Bare Bones Biology 003B – World Views

This blog is a repeat from; it has been slightly modified to fit into the world of today.

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 world view, 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 I‘ll talk about world views. Not science.

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 world view that is logical, at least to itself.

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 world view 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 world view, even if there are real facts to the contrary. We all need to have a world view that makes logical good sense to us.

130420-EarthDay-ASC_3042SsWell, of course there is a problem with this. Two problems. 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 world view. The result 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 — we end with such a sense of competence and security compared with the time when we were afraid of people who are different. A good understanding of how to handle culture shock is something we can learn, and teach 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. All you have to do is listen to the internal logic in other people’s heads.

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 world view 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. If you believe in the four pillars, the whole construct is beautifully logical, but I guess they don’t know about the fifth one, and that’s too bad. We could have avoided these economic collapses if their world view were more like the real world.

And of course that’s also true of our own world views. Nobody knows everything; everybody is wrong about some things, so we can never build a world view that is perfectly true. Probably if we did, nobody would believe it. But it’s worth trying to get as close as possible to reality, because the safest world view is one that is both logical and true. If we have logical reasons to believe that we can fly, that doesn’t mean we really can. If we could have a world view that is perfectly aligned with the real world – we would have more personal power than anyone else and, barring accident and bad luck we would be much safer in the world.

The problem with growing an accurate world view is that old culture shock that makes us afraid, and that generates denial. Culture shock and other attacks on our world view can be profoundly uncomfortable.

So 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. If they are, and they are documentable facts –then our world view needs to be tweaked a little. If we want to live in a safer world.

The podcast of this program is available at: