Imagine if you will, a world where all but a few people are colour blind. A small percentage, say 2–3% can see normal colours and a further few percentage have limited colour vision, for instance they may be red-green colour blind or see only washed-out colours. What would such a world be like? Well, we can make some assumptions. There would be a different attitude to lighting, for example. Where there is insufficient light our colour vision diminishes and we find it difficult to distinguish colours in dark places. Where there is no colour vision this would not be a factor. Also, we could assume that there would be many words for different shades of gray. In the same way as Inuit people have many different words for snow, our colour blind people would have words to describe shades of gray, far more than just light gray or dark gray.
In such a world the people who can see in colour would find life very difficult. Objects with different colours may appear to be the same shade of gray to a colour-blind person but would be very different to someone with colour vision. Such people may be labeled as handicapped in some way. They may be identified in having a particular disability, similar to how we describe autistic children. In this world there would obviously be no words for colour and a person who can see in colour would not be able to identify or label any of the colours they see. Two people with colour vision may become aware that they do not see the world as others do, but it would be difficult for them to form a language of colours with which they could communicate. Even if they could, no one else would be able to understand it. Twins who are in close proximity may achieve this, and twins sometimes do have a private language that no one else understands.
Where there is no colour vision there would be a cacophony of colours. A room may be painted with drab or bright colours, mixtures of colours that clash and would appear to be one harmonious shade to a colour-blind person. Colours effect mood and living in constant drabness would have an effect on colour seeing people.
Colour seeing people however would have some advantages. For example they may be able to differentiate certain plants that appear the same to colour blind people. Such a practitioner may be able to identify illnesses and problems by seeing the colour of someone’s blood or mucus. They may be able to tell water that is poisonous from harmless water by its colour. In such a world these people may have a kind of mystical status. Their understanding is not communicable to anyone and it cannot be tested with any known instruments. However, those who have trained themselves sufficiently will be proved to be correct more often than not. There is no guarantee that two people with full colour vision will agree, though. With no words to describe colours the practitioner may look at green phlegm and simply say “I’ve seen this before and its cause is such-and-such”. Even another colour-seeing person may not draw the same conclusion. To compound the problem there are people who have only limited colour vision. To them red and green objects may appear to be the same and to add to the confusion are the pretenders, intentional or otherwise; those who think they have this mystical property but don’t. Such people may have wide credibility through being able to write well and make profound statements, and they may well believe they have this ability. Such people may even become arbiters of who has this power — and who can prove them wrong?
Some scientists who don’t dismiss this ‘mumbo-jumbo’ out of hand may wish to test people who claim to have this ability. For instance, they collect a group of people who claim to have it. Whether they have it or not the scientist has no way of knowing, even if he himself has colour vision. So how will he test? He could ask the people themselves what it is he should look for, but he may be told that he should look for an ‘entity’, a ‘strange eminence’ or other such hogwash. He may discover that when light has a different wavelength people report the ‘eminence’ as changing but this is assuming that a scientist in such a world would even be aware that visible light can have different wavelengths, and that he has the equipment to test it. It also assumes that there are no pretenders in the studied group or at least not enough to throw the statistics, and even then he would be very lucky to get a correlation. He may take samples of water, some polluted and some clean and test the practitioners with this, but then he is not testing colour vision. Some people with colour vision may not have the training to recognise polluted water by its colour, and some people with no colour vision may know other signs to look for.
Even in our predominantly colour-seeing world, colour blind people are usually unaware of their deficiency until it is proved to them by using specially devised colour blindness tests.
Of course, all this does not mean there is no such thing as colour. Colour blind people are not aware of a deficiency in their perception of the world, any more than people are aware of the ‘blind spot’ in their vision behind them. Similarly, people who have no intuitive ability are not aware of a deficiency in their view of the world and sceptics, who are unable to countenance the possibility of intuitive or paranormal abilities, justify their views by pointing out the inability of tests to prove their existence. In this regard they are like the colour blind in a world mainly populated by the colour blind
By Philip Braham on .