© 2015, Dr. M. Lynn Lamoreux
His Holiness The Dalai Lama has said*:
“If you want to get rid of painful effects, you have to get rid of their causes.” and Wisdom is: “analyzing the facts and discerning the actual situation.”
I think that covers it well enough, and will use his definition in this chapter.
How Do Humans Grow a World View/Paradigm and Why do they Cling so Fiercely to It?
This is a working proposal composed of both facts and opinions. I won’t document the various facts from the scientific literature because my purpose is not to prove anything, but to consider two questions.
1) In this age our environment has changed drastically. A world view by definition is our effort to explain our environment, describing how the world works, so we can function in it. I believe all world views make sense within the environment in which we grew up. However, the environment for everyone has changed dramatically. Our individual environment, our social and political environment, and our biological reality have all changed since we were born, educated and imprinted. So the question is, if your world view was logical, and then the environment changed, is it still logical?? Does it still make good sense today, or does it need a little fine tuning?
2) Why are you not discussing our common problem with other persons who have different world views? If you are discussing our common problem, scratch that question and discuss the below. And then carry on to Part One – The Law of Life.
This that you are reading is taken from my world view (basic science), and is a synthesis derived from my training in evolution, ecology and genetics and subsequent career in genetics, plus my various culture shocks, activism and general inquisitiveness. Here, I am talking primarily about our unique human asset, the brain, in the sense that it drives our world views – which strongly influence our behaviors. It is primarily our behaviors that interact with the environment. The evolutionary (see part one, the Law of Life) function of the world view is to give us behaviors that will help us to survive in the environment that we are in right now.#
Our world views are complex and are caused by a combination of inheritance and environment. Our inheritance is what comes to us from our ancesters, packaged in our chromosomes. Environment is everything else that comes to us, everything that we experience in our lives that is not packaged in our chromosomes. At some times one may be more important than the other to crafting our current world views. The relationship between the two, the inheritance and the environment, is meant to adapt us to our lives.
The existence of Life on earth (and our sustainability within it) results from the cycle of interactions between our genes, that are packaged in our chromosomes, and very seldom change — and our environment that is not so packaged and changes continually.
However, it is neither our genotypes (the particular genes that we have inherited) or the environment (that keeps changing over time) that primarily drives LIFE on earth. Rather, the genotype interacts with the environment to grow a world view, which is a system – a system of thinking — and it is the system itself (in this case our behaviors that result from our world view, that could be thought of as the emergent property or the phenotype of our the system of our thinking) that determines our influence upon the future of LIFE on Earth. Following is a rough overview of how our genetics and our environment work together to build a mental system that drives our behaviors.
A – inherited behaviors are “hard wired” and I will call them instincts. Clearly we mammals do inherit (and therefore we can evolve) “hard-wired” characteristics such as the ability to take a first breath after birth, the ability to nurse, our most basic emotions (but not necessarily how we use them), various physical capabilities that are tied in with hormones, the nervous system other body systems — and the ability to learn.
B – I believe the instinctual, hard-wired, inherited makeup of humans includes a compulsion to make sense of the environment using what we call “logic,” that may have originated from the ability of humans and other animals to understand relationships between causes and effects relative to events in our environment. This is how we learn. It’s also how other animals learn, and would obviously be an advantage to survival. Therefore, evolution perpetuates and selects for our ability to use “logic.”
Making sense of the environment depends both on the ability to figure out cause-and-effect relationships, and on the environment into which we are born and raised. So, everyone who can do cause-and-effect reasoning has an inherent advantage in learning. However, everyone is raised in a slightly different environment (or a lot different, depending on many variables).
What makes sense depends upon whatever the environment is, but I believe world views – the creation of a world view – is as necessary to human life as the need to nurse. We do it; we don’t need to think about doing it; if our environment doesn’t make sense to us we are very uncomfortable, and so one of the main things humans do is to learn.
C – The first few years of development after birth, our brains are adding dramatically to our ability to function, mentally and physically, in the world. Learning would be defined as responding to the environment by organizing and adding neurons and/or neuronal connections. I believe this stage of early learning is so interconnected with our instinctual “hard-wired” behaviors that by the end of adolescence each person has grown a world view that is so integrated that the original inherited brain cells are so fused and intertwined with the cells that developed from early learning, that the inheritance and the learning work together as one sub-system within our brain system.
The ability to integrate learning with our basic instinctual system is a great evolutionary advantage for groups of people who are living in a relatively unchanging environment. It permits every generation to learn more about the environment and teach what they know to the young generation so that the culture gains wisdom in the form facts, metaphors and social customs that adapt the whole culture to its environmental realities that do not change very much over the generations. In other words, their world view gains more and more specialized expertise about their real world.
