Why I am an atheist – Ruthy McCoy »« Death Valley and Temperature Records

Come to think of it, I did have a gannet appear in my toast yesterday

A wildlife photographer gets a lucky break and captures an aerial photo of a flock of flamingos that’ has spontaneously assembled into a rough wading-bird shape. Cool enough, a nice example of pareidolia in wildlife form, and then the photographer has to go and ruin it:

“The reaction to this photo has been remarkable. Some people have actually said that the image is divine intervention and proof that there is a God.”

That’s a pretty remarkable reaction right there, first crediting the Ultimate Patriarch for a happy accident and then distancing yourself from it, FoxNews style, with the “some people say.”

I don’t stampede my herd of pronghorn through your cathedral, guy. Please keep your God out of my Wonders of Nature.

Comments

  1. Dick the Damned says

    I saw a cloud today that had a close approximation to the likeness of god. (But i don’t know which god.) Anyway, it proves the existence of god, not.

  2. Rob says

    I saw a topiary, which I’m pretty sure is proof of God.

    Or shears.

    Or possibly a giraffe with an artistic bent?

  3. athyco says

    He only realised what he had captured after developing the images several months later.

    “It really was a very spiritual moment.”

    A “moment.” When? Wasn’t when he took the picture, or he’d have rushed to develop the film. And somehow, having that “very spiritual moment” in the darkroom makes me think his spirits were lifted by the thought of what the price tag on this particular print would read.

  4. says

    Hmm, I feel that we could stampede much more effective tetrapods through churches…

    Probably. I like pronghorn, though, because they stampede in single file, which would at least seem slightly respectful in the cathedral and deprive the tone trolls of an argument.

  5. imthegenieicandoanything says

    The Christian God weighs the same as a duck. Because he’s made of wood. So he floats.

  6. nms says

    Honestly, though, if I were an omnipotent, omnipresent deity, I’d probably spend most of my time arranging flamingos.

  7. Thomas Sea says

    Can’t stop laughing.

    This is too silly.

    God apparently rounded up a group of flamingos, posing them just for this photo, then decided that ‘near enough is good enough’ and called it a day.

  8. philhoenig says

    Look at the photos to the right of this blog page – they’re both
    white guys in a beard and glasses. “Chris Clarke” is obviously just
    PZ in a hat and profile shot to try to confuse matters.

  9. chigau (違わない) says

    nms

    Honestly, though, if I were an omnipotent, omnipresent deity, I’d probably spend most of my time arranging flamingos.

    Me too.

  10. says

    In the interests of explaining the arrangement: won’t the flamingos all congregate in areas where the water is shallow enough for them to put a leg on the bottom? Take the topography of that particular sandbar, and add a tendency for the birds to cluster near each other, and there may not be that much variety in how they will end up standing in the pool.

  11. says

    The sheep with lights on was far better. It continues to amaze me how much of a free pass a god gets from his followers. Crap “miracles”, never turns up on time, always relying on past glories. Like an embarrassing uncle.

    It does however explain why animals are so badly put together. Omniscient doesn’t mean you can draw well.

  12. shuckstuck says

    A load of flamingos in the shape of a bird? That’s nothing. Yesterday I saw a bunch of eukaryote cells in the exact shape of a human being! What are the chances of that?

  13. Nightjar says

    Ha! A few days ago I found three old dried leaves in a lemon verbena shrub curled around each other into an almost perfect G-clef shape (photo here). More proof of pointless divine intervention!

    Is that what omnipotent deities concern themselves with these days? Pointlessly assembling stuff into the shape of other stuff for some random human passing by with a camera to notice?

  14. cogito says

    It’s a pretty cool photo but what amazes me the most is that the photographer actually uses _film_ in 2012:
    “He only realised what he had captured after developing the images several months later.”
    Also, god gave that flaming a way too short neck. It’s like he hasn’t bothered to actually look at his creation…

  15. unclefrogy says

    I may be nuts I am getting old but that looks a lot like Big Bird to me I would say that it is just a message from the otherside from Jim Henson who did not operate Big Bird but could only get the flamingos to make A Big Bird and not a Kermit The Frog. clearly

    uncle frogy

  16. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin is giggling merrily… It worked! It worked!!

    I’m not quite sure what the “It” is, but perhaps I’ve now got a clew about all the pink feathers that showed up in the lair a while back. Still don’t know what took a bite out of the shovel, however…

  17. says

    cogito:

    what amazes me the most is that the photographer actually uses _film_ in 2012

    Oh for fuck’s sake. Don’t know a damn thing about photography or photographers, do you? And that’s not amazing at all. Try living up to your nym a bit.

