still it might be indicative of an effect, and if our thoughts or prayers can effect a small plant, well they might well effect many other things. Who knows? What it disproves potentially is the null hypothesis.

It gives us no positive evidence as to the nature of the effect, if any — it could be down to invisible pixies, or a unseen thermal current, or maybe ESP/PK, or experimenter error, or – but we can work on that later. Let’s get an experimental effect first! It’s along way from here to St. Paul and Jesus dying on the Cross for our sins… Anyway, there ya go. I have set out my version of the experiment. The question is, will a few of you try it? Let me know! Is it an improvement? It is less ambitious! So who is up to try this? Feel free to critique my experimental design, I just typed it up quickly… OH yes — I am interested in any result over 10% on either plant in variation, but I think 20% seems a fairly impressive margin and should be required to count as a hit. There you go, I have employed the extraordinary claims principle even though I don’t believe it personally.

Anyway, post your results, positive of negative in the comments here. 🙂


About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
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