D – We can and do change our world views later in life by more learning, and this kind of information stored in our brain seems to be more easily recognized as secondary, and therefore more easily changed than the early world view. The later learning stillmust make sense, however, within the mental foundation that already exists. People will go to great lengths to create and maintain a logical world view, whether or not it makes sense in a different environment. Change is possible; it may require a significant adjustment of the world view; it may require some physical “rewiring” of our brains. We can change learned behavior. We cannot change our genetically determined behavior (for example the human capacity for hatred or compassion seem to be hard-wired, but we can re-organize how we use our instinctual behaviors.
In a time of change or crisis, the ability to change or re-organize both the basic world view and the later learned information provides the same human brain with a different evolutionary advantage. If we were unable to change our world views at times of crisis, then we would not be able to respond appropriately to the crisis.
However, we would rather not change, because change is painful, sometimes very painful, and it activates our stress reactions, which are also uncomfortable. So then we are forced into choices.
A – We may cling to our imprinted paradigm, even though the relationship between that paradigm and the new reality is no longer logical.
B – On the contrary, we may endure the resulting culture shock and change our paradigm, building a new one that is logical within the new set of observable facts.
C – Sometimes (I’m thinking of abusive families for example) we may continue to lead our lives inside the paradigm of our birth family even if it is very painful, because we understand how to deal with it. And because it’s usually not possible for people to recognize or understand the logic that exists in the world outside of their own paradigm, and the more different it is the more scary it is to jump into something that we are not prepared to understand. Our existing paradigm makes sense to us. We may prune it and touch it up, but total failure of an existing paradigm feels like insanity. We don’t want to go there. Maybe it is insanity.
I don’t know how those early connections were made in the brain between the genetic programming and the early learning, but this marvelously evolved reality – 1) the human ability to change when conditions change, or 2) increase in wisdom when conditions do not change — incorporating the two capacities in one developmental system seems to me one of the miracles of our human creation.
We are now living within an environment that is changing very rapidly. To participate in this change wisely, and because our stress reactions are activated and our emotions in a turmoil, it is essential that we “analyze the facts and discern the actual situation.” In other words, address the problem with all the wisdom we can muster.
The natural biological response is indeed to generate diversity (as I said above, running off in all directions at the same time) but I think the wise approach in this case, because a great deal of diversity is already available in the human community of the whole, would be to give up fighting over which is right and what is wrong, and pretending that the “fittest” of us can win in the end (see part One), and instead benefit each other by sharing our world views in our effort to “discern the real cause of our pain so we can remove it.”
In other words, if we don’t start some basic discussions of the basic issues, instead of taking potshots at each other, none of our world views (and resulting behaviors) is likely to win in the end.
In sum, I think it’s important for us to understand that all world views are or were logical in the circumstances of their origin, and to understand that culture shock is one of those painful blessings with emphasis on blessing, and to understand that we always have choices. We can cling to the seeming security of what we already understand, or we can choose to become a part of change, for the benefit of the entire community, when that becomes necessary.
Simply changing our behaviors to something that seems right within your existing world view will make us each feel better about ourselves, but it probably will not solve the problems we are facing, because our existing paradigm (imprinted and trained in our earliest childhood) that caused the problems in the first place.
I believe paradigm change is the only hope for human kind in this age, and it is clearly happening, but extremely inefficiently. We could do more. We could consciously use our unique mental equipment to grow a world view that could save us. Whatever paradigm we each grew requires in-depth evaluation, analyzing the facts and discerning the actual situation, so that we together can respond wisely to the crisis.
Other options exist, actions that are not based in removing the cause of the problem, dreams and hopes, arguments and debates, winning and losing. But our winning or dreaming or hoping can NOT change the reality – neither factual reality nor historical reality.. Other than trial and error, there seems only one way to grow a useful paradigm change, and that is the far more sensible approanch, which is to do the work of analyzing the facts and discerning the causes of our problem.
(*Becoming Enlightened by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, translated, edited and read by Jeffrey Hopkins, PhD. 2009. Simon & Schuster.)
#Helpful Hint: Evolution is not (as it is perceived within the corposystem world view) “survival of the fittest.” Evolution is an incredibly intricate “Dance of Life (Dancing with the Sacred),” Thank God for Evolution.” An intricate balancing of interactions between and among the environment(s), the laws of nature, all the systems and subsystems and processes of our whole Biosystem, and our behaviors within the system. All is systems. Our world views are mental systems.
A system is a set of interacting processes and “objects” that function together sustainably. The function of a system, balanced in relation to its environment, is to sustain itself.
One human is a system made of systems. A marriage is a bigger system; a community is a system made of individuals; an ecosystem is all interactions that support life (ref 2 blogs re community) The above description of world views is only one example of how a system balances itself. Survival is the balance of the systems according to the Law of Life.
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