Elephant-shaped Ganesh growth cured my ills according to the laziest journalist ever.

This guy is Sam Lal. As far as I can tell he is a 60 year old manager of a Manhattan uniform company, who likes gardening. He hurt his back lifting a box, and was in pain for 3½ months, then he got better. Thanks to a MIRACLE!

The New York Daily News - a daily newspaper with circulation of ~650,000, making it the fifth most popular paper in the USA - breathlessly reported that the:

Elephant-shaped Ganesh growth cured my ills, Queens man says

yep, in their amazing article. Sam claims that the flowers are an 'incarnation' of the elephant headed hindu god Ganesh and that

"This formation came to heal my illness"

WOW! Go God Go! Still the journalist, Nicholas Hirshon, is a professional and knows that extraordinary claims need extraordinaty evidence, so he contacted the 'Experts' at the Queens Botanical Garden:

[The] Experts identified the plant as a member of the amaranth family... Horticulturalists at the garden have never seen an amaranth take an elephant-like shape, garden spokesman Tim Heimerle said.

"For it to have that long trunk like this is not a natural thing," he said.

So this miracle is pretty much confirmed right‽*

I mean the expert did say that right‽

That it wasn't natural‽ Really‽‽

I mean if, for example, one was to buy a packet of the seeds it wouldn't mention it on the packet would it‽

Would it‽

Would it‽

Oh.

So yeah, apparently miracles cost $3.29 a packet... The shop page goes on:

The reason it's called Elephant Head is that the deep-red bloom grows quite large (36-40") with a long (18-24") protuberance that looks like an elephant's trunk.

It's an example of simulacra that's been given a lot of weight by a believer. That's fair enough, and at least it's prettier than Jesus-In-Toast or Allah-In-Tomato. But it would appear that neither the journalist, nor the 'Expert' even bothered to use google before racing to spread the miracle to 650,000 people. That's if the 'Expert' was even contacted. Or quoted fairly.

Journalist Fail. Expert Fail.

Tut tut.

* ‽ is an interrobang. My new favourite thing. What sums up skepticism better‽ I propse it to be our new official symbol.

Important: This post is entirely thanks to the Wonderful Mimi who let me know about this wonderfully poor piece of journalism, and let me turn it into an article here. It was Mimi who worked out the non-miracle, so she's officially better than New York Journalists and Botanical Experts. You should visit her link by the way, she sells things she makes by hand and they are lovely.


3 comments:

Claire said...

Ridiculous. You'd think nothing of consequence was happening in the world. Although I quite like the elephant plant, I wouldn't mind having one of those.
Did you see Jesus In A Cushion?
http://lonesomemongoose.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/thousands-of-the-faithful-flock-to-island-church-to-see-the-face-of-jesus-in-a-seat-cushion/

ozatheist said...

What a dopey "expert".
The paper should be forced to make a retraction clearly stating the flower naturally grows like that.

Lave said...

Oooh, Jesus in a cushion is excellent!