Before we get to Penn & Teller's incisive analysis of iconic nonsense, here are some recent examples of ubiquitous religious icons. It is hard for many of us to believe that, as you will see on this page, idolatry is so widespread; people still worship statues, sheets, trees, bathroom doors, and grilled cheese sandwiches. They actually believe these objects have magical, supernatural properties.
These images and videos illustrate the phenomenon known as "pareidolia," or the tendency for the human psyche to construct familiar images from vague, coincidental but random patterns. As the impressionist artists demonstrated, we don't need complete information to construct images. In fact, cartoonists and other artists have demonstrated that we can often create fairly clear images from very little information.
Researchers have demonstrated that newborn infants are "hard-wired" to scan their environment for faces and to pay close attention to any pattern that could be a face. It is therefore not surprising that it takes very, very little visual information for us to generate faces, the most common form of pareidolia. For an example of how little information our minds are almost compelled to turn into faces, consider this New Testament, Happy, Jesus Face in the Sky. Or could it be an Old Testament, Angry, Yahweh Face? It's a Bird! It's a plane! It's the Holy Ghost! No! It's three; it's three mints in one! It's the Flying Trinity in the Sky!
Because of the way our brains are designed to construct images from visual stimuli, it shouldn't surprise us that—given the countless random patterns we happen upon—occasionally we encounter patterns that our brains can construct into apparent images of real things. After all, our brains are "in the business" of constructing a visual world from discrete bits of sensory information. Indeed, it would be a miracle if our brains worked so perfectly that pareidolia never occurred!
You can warm-up for the miracles below by finding
the 25 Faces of Jesus in this American Express ad.
The phenomena of pareidolia and the pseudo-miracles it presents are closely paralleled by the seemingly significant events of synchronicity that suggest an acausal meaningful connection between events. For example, a phone rings while you are thinking of a friend whom you haven't spoken to in a year or more. You pick up the phone and it's your friend. In Carl Jung's synchronicity theory, this is a meaningful occurrence that operates outside of the causal structure of events and the improbability of such events provides evidence that, to a significant degree, the universe is organized by patterns of meaning and not physical causality.
Synchronicity theory, however, is dealt a fatal blow by Saint John’s Law, otherwise known as Littlewood’s Law. Littlewood, a mathematician, defined a miracle as an exceptional event of special significance occurring at a frequency of one in a million. He then assumed that during the hours in which a human is awake and alert, a human will see or hear one "event" per second, which may be either exceptional or unexceptional. Additionally, Littlewood supposed that a human is alert for about eight hours per day.
Here we would have to add a caveat or a modification to the mathematical calculation underlying Littlewood's Law. Eight hours a day is in all likelihood a significant underestimate; people may not be functioning on all cylinders for more than eight hours per day, but that doesn’t mean that they are only aware of events for that amount of time. Consider a cocktail party in which there is a cacophony of random noise that you are not paying attention to and are only minimally aware of as you engage in conversation with the person in front of you. Yet, if someone says your name on the other side of the room, it would not be surprising if you perked up and took notice. What that means is that even though apparently not paying attention, your awake brain — for 14 to 18 hours/day — is actually processing and discarding untold numbers of bits of sensory information and when something of significance occurs, it brings the information into full conscious awareness.
In any case, Littlewood’s eight hour assumption just makes his argument stronger. According to Littlewood’s calculations, in 35 days, a human will have experienced about one million events. Accepting his definition of a miracle, one can expect to observe one miraculous event for every 35 days' time, on average, and therefore, according to this reasoning, seemingly miraculous events are actually commonplace.
This is essentially the same analysis that one should apply to the uncanny "miracles" of pareidolia.
In the video below, some of Penn Jillette's gratuitous nastiness has been edited out. However, his acerbic wit remains quite biting and, at times, seems cruel. Please note that his harsh, hostile sarcasm is not a reflection of Yoan attitudes. Indeed, if you come across debunkers who can analyze false beliefs as incisively as Penn & Teller, please let us know. We would be glad to replace the hostile mocking tone in this video with an equally effective piece that does the job as well without unnecessary disdain.
However, in the meantime, Penn & Teller's brilliant analyses of false beliefs are simply some of the best we have seen. This is an important exploration of the nature of beliefs that are based primarily on wishful thinking. Though the specific beliefs examined seem harmless enough, we believe that the wish-fulfilling abandonment of intersubjective verifiability (the abandonment of what could be called "empirical responsibility") presented in this video, often lies at the root of some of the most intractable and horrendous human problems. When our deepest beliefs and values become disconnected from a profound commitment to and respect for reality humanity faces grave danger.
Or Maybe You Prefer Kitchen Jesinettes:
Manufactured by Jesus the Carpenter Cabinetry, Inc.
And click here to see The Miracle Jesus Wardrobe. And here to see an article of miracle clothing.
