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“John Smith” responds to Orac’s post on his Lava Lamp pareidolia

This was so good that I just couldn’t resist.

Yesterday, I did a quick post about an amusing bit of pareidolia, in which the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus were seen in a Lava Lamp. Apparently, an Australian man going by the pseudonym of John Smith noticed the shape in the wax as he fired up a brand spanking new Lava Lamp, recognized it for the Holy Miracle that it was, and shut off the lamp before Satan’s heat could melt the apparition. He then stayed quiet for over a year and then announced his discovery to all the world. Naturally, I and other skeptics, particularly you, my readers, were not quite convinced.

Fortunately for us, Mr. Smith showed up in the comments to try to convince us. Far be it from me not to let him be heard:


I’ve been reading numerous comments about this lamp, and I must admit, the assumptions some people make are so far off track it’s incredible.
Firstly, its my lamp, yes, I am JOHN SMITH.

To answer some of the posts here…

  1. Chines…. I said I had been going through a tough time. I did NOT say a FINANCIALLY tough time… so why make your assumption??
  2. DLC. The nature of WAX is that it remains in SOLID form INDEFINATELY provided it is kept below its melting temperature.

    At room temperature the image will remain like this indefinately. It has been the same for the past 18 months. Of course if I turned it on again it would MELT.. .

    Pesky laws of physics… it would help if you knew those laws accurately…

  3. SWT… one of the criteria the vatican uses to verify an appearance is GENUINE is that the person who sees it keeps it to himself, which I have done for over 18 months.
  4. Zeno, nobody is paying me money, nobody knows who I am. The lamp is NOT for sale and NEVER will be. The website is FREE and anyone can view it for FREE.
  5. Orac, God says he manifests himself in all things from the great Galaxies to the tiniest ANT. Read Job, and Read Psalms…

So why not a lava lamp..?

Do you know the story of the israelites going into battle? they looked for signs in the sheep skin, if it was wet in the morning they would win the battle, if it was dry, they would lose…


John Smith

You know, I can’t argue with logic like that. Of course, given that Mr. “Smith” knew that Church teaching says that for something to be considered miraculous the person observing it must keep it quiet, why did he decide to reveal it now? Was there a time limit of 18 months? Personally, Initially, I couldn’t find any sort of requirement that the witness of a miracle keep it quiet.

Until the other day.

Now, I have to wonder if Mr. Smith’s belief that he must keep quiet about his miraculous vision of the Virgin and Child in Lava Lamp comes from a new declaration by the Pope about such sitings:

Catholics who claim they have seen the Virgin Mary will be forced to remain silent about the apparitions until a team of psychologists, theologians, priests and exorcists have fully investigated their claims under new Vatican guidelines aimed at stamping out false claims of miracles.

The Pope has instructed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Holy Office of the Inquisition, to draw up a new handbook to help bishops snuff out an explosion of bogus heavenly apparitions.

Benedict XVI plans to update the Vatican’s current rules on investigating apparitions to help distinguish between true and false claims of visions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, messages, stigmata (the appearances of the five wounds of Christ), weeping and bleeding statues and Eucharistic miracles.

I wonder if Mr. Smith decided to publicize his glorious vision before the new rule kicked in, particularly in light of this admonition by the Vatican:

According to Petrus, an Italian online magazine which leans towards conservative elements in the Vatican, anyone who claims to have seen an apparition will only be believed as long as they remain silent and do not court publicity over their claims. If they refuse to obey, this will be taken as a sign that their claims are false.

The visionaries will then be visited by a team of psychiatrists, either atheists or Catholics, to certify their mental health while theologians will assess the content of any heavenly messages to see if they contravene Church teachings.

If the visionary is considered credible they will ultimately be questioned by one or more demonologists and exorcists to exclude the possibility that Satan is hiding behind the apparitions in order to deceive the faithful.

I’m guessing that a team of psychiatrists has not yet visited Mr. Smith, and freed him to speak openly. Of course, the new rules have apparently not yet been finalized, much less taken effect, which suggests to me a possibility. Perhaps when Mr. Smith heard about these new rules, he realized that he had to get his story out or that he’d be stuck waiting for the slow wheels of the Roman Catholic Church to investigate his claim before he could proclaim it. Certainly, given that he’s waited for eighteen months, his timing in announcing his discovery strikes me as…rather convenient.

Of course, if he is a believer, one wonders why he announced his miracle under a pseudonym. After all, didn’t Jesus say (Mark 4:21-25):

Is the lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Isn’t it put on a stand? For there is nothing hidden, except that it should be made known; neither was anything made secret, but that it should come to light. If any man has ears to hear, let him hear.

Somehow, announcing such miracles of God doesn’t strike me as putting a lamp on a stand, but rather hiding it under a basket or a bed. But that’s just me.

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]

27 replies on ““John Smith” responds to Orac’s post on his Lava Lamp pareidolia”

“psychiatrists, either atheists or Catholics”

Does this mean the Catholic church regards our doctors as more reliable than Protestant or Hindu doctors? Is this a breakthrough of some sort? Or do they all count as atheists to the Church?

