Paul the Octopus, of Germany’s World Cup prediction fame, died today. It may seem unusual for the world to sit up and take notice of the death of an octopus, but Paul’s now famous trick of choosing between two molusc treats to predict team victory puts him in the esteemed place of psychic animal.
Paul the Octopus isn’t alone in his esteem as a psychic animal. “Is it Real?” was a National Geographic special that aired on the National Geographic Channel for two years. At least one episode dealt with animals’ apparent ability to predict the future. Cats and dogs and even goldfish have been attributed with psychic ability because they appear to predict future earthquakes, though the information isn’t given as directly as Paul the octopus predicting team wins.
Are animal psychics real?
To figure out whether Paul the Octopus and your pet goldfish are actually psychic, it’s necessary to look at some facts about animals supposedly possessing a sixth sense.
Some may not realize that animals actually do have the ability to predict some natural disasters. This has less to do with any psychic ability than with being highly sensitive. Benjamin Radford of Discovery News notes that pets react to tremors in the earth well before humans. Just as seizure alert dogs note minute changes in human physical reactions and smells, many animals react to minute actions of the earth beneath their feet. This is almost miraculous in itself, but has little to do with true psychic ability.
Another example of an animal with a sixth sense was Clever Hans, a horse that could perform mathematical feats. It is believed that even Hans’ owner didn’t realize he was giving the horse subtle hints through body language, at which horses excel.
As for Paul the Octopus, at least one of his predictions was deemed a fake by NBC Sports bloggers. The method of prediction is also suspect, given that Paul the octopus had only two choices. Likely, Paul’s trick was no more miraculous than that of Tic Tac Toe Chicken.
Perhaps animal psychics like Paul the Octopus capture our acclaim for less than miraculous reasons.
Paul the Octopus takes his place among psychic animals and sports fans not because he exhibited true psychic ability. Animals that capture our attention in this way do so because humans seek a connection with animals. If any proof were needed, know that Paul the Octopus has his place in iphone apps and a clothing line. Even more miraculous, this octopus made it into CNN news. Most humans can’t say as much.