Pareidolia officially jumps the shark

By Phil Plait | May 7, 2008 10:02 pm

That’s it. I’m done.

And may I add: ewwwwww.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be on the next one just like always.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pareidolia

Comments (71)

  1. Thomas Siefert

    If she starts weeping, he should probably see a doctorb (the “b” is for bargain).

  2. I’m sorry… it looks more like a… wound!

  3. EvilBob

    A Bloody Mary?

  4. OtherRob

    I wish I’d thought of that, EvilBob. :-)

  5. Tommy Duchesne

    I tough it was Jesus!

  6. Cameron

    From the article: “The Roman Catholic Church has very strict guidelines regarding what is deemed an official sighting of the Virgin Mary.”

    I’m kind of wondering what those rules are…

  7. #
    # Cameronon 07 May 2008 at 10:32 pm

    From the article: “The Roman Catholic Church has very strict guidelines regarding what is deemed an official sighting of the Virgin Mary.”

    I’m kind of wondering what those rules are…

    You beat me to it. If they actually were strict, there wouldn’t be any sightings at all.

    Phil, don’t you dare quitting on us :)

  8. Arthwollipot

    Wow. Just… wow.

  9. Michael Lonergan

    OMVM…

    Someone has an over-active imagination. Too many communion wafers?

  10. tahlmorra

    Cameron – “I’m kind of wondering what those rules are…”

    From Wiki;

    “Contrary to popular opinion, the truth of each miracle is meticulously examined not only from dogmatic and theological points of view, but also with the skepticism of science. Only after all other possible explanations have proven inadequate may the Church assume Divine intervention and declare the miracle worthy of veneration by the faithful (the Church does not, however, enjoin belief in any extra-Scriptural miracle as an article of faith or as necessary to salvation).”

    I thought I had a link to actual doctrine..but cant find it. Will keep looking..

  11. bswift

    WHY WHY WHY WHHYYYYYYY DO THEY KEEP REPORTING THIS STUFF?!?!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!!?? AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    (I’m sure the spam filter’s gonna catch this one…hehehe)

  12. tahlmorra

    Oh.. This is interesting..

    >>What is a miracle? Is it a violation of a law of nature? Didn’t people in the past believe in miracles only because they didn’t know much about science?<<

    “A miracle may by defined as an event that occurs in nature but that has a cause lying outside nature, that is, a supernatural cause. Miracles are not violations of the laws of nature. The way we know if an event is a miracle is by seeing if it could have been caused by natural forces.

    For example, when Jesus changed water to wine (John 2:1-11), it would have been impossible for random movements or any other natural stimuli to have effected this transubstantiation. If the water could not have turned into wine by natural means, the change must have had a supernatural cause. Since we know nature could not effect this change, we infer that a miracle took place. In fact, it is precisely because of our knowledge of science that we can identify miracles when they occur.

    As C.S. Lewis pointed out, the Virgin Birth is only perceivable as a miracle if one first knows the laws of nature that virgins don’t normally give birth. Joseph understood this law of nature. When he discovered Mary was pregnant, he initially suspected her of unfaithfulness (Matt. 1:19). It took a visit from and angel of the Lord to convince him of the miraculous nature of Mary’s pregnancy.

    To learn more about how eminently scientific it is to believe in miracles, get hold of these books: Miracles, by C.S. Lewis, Miracles: A Catholic View, by Ralph McInerny, Scaling the Secular City, by J.P. Moreland, and That You May Believe and Miracles and the Critical Mind, both by Colin Brown. Highly recommended are the now out-of-print works of Catholic apologist Arnold Lunn, Revolt Against Reason and And Yet So New.”

    Source: http://www.newadvent.org/library/almanac_thisrock93.htm

    /Disclaimer: I am not Catholic, nor religious..don’t shoot the messenger.. ;)

  13. Keith

    Can someone point out to me how this looks like … anything? All I can see is a six-foot giant invisible rabbit in profile standing upright looking to the right.

    >> Since we know nature could not effect this change, we infer that a miracle took place. <<<

    Uh, that’s not what I infer…

  14. tahlmorra

    Regarding the “Congregation of the Causes for Saints”..

