Facebook Page Is Dedicated to Seeing Faces in Random Visual Data

We are hard-wired to recognize faces in a sea of visual noise. It’s a smart survival tactic for a baby, but adults can be anywhere from amused to embarrassed by their own tendency to detect faces in random data.

The ones who are neither amused nor embarrassed — because they think that there’s divine meaning in the faces they see — are the hardcore people of faith who believe that God is sometimes moved to burn a picture of the Virgin Mary in a piece of toast, or that the Almighty, from time to time, sees fit to depict Jesus on a drop cloth, in bird shit, and so on.

The overall phenomenon is known as pareidolia or apophenia, and I just learned there’s a very entertaining Facebook page devoted to it, called Faces in Stuff.

This one made me laugh out loud:

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New York Pastor Abandons Faith, Saying There’s No Godly Purpose for Starvation of Children, Slavery, and Genocide

Humans of New York is a massive photo blog featuring the often-fascinating portraits of street photographer Brandon Stanton. Stanton, who has more than 7,000,000 followers on Facebook, also does quickie interviews with the strangers he captures. He knows how to get them to open up about things that matter. Take this one:

That’s one of Stanton’s latest photos. His subject is a former pastor who lost his faith:

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Shocker: Bus Driver Whose Bible Supposedly Stopped Two Bullets Made the Whole Thing Up

Remember the Dayton, Ohio public-bus driver who, in February, was assaulted by three teenagers? Rickey Wagoner‘s assailants supposedly fired three shots at him, point blank, and stabbed him for good measure. The story made national news because Wagoner told everyone his survival was a bona fide miracle: two bullets aimed at his chest never penetrated the Bible that he happened to carry there. Praise the Lord!

Just like the bulk of the stories in Wagoner’s favorite book, his account of the attack turns out to have been nothing but a fanciful fabrication (I guess the man doesn’t believe in the Biblical commandment that prohibits bearing false witness).

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Superstition Marathon: The Soccer World Cup Has Kicked Off, So It’s Peak Season for Irrationality

It’s fútbol time! If you’re a soccer fan like me, the next four weeks are going to be exciting. We’ll witness astonishing ball skills, tactical genius, lots of grit and feats of stamina, and the occasional on-pitch thuggery (four years ago, the Dutch team played a series of shocking anything-goes World Cup games so brutal they would’ve made Attila the Hun blush).

But something else is going to be on clear display: superstition. Whether it’s players’ lucky underwear, their habit of kissing a cross-shaped pendant prior to kick-off, or, after scoring a goal, pointing to the sky in praise of the Creator, unabashedly irrational behavior will be rampant. (England’s Gary Lineker was famous for not shooting on goal during the pre-game warm-up, as he thought he’d be “wasting” perfectly good goal-scoring opportunities.)

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Irish Archdiocese Official Reacts to 800 Children’s Skeletons in a Sewage Tank: “We Can’t Judge the Past”

I just learned that in Ireland, Father Fintan Monaghan, a Catholic Church official in whose archdiocese the skeletal remains of almost 800 children were found in a septic tank, weighed in with an opinion on the matter.

The bones, if you’ll recall, are those of babies who were born to unwed mothers, and who died under the awful neglect of Bon Secours nuns between 1925 and 1961. The child mortality rate in Irish Catholic institutions for “fallen women” was reportedly as high as fifty percent.

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