As I said in a recent post, many atheist scientists are astounded that many Christians don't accept what appears to be very strong evidence for what Charles Darwin was saying. Yet the only ones who should be surprised are the scientists themselves. That's because they haven't taken into consideration a difference in "world views". So just what is a "world view"? It's something we all have. It's really essential to living. In this and the next several posts, let's explore what it means to have a world view, then consider how it might apply to views about Charles Darwin.
A world view is simply a theory of the world. For each of us, it is a "mental model" of reality, and a framework of ideas and attitudes we have about the world. While our world views are individual, they're not as refined as our finger prints, meaning we don't really have completely unique world views. Actually, people can be broadly categorized.
What are the factors that affect our world views? Included are:
- Inherited characteristics
- Background experiences
- Life situations
So each of us has certain unique things about our world views, but we can be generally divided into certain groupings. A world view helps us to organize our thinking.
While the blog is largely focused on science and religion, let me offer an example from the political sphere. Thomas Sowell is a prolific author and distinguished professor of political science at Stanford University. A number of years ago he wrote a very interesting book called A Conflict of Visions. His goal was to try to understand why certain people always seem to line up on one side, and others on the other side, of widely varying political issues. One would have thought that there would have been much more variety. Sowell concluded that in politics there are two broad visions, or world views – what he calls the "unconstrained view" and the "constrained view".
Those who adhere to the "unconstrained view" tend to think that humans are essentially good. Further, they believe that human nature is changeable. In fact, with enough effort, supporters believe that humanity is perfectible. Those who adhere to an "unconstrained view" tend to distrust decentralized institutions. Conversely, there are those who have a "constrained vision".
These people tend to subscribe to the following ideas:
- Human nature is unchanging
- Man is self interested
- There are no ideal solutions, merely tradeoffs
- People can't put aside their self interest in the long run.
Take a moment and ask yourself, which view is closer to your own way of thinking?
Armed with an unconstrained view, one would more likely to have the following political views:
- With coordinated effort, just about any social problem can be tackled
- Centralized, governmental solutions are more likely to be successful than decentralized ones
- Educated elites have a better understanding of how to problems than do others.
In contrast, those with a constrained view are more likely to have the following political views:
- Social problems are better solved by letting individuals pursue their own individual interests
- There are no ideal solutions, only tradeoffs
- Centralized government is less effective than smaller, decentralized government.
Can you guess which view is more in line with the Democratic Party and which with the Republican Party; or which viewpoint would tend to foster bigger government rather than small governement? Pretty easy!
Can world views change? Yes, though they tend not to do so, except over long periods of time.
As I mentioned, Sowell found that people would tend to line up on one side or another. Let me suggest three broadly different political policy questions: 1) climate change; 2) gun control; and 3) regulation of workplace safety. These are three dramatically different political issues, yet one would expect liberal Democrats to line up on one side and conservative Republicans on the opposite. The reason actually doesn't have anything to do with the merits of the specific issues, rather it has to do with Sowell's broad "visions". A liberal Democrat is more likely to line up as follows:
- In support of collective governmental intervention to address climate change
- In support of the same to control guns, with the objective of reducing violence
- In support of the same, the thought being that governmental regulation will help increase workplace safety.
In each case, the real belief is that collective, centralized action will help to solve the problem. Conversely, conservative Republicans will likely line up on the opposite of all three issues. The conservative will very likely have a "constrained" world view, meaning he or she doesn't think that big, collective efforts work. Instead, the conservative thinks that decentralized action is more likely to be effective.
This, I believe, helps explain why Republicans are more likely to be skeptical about climate change. It isn't that they deny what scientists have determined, it's more that they reject the idea that the solution to the problem is more governmental regulation and intrusion into everyone's life. In their minds, the case hasn't been made that collective action is going to solve the problem. So Democrats shouldn't necessarily conclude that Republicans are just "stupid" or "intransigent" about climate science, it's that it points to something deeper.
So let's now go back and focus not on how world views may affect politics, rather let's think about how world views might affect the intersection between science and religion. In our next post, we'll talk more about Christian versus atheist world views, particularly as they might relate to science.