On Perception And Subjective Reality

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

Everything you see or hear or experience in any way at all is specific to you. You create a universe by perceiving it, so everything in the universe you perceive is specific to you.” – Douglas Adams

These statements are indeed true, but only up to a point. One is invited to observe his or her surroundings and inform us what he or she perceives and whether what is perceived is entirely specific to one. I had an interesting discussion with a friend sometime ago which led to the question of perception and its flaws. My opinion is that there is objective perception – something we all see or feel or think about, something that often pre-dominates external experience and is self evident. I will like to take the time to answer the question what is meant by “perception.”

Merriem-Webster dictionary defines perception as “…the way you think about or understand someone or something : the ability to understand or notice something easily or the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses.” For the purposes of this discussion we will concentrate on the first part of the definition i.e. the way you think about or understand someone or something. This can also mean that the way you see the whole of something may be completely different from the way you see the sum of its parts.

We may all agree that, often times when people perceive they contribute some information to what is being observed and when they have to communicate their observation, this information often but not always becomes visible or perceptible. The accuracy of our perception is therefore directly proportional to one’s ability to detach one’s opinions or a priori from actuality. For instance, the difference between the educated and the ignorant person lies primarily in their perception which gives rise to the significant difference in their cognition or intelligence. I shall narrate an anecdotal story to illustrate my point:

Many people believe in ghosts. In fact, I have at one point being afraid of ghosts but now I have no intellectual space or energy for such thoughts. We still do not know whether ghosts exist or not. Although the idea of ghosts can be dismissed as an illusion or mere perception, it can be “real” depending on the number of people in a community who believed in it. When a significant number of people believe in something it becomes real to them. What one believes one acts upon it, and our actions inevitably affect one another in a community. In certain primitive societies there are elaborate rituals to drive away ghosts. So a ghost is real there, just as aliens and vampires are real in most parts of Europe. End of anecdote.

Now let us look at the effect of subjective reality on the individual. The first European to enter the African hinterland was a merchant. In the case of the upper Guinnea or West Africa, it was a Portuguese named Diogo de Azambuja, who presented himself to the chiefs and people as a friend and a trader. At that time, trading in humans had not begun. Diogo de Azambuja and his cohorts spoke nicely but had guns hidden in their cloaks. Once they had learnt of a flaw in the perception of the people, it was time to launch an attack. They presented gifts of strong drinks, gunpowder and muskets in return for gold and war captives. So the first slaves sold in Africa were war captives not nobles, belonging to tribes different and distant from those selling them. The sale of war captives was common everywhere including ancient Rome and Greece.

Then centuries later, many Europeans joined in the trade. Some African traders (mainly chiefs) with the aid of the foreign merchants could no longer wait to receive captives so they took to raiding weaker communities. An orphan, a rogue, any poor defenseless thing was captured and brought to the European forts and castles to be sold. This is the whole tragedy of the African existence which emanated from our inaccurate perception of the world around us.

This painful history is still relevant because it influences the way the African or people of African descent are perceived. The master thinks for the slave. Any slave with higher perception or thinking capabilities was a threat and was quickly eliminated. Nevertheless, flaw in perception exists everywhere not only in indigenous Africa. In fact all terrible mistakes or decisions, emanate from subjective reasoning or reality. This is my experience of life. Some say there are no mistakes, only choices and I think this is true only in regard to one’s personal life. But it doesn’t mean the mistakes or subjective tendencies of others does not affect us.

Some Interesting Phenomena That, According To Atheists, Happen By Accident

1. Mammalian Reproduction

This whole process always intrigues me – from fertilization, embryonic development to delivery through a canal lined with numerous delicate muscles that push the little offspring out. In most cases a human baby is clearly shielded from diseases of the parents including HIV etc. Some are even born with a blood group type different from that of the parents, especially the mother in whose body the baby was conceived and developed for nine months. There is certainly some kind of complex filtration going on in the genome. Again, at the outset of pregnancy in mammals, the breast glands begin to produce milk (of the highest quality) for the baby. If at any point in time complications develop in the uterus, which threatens the life of the mother, all conditions being equal, the whole process naturally self-terminates. How can such a biological phenomenon occur by accident and without purpose?


