God's Invisible Yet Clearly Seen Reality
Paul D Ackerman
The modern loss of faith in the reality of categories has many roots. The central cause is rejection of the ultimate identity, "l am that am", the creator God of the Bible, Purposeful creation is the wellspring for genuine category and identity. Having rejected God and thus His creation of categories, modern man now become his own god has sought to establish for himself the reality of categories by using the powers of reason and observation.
But reason, during the age of philosophy, failed to establish the certainty of categories, and, now, in the age of scientific observation and analysis, the problem has only deepened, for insofar as our finely crafted instruments are able to discern, the boundary area between apparent categories is not sharply defined, but, rather, "fuzzy." Between the "black" of one category (plants, for example) and the "white" of another category (animals, for example), there is an area of grey (life forms having characteristics of both plants and animals and not easily assigned to either category).
The apparent absence of clear-cut and absolutely definable demarcations has struck the worldly intellectual mind as being extremely significant. Indeed the whole "modern" evolutionist world-view of reality is shaped by it, for the essence of the evolutionist worldview is to make the unreality of categories the one absolute. The whole of time, space and matter is seen as one cosmic flux. As we will see, however, this belief that there are absolutely no absolutes the certainty of uncertainty is a delusion. Evolutionist monism is not a discovery but e judgment from God. In order to see why, jet us again trace, in more detail, the historical steps of descent into relativism and skepticism. Faith in God as the creator of kinds and categories was abandoned. No longer trusting in revealed categories, man sought to discern for himself the demarcations of reality using the power of reason. The age of philosophy was born. In due time the judgment of God caught up with man's rebellion, and reason and philosophy failed as a means of establishing a sound basis for reality. Firm categories and boundaries could not be defined by the philosophers.
Instead of returning to God in repentance, man turned, instead, to the scientific method of empirical observation and testing. The scientific age of analysis was born. But scientific investigation and analysis have only served to deepen God's judgment. Reality is more lost to us than ever. For example, the categories "plant" and "animal" seem quite solid, yet scientific investigation has turned-up strange instances which defy classification. Are there two categories, or really only one? Perhaps there is only one category of "living things" as distinct from non-life. But, then, there is the hazy boundary area between life and non-life. Should viruses, for example, beclassified as living or non-living? There are proponents of both points of view. The dilemma is monstrous. Do all dichotomies, classifications, and distinctions disappear under the microscope of scientific, empirical investigation? Does life blend into death dissolving the distinction? What about love and hate? Truth and falsehood? Beauty and ugliness? Good and evil? The judgement of God hangs heavy on the twentieth century mind.1
In contrast to this hellish state of doubt and uncertainty, Scripture asserts the promise of certainty not only in spiritual and personal matters relating to salvation, but for the physical and material realm as well. A key passage in this regard is Romans 1:18-20:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Consider the problem of category reality in the light of this passage. Part of the truth about God, known from the creation, is that He created distinct categories of, for instance, plant and animal. The reality of this dichotomy is manifest in us and has been showed to us by God. Interestingly, the passage states that we are clearly seeing something invisible How can a thing be both clearly seen and invisible?
First of all, remember that the historical testimony of philosophical reasoning and scientific observation is that there is a "fuzzy" haze and overlap between categories. The boundaries are, if you will, invisible. But new evidence, flowing from research in the psychology of concept formation, is also showing a sense in which the invisible categories are clearly seen.2
In this area of investigation psychologists begin by inventing an arbitrary category prototype. This prototype could be a schematic line drawing of a face, for example. Next, systematic transformations of the prototype are created to produce a set of stimulus figures that represent variations around the theme defined by the invented or created prototype.3 The variations cluster around the prototype in a manner analogous to the clustering of a set of numbers around the mean of the numbers. If schematic faces were being studied, for example, the placement of the eyes, mouth and nose might be varied in a systematic way around the average or prototype face. Reactions of subjects to these transformed stimuli and the prototype from which they were formed are then studied in a variety of ways.
A consistent principle is that subjects are not exposed to the actual prototype until the final test phase of the experiment. in other words, the prototype is kept "invisible" until the final lest. Incredibly, what these studies reveal is that, although the actual prototype is not encountered until the end, it is at all phases of the study clearly seen. even as are the transformations actually viewed. For example, if during a final test phase subjects are asked to view a set of variations which includes the actual prototype and report if they recognize any figures from the earlier phase of the experiment, among the highest recognition scores are those given to the prototype, even though, it, in fact, has not been previously viewed. Psychologists Bourne, Dominowski and Loftus conclude from these studies that". . items are represented in conceptual. memory not in terms of the specific properties of their exemplars but rather in terms of some schema, or underlying similarity dimension, which captures the gross characteristics of the set of exemplars."4 In other words, an invisible category, in the sense of having no distinct boundaries, could, nevertheless, be clearly seen.
The psychological study of concept formation reveals that human perception of basic categories is not based upon detection of distinct boundaries, but rather upon an intuitive sensing of central tendency and clustering. It thus becomes clear that the historical effort to establish the reality of basic categories by determining precise boundaries is irrelevant and misdirected. The witness of the most relevant area of scientific, psychological investigation corroborates Scripture and naive conviction to the effect that there are real and distinct identities and categories. God's created categories are clearly seen, not only through Scripture revelation, but in the creation as well. He has shown them to us, and they are manifest in us. Man is without excuse.
One last thought: One spiritual implication of the discoveries in the psychology of concept formation is that the faces of our friends and loved ones may not be the only familiar faces in eternity. The faces of Adam and Eve, or Noah as genetic prototypes may be distinctly and strangely familiar to us. And then, of course, there is that face.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
1 It is beyond the scope of this paper, but it should be pointed out that there is still no repentance. Instead, 20th-century man is turning increasingly to the ultimate delusion of shamanistic sorcery and occult mind power in an attempt to create whatever categories are desired.
2 L.E. Borne, Jr., R.L. Dominowski and E.F. Loftus, Cognitive Processes (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1979), pp.197-205.
3 The accompanying bibliography contains a listing of research studies of the type discussed in this paper. These studies are summarized in Bourne, Dominowski and Loftus.
4 Bourne, et al, op cit, p.202.