A couple of days ago Saul Vazquez, a Kentucky truck driver, passed an accident that looked really bad, so he took a picture (see above), posted it to Facebook, and advised all reading it to take care out there.
It has been shared 13,295 times, and is also all over the media now.
Well, apparently he caught what many are claiming is the soul of the man who died in the accident leaving his body. You can see it in the above, but here it is again, this time a bit closer …
The first immediate question I’m asking myself is why oh why is the immediate conclusion that many are jumping to a supernatural one. There are other better explanations and here are a few rather obvious ones that leap to mind …
- It is smoke related to the accident itself
- Saul had a bit of a smudge on the camera lens he used, or something dropped past the front of the lens just as he took the picture
- Its part of a tree branch that is sticking out
… but perhaps the most compelling piece of information here is that nobody actually died. The media are reporting that the accident victim was taken to hospital where he later died and that he did not die at the scene of the accident itself.
Sitting between our ears is an amazing pattern recognition engine that receives input from the outside world and interprets it. It can however be fooled, and so often what we think we see is not what is actually there at all.
We will often attribute agency to inanimate objects and apply an interpretation that leads us to think we are seeing an entity, hence our tendency to lean towards supernaturalism. We are like this because we have been naturally selected to do so. Being able to rapidly pick out external agents gave our ancestors a distinct survival advantage, for example a vague shape might be pecrieceved to be a lion, and so if we flee we survive. If not true, no problem, our ancestors still survived, but if it was true and they had not rapidly perceived it, they would be out of the gene pool.
Net effect, that rather harmless side effect is that we often rapidly perceive agency where none exists.
Below are a couple of examples. These are all everyday things that your brain in interpreting as an entity, but of course you know that this is just an illusion and there is no entity there at all.
Bottom Line … be aware, you can be fooled, so don’t leap to supernatural explanations as your initial answer when faced with stuff like this. Instead think critically and seek out better more natural explanations.