Illustrating Gestalt Shifts: "Wolverine or 2 Batmen"

Even better than the stuffed duck/rabbit, this is my new favorite illustration of gestalt shifts (which, I would guess are likely to play a big role in deconversions and, so, worth specifically trying to induce when debating believers).

And, as someone else already noted, Wolverine or 2 Batmen is also the plot of The Prestige when you think about it…

The artist is Olly Moss.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Verbose Stoic

    The first time I came across the “duck/bunny” example, I saw the bunny when the image was laid on its side (where most people see the duck) and the duck when it was moved the other way around. My visualization is quite poor [grin].

    As for the relation to deconversion, you have to be careful that you make a comparison that actually fits really well, and be prepared for them to accept that what you say is true … from a certain point of view. In the zombie case, it’s too easy to dismiss that because the concept really is quite different; to use a D&D metaphor, the Christian example is more like Raise Dead than Animate Dead, and zombies are Animate Dead. So over-exaggeration in the comparision will weaken that sort of gestalt’s impact.

    • Daniel Fincke

      I just used Zombie Jesus in that post because it was a fun and vivid illustration of a gestalt shift that struck me. There are many more serious ones (particularly good is reframing just about all the Old Testament so that the morals about trusting God are not front and center but the horrific implied values and deeds are instead).

      But yes, what will work with any particular person is particular.

  • blotonthelandscape

    It’s probably been said before, but something which struck me on the train this morning, similar to Zombie-Jesus, is that christians believe that god taking the form a bipedal ape is somehow significant. These same people dismiss the claims of Animism, or Hindu Gods who resemble other animals, as patently absurd.

    Unlike Zombie-Jesus, this is as much self-deprecating (to the self-important believer) as it is an absurd re-framing of cliche beliefs, hence potentially more effective as it appeals to humility (e.g. sketches of the “real Jesus” rather than the familiar long-haired caucasian, or a picture of a baboon carrying a cross).

    This came to me when thinking about theistic evolution. It followed on from thinking about Feynman calling Jesus too “provincial”, as well as watching back-to-back episodes of “The Last Air-Bender” all weekend…

    • Verbose Stoic

      See, this is exactly what I mean. What you say bears no resemblance at all to what I at least believe, even if taken from another perspective. Persuming that you are referring to Jesus becoming human, the relevant comparison — objectively — is that we think it important that he became like us. I personally take this quite strongly and argue that the importance is in becoming like us and sharing our desires and temptations and flaws. That has nothing at all to do with animism in any way, shape or form.

      There are good comparisons. For example, some of the comparisons to other religions are good, as long as they are relevant to the argument. But unlike gestalt images, putting up a good one is only likely to clarify where the argument is, and is unlikely in and of itself to give people an “Ah-ha” moment that deconverts them.

    • blotonthelandscape

      Hey, I’m not one for chasing after “A-ha!” moments; I also wouldn’t want to pidgeon-hole christians, so apologies if that’s how the above came across.

      I still think it’s a reasonable juxtaposition. It cuts through the significance a christian may place on him being “like us”. But it isn’t an argument, it’s a visualisation (like you said, to “clarify where the argument is”). It would need to accompany an argument to be part of a conversion.

      Ape-Jesus is a relevant comparison on your grounds because we are apes, and there is no reason (objectively) to consider one ape-form significant over the other, (unless you consider the faculties which allow us to create religions as a reason to differentiate? But to me, that would be tantamount to admitting christianity is a human creation). I don’t see an equivalent to your D&D example in my scenario. Perhaps you have one?

      My reference to Animism would only be relevant if, say, a christian were attempting to distinguish her belief from Animism in the way mentioned (i.e. “My belief is more sophisticated, therefore more likely to be right” or something to that effect). That was just the place my brain was at when the thought occurred to me, but it needn’t be relevant.

    • Verbose Stoic

      Well, first, if the argument is about Jesus being an exemplar for us — as I argue — then that Jesus was one of us is very relevant. And since there are differences between the various types of apes that line doesn’t really impact any of the actual beliefs. You would indeed really need to have it in an argument, but for the most part your argument — to me — doesn’t seem to align with what pretty much anyone says; thus, it comes across as a complete misrepresentation of the position or at least a complete misunderstanding of it than as an revisualization. But it might be different in the context of specific arguments.

      The comparison I was making was indeed on the fact that the zombie revisualization relies on form of resurrection that’s like Animate Dead, while the religious view is like Raise Dead. I think the same thing applies to your ape revisualization; that’s not how they’re looking at it at all, and so it doesn’t come across as another way of viewing their actual position.