And to go with your Woodwork Jesi,
don't forget your matching Drywall Jesus!
Miracle in Saraland?
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Anyone searching for a miracle may be able to find it in Saraland.
Members of the Triumph Learning and Worship Center For Life say a mark left on the wall following Hurricane Katrina resembles Jesus Christ. A frame was placed around the mark and church members touch the wall and pray everyday.
Several people say they have been healed after touching the wall.
"You also have to look at it through your spiritual eyes and be able to recognize that it is Jesus himself on that wall," says church member Benita Bogan.
The church will keep the doors open every day from noon until 2 p.m. for anyone to come by and see the wall.
Jesus In Drywall, Part II
WKRG Channel 5
Sunday, March 26, 2006
If there was ever any doubt, you won't find it here. Members of a Saraland church say Jesus is in the room and His image is on the wall!
Youth Minister Linda Evans told News Five's Tiffany Craig she saw it first. "I always thought it would show the face like you see in the Bible. You know, Him standing up reaching out his arms but it wasn't like that. It was him on the cross."
It appeared after Hurricane Katrina damaged the Triumph Learning and Worship Center for Life. Now, the small church in Saraland is sharing its secret with the world.
Pastor Ella Roberts says she had a vision from God to share this gift. "We have our Bibles. We have our crosses. We have pictures of Jesus in our homes and in our churches. We need something to hold on to in this day and time."
Now, magazine photographers to TV cameras are showing up. Everyone wants to see the image. Pastor Roberts says no matter how popular this image gets, it will never become commercial. They won't sell pictures or videos of Jesus in drywall! It's believed this image offers something even more valuable she says. "If you're sick, if you're depressed we've had all that come and touch the wall and be healed of any disease!
Church members say other parts of the drywall shifted after the storm, this was the only part that didn't shift back.
If you would like to see Jesus in drywall, the Triumph Learning and Worship Center for Life will be open to the public Monday through Friday from 9-30 am to 3 pm.
Get ready and hold on to your transcendental trowel!
BTW, all of these food items were
purchased at HEB Supermarkets ;-)
Can you find the Jesus in their logo? Give up? Click the logo.
Here's the Virgin Mary Jawbreaker holding Baby Jesus and floating on a golden cloud.
Here's the Burnt Virgin (Pop)Tart
A Mother Theresa Cinnamon Bun and a Cheezus Chip
[If this picture is
not animated, click
refresh or reload.]
All Hail: The Shroud Chip of Mary!
Elizabeth Gould said a strange sensation overwhelmed her while she was eating from a bag of potato chips during a flight from New York to Florida.
She paused, stopped eating and looked at the potato chip in her hand.
It looked familiar. The chip bears the image of the Virgin Mary, Gould said, and passengers on the flight agreed.
While touring New York City, Gould said an indescribable feeling swept over her as she neared the remains of the World Trade Center towers. She said she encountered the same feeling while on the plane eating JetBlue's complimentary bag of blue-colored potato chips.
"When I saw this," Gould said, "I felt like she was looking at me."
[Excerpted from a feature story in the Bradenton Herald (the main Bradenton, Florida newspaper).]
[Editorial Note: The ghostlike form looks more like a Virgin Mary potato chip version of the Shroud of Turin to us. So for us to consider this a miracle, we would have to know if it is the actual potato chip that was placed over her body after she died. How about a little carbon dating, folks?]
Coincidences or Miracles?
It is uncanny occurrences such as these that force us to reconsider whether such things are just "coincidences," as skeptics claim. These remarkable (supposedly random) events simply force us to step back and say to ourselves, "You've got to be kidding!"
Some closeups of a classic
A Multi-course Meal of Jesi
First, A Toast to Jesus!
(Editorial Note: These "toasts" have
had some non-magical, human help ;-)
Atheist Sees Image of Big Bang in a Piece of Breakfast Toast
For Immediate Release: Miracle Toast!
Excitement is growing in the Northern England town of South Kepticks following the news that a local man saw an image of the Big Bang in his breakfast toast. Atheist, Dick Dawgins, 68, told The S. Kepticks Times that he was sitting down to eat breakfast when an unusual toast pattern caught his eye.
"I was just about to spread the butter when I noticed a fairly typical, small
hole in the bread surrounded by a dark area. However the direction and splatter patterns of the crumbs, as well as the changing shades emanating outwards from this black hole, were very clearly similar to the chaotic-dynamic, non-linear patterns that one would expect following the Big Bang."
"It's the beginning of the world; there's no question about it," he added excitedly.
Ever since news of the discovery made national headlines, local hoteliers have been overwhelmed
by an influx of atheists who have flocked
to S. Kepticks to catch a glimpse of the scientific relic. "I have always been
an atheist. To see my life choices validated on a piece of toast is
truly astounding," sputtered one guest at the S. Kepticks Arms Hotel. Between sobs of joyous validation, he added, "There is no question that this is a sign. If not a sign, then an indication. If not an indication, then at least an empty gesture."
