Have you ever thought whether other people experience the
same sensations of sight, smell or touch as you? Maybe you have, but have
been unable to come to a definite conclusion since it is impossible for
you to know other people's sensory worlds. If so, the latest scientific
developments on this subject will make an important contribution to such
It's an age-old question: "what differences are there between the
way I perceive the world and the way you do?" We all agree that when
we look at a red rose it is not blue or green, but is the red I see the
same as yours? Or how do you perceive the scent that reaches my nose?
The internal nature of our sensory experiences prevents us from giving
a definitive answer to these questions. However, experts in the field
think that the results they have obtained from their experiments are sufficient
to be able to answer the question "Are our perceptual worlds different?"
in the affirmative.
There are major differences between our individual sensory experiences.
"No two people live in the same
sensory world," says neurologist Paul Breslin of the Monell
Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. "The world you see, the food
you taste, the odours you smell -- all are perceived in a way unique to
you,", he explains.
If you ask various people who tasted a drink with an unpleasant taste
whether or not they liked it you will receive different answers. Most
will say they did not. But not all. There will be those who say they did
not find anything odd in it, and even some who say they enjoyed the drink.
Experts have also observed such variation in experiments on the other
senses. There are significant individual differences in light and colour
perception. Stephen Tsang from Columbia University in New York City says,
"Our response to light varies from those who can detect a single
photon to others who have a disease known as congenital stationary night
blindness, which severely impairs their ability to see in dim light."
Samir Deeb, a researcher into differences in colour perception at Washington
University in Seattle, sums up his findings in these terms, "Even
among individuals with normal vision, tests of colour perception show
a wide variation in how colours are seen."
Subjects also differed with regard to their reaction in tests designed
to measure resistance to pain. One group exposed to contact with water
that was gradually heated were unable to withstand even a slight rise
in temperature, while others appeared to be very little affected. One
person even said that he experienced no discomfort even when the temperature
reached 49 degrees Celcius, the maximum that human skin can take without
burning. Bob Coghill, from the Wake Forest Medical School, who carried
out the experiments, attached the subjects to a magnetic resonance imaging
device and determined a clear correlation between the level of pain experienced
and the amount of brain activity that accompanies it in the cerebral cortex.
"The perception of pain varies by a strikingly large amount,"
Jeffrey Mogil of McGill University in Montreal says, "and these experiments
show that those differences are real and objective."
There is thus considerably individual variety in at least four of the
senses. This means that your sight, scent, taste and pain receptors are
definitely different to those of other people. Paul Breslin emphasises
the profound nature of these findings: "If you consider that almost
everything we learn from birth is dependent on our sensory systems, then
our individual sensory differences are all the more interesting."
In other words, "our lives are a whole produced by our perceptions."
This means a person coming face to face with life's most important truth.
But how is it that exceptionally complex, inter-related and detailed
components of life can persist in such a realistic manner and without
interruption in a world in which matter exists solely as a perception?
To whom does all this information belong, and who is the Creator of events
and lord of all?
Anyone who sincerely reflects on these questions will inevitably see
the truth. God has created human beings together with all their perceptions,
in other words their destinies, and God is the lord of their lives at
all moments. He knows what is taking place at all times.
Two incidents cited by God in the Qur'an may indicate that sensory differences
are not limited to minor variations in colour or pain perception. The
first of these regards the way Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) perceived
the flames to be cold. Almighty God issued the command "Fire,
be coolness and peace for Abraham!" (Qur'an, 21: 69), and
by His will Prophet Abraham felt none of the burning nature of the flames.
Thus Prophet Abraham perceived fire, which everyone perceives as burning,
as something cool. In another incident, God represented the community
that was waging war on His behalf as double in number to the eyes of their
"There was a sign for you in the two parties which
met face to face, one party fighting in the way of God and the other unbelievers.
These saw with their own eyes twice their number. God reinforces with
His help whoever He wills. There is instruction in that for people of
insight." (Qur'an, 3:13)
The way that one person is described as being perceived as two people
"with their own eyes" is striking, and suggests that the deniers
of God may have experienced a sensory difference by seeing a believer
as two people. (God knows the truth, of course.) These verses show that
sensory differences are predestined by God with a knowledge that we cannot
Should you wish to obtain further information about the world of perceptions,
you can find this in Harun Yahya's books under the title "The Myth Called Matter"
1. The contemplations
in this article in are based on the author Richard Hollinghamâ€™s
article titled “In the realm of your senses,” that appeared
in New Scientist, 31 January, 2002, p. 40.