    >>Assessing of miracles<<

    “The miracle may go beyond the possibilities of nature either in the substance of the fact or in the subject, or only in the way it occurs. So three degrees of miracle are to be distinguished. The first degree is represented by resurrection from the dead (quoad substantiam). The second concerns the subject (quoad subiectum): the sickness of a person is judged incurable, in its course it can even have destroyed bones or vital organs; in this case not only is complete recovery noticed, but even wholesale reconstitution of the organs (restitutio in integrum). There is then a third degree (quoad modum): recovery from an illness, that treatment could only have achieved after a long period, happens instantaneously.”

    Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congregation_for_the_Causes_of_Saints

    /Is late.. I’m out.. ‘Nite, all..

  15. Who will lay money that this will “miraculously heal” over a period of several weeks, leaving only severe scarring, (to remind him where he was touched by God).

  16. The guy who fell off his bike and bounced 50 feet down the road has an reason for not being right in the head, but there is no excuse for the reporter (I use the term very loosely) who wrote this up. There is no story. All I see is a nasty gash and no one giving a damn.

  17. Dave Hall

    You’ll all be singing a different tune when the Cathederal of Our Lady of the Gravel Rash is built on the site of the sacred crash and burn!

  18. Marcel-Jan

    “Oww oww oww, it hurts…. NO! Don’t heal it! … Here.. no.. don’t put sterilized gauze on my Virgin Mary wound!”

  19. I have said it before elsewhere: one day we are going to see that image of a turd someone claims (s)he sees the image of Jesus in….

  20. Tom

    What is going on?! Is this the f$%&in’ middle ages? I so utterly and completely give up.

  21. I see a bunny rabbit standing on its hind legs, in profile, facing right.

  22. Yup, it’s a fat rabbit.

    Surely the blessed hand of St. Peter of Cottontail is present.

  23. Virgin mary having her period in a biker’s foot. Awesome.

  24. Tim G

    The photo on the web page is a still from the video and depicts the wound after it changed its appearance.

    The motorcyclist posted a photo of his wound on a motorcycle forum and someone replied that the wound resembled Mary. It was only then that the motorcyclist believed it was an apparition.

  25. Graham Douglas

    tahlmora:

    “For example, when Jesus changed water to wine (John 2:1-11), it would have been impossible for random movements or any other natural stimuli to have effected this transubstantiation. If the water could not have turned into wine by natural means, the change must have had a supernatural cause. Since we know nature could not effect this change, we infer that a miracle took place. In fact, it is precisely because of our knowledge of science that we can identify miracles when they occur.

    As C.S. Lewis pointed out, the Virgin Birth is only perceivable as a miracle if one first knows the laws of nature that virgins don’t normally give birth. Joseph understood this law of nature. When he discovered Mary was pregnant, he initially suspected her of unfaithfulness (Matt. 1:19). It took a visit from and angel of the Lord to convince him of the miraculous nature of Mary’s pregnancy.”

    One need look no further for perfect examples of “Begging the Question”.

    “If the water could not have turned into wine by natural means, the change must have had a supernatural cause.”

    Or… (and I realise that this may be a difficult concept for some people to grasp) it didn’t actually happen. The story is wrong, made-up, mis-heard, mis-translated, fictional…

  26. Graham Douglas

    (Just to be clear: I’m not accusing anyone here of subscribing to credulous beliefs, just making the point, so to speak)

  27. Mark Hansen

    I can see (sort of) the image of a woman as typically seen as a medieval, European depiction of Mary. Although she isn’t usually rendered in red. Perhaps what he really can see is the Scarlet Woman?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babalon

  28. Philip B.

    Kinda sucks for the guy though. People will be flocking from all over the be healed by poking his sore leg.

    “Ow! Quit it!”

  29. When are these people “Leaving” us “Behind”? Sheesh. The second coming can’t come soon enough. To hell (or wherever) with all of them.

  30. Of all the places she could manifest herself, why in someone’s bloody leg? Why not on a piece of toasted bread, or in the salt runoff under an overpass, or in a window?

    What really gets me is the people who set up a shrine at these sightings and bring flowers and light candles. To quote one of my students, “How dumber can you get?”

