Like Handing Sandy Duncan A View Master

Ephemera Stereoscope Pamphlet View-Master 1 One of the funniest jokes ever in the original Saturday Night Live was a throwaway background gag.[1]  The main skit was set in a home or apartment with a radio playing.  While the main action of the skit was going on, from the radio the following was heard:

Announcer (Don Pardo): And now Sandy Duncan for VHF View Master!

Sandy Duncan (Gilda Radner):  Wait…what…I don’t get it…what am I supposed to be seeing here?


Not all animals enjoy depth perception.  Depth perception is the ability to judge distances visually.  Many animals, particularly herbivores with eyes on the side of their heads, have two or three overlapping fields of view:  They can see on either side of their bodies (sometimes almost all the way behind them even when facing forward) and occasionally can overlap both their fields of view directly but very narrowly ahead.  While the smarter animals can judge distance based on what are referred to as monocular clues (relative size, amount of detail, shift in color due to dust or fog, etc.) they lack genuine depth perception.

Real depth perception -- the kind exploited by View Master -- is found in predators and arboreal animals such as primates.  Predators and tree-dwellers tend to have only one field of vision -- straight ahead -- but blend input from both eyes together to form one single image.  The key difference between them and herbivores is that while predators and arboreal animals enjoy all the depth perception clues monocular animals enjoy, they are able to process them in a radically different matter.

Simply put, they see “depth”.

And for a predator or a tree-dweller, the ability to immediately perceive and understand “depth” is crucial to their survival.

Without it, they’ll miss a meal…

…or a branch.

Now, it’s easy to imagine a sci-fi story where monocular or overlapping field of view aliens simply can’t grasp this binocular sense among humans.[3]

Oh, they get the idea of triangulation and visual clues to indicate distance, but the idea of “depth” is beyond them.  Yes, they get it that when a human refers to “depth” they are referring to a distance that can be measured out in concrete terms.  Yes, they understand that it’s possible to process visual information well enough to make a good, accurate assessment of an object’s distance.

But…”depth”…?  That ineffable, indescribable, impossible to quantify/capture/put in a bottle sensation -- no, knowledge! – that one object is occupying an entirely differently plane of space than another object…?

Nonsense!  Doesn’t exist!  Can’t exist!  You’re just making it up, creating a myth to explain away simple scientific facts.

Yeah…right…only people with binocular vision can see and recognize and appreciate depth and those without it can see and recognize and appreciate distance…

…but they’ll never ever grasp the spatial relationship at the intrinsic level of those with binocular vision.

Talking with atheists about things of the spirit is like handing Sandy Duncan a View Master.

The atheists are not wrong.  They are seeing/experiencing the same things we believers see & feel.  Their analysis, at least on the surface level, are usually spot on and accurate.[4]

They just can’t grasp those things in the same manner we do.

Now, this analogy isn’t flawless and perfect, but it serves my point well enough.

Some people have never had the chance to develop this spiritual binocular vision.  Like a child with amblyopia, they have a spiritual “lazy eye” that has never been properly utilized.

Others have lost this binocular vision, usually from exposure to hypocrisy and deceit from purported believers (such as their parents, their church, their society…).  In some cases these injuries can be healed, in others they can’t.  In some cases -- typically the ones with hope of healing – the person remembers what it was like before their injury robbed them of this special sight.

In other cases, they have forgotten, or worse still have created barriers to healing because they fear being hurt again.

Finally, there are those who apparently cannot, never have, and never ever will grasp what believers intuitively sense.  Some of these may want to believe they possess such a spiritual vision, and will use all the monocular clues available to pass as a two-eyed person[5], others are not content to recognize they lack such vision but seem duty-bound to inform everyone who claims such vision that they must be wrong and delusional.




[1]  I’m guessing Michael O’Donoghue wrote it but it sounds mean spirited enough to have come from Chevy Chase as well.

[2]  For those of you in the vast majority who don’t know who Sandy Duncan was/is, she is a model/actress/singer/comedienne who briefly flirted with major stardom in the early 1970s, only to be set back by a bout of ocular cancer.  Duncan’s great appeal was the combination of her off-beat looks (she resembles a baby ostrich; a cute baby ostrich, mind you…) and her sparkling personality.  At a time when far too many female performers were presented as perfect exemplars of glamour, Duncan resonated with audiences as a real, fun-to-know, and appealing character.  She reassured girls that they didn’t have to look perfect to be lovable and desirable, and she demonstrated to boys that it pays to look below the surface.  In 1971 CBS took a chance with her as a rising young star and cast her in Funny Face, a delightful sit-com about a struggling actress/model.  The show was cleverly written, brilliantly cast, and proved popular with audiences.  Instead of holding the show on hiatus while Duncan recovered from her surgery, CBS cancelled Funny Face and retooled a brand new sit-com around Duncan when she returned (with a new writing staff and new supporting cast).  Lightning, alas, could not be captured twice in a bottle, and the new show floundered quickly & badly.  Duncan had the potential of reaching Mary Tyler Moore or Carol Burnett’s career level, but lost her one big chance to do so.  She continues performing to this day. 


[3]  In fact, I will…  (And I did!)

[4]  When I write about scripture, I try to use the term “plain text” instead of “literal” when describing the actual content of the chapter or verses in question.  I do this so the actual message of the text -- the information, as it were -- can be isolated and examined without debating signal-to-noise ratios, which is what both atheists and literalists tend to focus on at the expense of the real content.  It’s like trying to appreciate Beethoven’s Ode To Joy on a distant radio station instead of arguing with audiophiles about the quality of amplitude and frequency in the radio waves.

[5]  An obverse of the old saw “in the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king”.

Fictoid: What They Say They See

Fictoid: What They Say They See

Footprints in The Sand