There’s no doubt you saw it AND that you had an opinion on it—the viral pic of a wedding dress—is it white and gold or blue and black? That question taunted the internet and social media for days.
It all began when a mother-of-the-bride sent a pic to the bride and groom of the dress she planned to wear to her daughter’s wedding. They were confounded. The bride saw the dress as white and gold; the groom saw it as blue and black. Before the feud could threaten their upcoming nuptials, they posted the pic to Facebook and solicited the opinions of their friends to end the debate.
Alas, it only ignited even greater debate. Within hours, the pic had gone viral and, it seemed, the entire world was debating the issue. People standing in the same room, at the same time, saw the dress as different colors. What’s more, some saw the dress as white and gold one minute, then as blue and black the next.
Color perception experts soon began weighing in on the phenomenon.
Adam Rogers, writing for SCIENCE on Wired.com, explains it this way:
Light enters the eye through the lens—different wavelengths corresponding to different colors. The light hits the retina in the back of the eye where pigments fire up neural connections to the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes those signals into an image. Critically, though, that first burst of light is made of whatever wavelengths are illuminating the world, reflecting off whatever you’re looking at. Without you having to worry about it, your brain figures out what color light is bouncing off the thing your eyes are looking at, and essentially subtracts that color from the “real” color of the object. “Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance,” says Jay Neitz, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington. “But I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.” (Neitz sees white-and-gold.)
In other words, our brains recognize that the shading of the light that is illuminating an object can alter the “real” appearance of that object, so our brains have been programmed to filter out the illumination and focus primarily on the light waves reflecting off the object itself. As keen a computer as our brain is, it is not always able to make that distinction.
Scientists and graphic designers have both since taken long looks at the dress, both in photos and in real life. Their conclusion? The dress is indeed blue and black, not white and gold. While the context of the illuminating light (at the time the photo was taken) created a nearly perfectly ambiguous image, diagnostics of the RGB values (the color saturations of the dress itself) were able to conclusively determine its true color.
So, the confusion over the color of the mother-of-the-bride dress is the result of "a nearly perfectly ambiguous image."
Perfect ambiguity--sounds like the moral state of the world we live in today! What is white or black--blue or gold? Right and wrong have become confused by the spiritual context of our age.
Just as the light that illuminates an object can alter the appearance of that object, so the opinions and influences of the world can alter our perceptions and cloud our discernment. Yet even as there is a right answer to the true colors of a dress, there is a right answer to the question of what is morally right or wrong.
So often, finding the truth is simply a matter of filtering out the extraneous, competing waves of worldly opinion that would blind us to the genuine reflection of God's truth.
“All the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6, NLT).
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel” (Proverbs 12:15, NASB).
“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death,” (Proverbs 14:12, NASB; cf, Proverbs 16:25 et al).