Big news this week. Evidence of Jesus was found in bird shit. I’m not being blasphemous, just take a look for yourself. I can see what appears to be a face. If I were forced to make a biblical face, I’d say this is Zeus, or Yahweh in a terrifying mood, screaming damnation from the great cosmos, perhaps to inspire a world wide flood, or the decimation of a sinful city. The mind is curious like that, always seeking patterns that conform to your perception of reality.
Yahweh And The League Of Shadows
The League of Shadows in Batman had a similar motivation as did Yahweh when he sought the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The city had become too corrupt, beyond salvation, and it had to be destroyed. This image crafted from the bowels of a bird and delivered to us as a message by the force of gravity reminds me of that. But I don’t see Jesus.
Others were fortunate to have seen their savior in the splotch of crap left in the wake if a bird’s flight. Jim Lawry from brooklyn had the spiritual experience as he observed this heavenly sign on the wind shield oh his vehicle. “A bird pooped on my car windshield and when I got inside the view was like Jesus looking down on me,” Lawry wrote below a now-deleted YouTube video. “I had family and friends get in my car and they too were a bit amazed.”
To delve deeper into this mystery we should consider the nature of our pattern seeking minds and the psychological mechanism of confirmation bias. Our brains take in sensory data and shape a map of reality that we use to perceive the would and interpret it. Facial recognition is particularly important. Its evolutionary roots are particularly prevalent among primates due to the fact they live in social groups, and take social cues from facial expressions, be it a warning to flee, to fight, to empathizing and grooming, and of course mating.
If five believers of five faiths gathered about this splotch of bird crap, and all were asked to determine the religious significance, you might hear tell of Moses, Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha, or Thor. That’s where confirmation bias comes in. Subconsciously, or even consciously, you want your beliefs to be vindicated by what you see.
Ever seen Jesus on a piece of burnt toast? Well now you have according to some believers. This was news at the time, exciting times, perhaps heralding the end of times? You can certainly see a semblance of a face in that toast, one half shadowed. But why would Jesus appear to us in this fashion? Perhaps the burnt toast was symbolic of the imperfection of Man. Perhaps the shadowed face symbolic of the darkness and light in all Man. This is fireside speculation coloured with transparent confirmation bias, and I would be interested to hear a logical argument to the contrary.
Jesus has also been found at the bottom of frying pans, table top stains, and coffee stains. The list stretches on; not everyone who thought they saw Jesus in any such fashion made the news. For every story that does, we can assume hundreds, if not thousands of others have remarked, perhaps with awe, to their co-workers and family members about the incredible revelation and purpose that was inspired within, the vindication and knowledge of certainty of their faith bolstered, from such a sight. Arguments that these visuals have any purpose or validity are often defended by faith – that is to say, a firm belief without sufficient evidence, or in this case, with pieces of toast and bird crap splotches presented as absurd evidence.
My Pattern Seeking, Confirmation Biased Mind
It was not the bird crap or the toast that inspired me to write this article. It was my own miraculous finding. You see, I enjoy weather, it’s interesting, dynamic, and damn near impossible to predict with any certainty. It also has daily real world implications that can result in death, devastation, or life saving rejuvenation raining from the skies. I was looking at the radar at bom.gov.au yesterday and spotted this. You’ll just have to see it to believe. Take a look at this map of Australia from satellite imagery. Just in case you don’t have the same type of pattern seeking brain, or confirmation bias as I do, I’ve taken the liberty of making red squares around the phenomena.
Clearly Australia is being assailed by a horrific caricature of a dragon from the West, and from the East a mythical deity personified through winds, rain, and current technology in the form of sattelite imagery. If I had no understanding of science or how weather patterns move about, or basic psychology, I might deduce that storms are indeed demons, sent upon us to ravish our lands, to cleanse our sins, or to punish those who are not righteous. But no, this is merely a cool picture with cloud patterns that could be construed in a myriad of ways.
Most of you reading have already done this, and if you haven’t I urge you to, as it’s a relaxing and worthwhile exercise. Simply lay on the grass on a day when cumulus clouds are shifting overhead, you will see fantasy come to life, and spy many a pattern, only moments later for it to shift and distort into something unrecognisable.