In the beautiful Glenveagh National Park, in the most north-westerly county in the Republic of Ireland, Donegal, excitement is stirring. It seems that Pat Vaughan – the park manager – has found Jesus. Not in the spiritual, he’s turned to Jesus from the wilderness, sense but more of a literal discovery. Mr. Vaughan has found what he believes to be the image of the Christian messiah in a rock. See for yourself.
Don’t see it? Well, neither did I for the first twenty minutes. In all honesty I initially thought I saw the image of a deer or maybe lioness. It was only after guidance from ryanyllek – one of our fellow contributors here at Hubris – that I finally saw what Mr. Vaughan and “everyone”, as he put it, else was seeing. The interesting thing here is that Mr. Vaughan has been quoted as saying “No matter how many times I look at it I see the same thing.” This isn’t really surprising. In the interest of fair representation Mr. Vaughan has also stated “The last thing I want is to create another stampede for people looking for religious icons”.
The fact that Mr. Vaughan saw Jesus instead of a deer – as I did – is a textbook example of confirmation bias. The fact either of us saw anything at all other than a random collection of shapes on a rock is down to apophenia. Essentially people have a tendency to see what they want to see, or rather evidence that supports their own beliefs in the case of confirmation bias and people also tend to see meaningful patterns where there are none in the case of apophenia. Like the fabled image of Jesus in the slice of toast or more recently, and certainly more humorously, the image of Jesus – warning; those easily offended may not want to click on the following video, but I’d urge you to anyway! – on the anatomy of a dog this is simply another case of seeing something in random colours and shapes via the aforementioned mechanisms.
In fact, there is growing evidence that people process faces differently to other images and have a tendency to ‘see’ faces when stimuli are arranged in specific ways – ever look at the front of a car or the designs in an old multicoloured carpet and see a rudimentary face?
With all this in mind I think it is safe to draw the conclusion that there really is nothing special about the rock that the current discussion is revolving around. If you follow this link you will see the same rock with two different outlines on it. The first is the deer/lioness I ‘spotted’ initially and the second is my rough estimation as to the image of Jesus that ‘everyone’ is seeing. As a side note, isn’t it coincidental how the image of Jesus in the rock coincides with the Westernised version we’re all used to and doesn’t resemble the arguably more accurate estimate of a man in the region where Jesus supposedly lived at that time?
Whether you see the messiah, a lioness, something altogether different – feel free to highlight in the comments section – or just a plain old rock, some of us can take comfort in that Mr. Vaughan is not planning on disclosing the exact location of the rock thereby not subjecting future children to a hike to worship a rock as so many are subjected to other such bizarre rituals in Ireland, and I speak from experience! Then again Mr. Vaughan has also been quoted as saying that he is open to the idea of arranging guides to the rock if there is a large enough demand for it…