Milk-drinking statues.

James Randi --- Wizard (
Fri, 22 Sep 1995 09:51:43 -0400


September 21-22/95

I've been inundated within the past 12 hours by phone and fax
messages from Finland, Germany, the UK, Canada, and all over
the USA. Eager media folks want to get my opinions on the
current ooh-and-aah wonder, Hindu statues that drink milk.

Faced with an obviously slow day, Reuters News Service flashed
out the news from New Delhi that

Crowds swamped temples across India and neighboring
Nepal yesterday after rumors that idols of Hindu gods
were drinking milk poured as a sacred offering.

Well! A newspaper report from Toronto, Canada, said that in
a Hindu temple there, "Milk is being slurped up by the idols."
The picture presented by that wording is one of plaster idols
bending over dishes of milk like pussycats.

What's really happening is that teaspoons of milk are being
absorbed; it's called capillary action. A small amount of
milk touched to the mouth of a plaster figure, according to
the press, just "disappeared." I think not. The milk didn't
"disappear"; it was simply soaked up by the plaster.

A chap from the Toronto temple also said, seeing the truth
without recognizing it, that "It was as if someone had
siphoned it off [the milk] with a straw." That's right! He
gets ten points for solving the miracle, but minus twenty for
ignoring the fact.

Note that, as Reuters reported, the whole thing started as a
"rumor" -- the media is now gleefully promoting it, and now
that the Canadian media are snapping it up, I'm sure that
every statue in the Dominion will be trotted out to the
wonderment of the naive.

I believe that a plaster statue of Lyndon Johnson will do
exactly the same thing, perhaps with a pint of beer -- now, is
that, too, a miracle? Maybe in Texas....

I'm a very practical soul, so I propose a test of this
wondrous curiosity: offer the statue a teaspoonful of ink. If
that, too, is "slurped up," Hindu gods are either incredibly
stupid, or have poorly-developed taste buds. No one will do
such a test, of course, because we have here a perfectly good
and attractive farce going full-steam, and enough naive people
to meet our most ambitious needs. The media is lapping up
(pun intended) each new absurdity as it's presented, everyone
is getting in on the act, and for six weeks or so we'll have
Silly Season going for us.

Bottom line: Do otherwise sensible folks really believe that
plaster statues of elephant gods are drinking milk? If so,
they might well want to elect an elephant to a position of
political power. Would that, in the USA, be a Republican?

I'm sure they'll call me again in December when the ghosts of
Scrooge and Marley are seen wandering the aisles of some
famous toy store. It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

James Randi.


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