Humor Pareidolia Religion Skepticism/critical thinking

Papal pareidolia?

One of my favorite phenomena that represents better than perhaps any other how humans are wired to look for patterns, whether there is a pattern there or not, is the phenomenon known as pareidolia. As a Catholic-turned-sort-of-heathen, in particular I like Virgin Mary pareidolia, and have blogged about multiple such incidents. Of course, the Virgin Mary is not the only sort of image seen in pareidolia. Jesus shows up quite frequently as well.

Now, would you believe that the late Pope John Paul II is showing up in flames? No, really:

This fiery figure is being hailed as Pope John Paul II making an appearance beyond the grave.

The image, said by believers to show the Holy Father with his right hand raised in blessing, was spotted during a ceremony in Poland to mark the second anniversary of his death.

Details appeared on the Vatican News Service, a TV station in Rome which specialises in religious news broadcasts.

Service director Jarek Cielecki, a Polish priest and close friend of John Paul II, travelled to Poland after hearing an onlooker had photographed the image.

Father Cielecki said he was convinced the picture showed the former pontiff.

“You can see the image of a person in the flames and I think it is the servant of God, Pope John Paul II,” he said.

The pictures were being broadcast continuously on Italian TV and also posted on religious websites, some of which crashed as thousands logged on to see for themselves the eerie figure formed by the flames.

Here’s the image:


Uncanny, yes?

Maybe not.

Dan Finkelstein, who caused such a furor over his comments about Richard Dawkins and the Jews not too long ago, perhaps in a bid to kiss and make up, sees this fire in a different way. Naturally, as he does so often in cases of pareidolia, the King makes an appearance:

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Finkelstein has a few other ideas about whom this miraculous flame resembles, as well. Personally, although Finkelstein’s suggestions aren’t bad, I think this magical fire looks more like Pete Townsend (that is, if you tilt the picture a little so that they match up more closely):


Rock on!

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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