Walking on water

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Walking on water float design by Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th century

Walking on water is at times used as an example of an impossible task. The phrase is widely used to refer to the performance of extraordinary tasks, as in the titles of books that aim to show individuals how to break through their personal limitations and achieve dramatic success.[1]

Ancient instances

According to scholars, the Visuddhimagga is one of the extremely rare texts within the enormous literatures of various forms of Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism to give explicit details about how spiritual masters were thought to actually manifest supernormal abilities.[2] Abilities such as flying through the air, walking through solid obstructions, diving into the ground, walking on water and so forth are performed by changing one element, such as earth, into another element, such as air.[3] The individual must master kasina meditation before this is possible.[4] Dipa Ma, who trained via the Visuddhimagga, was said to demonstrate these abilities.[5]

Leonardo da Vinci, in the Codex Atlanticus manuscripts, sketched designs for floats to allow a man to walk on water.[6]


From a scientific perspective, an act of walking on water would be anomalous because it doesn’t fit with what we know to be possible. It defies basic laws of hydrodynamics. Even though the burden of proof is with the believers, scientists have looked to the 1,200 different species that are actually able to walk on water in order to understand and explain the underlying processes that come into play with the notion of humans and walking on water.[7]

Smaller animals are able to walk on water because they do not break the surface tension that water holds. Insects have hydrophobic oils that force the water molecules to move out of the way when they walk on water.[8] However, humans are clearly able to break the surface tension, so scientists look to larger animals and find that they have the ability to create a force that allows them to walk across water by slapping their feet on the water, which creates cavities in the water surface supporting them for less than 1/10th of a second allowing them to hydroplane. Examples are the basilisk lizard and the western grebe. According to Thomas McMahon, professor of biology at Harvard University, walking on water would “require a power output at least 15 times greater than ever achieved by humans”. Going on to support da Vinci’s design above and suggest that humans could design machines to do it better for us.[9]

Pragmatic views

However, perhaps the claims of walking on water are not even anomalous at all; Walking on water can be considered a false anomaly because there are other possible explanations for the accounts other than religiously inspired explanations that claim supernatural causes. US and Israeli scientists published a study in the Journal of Paleolimnology claiming that, “Jesus may have appeared to be walking on water when he was actually floating on a thin layer of ice, forced by a rare combination of weather and water conditions on the Sea of Galilee”.[10] Given all of the conditions, it is highly possible that somebody observed Jesus standing on a small sheet of ice not visible at a distance, making him appear to be floating on liquid water when he actually is not. How can illusionist Criss Angel’s account of walking on water be explained? Most likely a mixture of illusions created by plexiglass or something similar, possibly a small wire holding him up, and/or video editing skills.[11] What is clear, however, is that he would not be able to successfully walk on water in a controlled experiment.

Walking on water is not only falsely anomalous, but also very characteristic of pseudoscience. First, it hasn’t proven to be self-correcting over time; nobody has been able to replicate or document a human walking on water. Even though it’s been a subject of concern for literally thousands of years, there is no evidence supporting humans having the ability to walk on water. In fact, there is actually evidence and explanations about why humans are not able to walk on water. Additionally, since there are no theories explaining how humans would be able to walk on water successfully, we can assume that its pseudoscience. Even further, pseudoscientific claims do not change much over time, and claims appearing in religious texts have never changed. Supporting a claim with anecdotal evidence in a book does not add any substantive value to offering an accurate explanation about various alleged accounts of walking on water. Furthermore, such claims are not falsifiable and have no way of being tested. Therefore, no causation can be attributed because it’s not even possible in the first place. People who believe Jesus walked on water are subject to religious bias, and cannot offer any scientific evidence or support that such events happened as they did in the bible. Rather than science, they rely on faith.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Summerhill, Claire (2005). Walking on Water: A Step-by-Step Guide. Lincoln, Nebraska: iUniverse, Inc. ISBN 0-595-34191-8. 
  2. ^ Jacobsen, edited by Knut A. (2011). Yoga Powers. Leiden: Brill. p. 93. ISBN 9789004212145. 
  3. ^ Jacobsen, edited by Knut A. (2011). Yoga Powers. Leiden: Brill. p. 83-86. ISBN 9789004212145. 
  4. ^ Jacobsen, edited by Knut A. (2011). Yoga Powers. Leiden: Brill. p. 83-86. ISBN 9789004212145. 
  5. ^ Schmidt, Amy (2005). Dipa Ma. Windhorse Publications Ltd. p. Chapter 9 At Home in Strange Realms. 
  6. ^ "Studies - Floats for walking on water". Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci". Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  7. ^ "Could Humans Walk on Water?". Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  8. ^ "Q: Why can some creatures walk on water yet I (a human) can't?". 2013-09-24. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  9. ^ Affairs, Harvard Office of News and Public. "Biologists Discover How To Walk on Water". news.harvard.edu. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  10. ^ Borger, Julian (2006-04-05). "Jesus was walking on thin ice, claim scientists". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  11. ^ Name, Your. "Criss Angel Walk On Water Illusion". www.goodtricks.net. Retrieved 2016-06-24. 
  12. ^ Carey, Stephen (2011). Beginner's Guide to Scientific Method. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. ISBN 1111305552. 
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