Monday, September 13, 2010

My View of the World (part 1)

Wayne Pacelle (the head of the Humane Society of the United States, aka HSUS) recently told the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board something to the affect, "we come from two radically different world views". I have to agree with him on this point. I have spent hours trying to understand his view with only limited success but I have come to better understand my own views through the process. I will share mine in layman's terms and some speculation of  Wayne's in the coming posts. Hopefully, you will start to understand Mr. Pacelle's statement and the challenges it presents.

First, let's try to understand the term "Worldview" in layman's terms. "Worldview" refers to what system do we personally use to decide what is "true" in the world. There are three basic alternatives 1) an authority figure/source 2) science and 3) personal experience/feelings (ourselves). Some examples may be helpful.

An authority figure/source might be a parent, a teacher, a sacred text (bible, koran, etc), the church, the government. It is anyone/thing we personally rely on to decide "Yes that is true". I call this "Classical" worldview and it is built on faith and trust in others. It is here that we worry about our reputation. Are we "trustworthy"? Is the person, teacher, text, government, reliable? Reputation becomes all important to this classical worldview.

Science, of course, refers to using replicated trials to determine what is "true". If an experiment ends the same way everytime then there is a truth that can be defined. That "truth" is referred to as a scientific "law". Thus you get the laws of physics, chemistry, motion, etc. Science developed in modern times to substantiate the "classic" truths. The classic view said the world had order, created by God, therefore there must be "laws" that govern our universe. Science looked to define these and thereby strengthen the reputation of  the classic views. There were problems when the classic view didn't fit the science, like when someone, was it Capernicus, decided the sun was the center of the universe and not the earth. But that is another tail. Science I refer to as the "modern view" and it is dependent on the replicated trial.

Personal experience/feelings, as we all know, comes in many different varieties and leads us to many different conclusions. Ecomonics struggles so much with this issue. If two people are given the same financial information they will act differently from each other and may act differently themselves at two different times. Defining what is true based on personal experience/feelings gets very dicey indeed since everyone becomes a "law" unto themselves. One person's humane treatment of animals may be another person's torture of animals. This I refer to as the "Post-modern view". It is dependent only on an individual opinion.

With these three alternatives I begin to see that I decide on what is true using a different method at different times. I take peices of each and try to work it all out together in my head to decide on what to believe. If I am going to drop a rock, for example, I combine science and experience and conclude clearly it is going to fall. If I am ordering dinner I will take personal exerience combined with science and my classical views of food and decide what to eat. And so we move through life combining and recombining these three elements to create our unique self.

Is your head spinning yet?

I think I will stop and regroup my thoughts before I venture into explaining my "world view". That will give you the reader a little while to consider what I have presented. Please don't hesitate to post any questions so I can gauge how to move forward.

Consider these phrases from modern culture:

I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except by me.
Hope and Change
Don't hurt my feelings/self esteem
Science disproves the bible
I feel it is not right to .......
What you are doing makes me feel uncomfortable.

Thanks and more later.

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