Now that summer weather is here I am still contemplating the purchase of a motorcycle, but before I do I am reading a book on motorcycle proficiency. I want to learn what causes accidents and how to avoid them.
Now one of the most intriguing things about motorcycle accidents is that the car driver who has just creamed some poor guy on a bike will invariably say, “Gee! I just didn’t see you.!” While this sounds like a lame excuse, it turns out that it is really true. Psychologists and students of perception tell us that the mind sees what it expects to see. This is how illusionists do their tricks. They show us something (or don’t show us something) according to what they know we expect to see, and thus we really don’t see something that is there.
This sounds freaky, but it is true. The car driver expects to see other cars. He doesn’t expect to see just cars, but he expects to see cars of a certain size, travelling at certain speeds under certain light conditions according to certain laws of the road. His expectations, in other words, are part of the matrix of his whole world, and he will only see the motorcycle when he has had what is termed a ‘paradigm shift’.
The paradigm is the grid through which we see the world and by which we interpret what we see. The paradigm is established by our upbringing, our basic presuppositions, the media, our education, the people who mentor us–a whole range of influences. Our paradigm influences, therefore what we see and how we interpret what we see.
This explains much of the problem in the discussion between scientific materialistic atheists and religious believers. Their presuppositions–their paradigm for viewing the world, is so utterly and radically different that, like the motorist who can’t see the motorcyclist–they really and truly can’t see it.
This is why an atheist can be presented with arguments that seem totally transparent and watertight to a theist and he shrugs and says, ‘Can’t see it.’
If this is the case then we shouldn’t be too harsh on atheists. They’re like tone deaf people at a classical music concert or color blind people at an art show. They really don’t see things the way everyone else does.
But if this is true and theists should be patient with atheists, then atheists ought to return the courtesy and scratch their heads and say, “Y’know, an awful lot of people seem to be able to sense or see something here that I’m missing. I wonder if I’m the one whose wrong?”
If there were a little bit more understanding on this we wouldn’t have so many collisions between theistic motorists and those risky outriders called atheists.