Are You Color-Blind?

Years ago, I suspected that one of my friends might have a vision difficulty, so I asked him: “Are you color-blind?” He surprised me by asking if I referred to ethnic identification. We laughed, and he told me he was partially color-blind. But he had a point to which I will return later.

So, optically-speaking, what does it mean to be color-blind? Normally, color-blindness is an inherited genetic vision problem; but aging, disease, sickness, or an injury can also trigger it. Sometimes color-blindness can be a side-effect of medicine.

A color-blind person has difficulty seeing primary colors, or a mix of these colors from which every other conceivable color comes. Three theories potentially define primary colors. One basic concept identifies red, blue, and green; and another theory classifies red, blue, and yellow as primary. A third theory includes red, blue, green, and yellow.

A popular belief is that color-blind people cannot see any color at all, but that isn’t always correct. Therefore, the term is actually misleading, but we’ll use it for ease of understanding in this Reflection. And let me add here: very seldom will people even with excellent vision see colors exactly the same as others do.

As various mixes of primary colors produce the different colors and hues, the light-receiving cones in the retinas of our eyes sense variations of the light spectrum which the brain interprets as the hundreds of possible colors. The highest concentration of these color-receiving cones is in the macula – the central part of the retina. Color-blindness occurs when the cones don’t function properly.

One common method of diagnosing color-blindness is by looking at patterns of variously colored dots and trying to decipher numbers, letters, or other patterns embedded therein. The patterns the person can or cannot recognize reveal the area of difficulty.

Inherited color-blindness cannot be treated at present, but sometimes an acquired deficiency can be treated. And I found it interesting that men (about 8%) are more likely to have the color-recognition problem than women (half a percent); but more women are carriers of the deficiency.

Color-blindness may make people ineligible for some vocations, such as flying planes. But during World War II, the Army Air Corp (predecessor to the United States Air Force) hired color-blind people to be “spotters” in planes because they would not be fooled by the camouflaging that was used to hide trucks, cannons, supplies, and soldiers.

What I found to be even more interesting is that some “color-blind” people are not really color-blind. Their eyes function properly and the retinas receive all available colors; but the individuals do not recognize color. The problem here is perception, not vision.

Many folks take the handicap in stride and get on with life. Some artists such as Australia’s Clifton Pugh overcame his handicap by focusing on shades of light and dark rather than on overt color; and France’s Charles Méryon overcame color-deficiency by focusing on etching rather than on painting.

Let me get back to ethnic identification.

My eyes have been tested for color reception, and they came out very good. Also, with my eye-glasses, I have near 20-10 (near perfect) vision. But I am somewhat “color-blind” regarding ethnicity. Many of my friends are not Caucasian or White, yet we call each other brother or sister. Ethnicity is not an issue and the love of Christ flows between us. As I interact with people from around the world, I see people made in the image of God. Even if the person isn’t a Christian, I still see someone whom Jesus loves and for whom Jesus died.

But there is another type of “color-blindness”. As our spotters in the Army Air Corp in World War II were not fooled by enemy camouflage, God’s “color-blind” people are not fooled by Satan’s deception in education, politics, and in the church.

True Vision

They are not fooled by anti-Biblical teaching that is camouflaged by religious, philosophical, political, or educational rhetoric. They are not fooled by so-called political-correctness that squelches Christianity while uplifting other religions, philosophies, and lifestyles.

These folks are blessed by the Lord, but they often come under attack. The world rejects or hates them and misguided Christians misunderstand them. But these color-blind people, like the Apostle Paul and Billy Graham, are the ones who keep the faith in Almighty God alive, and spread it around the world. If you have that kind of vision, as I do, don’t back down. People need to hear us.

Lessons from the Flock – Vision

“You’re a bird-brain!”

Did you ever hear that? It’s a derogatory statement and meant to degrade someone. But I identify with it because I am learning a lot from my fowl friends – my five chickens.

I’ve noticed that the birds often gather at the fence and look in the direction of the kitchen window. When I move around in the room, their heads follow my movements and they seem to be waiting for me to come out. But when they are standing in bright daylight, how can they see me through a window in a room with subdued lighting?

It was research time.

Of the many documents on the internet, I found an article by Cynthia Berger published on July 19, 2012 titled “True Colors: How Birds See the World.” That was an eye-opener. Using a device called a spectrophotometer (it measures light that is reflected from a surface), researchers found colors in the UV range that most birds can see.

Quoting from her second paragraph, “…systematic testing of bird vision revealed something unexpected: many bird species can see UV light. Scientists also have learned that many birds have plumage that reflects UV light.”

I had never thought about chickens being able to see differently from humans. Oh, I know chickens have enhanced hearing and smelling, but enhanced sight? Amazing.

I’ve always wondered how a bird can distinguish a male from a female, but now I know. Both males and females of barn swallows, mockingbirds, western meadowlarks (and many others) look remarkably alike to humans. But viewing them through the spectrophotometer we find they look totally different from each other. They, of course, have the same shape but different coloring. Another example: To humans, the blue tit male looks identical to the female. But looking at the UV reflection, we find a bright spot on the males’ head. The female spots that immediately and says “That’s my man!”

Female birds know which eggs are hers because various eggs reflect UV light differently. Choosing to raise her own offspring, some females either break or eject foreign eggs from her nest.

Birds will more readily eat food that reflects greater amounts of UV light. That explains another question I had: why do my chickens go for corn more than wheat? Corn reflects more UV. Also, insects reflect a higher amount of UV than green grass. Watch out, moths and bugs; my chickens are loose in the yard and you are doomed!

Speaking of moths, it’s fun to watch a hen run at full speed then half jump and half fly with neck fully extended to grab a moth or other flying insect out the air.

But all that helps to explain why the birds are at the fence looking in my direction: some of my clothing is reflecting UV light. They see me through the window, and they assume that I’ll bring food out to them. Sorry, chicks. I’ll feed you later.

When I think of birds’ ability to see what humans cannot see, it reminds me of spiritual sight. In Ephesians 1:18, the Apostle Paul said, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know the hope to which God has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”

“Eyes of your heart”? Sounds strange because blood-pumping hearts don’t have eyes. What Paul means is we have inner understanding, insight, the discernment or comprehension of spiritual reality as it pertains to Almighty God, and verified in the Holy Bible. I am not referring to Hinduism, Buddhism, spiritism, spiritualism, other religions, or any New Age idea. I am not talking about mindless concepts that exalt man, nature, familiar spirits, or demons.

An example of a mindless statement – proclaimed to be spiritual insight by Matshona Dhliwayo – is: “The Universe is one body; love is its heartbeat.” Not understanding either the universe or love, Dhliwayo is wrong on both counts.

True spiritual insight comes from God, and enables us to understand real life – both temporal and eternal – from God’s perspective. Second Corinthians 2:16 informs us that we can “have the mind of Christ”; that is, receive His thoughts. This requires us to stop being self-centered, and to become God-centered or Christ-centered.

As birds can see some of what humans cannot see, we can ask God to grant us wisdom and insight which would enable us to understand what we normally cannot “see”. That’s not being a bird-brain; it’s being in tune with God.