2. Respiration

The simple bodily process of taking in oxygen from inhaled air and releasing carbon dioxide by exhalation after which plants take carbon dioxide in and in turn release oxygen; Such a wonderful symbiosis. According to Biologists, there are only two life forms – plants and animals. Suppose plants begin to reverse the process (since everything happens by random chance) by taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide, don’t you think that all animals, the group to which humans also belong, will be annihilated in munites? To say that things happen because conditions accidentally permit it is like saying the earth rotates on its own axis because conditions permit it. And what are these conditions? Because we all know there is no gravity in space, so what is spinning the earth? This is where the super intelligent being comes in. The more we know about nature the more ignorant we would find ourselves. It is said that a little philosophy inclines man to atheism but the deepest philosophy pushes man back to an intelligent designer.


3. The Hydrologic Cycle

The hydrologic cycle or the water cycle, which describes the continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth is simply incredible. The mass of water on Earth remains fairly constant over time but the partitioning of the water into the major reservoirs of ice, fresh water, saline water and atmospheric water is, according to scientists, variable depending on a wide range of climatic variables. Still…I think someone could have done all this and set them in motion. It’s never by accident. Water alone covers 70% of the earth’s surface, yet it rarely submerges dry lands where there are large populations – even then not without “warnings.” The quantity of water that living organisms need on a daily bases may have informed the availability of such water on earth. I know of caves in my village where water comes out cleaner than tap – already filtered for drinking. Somebody or entity designed it.


4. Laws of Planetary Motion

By this I am referring to certain laws inherent in nature or if you like the universe. The laws regarding space and that regarding time are all mathematical and precise. Any accidental shift will spell the end of life. But the intelligent being, so superior in wisdom, made it in such a way that there has never been a major shift in the laws governing the universe. Of course now they say it’s a multiverse. Maybe a few new planets were discovered and then that’s another universe which is all ludicrous. It could be that the universe is constantly expanding, likewise the galaxy. Again, the precise movement of the planets without ever colliding with the others, the heat and brightness of the sun and the distance at which it is placed from the earth all point to an intelligent maker. The law of contradiction is another proof that there is a master planner. The universe hardly contradicts itself. Johannes Kepler did not originate but discovered the laws of planetary motion; he was simply allowed, by virtue of his effort and curiosity, to take a peek into the mind of the super intelligent being.


5. The Earth’s Life Support System

Life is made possible by the great variety of foods and herbs for the consumption of all living things. Yet the atheist is never thankful. He opens his mouth and immediately tells us that life occurs by accident and has no purpose. How do you expect to know the cosmic purpose of life if you didn’t originate it? I have my purpose you have your purpose and that’s fair. If God revealed the cosmic purpose of life , we would sabotage him. It does not occur to the atheist whether the water he drinks springs forth by chance, or the potato he eats or the bark of the nim that cures his fever also grew by chance. The great variety of foods such as tubers, cereals, fruits and vegetables, milk and animal products all point to a designer who knew that these things will be needed or required for growth and survival. This process of need and fulfillment could never have occurred by chance and the interesting thing is that it seemed the earth was prepared and arrayed with trees long before the first man appeared on the scene. Humanity is probably only a little over 10,000 years old whereas the universe is billions of years old. If life started with a so called “big bang” which implies a thick cloud of fire and smoke, how did trees and rivers come about? Can water emerge from fire? There is an intelligent designer.


6. The Remarkable Intelligence of Certain Living Organisms Which Operate By Instinct

Man’s first wonder was how birds fly. A baby bird needs not learn the flapping of wings. It was born with the instinct such that even if its parents died at birth it will still be able to fly provided it is of a flying age. What about Birds that migrate long distances like terns and gulls, we may call them intercontinental migratory birds, if you like. How do they know the location of the north and south poles and find their way at sea? It’s like they have a bio-compass in their mind. Again, how do baby turtles find their way back to the particular location of the Mediterranean Sea from where their parents come to hatch them on the shore annually? Scientists have helped us to see that that there are more wondrous things in nature than we can imagine. For instance, how do trees make energy from sunlight? Exactly how do the body’s cells derive energy from the food we eat? Scientists themselves don’t even know exactly how these things occur. Consider the mimic octopus, the giant squid, the chameleon, the electric eel, the firefly and so forth, are you not filled with awe? Yet all this animals act effortlessly and out of pure instinct. This means someone, some entity, who is far more intelligent than us, pre-programmed them. I invite any evolutionist to explain to me how evolution equipped the electric eel with the ability to organically generate electricity.


