Bare Bones Biology 003 – World Views

Bare Bones Biology – 100425

Earth day was great. The weather held, and all these people hustled around trying to find their best way to contribute to our common goals. I’m pretty sure most of them believe that we all have the same worldview, working to the same goal, thinking the same way they do. I used to believe that too, until I finally figured out that almost nobody thinks like I do. So today instead of talking about science, I’ll talk about worldviews.

I believe the human brain is hard wired to be logical. With giraffes, it’s the neck; with peacocks it’s the feathers; with us, it’s a well-developed innate capacity for logic. Everyone who starts life with a normal brain, the most normal thing about it is, the brain is always working to make a worldview that is logical.

Surely we’ve all had the experience of walking into a room, stopping and looking around because something doesn’t feel right. Something is not part of the normal logic of this room, and we feel uncomfortable until we figure out what it is. That feeling of discomfort drives all people, I believe, to build a logical worldview within which they can live in some comfort. Or, if they already have one they like, they will cling to it like their lives depend on their own worldview being accurate. We all need to have a worldview that makes logical good sense.

Well, of course there is a problem with this. At least two problems with this. The first is that we have to build our view of the world around our experience of the world. Everyone has a somewhat different environment, and also the environment keeps changing; therefore everyone has a somewhat different worldview. The result, if my worldview comes up against your world view, is Culture Shock! Culture shock is very uncomfortable, but it’s also exciting, and when we work our way through — it takes about a year for a big culture shock — we end with such a sense of competence and security compared with the time when we were afraid of people who are different. Or if we didn’t know that we can handle situations of difference.

So a good understanding of how to handle culture shock is something we can learn, and we can teach it to our children. In today’s world it’s a good thing to do. Go someplace different, live there for a year and listen to the logic of the new place. Or, actually, you can do this without ever leaving home, but you do have to listen to the internal logic in other people’s heads.

Of course the second problem is that everything logical is not necessarily real and true. A good many people don’t know this, but just because your worldview is pristinely logical doesn’t mean it is true. For example, in my introductory economics course I was told that the whole economic model is based on four pillars of solid reality, and it’s true, if you believe in the four pillars, the whole construct is beautifully logical.

Unfortunately, I guess they don’t know about the fifth one, and that’s too bad. We could have avoided these economic collapses if their worldview were more like the real world.

And of course that’s also true of our own worldviews. Nobody knows everything; everybody is wrong about some things, so we can never build a truly accurate worldview. Probably if we did, nobody would believe it. But it’s worth trying to get as close as possible to reality, because the safest worldview is one that is both logical and true. If we have logical reasons to believe that we can fly, for example, that doesn’t mean we really can, and we would be safer if our worldview were closer to reality.

So even though culture shocks and other attacks on our world view can be profoundly uncomfortable, I think it’s worth it. Anyhow, the moral of this story for you and me is that we are better off with a bit more safety and a bit less comfort. In a world that is full of exciting ideas and scary propaganda, it’s worth the effort to listen carefully to the logic of others, because there is always the chance they are right about some things at least. If they are, then our worldview needs to be tweaked a little. If we want to live in a safer world.