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Reflecting on worldviews


Scott Kerr’s letter (2-6-19) spoke of “worldviews.” At least four themes deserve comment. First, Kerr comments regarding “man first” or “God first.” The implication is that in secular humanism “man wants to be God.” This is like saying that ants want to be more important than unicorns. No, the humanist worldview sees all of nature (from non-living atoms – to living entities – to the broader universe) to be a fascinating field for study/discovery. It acknowledges that the human experience is unique in being able to explore the entire range.

The human brain has special abilities to observe, examine and predict. Research is showing that the brain makes models (including religious doctrines) to survive and reproduce. In our short geological existence, the human brain (plus the opposable thumb) has fostered tremendous extension of knowledge – plus an ability to influence our future. “Our” refers not only to humans but the rest of the environment too. We are interdependently linked.

Second, Kerr believes that morality comes from the deductive “top-down” form, not so. “Learning” is a back-and-forth inductive-deductive process of testing brain-models against real life. If religions truly were the arbiters of morality, the Ten Commandments would have included a “not” regarding slavery – but it doesn’t. Morality largely comes from the social mores of that time.

Third, humanists believe that evidence is central to the forming of a useful/truer belief. Anyone can have a free-range “personal-freedom-belief” and present it as “the truth.” Cults of many flavors exist. Faiths in Thor, or a rain-god, or Christianity require no evidence – they are equal. Some models gain enough followers to develop political acceptance as “religions.” Requiring evidence is a valuable tool for developing understanding and advancement (and reject false leads).

Finally, a worthy goal of humans is to study how each person comes to have any given personal “belief” and broader worldview. In particular, the development of “obsessive thinking” (which ignores competing/corrective thoughts) needs to be understood. Obsessive thinking leads to superstitions, stereotypes, prejudice, racism, dictatorial leaders, international conflicts, serial killers, false religions – and even love. It’s worth studying why humans are as we are.

Gene Johnson


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