Hints that God Exists: Vision

You think I’m going to talk about the beautiful design of the eyeball, but I’m not.

This is by far the most fascinating and original hint that God exist; but very hard to understand because it involves some in-depth knowledge of visual theory (i.e. how we see), and a large amount of imagination. This hint comes from my man, the 17th Century philosopher George Berkeley, and has to do with his influential theory of visual perception. This hint tells us that once we understand how we perceive objects by sight and touch, then we find that the information we get from our eyes forms connections with the information we gather from our sense of touch; and that these connections are precisely the same type of connections that languages have when they connect sounds—for example, the sound “beach ball”—with words—the word “beach ball”. When we hear the sound “beach ball,” we immediate think of the word, and the meaning, and the object that is associated with that sound. The same sort of connections happen with what we see and what we touch. In other words, vision is a a language, and God is the speaker of that language.

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Let me explain. When we are born, we do not “see” distance. Things do not appear to be “out there,” or even three dimensional at all. This takes a lot of imagination because we think it’s obvious that we now see things “out there”, or at various distances from us, and we assume that we always saw things this way. We didn’t and we don’t. According to this theory (which is, by the way, a legitimate visual theory to this day), we didn’t see distance as a baby and we still don’t! Test case: a person was blind at birth because of cataracts and when he was able to see by surgically removing the cataracts he thought that everything he saw was touching his eyes. In other words, things did not appear to be “out there” at all. This is known as the “Chelsedon Case,” and Berkeley saw this as validation for his theory.

What we actually see is a variety of light and colors, variously arranged on our visual field. That’s it: light and colors. We can think of our visual field as a great painting that is always pasted, so to speak, on our eyes (even though Berkeley warned against thinking of it like this): the painting is nothing more than a variety of colors, and the objects that the painting depicts are not “out there”. Now, even though the painting is pasted on our eyes, we still think that it shows us objects that exists out there, at various distances from our body. Where did we get such an idea? The answer: we got this idea from literally wandering around the environment and touching various objects. We learned to connect touch with sight, tactile cues with visual cues. At a very early age, we connected those visual blobs of color with those things that we were running into and touching with our hands and body. We started to see a circular red blob all the time and we called it an “apple.” Then, we walked towards the kitchen table, and we felt a smooth, round, hand-sized object and we called it an “apple.” In other words, we connected a purely visual idea with a purely tangible (related to touch) idea. After making this connection, what do we see when we look at the same apple, the same red blob on our visual field? Well, we see the same red blob of course, but now there are other ideas associated with it. We look at the red blob, and we think: if I walk about three steps ahead I will feel a smooth, round, hand-sized object on the kitchen table. Therefore, we connected the red blob, which is only a color blob pasted on my eyes, with the apple that exists “out there”, on the kitchen table, round and smooth. And this, according to the theory, is how we perceive objects at distances.

The existence of God comes into play when we realize that we connect our visual ideas to tangible ideas in the very same way that we connect sounds with words in a language. Both connections take learning and practice. If a baby never wandered around and touched objects, the baby would never learn how to perceive distance at all. It would never be able to look at a large, blue, slowing-moving expanse (i.e. water) and think: “I better not walk too far ahead, because I can’t swim!” Also, both connections -language and vision- could have been different. It just happens to be that a red blob is associated with a round, spherical, hand-sized object. It just happens to be that we wanted to use sounds to represent words. We could have used smells. Can you imagine smelling a variety of smells on a piece of paper and then thinking: what a great poem! Both systems are, in a way, arbitrary.

Perception is a system of connections between our senses that form a language. The language consists of visual ideas, tangible ideas, sounds, smells, and tastes that communicate to use all the information we need to survive and enjoy life. Just like a language that humans construct, so to is perception a language, and therefore a mind is probably behind it. But we did not create our own perceptions, we did not decide that a red blog is connected with a round smooth sphere. God, the great Mind behind nature, has given us both our perceptions and the rules by which we connect them. God is communicating with us all the time; God is literally telling us how far away things are from us, all the time.

Hints that God Exists: Vision