Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Paul the Psychic Octopus - an Islamic view

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As you all know, by far the biggest story to emerge from the 2010 World Cup was the rise of Paul the Psychic Octopus, who successfully predicted the result of every single Germany game, and the outcome of the final between Spain and Holland. Or, as we established via Twitter speculation, successfully managed to fix the result of those matches through a series of backhanders (back-tentaclers?) that either went unnoticed or were ignored by the footballing authorities.

So I was interested this morning to stumble across an Islamic perspective on Paul in the form of this column from the Saudi Gazette (which, when my local newsagents have sold out, I am forced to read online – thankfully, there's no paywall, yet).

Here's their take on the slimy sage:
"Even more bizarre than the soothsaying cephalopod with the ‘100% track record’ is the reaction of the supposedly ‘objective’ media and readers across the world, who have lapped up the shenanigans of the ‘oracle’ octopus and its rivals – a parakeet called Mani and a 700-kg crocodile called Harry in Darwin, Australia – without a murmur of disbelief or protest.

It makes one wonder: Is the world going through a period of collective mental regression to the Period of Ignorance (Jahiliyah) where superstition and soothsaying reigned supreme? Have we become so desensitized by systematic exposure to the occult and ‘supernatural’ – thanks to the popularity and consequent social acceptability of magicians (Harry Potter) and vampires (movies like Twilight and Eclipse) – that the slow slide back has gone largely unnoticed, and we now consider the weird, ‘wonderful’?"
Crikey. And there was me thinking we were all just having a bit of fun, when all along we were undergoing "mental regression". Oh keepers of Oberhausen Sea Life Centre, what have you done?


The Dark Power said...

Well I think perhaps there's an element of 'tongue in cheek-ness' from most media outlets isn't there (I hope)?!

In any case, criticism that there's a slide towards 'the occult and ‘supernatural'' is slightly ridiculous from someone who (presumably) believes in a flying sky wizard.......

The Heresiarch said...

Excellent spot. Yes, indeed, Paul's predictions have generally been reported "without a murmur of disbelief or protest". Or, indeed, scientific rigour, as PZ Myers has also been lamenting.

But I especially relished this from the SG:

The Islamic perspective on consulting soothsayers, psychics, fortunetellers, astrologers and others like ‘coffee ground readers’, numerologists, palmists etc. provides a sobering counterpoint to this hysteria.

It does indeed, as is revealed by cases like that of the Lebanese TV "fortune teller" Ali Sabat who was sentenced to death by beheading for sorcery a few months ago. His fate remains unclear, but I think he's still in prison awaiting possible execution. A fate Paul the Octopus has, happily, been spared.

George Jelliss said...

I suppose you also think that all the astrologers horoscopes and tarot readings on offer in the newspapers are just a bit of "fun"? And is all the wise moral advice offered over the airwaves by preachers, citing specially selected passages from their big magic books of answers, all "fun" too?

Tom Rees said...

According to the latest Eurobarometer, 40% of Europeans (including British) think that certain numbers are lucky. Scratch the surface, and there's a lot of genuine superstition out there.