Thursday, June 30, 2011


I have not been doing much lately, except occasionally putting up a new video. I recently put up some new ones about fear of the historical Jesus. I may soon change them, but in the meantime you can see them on YouTube. Just click on MY VIDEOS at the right, or search for my name on YouTube.

I have also recently read the famous paper of the psychology experiment "Gorillas in our midst" by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris, published in Perception, 1999. During June and July, you can get this paper for free at http://www.perceptionweb.com/.

Briefly, what they did was have subjects watch a video tape of students in a hallway passing basketballs back and forth, and they asked the subjects to keep count of the number of passes. There were some variations in the conditions, but that was the basic set-up. During this game of ball passing, either a woman in a gorilla suit or a young woman carrying an open umbrella passed through. It turns out that about half the subjects did not see the gorilla or the woman. They are quite shocked when the tape is played back and they see what they missed.

Some people who have reported this experiment completely miss what it demonstrates, as Richard Dawkins does in the first chapter of The Greatest Show on Earth. Dawkins wants it to mean that observation is unreliable. That is too big a conclusion. The more specific and proper conclusion is that when people are given some task to focus on, they may miss an obvious piece of data that passes right before their eyes. Magicians call it giving a misdirection. It can be very effective, but bear in mind that half the people do see what the experimenters called the unexpected event. And half, of course, miss it.

In the experiment, the testers supplied the misdirection. Or magicians can do it. More fascinating is when a culture, even an academic community, does it to itself. The Jewish Jesus is like that invisible gorilla. The misdirection is supplied by historical Jesus scholars who get everyone to focus on the anti-Jewish evidence in the Gospels. No one sees the very pro-Jewish Jesus even when he is right in front of you. No one sees the obvious evidence that vindicates Judas, or that shows Jewish leaders trying to save Jesus from a Roman execution, or that presents a very Jewish Jesus totally in harmony with his home culture. The evidence is there in my book True Jew, but I realize now that it is like trying to get everyone to see that invisible gorilla or the lady with the umbrella. Good luck with that.

Leon Zitzer

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