The ability to see colours is socially defined. As children we are taught that the grass is green, that leaves are green, that frogs are green and so we learn that whatever colour we see grass, leaves and frogs is green. It is very likely that what I see when I see green is not the same as what others see when they see green.
When children draw pictures they will use the same colour for trees and grass and frogs because all of them are the same colour. All of them are the single colour green. However, that will not be true for all children in all cultures. Some children will be taught different words for different greens and they will know there is a green of a ripe apple and the green of an unripe banana. They won’t necessarily be the same colour.
The understanding of colour has changed. Blue is said to be the newest colour and an article I read this week suggested that before the word for blue was invented people probably didn’t see it. In Homer’s Odyssey, the sea is described as ‘Wine -dark’. And wine has never been described as blue. It is likely that blue and stormy waters reminded the author was red wine because it was dark. The article I read this week described an experiment where people from a tribe with no word for blue were showed squares of green and one square of blue and asked to pick out the different one – which they found difficult or impossible to do. However, when the blue was replaced with a slightly different shade of green they were able to pick it out whereas people from a western culture were more less likely to be able to differentiate between them.
There is a thought study about a child brought up in a black and white environment. What would she see when showed a rose? It is possible that she wouldn’t even understand the concept. Having no words for colours she may describe it as black, as dark in contrast to the white. There wouldn’t be any way of truly knowing what it was that she saw. Until someone told her it was red and then showed her other things that were red then she would have no idea that it was anything different.
People argue about colours often. I was recently involved in a discussion over the colour of someone’s bedroom walls. Was it cream? Yellow? Biscuit? Could it be described as all three? Six of us saw the same colour and six of us saw it differently.
If that is debate can be caused by something as simple as colour than how much more debate can there be over other things that we can call facts?
We may all see the same thing and we may all perceive it differently. Why? Is it all because of socialisation? Are the colour blind those who weren’t taught early enough to differentiate between colours? Is it genetic? Are there inherent differences which mean colours are seen differently or not seen as all?
What does that mean for faith? Are some people socialised to receive faith in someway? Are people genetically predisposed to be more accepting of faith? What about those people who grow up in a faith family but leave it when they are older? Wouldn’t they have the faith genetics and faith socialisation?
Do all within a faith see the faith in the same way? Do we all read the same texts and get the same meaning? When we say ‘amen’ are we all agreeing to the same thing?
Does faith mean conformity? Does divisions mean that God isn’t with one group? Is God big enough to cover fractions?