Thursday, March 15, 2018

Psychic Animals Here to Stay

A few years ago, World Cup Soccer went wild for "psychic animals" that seemed to possess the ability to predict the outcomes of matches. The animals would be offered two bowls or containers of food, one bearing the flag of each country. Then the one they selected would be deemed the winner - and a few of those animals proved quite accurate. This year, a Russian cat named Achilles has been selected ahead of the 2018 World Cup tournament as its official "animal psychic."

Achilles, a white-furred deaf cat who lives at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, has been selected to predict the 2018 FIFA World Cup winners.

The male clairvoyant cat was also picked as the official oracle to forecast the traditional pre-match predictions for last year’s Confederations Cup, where he correctly predicted three of the four-match outcomes, reported Russian News Agency Tass.

Hermitage cats press secretary, Maria Khaltunen, claims the feline was chosen for the role because he demonstrated "capabilities for choice, analysis and unusual behavior.” In addition, Achilles is deaf, which means he will not be easily distracted by surrounding noises.

For the 2017 Confederations Cup, the white cat was made to choose between two bowls of food, each with a different country’s flag. “This decision has been made, the papers have been signed,” Khaltunen told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency on Monday.

According to Khaltunen, Achilles will receive a fan identification card (otherwise known as a fan passport). He will also go down in history as the only animal to have attained the prestigious documentation. "Animals are not given [Fan IDs,] as there are questions concerning photos," Khaltunen said.

Now here's where this gets interesting. The main skeptic claim about psychic animals is that what's really is going on is that hundreds of people have animals doing this, and simply by chance some of them will turn out to be right. Over time, this creates a sort of "sifting process" where the only animals left in the pool by the end of the tournament are the ones that chose correctly. So the most successful animals are not psychic, just lucky.

But when you pick an "official" psychic animal ahead of time, that whole dynamic changes. Since one of the basic tenets of probability theory is that each subsequent pick in cases like this should be entirely independent of past picks. So if this is all due to chance, the odds that Achilles will be able to pick successful matches again should be pretty low. If he's successful this time around as well, I would say that warrants further paranormal investigation.

Rupert Sheldrake has provided some evidence of rudimentary psychic abilities in animals, and has proposed his morphic resonance hypothesis to explain it. If Achilles can repeat his performance this year, with all the experimental variables declared ahead of time, it means that at the very least what is going on is probably not sheer luck.

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