(So this is an old post that was first published in 2006 that I've updated. Gone is the old graphic, to be replaced with another CSS and html animation. Spiffy.)
Look at this animation and think about it. What are you looking at and what do you 'see'? Aren't they two different things? The human brain has evolved an innate predisposition to interpret things as having intention. To look for meaning, even when it is a stretch. You think that the dots are 'alive' because it is cheap to come to this conclusion.
Our ancestors evolved in environments where it was important to quickly determine what something was. Is that shape a human or a predator? Friend or foe? And you see it was better to make a quick decision, than to wait around to learn the potentially deadly truth. Individuals who made snap decisions about the positive intentionality or meaning in nature surived more often than the individuals who required more information before making a decision (and that survival meant they went on to reproduce and thus they out competed the more cautious individuals). Making a wrong judgement that a noise or sign was not meaningful, was obviously more costly than judging something as meaningful when it was not. It's that simple.
So we are programmed to see intention behind almost anything. It is like looking for patterns in the clouds. The patterns are not real, but in our heads. And we do it because it is better to be safe than sorry. But just because a dot, shadow or cloud looks like it has intention, doesn't mean it really does. It takes more than dots to make the man!Go Top