Word of the Day: Pareidolia

Does Jesus exist?Pareidolia is perceiving meaning in something random, such as seeing a face in clouds or hearing speech in a recording played backwards. People have imagined a sculpture on Mars or ghost voices in random noise. And, of course, Jesus has been seen in food and ruder places. Mary has been seen in water stains on the side of a building and in the cheese sandwich shown here.

The familiar Rorschach test is a deliberate attempt to explore these patterns.

A similar word is apophenia, making connections in random or meaningless data (pareidolia is a type of apophenia).

Some people wonder if surprises such as the image of Mary are deliberate instead of random. But why, aside from a desire to support one’s presupposition, would you imagine a supernatural explanation when the natural explanation of pareidolia suffices?

If these images are deliberate, there’s much more reason to imagine that it was Photoshop rather than God behind it.

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11 thoughts on “Word of the Day: Pareidolia

  1. “…or hearing speech in a recording played backwards.”

    Many years ago, my foster parents became alarmed by a TV program that discussed backmasking, and how Satan placed backwards messages in rock songs. I was a budding guitarist, and one of my favorite bands was Led Zeppelin. Of course Stairway To Heaven was used as an example, and the word “satan” could be heard when played backwards.

    In order to show that backmasking could be heard on ANY random record, I played a Mister Rogers record backwards. As I spun the LP backwards with my finger, several messages could be heard. One message said, “There’s no messiah here, there’s no messiah there, the bastard’s lost and got asthma.”

    Rather than prove my point that backwards messages could be heard on ANY recording, my plan backfired, and the record player vanished the very next day!

  2. Hi Bob,

    Yes… religious thought is averse to the concepts of chance and randomness.

    • I agree.

      One could, if one wished, to calculate the odds of being served the exact combination of six chicken nuggets one gets when one orders a meal at McDonalds.

      There are countless numbers of chicken nuggets presently in existence. (To be thorough one might also need to calculate not only currently existing nuggets, but all past and future chicken nuggets as well.)

      Out of all the existing chicken nuggets in the world, they could be mixed and matched into various sets of six nuggets. It could be possible for you to get some of your six nuggets from a 10 year old batch of nuggets made from a chicken in Nebraska, while others might come from other chickens from other parts of the world from other years.

      So then, to get the exact combination of six chicken nuggets that you did from McDonalds, the odds would be some number times 10 raised to some astronomical power.

      Since the odds are so staggering, this proves that there must have been some kind of ultimate purpose for you getting that exact set of six nuggets that you did. The odds are to great for it to be chance alone , and this proves there must be a Grand Designer that predestined you to get the EXACT nuggets that you did.

      Next time you order chicken nuggets, remember that it’s not just any old random set of six McNuggets, but it’s a freakin’ McMiracle!!!

      • To Retro,

        That’s why Dembski says that complexity is not enough to prove design, but it must be specified complexity. The problem is to clarify that concept of specification. Does it even make sense in the infra-human world?

      • Excellent point RF2.

        Something that’s overly complex is actually proof of either a poor design or lack of a design at all.

        Unnecessary complexity is better evidence for a bottom-up design process like evolution.

      • Agreed. The human cell is indeed quite complicated. But simple shows the hand of a designer. A complicated Rube Goldberg machine like the cell suggests an iterative process without design.

  3. Amen, brother! Preach it! Finally something on which we can agree! These are silly examples of finding something for which you are looking.

    Still waiting for you to get on to the more serious challenges to Christianity. I am working through your “God doesn’t exist” series as time permits. Not much evidence there. Lots of supposition and finding what you expect to see and manipulating other people’s arguments to help cherry pick examples that you think make your case. Oh, wait. Is that a different form of pareidolia?, Nah. Couldn’t be THAT.

    (My apology—originally posted to your other blog…in error.)

    • Bob C:

      Perhaps you can show Rick T how it’s done. It’s easy to say that my blog posts have little evidence. Tougher to actually offer a serious rebuttal.

      Go for it.

      • Wow. A cheap shot to a comment I didn’t even make!

        Soooo… Would you claim that your response to the substantive answer I gave you your “10 Reasons the Crucifixion Story Makes No Sense,” was a serious and rebuttal? I think the pot is calling the kettle some color he himself represents.

      • Rick:

        A cheap shot to a comment I didn’t even make!

        Dunno what you’re referring to. I suggested you raise substantive objections and you said you would. Issue closed.

        Now I’m inviting Bob C to give us an example in clear thinking we can all learn from. No cheap shots that I can see.

        Soooo… Would you claim that your response to the substantive answer I gave you your “10 Reasons the Crucifixion Story Makes No Sense,” was a serious and rebuttal?


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