"No one has ever seen the sun, but only the light from the sun"--meaningless statement?

Over the ritual family Xmas torture-fest, my eldest brother–a devout Christian like most of non-skald Rhymers–made the above reference statement. It was part of his perennial attempt to convert me to Christianity; the thrust of his argument was that we believe in the sun’s existence because we have evidence of its activity, and, likewise, we should believe in God because we have evidence of his activity in the world.

I don’t wish to debate the second half of my brother’s claim, having already refuted it by pointing out that any claim made of the Abrahamic god can be made just as reasonably of Zeus, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Thor. What I am interested in is learning whether y’all think the statement quoted in the thread title has any meaning. Anyone care to defend it?

A very meaningless statement. All we ever see, due to how our vision works, is light reflected (or emitted). You could say it about anything. We don’t see the moon, just light reflected off it. You don’t see a hand in front of your face, just reflected light.

Meaningless unless you are trying to make some minor distinction about how vision works.

BTW, you didn’t hear your brother - you just heard the vibrating air around your head. So it’s OK to ignore that if you want.

That’s what I was going to say. It’s actually worse than meaningless, it’s arguably false since “seeing the light” is, by definition “seeing something.” There is no other way to “see” something. No matter how quickly the light gets to you, you’re always “only seeing the light.”

Your brother’s claim is also easily refutable by virtue of the simple fact that his claim for “evidence of God’s activity in the world” is utterly baseless.

I’m feeling all cynical today, so I’ll point out that there IS plenty of evidence of God’s activity in the world. Assuming, of course, that by “God” you mean Ahriman, the Demiurge, or Wotan in his Bolverk guise.

Why these sorts of vacuosly pithy statements capture the imagination of the witless and persuade them of a Greater Truth, I’ll never figure out.

I think your brother might be mangling a quotation from C. S. Lewis. The original is “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

It is possibly a useful statement, but perhaps not in the way it was meant to be.

It highlights the fact that we do not perceive anything directly, or at the exact time it happens - everything we experience about the universe is second-hand and is already history by the time we experience it.

That might not sound significant, but it is. In debates with creationists, appeal is often made to the supposed difference between witnessing something with your own eyes vs interpreting the evidence of instruments, or historical data or the fossil record, etc.

-when in fact there is no qualitative difference - because everything we perceive is an interpretation of second-hand, historical evidence. There are only degrees of distance and completeness.

Sure I’ll defend the statement. It’s true. We only see the electro-magnetic rays from the sun emitted in the visible wavelength. We do not see the sun from reflected light, as we see a wall, or object on desk. The light from the sun overwhelms all of the reflected light which we normally use to see things. It’s hard to see a light-bulb when it is turned on, but not impossible. The radiation overwhelms most of the reflected light off the glass.

I don’t understand your brother’s theological point.

I suppose it’s sort of profound. Kinda like how you can’t actually “see” the letters of this sentence, because they are printed in black and therefore reflect no light. Instead, what you “see” is the outline of the letters created by the white background.

I fail to see how ANY of this is evidence of God’s existence, though.

Let us go forth to Youtube to consult an expert.


Woah. :eek:

Actually, you don’t see the outlines either, since they are 1-dimensional. What you see are all the white areas around and within the letters.

What we actually see is the FedEx arrow.

And Skald: You might want to point out to your brother that incomprehensibility should not be confused with profundity.

I’m not trying to win an argument with him. He’s my brother, not a friend.

Well said. I also don’t think many people realize the degree to which our brains are imperfect instruments when it comes to measuring and recording data. “Seeing with your own eyes” is held up as the gold standard of whether something actually happened, when in fact eyewitness data is notoriously faulty.

Humans can observe the surface activity of the sun through optical telescopes equipped with appropriate filters. It could be argued that that is not actual “seeing.”

I wouldn’t be inclined to accept that argument. I’d say that…
– humans looking through sunglasses are still “seeing” things
–humans viewing Jupiter’s gas layers through a telescope are “seeing” Jupiter

So, to me, seeing an inconstant object through filters is still “seeing.”

Which should be obvious to anyone who thinks about it. We see only the past, mistake it for the present and act/react as if it is, thus insuring a future just as shitty.

That was my first thought - you can put on the special “eclipse” glasses, and see the sun just fine.

I hate people who say “profound” things without looking for the obvious and logical.

Bumblebees can’t fly. It’s a physical impossibility. But no one told them they can’t so they do it anyway. This is evidence of the triumph of the human spirit.

Or something like that.

Win. :wink: