The prevalence of a spirit of contention amongst a people is a certain sign of deadness with respect to the things of religion. When men's spirits are hot with contention, they are cold to religion. - Jonathan Edwards “The Book of Mormon does not supplant the Bible. It expands, extends, clarifies, and amplifies our knowledge of the Savior. Surely, this second witness should be cause for great rejoicing by all Christians.” - Joseph B. Wirthlin

Friday, January 29, 2016

More on perspective, perception, and consensus

What color are these chess pieces?

I think they're black.

What color do they look to you?

The science of perception helps illustrate my point about perspective and consensus. I can't emphasize enough that each individual's interpretation of the geography passages of the Book of Mormon are determined largely by the individual's own background.

If you've been raised your entire life to picture Book of Mormon events in Central America, it will be very difficult for you to "see" a new concept. This is even more true if you've read (or written) extensively on the topic.

One of the most obvious manifestations of this phenomenon is the "finding" of "correspondences" between the Book of Mormon text and Mayan culture. These are completely illusory; similar "correspondences" can be found in virtually every human culture.

IOW, if you're predisposed to believe in the Mesoamerican setting, and especially if you've made a career out of promoting it, you will find it very difficult to see the Book of Mormon in a different setting.

Go back to those chess pieces. Do they still look black? They should.

If it was possible, I would show another person the following image and ask what color they chess pieces are. You already think they are black; the other person would think they are white. Yet they are the same in every way.

If you isolate the pieces, you will see they are identical. They are neither black nor white. They are random shades of grey. This is apparent only if you put them on a solid background.

That's why I propose a solid background, based on modern revelation and the teachings of Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. If everyone would use that background, the geography of the Book of Mormon would become apparent and we'd reach consensus.


Here's an abstract from Nature magazine that points out the significance of backgrounds (described as context in which a target is embedded):

Image segmentation and lightness perception

The perception of surface albedo (lightness) is one of the most basic aspects of visual awareness. It is well known that the apparent lightness of a target depends on the context in which it is embedded, but there is extensive debate about the computations and representations underlying perceived lightness. One view asserts that the visual system explicitly separates surface reflectance from the prevailing illumination and atmospheric conditions in which it is embedded, generating layered image representations. Some recent theory has challenged this view and asserted that the human visual system derives surface lightness without explicitly segmenting images into multiple layers. Here we present new lightness illusions—the largest reported to date—that unequivocally demonstrate the effect that layered image representations can have in lightness perception. We show that the computations that underlie the decomposition of luminance into multiple layers under conditions of transparency can induce dramatic lightness illusions, causing identical texture patches to appear either black or white. These results indicate that mechanisms involved in decomposing images into layered representations can play a decisive role in the perception of surface lightness.

The examples given show how identical objects look different depending on context (or background). In the first one, the chess pieces are identical. Only the background is different. Here, the background is designed to look like fog or smoke:

The authors explain: "the corresponding chess pieces on the two surrounds are identical." 

In the next one, the disks (or moons) are also identical. "In both cases, the figures on the dark surround appear as light objects visible through dark haze, whereas the figures on the light surround appear as dark objects visible through light haze."

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