  18. Nightjar says

    what amazes me the most is that the photographer actually uses _film_ in 2012

    Huh. It amazes me that that amazes you.

  19. Midnight Rambler says

    You have to develop digital photos too, so it’s possible he was actually referring to that. Any digital picture is heavily processed; the difference between cheap cameras and expensive ones is that the latter doesn’t do much, you do it yourself with software.

  20. says

    Midnight Rambler:

    Any digital picture is heavily processed

    Bullshit. Some photographers do heavily ‘shop their photos, using software as a form of digital darkroom, however, there are one whole hell of a lot of photographers who do not. I’d be one of the latter. There is such a thing as talent. There’s also such a thing as skill. Some of us prefer to rely on those to get what we want in camera, thank you very fucking much.

  21. cogito says

    Nicely trolled, Caine! Looking for an argument, I see. Well, none of the professional photographers I know would ever consider going back to film. And that includes a couple of landscape photographers.

  22. Ichthyic says

    Well, none of the professional photographers I know would ever consider going back to film. And that includes a couple of landscape photographers.

    I’m a professional underwater photographer, and I still use film for my underwater cameras.

    love digital for above the seas (have 4 digital cameras I use all the time), but have been less than impressed with digital, even in expensive housings, under the waves.

    still like my old Nikonos for underwater.

    I will say though, it IS becoming terribly expensive and difficult to keep finding the right film and get it processed correctly.

    I suppose I’ll be forced to go digital, even for my underwater stuff, eventually.

    point is, there are still a lot of pros that use film.

  23. Ichthyic says

    Any digital picture is heavily processed

    actually, I shoot all my stuff raw.

    but, you ARE right that to make my pics look nice for customers, I use photoshop to do things like increase contrast and run some sharpen filters.

    maybe even a crop or two.

    but then, that’s no more than I would do for film in a darkroom setting.

    so how exactly is it different?

  24. Ichthyic says

    the difference between cheap cameras and expensive ones is that the latter doesn’t do much, you do it yourself with software.

    this too is not terribly accurate.

    expensive digitals process heavily (if you don’t shoot raw, anyway). they just do it better than cheap cameras.

    comparing the processing cheap vs expensive digital camera is like comparing processing you can do in say, the image editor that comes bundled with windows vs. photoshop.

    and, there are a lot of cheap digitals that allow you to shoot in raw format these days too, thus avoiding the cheap processing the cameras do.

    I made a lot of money processing raw shots from a simple olympus fixed-lens point-and-shoot digital camera for about 6 years.

    camera cost me about 200 bucks IIRC.

    think I made about 20K off that camera.

    damn good investment :)

  25. Ichthyic says

    @no one

    good point. Large format film still has no counterpart in the digital world really.

    lots of pros still shoot that.

  26. says

    “I was just leaving when I noticed that the flock was moving into a shape resembling a flamingo,”

    He only realised what he had captured after developing the images several months later.

    So which is it? Did he notice as he was flying over or only later when he developed the film? This is either a very poorly written article or somebody is having trouble keeping his story straight.

  27. No One says

    Nat Geo, AP, Reuters, Military Public Affairs etc. only allow basic alterations that you could do in a darkroom.

  28. cogito says

    Good point Icthyic. I have met underwater photographers who preferred film.
    On a different note, it is incredible how some people here jump on a comment made in jest – the point being that I find the use of film more amazing than the “miracle” in the article. I actually do find it impressive that film still holds up in some areas, considering how far digital photography has come.

  29. grumpyoldfart says

    I can see the knobby bit he thinks is a head and the skinny bit he thinks is a neck and the bulgy bit he thinks is a chest, but I’m blowed if I can put all those bits together and make a flamingo out of it.

  30. eidolon says

    There is a documentary out about Ansel Adams which you may find revealing. When I saw it, I realized the role his darkroom work played in the final image. I have to think he would have just loved Photoshop. As for post processing, all digital images can benefit – for no other reason than to sharpen slightly to overcome the effects of the 1 pixel blur introduced to avoid moire effects.

    http://dpbestflow.org/camera/sensor

    But in the end, it seems to me that there is no such thing as real or true image of a scene. Each photograph is a subjective editing of reality and a reflection of the photographer’s emotions.

    As for film, I find little desire to go back to scratches, grain, dust, fragile dyes and other pleasures of world of film.

