Pharyngula

I know you all mean well, but 30-40 emails a day just about the German octopus ‘predicting’ World Cup matches is wearing me out. I have to explain a few things.

Cephalopods are not psychic. Nothing is.

If this were real, it would be Paul the Precognitive Octopus. It’s telling the future, not reading minds.

Cephalopods cannot see into the future. Nothing can.

As this game is set up, there’s a simple 50% chance in any trial that the octopus will guess correctly. It has guessed correctly 6 times; there’s a 1 in 64 chance you could get the same result flipping a quarter.

Cephalopods are smart and responsive. This scenario is ripe for the Clever Hans effect, which means the handler’s knowledge about likely winners can greatly improve the odds of the observed result.

I’m sure that the aquarium housing Paul could use a little extra money. If the octopus actually does have paranormal powers, they should apply for Randi’s million dollar challenge. I’m sure they won’t, because they know that in a well-controlled experiment, Paul’s amazing abilities would suddenly disappear.

I really detest this kind of prolonged silly indulgence in a common supernatural belief by a purportedly scientific organization. Once is a lark, a joke, a funny bit of self-mockery — stretching it out turns it into an exercise in misinformation.

Psychics are lying parasites. I hate to see a beautiful cephalopod smeared with that ignoble reputation.

FREE THE OCTOPUS! IMPRISON THE DISHONEST MEDIA!


Oh, dear. Right after posting this, I got email from Brian Souter.

Hi Mr Myers
I just saw your article:
http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/07/i_am_really_tired_of_paul_the.php

With its:
‘Cephalopods cannot see into the future. Nothing can.’
And
‘Psychics are lying parasites. I hate to see a beautiful cephalopod smeared with that ignoble reputation.
Well Paul is proving you wrong!
Can octopi lie?
So far Pauls 100% success at the World Cup proves your scepticism is unjustified, not to mention pettily vindictive, as you see your cafully crafted world being kicked about like a jabulani ball. He does have psychic powers…and so do many if not most people. Its only the opressive rage of witch hunting sceptics, that presents this from flowering. Out in the real world…these things do happen.

Paul is luckier than most psychics tho: hes doesnt have to deal with the rage of sceptics influencing his predictions…Hes immune to the rant of the Randis.

Pauls done the world a real service! Showing that such gifts are real…And its being broadcast live… to the world!…randi the bandi can start writing that check!

What a pity to see science smeared by last ditch self-serving lying in the face of real and real world evidence…

Regards and GO PAUL!

Brian

Whoa. I guess I’ve been taught a lesson.