Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Airborne chihuahuas and missing tortoises

Today we have a story in from Kankakee, Illinois about someone who has allegedly gotten into psychic contact with a missing tortoise.

This is not the first time that psychics have come forward to try to help find a wayward pet.  A while back, for example, we had the case of the chihuahua owned by Michigan couple Lavern and Dorothy Utley.  The tiny dog was with its owners at a flea market, and was blown away by a windstorm.  Note that I'm not using "blown away" to mean "landing, with bruised dignity, several feet away;" I mean, "blown away, in the fashion of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz."

I should mention at this juncture that the dog's name is "Tinker Bell."

In any case, it all ends happily, because a pet psychic got in contact with Tinker Bell, and assured the Utleys the she was fine.  After some searching, the Utleys and the psychic found the bedraggled pooch in the woods over a mile away, shaken up but otherwise okay.

Of course, my question is why on earth anyone would even think of consulting a "pet psychic."  I'm sure they don't work for free, and as far as I'm concerned, you'd be just as well off taking a stack of money and setting fire to it and hoping that your pet would be attracted to the smoke.  But apparently such things are commonplace, judging by today's news from Illinois.

"Rex," a six-year-old, forty pound African spurred tortoise, has been missing for ten days, according to owner Charlotte Ramirez.  Ramirez had contacted the local newspaper and asked them if they'd post a notice asking local residents to keep an eye out.  Then, a couple of days ago, Ramirez got an interesting phone call.

A woman, identifying herself as "Sheri," stated that she had read the story and then had had a "vision" in which she got into psychic contact with Rex.  She informed Ramirez that Rex was in a neighbor's yard, under a shed, and that nearby was a "pit bull-like dog with two different colors of tan on its coat."  Sheri has now offered her services in helping Ramirez to locate her pet.

Instead of saying "you think you've been in psychic contact with a reptile?" and then guffawing and hanging up, Ramirez and her husband dutifully went searching the neighborhood for a shed and a pit bull.  They haven't found one yet, but state that they are "still looking."

I wonder, if psychics can contact something as far down the intelligence scale as a tortoise, how much further down can they go?  Could they get into psychic contact with a goldfish?  A bug?  A single ant in an ant farm?  A jellyfish?  How about plants?  Samuel Butler famously said, "Even a potato... has a certain low cunning."  I wonder if a psychic could sense that?  I don't know about you, but I'd certainly like to watch a psychic attempt to establish some sort of Vulcan mind-meld with, say, a zucchini.

What strikes me about all of this is how unquestioningly people accept this kind of thing as the truth.  Whenever some bizarre idea is proposed, my first question is, "how could that possibly work?"  So, in cases like these, the relevant question is, "How could a tortoise's brain somehow send out a signal that then gets picked up by a random stranger?"  Isn't it far more likely that Sheri simply read the story about the missing pet, and then either fabricated, or possibly dreamed, a scenario that seemed plausible?

In any case, I want to go on record as wishing Charlotte Ramirez well in locating her wandering tortoise.  I can't say I have any confidence that Rex will show up anywhere near a tan pit bull, but that's just me.  And it could be worse; at least tortoises don't get blown away in windstorms.

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