    As for the image in the original post – I have to wonder that an omniscient, omnipotent deity has nothing better to do than to arrange birds into a poor likeness of themselves.

  31. gardengnome says

    Their god must be pretty bloody bored if it’s resorting to doodling with ducks! Must be a quiet day on Olympus.

  32. markr1957 (Patent Pending) says

    god was on my toast last Sunday and I ate it – proving that god is now dead.

  33. says

    OH NOES! ITZ TEH FTB HIVEMIND!

    Hey, if PZ is “Peezus,” does that make me Christ Clarke?

    No. You’ve got it wrong. As long as you’re agreeing about science, creationists, how gullible believers are, how stupid it is to get all worked up over pareidolia, how harmful religion is, or even how mistreated Muslim women are, you’re not showing evidence of Hivemindedness. You have to agree about there being sexism in the atheist movement/community to be condemned.

  34. says

    I believe I can safely say these flamingos were going to melt together to form a giant flamingo monster.

    Why yes, I did watch the Power Rangers as a kid…

  35. Sastra says

    The background assumptions and emotions that go into the sudden sense of deep significance found in what rationally has to be just a random pattern are interesting. People who don’t believe in the supernatural often feel it too. You’re suddenly transported into a social situation, one where nature seems to be acting like a person and showing you a natural artifact, a message for you.

    The emphasis here on the word seems. I can feel the feeling and appreciate the apparent similarity without continuing on like a small child and concluding that why yes, this IS a personal communication. The universe is telling me something. It is telling me it is not impersonal: it knows I am out there and it knows I am watching and it wants me to know it knows that by arranging pictures and organizing events that cannot be — but MUST be — more than coincidence.

    I am a spiritual being, and so is reality. That’s what that flamingos-in-a-flamingo is trying to tell me. There is a Higher Consciousness moving things around behind the scenes, peeking through only now and then in sly little ways that the childishly enlightened immediately recognize. I’m just so humbled by just how special I must be.

    I think that’s usually as far as they take stuff like this (unless the pareidolia is specifically religious.) There’s Someone or some Force out there that thinks like you and plays with the entire world. Why? It’s showing you it’s there. It’s letting you know so you can smile and look wise when the less sensitive try to explain it all away with their feeble little reason.

    “There are no coincidences….” What an exciting, self-absorbed, unreflective life the spiritual must lead.

  36. says

    I spot a bird on the left with no shadow where a shadow is expected. I call fake.

    And the Lord said “When you saw you had no shadow on the beach, my dear flamingo, It was then that I carried you.”

    I’d like to think someone going to the trouble to fake a picture like this would do a better job.

  37. andyo says

    Bullshit. Some photographers do heavily ‘shop their photos, using software as a form of digital darkroom, however, there are one whole hell of a lot of photographers who do not.

    I think he was referring to RAW vs. RGB (jpegs or whatever). It’s technically correct what he said, RAW has very little processing done, and to even look at the picture in color, it needs to be processed. Demosaiced, white balance, etc

    I’d be one of the latter. There is such a thing as talent. There’s also such a thing as skill. Some of us prefer to rely on those to get what we want in camera, thank you very fucking much.

    Condescend much? There are objective things that you simply cannot get in-camera, like about 1-2 stops better dynamic range if you shoot RAW and process later.

  38. says

    I spot a bird on the left with no shadow where a shadow is expected.

    With that small a picture, how can you tell? Is there a higher resolution version somewhere?

  39. says

    [meta]

    So promoting stereotypes about GLBT people is no big deal to you. Noted, and entirely in line with other comments of yours I’ve seen.

    I let that one slide because I don’t know Art’s commenting history, and I wasn’t sure whether his comment was intended as something along the lines of in-group self-deprecative humor.

    That said, I should make two things clear:

    1) I moderate the comments in my threads here, and I have essentially zero tolerance for the behavior Ms. Daisy Cutter describes, and
    2) I live in the desert, which is a big desolate place with plenty of crevasses, rock slides, abandoned mines and very hungry scavengers. Decide to test my comment-moderation patience with privilege-driven stereotypes and they will never find the body.

    /hyperbole

  40. octopod says

    I don’t stampede my herd of pronghorn through your cathedral, guy.

    Why on earth not?!

    In other news, God is a flamingo, apparently?

  41. lamaria says

    So, god has decided to stop messing around with people and try guiding intellectually challenged birds instead? Nice.

