Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Jesus on Toast

By Tim Hannan

The human disposition to find meaning in random data is hard-wired in the brain.

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The frequency with which religious imagery is discovered in everyday foods appears to be on the increase. While it remains possible that these manifestations are harbingers of the imminent apocalypse, neuroscientific investigations are converging on a more earthly explanation involving a combination of neuropsychological dispositions and people’s beliefs and expectations.

In recent years, the face of Jesus has been spotted on various food items around the world, including pita bread, breakfast tacos, naan bread, potato chips, fish sticks, pancakes, pizza and ice cream. A Welsh family located his face on the underside of the lid of a Marmite jar, while his crucified form has been observed in bananas, apples, oranges and pretzels. Perhaps most famously, the face of the Madonna was discovered by an American woman on a toasted cheese sandwich, a find rewarded by a healthy price on eBay.

Religious imagery has also been noticed in natural phenomena. The Arabic words Allahu Akbar were reported to appear on a tree in Maiduguri, Nigeria, followed by discoveries of inscriptions on two other trees in the region. In Singapore, the formation of a mahogany tree was perceived to represent the monkey god of Chinese or Hindu mythology, and two nearby trees were found to reveal Guanyin, the goddess of mercy, and the elephant-headed god Ganesh.

The disposition to...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.