Zombie, I think the church may want to give the psychiatrists’ opinion more credibility by admitting a joint opinion of atheist and catholic professionals.

In any case it’s a waste of time. Mentally healthy people do fabricate. It’s also interesting that they do not allow the new “message” to contradict the church’s current teachings. Obviously God cannot have anything new to say (or that the teachings contained no fabrication that the new message may aim to correct.)

These people are pathetic.

How come, if it’s supposed to be an imago of the Virgin Mary and Child, it looks more like StrongBad’s boxing glove? You’d think an omnipotent god could do a little bit better job sculpting details in wax, wouldn’t you? I mean, any custom jeweller, dentist, or candle artist does it every single day.

Something tells me that the REAL motivation behind the latest from the Vatican is that Pope Sturbanfuhrer wants to corner the market on E-Bay…. He’s saving up for a new pair of Ruby Slippers, that are to die for!

My first impression of that Papal declaration was that it was an attempt to maintain the rarity of, and the Church’s control over, a scarce resource — ostensible communication with the divine. At least one Catholic has also pointed out the element of “power politics” in this business, while noting that the new declaration is essentially a tightening-up of existing rules. In one of the arguments which the blogohedron is so good at fostering, it was argued that this declaration was a good thing, in that it made explicit that most supposed miracles really have rational explanations. OK, I’ll buy that; it’s a good thing for people to be aware of. Still, the Catholic Church already says that (see the aforelinked), and it’s not like that position has actually helped foster rationality, is it?

So, at the moment, I’m slightly more unhappy than I am happy, but generally speaking, I’m waiting until we see the effects of these new rules to say anything definitive.

I’m much more unhappy about Dignitas Personae.

I think the assumption of bad financial times is warranted, if, as the article says, he was “…paying for a sign … a Divine sign from God”. If someone is taking his money in exchange for a sign, bad financial times are in store.

I think the important bit in the handbook is the part about making sure it doesn’t contravene church teachings.

Should I feel especially blessed because I was singled out for mention ?
::shrugs:: The lamp looks lit in the picture to me.
If it’s lit, it produces heat, and heat would cause the wax to follow the laws of physics and move upward in a convection current.

The visionaries will then be visited by a team of psychiatrists, either atheists or Catholics, to certify their mental health while theologians will assess the content of any heavenly messages to see if they contravene Church teachings.

So the Roman Catholic church prefers the expert opinions of atheist psychiatrists to those of Protestant psychiatrists … I think I (a Presbyterian) have been dissed.

The Roman Catholic church really needs to get over the Reformation.

Jesus predicted the Lava Lamp Miracle! Thanks, Orac, for this revelation.

Do visions and other miracles only appear to Catholics? What if it’s a protestant miracle? What will the Vatican do then?

Just another piece of the puzzle here, which I think requires some emphasis:

“The visionaries will then be visited by a team of psychiatrists, either atheists or Catholics, to certify their mental health while theologians will assess the content of any heavenly messages to see if they contravene Church teachings.

Because if they do, can’t be a miracle, now can it?

“I’m guessing that a team of psychiatrists has not yet visited Mr. Smith”

That’s definitely what he appears to be in need of….


In your research for this post, did you come up with the equivalent office for reporting Pastafarian miracles? I ask this because a few months ago, while dining at a local Italian restaurant, I saw the image of the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the pasta on my dish. Surely this is a sign that I should convert to Pastafarianism, but I’d like to get an official reading on this.

Seriously, do people really believe that this sort of stuff is a “sign from God”? Is the world humming along so perfectly that God has nothing better to do than create vague, ambiguous images? God apparently spends his (her?) time doing craft projects while leaving the survival of over one hundred people on an airliner to a mere mortal (although he was an ex-fighter pilot).



I nominate getting an islamic cleric or a really old fashioned Church of Scotland minister to investigate.

That way if something actually looked convincingly like a religious figure the indepedent minister/cleric could scream “Idolatry!” and we could leave them having another pointless theological debate in the corner and go back to ignoring the nutbags.

I keep looking at it but all I see and only if I’m looking at it sideways is a boiled crab. I think it is really a sign from Dagon šŸ˜›

So… how do I become a Vatican Demonologist?

I bet you get a great hat for that role.

I love thinking about the Pope and his advisers sitting around a big conference table, working to develop a set of procedures to correct for the possibility that Satan is hiding behind apparitions in order to deceive the faithful…

Why did he wait 18 months before announcing this miracle? I’m just guessing that it took him 18 months of turning the lamp on and off before he got a remotely human-shaped blob as it cooled off.

Well, I think it’s a good idea that the Vatican is beginning to crack down on this rash of Virgin Mary sightings in odd places. The Internet just makes it all too easy for such crazy stuff to proliferate. Windows and walls I can understand; grilled cheese sandwiches and lava lamps, not so.

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