  31. The only thing that looks like is that it hurts.

  32. Michael

    Wow, this guy needs a smack in the face, although he would probably see the Virgin Mary in the handprint left on his cheek, *sigh*

  33. Richie

    Re: The “Water into Wine” ‘miracle’ – This ‘miracle’ appears daily. TO experience it for yourself, buy lots of wine and get trashed. Once you’re totally zonked, have someone telling you the water you’re drinking is actually wine. Voila. You’re too smashed to notice the difference.
    And never forget, the steward in the story is a servant. Does the term “Yes-man” mean suggest something here?

    As to the Wound Looking like the Virgin Mary: If by “wound” you meant “very”, by “looking” you mean “painful” and by “the Virgin Mary” you mean “injury”, then yes, yes it does.

  34. Syzygy1

    My favorite sendup of pareidolia:

    From “A Boy Named Charlie Brown”, 1969 – Charles Schulz

    “Lucy Van Pelt: Aren’t the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud’s formations. What do you think you see, Linus?
    Linus Van Pelt: Well, those clouds to me look like the map of the British Honduras on the Carribbean.
    [points up]
    Linus Van Pelt: That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there
    [points]
    Linus Van Pelt: … gives me the impression of the Stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.
    Lucy Van Pelt: Uh huh. That’s very good. What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?
    Charlie Brown: Well… I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie but I changed my mind. “

  35. Shoeshine Boy

    @Barry: I will not feed the troll.

    That said, I think this guy hit his head when he fell. All I see is a wound.

  36. mocular

    I think we should cut his leg off and sell it on eBay. Then use the proceeds to by lots of wine, drink the wine, and, trough the miracle of kidney function, turn the wine into water.

    Does anyone know his address?

  37. Looks like a Jedi to me.

  38. Prince Thrakhath

    Some people blame Richard Dawkins for mocking religion, but from reading this article I am lead to think no one is able to mock a religion to the extent that believers mock themselves.

  39. William

    I saw the FSM in a bowl of pasta last night. Where’s my 15 minutes of fame?

  40. Liesele

    Anybody thinking of Carl Hiaason’s Lucky You?

  41. OtherRob

    I read somewhere — wish I could remember where — a “natural” explanation for turning water into wine. If the water were stored in wooden casks that had previously held wine, the water could absorb some of the flavor and coloring of the wine from the wood of the cask. Seems at least somewhat plausible to me. So perhaps it did happen, but wasn’t a miracle at all.

  42. Michelle

    …I see many things in there. Like blood. And a possible infection.

  43. rob

    looks like a jawa to me.

  44. Gary

    Phil, it’s about time you put this lame wackiness to rest. Nothing more can be said about it that doesn’t bore one into a coma. Show us astronomical wonders and the occasional sci-fi flub, but please resist all urges to open the pareidolia case file again.

  45. Gary

    OtherRob: FWIW, the water-into-wine transformation didn’t involve wooden casks according to the historical record (John 2:6-7). Stone jars used for purification ceremonies were used. It’s doubtful they ever contained wine before the transformation since that wasn’t their purpose. Specific mention of their material and purpose suggests that the author intended to discount speculation like yours.

  46. fred

    Pregnant woman sees Jesus in her Ultrasound.
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,353230,00.html

  47. OtherRob

    Thanks for the info, Gary. My knowledge of biblical history is not really that great….

  48. Irishman

    You heretics. I can’t believe none of you recognize this for what it is – it’s a sign from the Easter Bunny! That’s right, he wants you to know he’s real, and he sent a sign – a scrape in the shape of a man in a bunny suit!

  49. Oh come one! You blog about that one, but not about the ketchup pareidolia I sent you? I’m hurt. :-)

  50. SRM

    I see a moron.

  51. Steve G

    I thought I saw a puddy tat!
    I did! I did saw a puddy tat!
    Call NBC.

  52. Silly String Theory

    I skinned my knee pretty badly while sliding into second playing softball. As it healed, the scab really resembled a typical local news reporter. It was uncanny.

  53. Barry

    @Shoeshine…

    Not a troll, just someone who is passionately in love with someone who is devoted to her faith, and tired of constantly reading them mocked by militant atheists.

    Shame, because I really used to like this blog.

  54. I do not see the virgin mary or anyone else in his wound. I see a scrape.

  55. Quiet_Desperation

    WHY WHY WHY WHHYYYYYYY DO THEY KEEP REPORTING THIS STUFF?!?!

