We all know such a quote that seeing is believing. There are some implications around this phrase.
One of the well-known anecdotes is the story about blind men and an elephant, originated from the ancient Indian proverb.
A group of blind men heard about a strange animal. They inspected this animal with their best efforts. The first person said it looked like a thick snake by touching the body part. The second said it looked like a big fan by touching the ear. And, the third said, it looked like a tree by contacting the leg. And then, the fourth said, it must be a wall by touching the side of the body. Still another, it should be a rope by contacting the tail.
Despite all their investigation collecting these objective facts, they could never reach the agreement and conclusion that the animal they are touching is an elephant. There is nothing wrong in their attitude. They believed what they understood. Indeed, for them, seeing is believing.
It was only that what they saw was partial; hence, what they believed was incomplete. We also see the world and universe in the same condition.
Seeing is believing. But we also easily fall in the trap of this limitation if and when we don’t realize what we see is not the whole, but a tiny part of it. Some say this is the limitation of scientific reductionism.
Checking parts and gathering all those parts do not necessarily lead us to the totality and the bigger picture. There is a qualitative gap between the collection of all parts and the wholeness that contains all these parts.
Seeing is believing also implies a sort of attitude that we must doubt everything unless and until the hard evidence is available. This is a vital attitude to pursue the truth with a scientific approach. We can’t say and conclude anything unless and until a series of hard evidences and datasets can support the conclusion.
One of the classic examples is the story about Doubting Thomas.
Among Jesus’ disciples, Thomas had such a scientific attitude. He did not believe the Resurrection since he was not around when other disciples met Jesus.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.John 20:24-25
Thomas said, “Unless I shall see the print of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the print of nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will never believe the Resurrection of Jesus.”
It is an attitude of “we never believe it unless and until we see it.” Indeed, seeing is believing. The moment of such “seeing” for Thomas, however, came true after eight days.
And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.John 20:26-28
Thomas was able to do what he wanted. Jesus told Thomas, “Reach your finger and check my hands; reach your hand and thrust it into my side. Be not faithless, but believing.”
Seeing is believing. Thomas answered to Jesus. “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus, however, did not agree on Thomas’ satisfaction. Poor Thomas, he believed it only by seeing it.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.John 20:29
Blind believing is dangerous. But blind seeing is also dangerous. What we see is what we see. It’s partial. If we don’t realize this partiality and tautological limitation, we would miss and never reach the real picture of the whole, which rests in the domain of believing.
Seeing is not believing. Believing is seeing.