Sunday, December 23, 2012

Fake rapture captured on video!

Here's a video which was making the rounds this past few days -- I had heard about it fairly soon after it was originally posted but didn't actually bother to watch it until after it was exposed as a hoax, at which point I became more interested in seeing what it looked like.  The video now has over 30 million views on YouTube, which is an incredible number of views.

The reason this is interesting is that the video demonstrates once again how modern technology enables the creation of an illusion that can fool many people into believing it is reality.  Earlier discussions of this same principle include the post about the radio broadcast by Orson Wells of the War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells in 1938 (which, interestingly enough, was estimated to have reached about 32 million listeners on the night of October 30, 1938) and the post about the very first Star Trek episode, the trailer originally entitled "The Cage" which was filmed in 1964.  

As an aside, it is interesting to note that the actual first Star Trek episode to be broadcast on television in 1966 (prior to either of the original "pilots" being broadcast) was called "The Man Trap" and it too featured an "illusion" theme, in which a salt-eating monster can project illusions into men's minds in order to influence their behavior (usually to lull them into complacency long enough to suck the life-giving salts out of their bodies, leaving them lifeless).

The "eagle snatches kid" video above was allegedly made as a film project by three students at a Canadian design studio called Centre NAD (the Centre NAD website has an article explaining that the eagle and the flying child were created using 3D animation).  Below is a pretty good explanation of some of the evidence of digital manipulation found in the film:

Personally, what struck me when seeing the video for the first time was the size of the eagle -- even though eagles can have wingspans of over seven feet (and golden eagles, such as this film's eagle is supposed to be, wingspans of almost seven feet), the eagle in the video appears to have a wingspan even bigger than that.  You can see in the image below that the wingspan appears to be larger than the full-grown man who is in the foreground compared to the eagle -- if he were to stand up in the image below, his height would be about equal to the distance between the wingtips, even though the wingtips are not even fully spread out  and even though the eagle is in the background relative to the man and thus should appear smaller.  In other words, when scientists measure the maximum wingspan of an eagle, they stretch them out even further than that, but this one has a wingspan much bigger than a full-grown man even before they are fully stretched out -- truly a formidable eagle!

It is interesting to muse about the subject matter of this very successful video, especially in light of all the "apocalyptic" media hype surrounding the Maya Long Count.  While the word "rapture" appears nowhere in the Bible, the idea of a "rapture" event became very popular in Bible interpretation in the early 1800s among certain Christian denominations -- especially those known as "dispensationalists," whose interpretation of the Bible remains very prevalent among many Protestant denominations in the United States to this day.

The word "rapture" means "snatched up" or "seized" and it is related to the word "rape" and "raptor."  Raptors are the large birds of prey who snatch up their prey in their powerful talons: eagles, hawks, falcons, ospreys, etc.  The word "rapture" is etymologically related to the Greek word used in 1 Thessalonians 4, ἁρπάζω harpazō and translated "caught up" in the King James and other English translations and rapiemur in the Latin Vulgate.

Thus, the video can be seen as depicting a "rapture" which fooled many into believing it was real, and which was later revealed to have been an illusion.  Of course, there is no evidence that the film's creators intended it to be a "fake rapture" reference (although they did choose to release it on December 18, 2012, just two days prior to the end of the Long Count).

However, it shows how easy it is for powerful images to elicit emotional responses in viewers, and how conditioned we have become to believing that what we see presented as "real footage" must have actually taken place, even when it did not.

This phenomenon is similar to the fact that most people believe in theories such as plate tectonics based on the authority of others, even though they have not seen the evidence of plate tectonics for themselves.  They are told by those "in authority" that plate tectonics explains the geology of the world around us, they view some convincing films with computer animation of plates drifting on molten oceans of magma, it looks fairly plausible, and they accept it as fact.

The same could be said about "National Geographic"-type videos about ancient human history, showing Egyptians erecting the pyramids with gangs of laborers hauling blocks up huge ramps with ropes, for example, or actors depicting ancient Maya holy men envisioning the end of the world in 2012.

It is unfortunate that we are so ready to cede our powers of reasoning to those perceived to be "in authority," or even to anything which appears on a video screen.  Anything that appears as a video on a television screen (or even a computer website) is imbued with strange powers to make us defer to it -- which is why many people suddenly find they are treated as celebrities after appearing in "reality" TV shows, for example, even though they are the same person they were before being shown on a screen in front of millions of viewers.

Illusions can be harmful.  Captain Kirk almost got his life sucked out by a salt-eating alien while his medical officer was under the influence of an illusion.

Erroneous theories about human history and even about the earth's history can also be harmful.  This theme is discussed in other previous posts such as this one and others.

Fortunately, the video above about a baby being snatched by an eagle is probably not harmful, even though some environmentalists are condemning it as harmful because they think it will lead to fear of eagles or even violence towards eagles (that seems to be a bit of an over-reaction by those well-meaning and eagle-loving individuals).  But all of these examples point to the importance of critical thinking and "due diligence" and thinking for ourselves rather than letting others think for us, and the importance of being alert to the power of illusion.