    Because it’s funny. Bill Handel on KFI radio in Los Angeles reported on it this morning, and he and the others on the show made fun of it. Handel said he wants to see a story of someone taking their dog for a walk, and then reporting that the Virgin Mary appeared in the poo.

    I’m sure they will get some emails over that one. :-)

    http://a1135.g.akamai.net/f/1135/18227/1h/cchannel.download.akamai.com/18227/podcast/LOSANGELES-CA/KFI-AM/HOTN050708.mp3

    It was 45 minutes into the hour, but the MP3s don;t have the commercials, so… dunno. It’s in there somewhere.

  56. Quiet_Desperation

    Oops. Never mind on that link. It’s the May 7th show. The May 8th show isn’t up yet.

  57. Quiet_Desperation

    Water to wine – The Natural Way

    1. Plant grape vines
    2. Water grape vines regularly
    3. Pick grapes and press
    4. Add yeats and allow to ferment
    5. Drink wine

  58. Quiet_Desperation

    Add YEAST, not YEATS. Yeats is long dead, and will not help with the fermentation process.

  59. Itzac

    “There has been no word on if the Diocese of Monterey will investigate Lipton’s leg as a legitimate apparition of the Virgin Mary.”

    Sport the unstated assumption. :D

  60. MacDhai

    It’s a Pooka! Was the guy’s name “Elwood” by chance?

  61. Mark Hansen

    Barry,
    We’re tired of constantly being accused of mocking people’s faith. Exactly where in the Bible does it say that Jesus or Mary or (insert preferred biblical figure here) will appear in a person’s wound / tortilla / toast / shower curtain / dogs butt?

    Incidentally, have you considered how ridiculous the idea of Mary or Jesus appearing in a motorcyclists wound is? On a church wall; that makes sense. In a wound or a dog’s butt; care to explain that one?

    http://bitsandpieces1.blogspot.com/2006/09/jesus-image-found-in-dogs-butt.html
    Just in case you thought I was making up the bit about the dog’s butt.

  62. Mark Hansen

    Addendum to the above: If you don’t like the “mocking” and the post is about pareidolia, don’t click. You don’t get offended and everyone is happy.

  63. Ginger Yellow

    It’s perfectly possible for water to turn into wine through quantum fluctuations. It’s staggeringly unlikely, but it’s possible. Which renders the whole miracle judging process redundant. Less contentiously, the process suffers from the obvious flaw that as scientific knowledge progresses, things that were previously miracles become naturally explicable events, and once again you’re left with a God of the Gaps. This seems to be one of those areas where the Catholic hierarchy realises the philosophical absurdity of a doctrine, hence all the tests and caveats in the official rules, but finds it too useful to relinquish altogether.

  64. Buzz Parsec

    Yeats may be long dead, but he appeared today in the crossword puzzle in my local paper (65 down, I think it was.) Coincidence? I think not!

  65. Yeah, I have to admit I’m getting a tad bored with BA’s fascination for pareidolia, but still I just can’t not read these entries either… :p

  66. Ray M

    @Ginger: It may well be ‘staggeringly unlikely’, but on the other hand, if he had access to Zaphod Beeblebrox’s Infinite Improbability Drive – and after all, he is the gun of sod, so he ought to have access to *everything* – then water into wine becomes highly probable. And you thought it was impossible – hah!

  67. Shoeshine Boy

    @Barry: Sorry, I didn’t appreciate your sarcasm.

  68. Cbirch

    So I’m not seeing the virgin mary. Is it right next to the giant oval shaped scab that looks nothing like a person?

  69. themadlolscientist

    Road rash……….the Stigmata for the 21st Century!

    I’d like to see him try to sell this apparition on eBay.

    Uhhhhhhhh……..

    ………on second thought……..

    ………Never mind. It’s gross enough already.

    No doubt that any shrine/church/cathedral erected in honor of this miracle will recruit its clergy from the ranks of the Hell’s Angels.

  70. Richard Smith

    I know it’s late, but I was on vacation in Australia and am only now reading the Bad Astronomy backlog. I’m surprised nobody else said it, though, so let me just say…
    ‘Zounds!

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