7. Powers of Human Imagination

On the average, a baby can recognize millions of faces and emotions. When it grows a bit older it can roughly guess who is a good guy and who is not, sometimes based on smell. That’s how come a baby may cry in one hand and be quiet in another. The ability to effortlessly acquire language is also inbuilt in a human baby. We humans are the most privileged in terms of mental capabilities. We can draw pictures from memory; we can sing for our loved ones, we yearn for the affection of others, especially of the opposite sex (although there is a whole new theory about love, sex and gender these days). Humans have a very dynamic social organization that is based on intuition – a visit to an auntie, an uncle, a brother or an old friend can be very reviving. In emotional terms, we can understand each other irrespective of race or ethnic origins. A smile makes the face looks different from a frown and this applies to all the races. In fact, I think I mentioned somewhere in my previous posts that happiness is a social state. We, humans also use imagination to predict and solve many problems. I wonder whether atheists consider life as a whole before making conclusions. Or that they simply pick what evidence they want. Objects in the universe constantly undergo a system of birth, death and rebirth. And it is completely ludicrous to think that because you have a brain in between your ears you must understand everything about the universe. Not everything is designed for mortals to understand. There is a limit to human knowing.


8. Evolution

I know at the mention of evolution, ears stand erect. Many take the theory of evolution, specifically “Origin of Species” as evidence of non existence of an intelligent designer. But upon careful observation of the whole theory, evolution may actually be the doing of an intelligent creator. The core objective of life is first to survive. Therefore the intelligent designer made his creatures incredibly dynamic – able to adapt and readapt depending on general living and climate conditions. That’s how come the dinosaurs gave way to man. Let’s forget about specifics and focus on generalities. Take the manufacture of automobiles for instance. The first make was very noisy and produced a lot of fumes. Then came an improvement on the first and another and another and another all aimed at eliminating the things that failed to work and maintaining what worked. Now we have cars that run on solar energy. Does the evolution of cars or defects inherent in cars prove that cars exist by chance? Or does the evolution of computers or defects inherent in computers prove that computers exist by chance. The natural selection processes we see to be random are not random at all. They follow a precise pattern – a pattern of progression, otherwise, apart from convergent and divergent evolution; there would have been what I will call “reverse evolution” since according to atheists it’s all happening simply because conditions permit it. What are these conditions? And why are they following a pattern of progression from inferior to superior forms?


9. Death

Death! It teaches us more about God than life. I admit, life for the most part is beset with numerous vicissitudes so that it becomes completely absurd to speak or even think of a good God. But I assure you all dying men see God. Two things are eternal: change and demise. An so how is it that there is such uniformity – in an event or an ending that all living organisms go through at a particular stage. In other words death is binding on all of us including even unicellular organisms. So somebody may have instituted that.

This world is not a perfect place. But I think it does little good to be in perpetual denial. What one believes says a lot about him or her. Of course there are many “sound” arguments for atheism but does that lead to any meaningful end? As far as I can imagine, most radical atheists gravitate towards sensualism, through a kind of chronic despair to anarchism and eventually end up in nihilism. The choice, of course, lies with the individual and I don’t think the lack of a complete understanding of God or gods should be a barrier to acceptance that certain super human being exists, if such a belief ultimately makes one a better person.

Note that, I am not a Christian apologist. My position is only a philosophical position. I don’t attend any church or feel the need to make senseless noise in the name of worship. I think that is lunacy. But, other than ascribing events and existence to random chance, I simply hold the view that there is an entity higher than man, who originated the universe.

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.