Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


Optical Illusions and the Evolution of Sight

In this video, Beau Lotto, founder of art studio and science lab Lottolabs, offers a fun look at optical illusions and how they reflect the evolution of our ability to see. Our vision, argues Lotto, does not show the world as it really is but rather in a way that is most useful. Vision isn’t simply a product of light interacting with our eyes, since light can carry an infinite amount of information, according to Lotto. Rather, our brains have evolved to pick out the information that means the most to us, whether it be the contrast between a predator and the surrounding forest or the light reflected by flowers that contain the best nectar.

(Editor’s Note: Normally, “Science and the Sacred” features an essay from a guest voice in the science and religion dialogue on Fridays.However, this week, our guest feature by Kathryn Applegate was published on Tuesday to provide follow-up to blog posts by Karl Giberson, Darrel Falk, and Bill Dembski. Our guest features will return next Friday.)



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Mere_Christian

posted October 9, 2009 at 9:06 am


Yet more proof (actuality) that there is a Creator.
Though it looks like Biologos is coming off more as a group dedicated to attacking Christian beliefs far more than something designed to support The Church.
I’ll keep testing things.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 9, 2009 at 9:47 am


Mere_Christian, it is funny how one’s frame changes how we see something. (For the record I do not have theistic beliefs.) I see Biologos as engaged in Christian apologetics after culling rigid/literal/historical interpretations of Christianity which require denial of scientific discovery. If a Christian wants to believe in a young earth and a worldwide flood with Noah’s ark, then they are believing a fairytale. I see Biologos as trying to ease these Christians into a view that accepts science, and to hence set aside rigid/literal/historical interpretations which allow people like Richard Dawkins to paint all forms of Christianity with the same brush. I think they thoroughly resist the parody that Christianity can become when looked at that way. It reminds me of the parody “Kissing Hank’s Ass” ( http://www.jhuger.com/kisshank.php ). That parody has traction with respect to forms of Christianity that are ultra-literal and hence in denial of scientific discoveries.
I don’t think the Biologos crew want the rich Christian tradition to be discounted to parody, and the way to do that is help ultra-literal Christians adopt an interpretation which does not deny scientific discovery.



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Kathryn

posted October 9, 2009 at 10:11 am


Mere_Christian–
What do you mean? I don’t think BioLogos is trying to attack the Church. It does often use material that unbelieving folks produce, but surely by common grace these people are seeking truth also. Their creativity and achievement can be appreciated and used by Christians to God’s glory.
I gather you’re disturbed by Lotto’s assertion that there is no absolute truth. Aren’t his demonstrations interesting, though? If nothing else they provide a good illustration for how two people might be looking at the same thing but see it very differently. We should work harder to understand one another!



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Knockgoats

posted October 9, 2009 at 11:23 am


Just a note to those running the blog: all posts but this one have become inaccessible.



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Jacob

posted October 9, 2009 at 5:21 pm


I certainly appreciate this demonstration. But where this guy goes wrong is in his assertion that there is no absolute truth. What is he trying to teach us in this presentation? Useful beliefs that are not true? So then, what reason do I have to believe that what he taught me is useful? None… I can’t trust my own mind to believe that my beliefs are useful. So he is self-refuting.
And this is why scientists need philosophers. Christian philosophers, really.



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Albert the Abstainer

posted October 9, 2009 at 11:18 pm


He is demonstrating that human’s interpret reality, and that those interpretations may not reflect factual reality. Further, he demonstrates that surrounding context has a tremendous bearing on how we interpret, and that this bias has evolutionary validity, (e.g. the ability to see the predator.) Extracting information that increases the likelihood of survival is most important. Hence, biases which have developed or been retained have evolutionary value, but can create illusions.
He does not assert that there is no absolute truth. He asserts that we are not independent from our environments, that our ecology shapes our experience, and that ecology defines us. He does assert that biases can create illusions that make it very easy to misinterpret.



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Mere_Christian

posted October 10, 2009 at 8:10 am


After watching this magic show for the third time, I am more inclined to become a fundamentalist Christian.
This entertainment video makes clear the phrase: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
- Jesus, the Light of the world.
Now it’s even more easily viewable why Jesus spoke such absolutes over and over again to so many unseeing crowds time and time again.
Hopefuly this entertainer will do a show on sound and how we grasp that.



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Beaglelady

posted October 10, 2009 at 1:44 pm


That was fascinating– just what I’ve come to expect from TED lectures. Thanks for sharing. I think it shows just how important perception can be. It’s something that is often exploited, by everyone from artists to Disney Imagineers, usually to the delight of all.
It also reminded me of when I went on the “wild cave tour” at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. The only lighting was the dim light frm our headlamps. Other than that, it was totally dark. I had the illusion that I was outside at night, walking in rocky terrain alongside high cliffs!! (btw, this cave system has more than 330 miles of connected passages. The local joke there is that “this is not much of a house, but it’s got one hell of a basement!”)



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Beaglelady

posted October 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm


Just a little note:
Here is the Lotto Labs web site.



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Jacob

posted October 10, 2009 at 3:58 pm


@ Albert the Abstainer,
And that is a repsectable position. There is a big difference between having perceptions which are context or evolutionary history dependent, and there being no absolute truth.



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