Shortly after the publication of pictures of the Revelatory Toast, a group of atheists in the U.S. took to the streets in violent protest. Silicon Valley, California, long known to be a stronghold of atheism, is also home to a sect known as The Godless Geeks, a group of American atheists who believe that visual depictions of the actual Big Bang have no empirical basis. Mark Thomas, Founder of the cult, in a call for sectarian action against the heretical English Atheists, told reporter, James Otis, Jr., "This is out and out idolatry!" He went on to say that truth claims without actual evidence violate the fundamental, sacred cannons of Atheism.
According to Otis, after shouting the cult's slogan, "Supposition without Empirical Validation is Blasphemy," Thomas ran off to join a pack of rampaging atheists. At least two people are known to have suffered scrapes and bruises as the mob of rationalists raced through high-tech office building hallways shouting, "Give us Enlightenment, or give us Death!"
To the surprise of many, the official Federation of UK Empirical Materialists (FUKEM) has asked its members not to pay attention to the story despite its potential to inspire less faith. "This is precisely the kind of toast that string theorists have been searching for," said one orthodox skeptic who added that he was going to S. Kepticks anyway, noting that "Seeing is not believing."
Many believe that it was toast like this that led Einstein to reconsider the blunder of his cosmological constant. Mr. Thomas noted, "God does not play toast with the universe." Indeed, many atheists believe that, being nonexistent, God doesn't play very much at all.
[Modified from a piece by Ronald Pecorry, found at the Atlanta Center for Policy Analysis: http://www.satireandcomment.com/0208toast.html]
In a related story, it has been reported that atheists have spotted a piece of toast in a painting of Jesus.
Jesus Crust: Holy Toast.
Created by graphic designer, Jon ("distortedmotion" at YouTube)
What may be even more amazing than the value placed in the coincidental, pareidolia "miracles" on this page is the fact that history is replete with hoax miracles that truly could not occur by accident. Unlike the tongue-in-cheek group of synthetically manipulated, yeast-inspired, flour concoctions (immediately above), the creators of such humbugs actually claim that they are evidence of divine, supernatural intervention.
It is a bit bizarre how easily the faithful have historically accepted such hooey to mean that their Fantasy Faith is real. When it takes relatively little effort to create a scam and when the profit/power/prestige one can derive from such scams is significant, it becomes strange to believe these extraordinary claims. As David Hume pointed out centuries ago, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But not for the faithful!
Before we return to pareidolic religious icons, let's see how The Simpsons dealt with one such miraculous hoax.
Actually, given Yahweh's
temperament (see the Old
Testament), this could be His REAL 9/11 Message
Janis Thornton / The Frankfort Times
Pet shop owners Marsha and Bryan Dora say the likeness of Satan appeared on the shell of Lucky the turtle after the reptile was the lone survivor of an Oct. 13 fire that destroyed their store in downtown Frankfort, Ind.
updated 12:17 p.m. ET March 21, 2005
MICHIGANTOWN, Ind. - A turtle that was the only survivor of a pet shop fire may have emerged with a hellish memento.
The palm-sized red-eared slider turtle, named Lucky, was the only animal to survive a fire last October at Dora’s A-Dora-ble Pet Shop in nearby Frankfort, about 40 miles northwest of Indianapolis.
Owner Bryan Dora now says he sees an image of Satan’s face on the critter’s shell. He can spot lips, eyes, a goatee, shoulders and a pair of pointy horns on Lucky’s back.
“The marking on the shell was like the devil wanted us to know he was down there,” Dora said. “To me, it’s too coincidental that the only thing to come out unscathed would have this image on it.”
The image was not visible before the fire and Dora speculates the intense heat might have caused the shell’s color to change. The turtle is healthy and there was no change in its behavior, he said.
The cause of fire that destroyed nine businesses or offices in the 1912 building in downtown Frankfort has not been determined.
“Turtles can hold their breath quite awhile,” Dora said. “He may have taken one breath just before and held it through the fire. Except that the fire went on and on for hours.”
Dora has produced a D-V-D of the turtle’s story that he plans to auction on the Internet. He will also offer the winning bidder the chance to buy Lucky off-line.
As The World's First Open Source Religion, the Way of Yo teaches us to take the perceptions and reactions of other divine humans as indications of our progress (or lack thereof) toward our goal of creating the clearest possible expression of the Truth, as revealed by Yo (Reality). So, if you have any thoughts, suggestions, or comments regarding this page—or any other aspect of Yoism—please send us a message via email. After registering as a user, you can click the "add new comment" button above to leave a specific comment on this or any page that you want other visitors to be able to read. (For comments that are not about a specific page, please use the email option.)