Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

The Sciences


Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJanuary 12, 2009 8:55 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

I hate to break form in my usual titling of these posts, but I couldn't resist this one. Think of it as Guppeidolia, or Pareitilapia, if that makes you happier.


Whatever you call it, it's, well, it's Jesus on the cross. Inside a fish. Specifically, the skull of a catfish, and even more specifically the Gafftopsail catfish. If you go to that website, that info is actually a bit hard to find, because the site is, um, well. Go there and you'll see. Of course, the guy is selling these fish skulls, but says he'll donate some of the proceeds to charity, which is nice. Like a lot of religious pareidolia practitioners, he does make some unusual claims, such as (layout and caps are all his):

Now the FREE BONUS for finding this page YOU WILL SEE Jesus Magically appear to you IN THIN AIR WHEN YOU DO

I looked around my room but saw no apparitions. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough. I haven't studied all the grain in my desk, or the fiber patterns in my carpet. Maybe I missed it. I think this guy is sincere in his beliefs. I also think he's wrong. While the bone does look like a cross, and even a guy on a cross, what we're really seeing here is the convergence of two paths of evolution: one that shaped the fish skull this way, and the other that shaped our brains to interpret shapes into patterns that aren't really there. But then, isn't all art pareidolia? You're not really seeing a woman smiling in the Mona Lisa: it's just paint. David is just scratches and curves in rock. But then, no one thinks those really are what they represent; the art is in the representation. So, the conclusion I come to? Sometimes a cigar fish is just a cigar fish.

    3 Free Articles Left

    Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

    Want unlimited access?

    Subscribe today and save 70%


    Already a subscriber? Register or Log In