  42. Art Vandelay says

    (Sigh)

    Okay, I’d be absolutely shocked if you could find some sort of trend where I’m promoting GLBT stereotypes but I do realize that not knowing me personally, my sense of irony might be lost on you, as it is often on others. I probably need to know my audience better. Anyway here goes…

    The point was made by Chris that the Telegraph is promoting the idea that this is some sort of divine event but separating themselves from any criticism by noting that “some people” are saying this. I agree with this assessment, by the way.

    So essentially the joke is that they would never report that God is gay just because “some people” say that the Flamingo is proof of it. They’re only reporting this hearsay based on an event involving Flamingos because they want to promote the idea that this is divinely-inspired.

    Also, I thought I was making fun of Fox news, and just now noticed that Chris wrote “Fox News-style.” So it probably doesn’t work as well with The Telegraph.

  43. says

    I don’t stampede my herd of pronghorn through your cathedral, guy.

    You may count me as one more ‘mongst those who immediately started picturing various related possibilities.

    It’s not really meant so much as a hostile act or nothin’. I just loved that scene with the rollerblades in the art gallery in L.A. Story. This just seems to me to carry similarly absurd possibilities.

    I’m currently leaning toward llamas, for some reason. Best done during the sermon. Do it with mebbe three of ‘em, and three shortish people riding ‘em, it’d come off something like a miniature Three Magi diorama.

  44. kemist, Dark Lord of the Sith says

    It’s a pretty cool photo but what amazes me the most is that the photographer actually uses _film_ in 2012

    Some still do.

    For instance, the ccd sensor in numeric cameras is generally a bit smaller than 35mm film. Optically, it means that the same wide angle lens you use for film will have a bit less angle with a digital camera.

    Sometimes also – although that is becoming much less of a problem with the faster flash chips and larger buffer sizes of high-end models- a digital camera is limited by the speed at which images are written into memory. This can be a problem if, for instance, you need to click away at something, and take 10-20 high def. images in less than a second.

    Some people also like to do chemical effects on film upon development, and while you can apply a wide variety of filters to digital images, it’s not quite the same.

    Some people simply like the grain of film.

    All in all photography, like painting, is an art media. All media offer unique possibilities for creativity.

    It is bit like how computer software for drawing have not stopped people from doing oil painting.

  45. iknklast says

    “I saw a topiary, which I’m pretty sure is proof of God.

    Or shears.”

    Near my house there’s a topiary in the exact shape of my Irish terrier begging. That just proves it – dog exists.

  46. waydude says

    I was drinking a beer in a nicely chilled glass the other day (Fat Tire Amber if you must know), and looking at the foam sliding down the inside of the glass after a well deserved quaff, I distinctly saw the head of a Cylon. And an old school cylon at that.

    It could also have been a Boba Fett helmet, but I think god likes cylons.

  47. mothra says

    The shape is OBVIOUSLY a dromedary camel calf, foreshortened as it is ‘walking’ toward the viewer. One could always flip it and get a diapsid reptile skull with the quadrate(?)bone broken. Oh, wait, its a car door off a Jeep, or maybe an Emu (waaay to short a bill to be a wading bird). I bet you can buy floss-picks in this same shape. Just like anything else god does, you never really know what was intended.

  48. JohnnieCanuck says

    Those birds on the left without shadows?

    The sun is quite low in the sky, making long shadows. The shadows of their legs are too thin to show well and the adjacent birds tend to hide the body part of the shadow.

    Goddidn’tdoit.

  49. says

    I, too, took this for PZ from the tone. You’re fitting right in, Chris!

    Oh, sure! It’s a giant, clubfooted, lopsided duck-thing. With long legs. Or a giant, clubfooted secretary bird with webbed feet. Quite likely it’s the true form of the god of the wetlands. :-)

  50. says

    I use one digital camera for everything, including underwater. I crop, lighten or darken, and increase intensity or contrast, but that’s about it. Those are things you could do in the darkroom if you knew more than I. The digital photos often seem washed out, so I shoot them darker than real life or darken them when I crop and rename them. I’d love to have a longer lens for photographing birds. And autofocus tends to pick the wrong thing. I’m sure you’ve noticed that while watching TV lately–the camera focuses on a the grass while the wildlife rumbles by in a blur. A camera where you could set focus and depth of field would be better.

  51. julietdefarge says

    That doesn’t look anything like a flamingo. While it is roughly birdlike, its legs are borked.
    Look at it from a different angle and see if you spot Wile e. Coyote.