Categories of Worldviewthoughts & comment — 13 Mar 2011
IF IT CAN BE DONE, then scientists, somewhere, will eventually do it, no matter what the dangers. If you think about it, where has humanity ever backed off research-wise because of potential dangers? Sure, there are certain types of genetic engineering, such as direct human GE that are currently outlawed, but that barrier to that sort of research is moved every year, and you can bet that covert research by the military, black projects and or other governments continues unabated.
But what is it that drives this hunger to know … this addiction to knowledge? Why is it that we are never happy to accept that there are places that are best left alone, like the gene pool that is the result of billions of years of evolution. Do we really think that a science that is just a few decades old is substantial and sanguine enough to avoid the potential dangers of gene meddling, especially considering that money is currently the primary driving force? What hubris if we think so!
I remember when they were going to switch on CERN, currently the most powerful particle accelerator in the world. And there was talk, from within the scientific community I might add, that the power could be so great that it could form a small black hole that could destroy the whole universe. That never happened, but did that slow down the launch of CERN in any way whatsoever? Of course not, the thirst of knowledge and the momentum of big-budget projects like this always takes precedence over such 'philosophical' concerns.
But what is this thirst for knowledge? What drives it? We know that science is mostly money-driven these days, and that so called 'blue-sky' research (research just for the sake of it) is becoming rarer. However, even blue-sky research is not just driven by the hunger of knowledge but by the kudos of scientific discovery and awards such as Nobel Prizes etc. But although money and scientific kudos are the primary engines that currently drive scientific research, genuine hunger for knowledge is also mixed in the equation in various proportions depending on the individual.
And what is the hunger for knowledge? Why do we want to know how the universe works?
If we take the standard materialistic perspective that pervades the most of the scientific community and much of secular society these days, then the mechanics of the universe is about all there is to know, and as we are a part of that mechanics, then we our minds naturally focus on this area. And as mechanisms can be manipulated technologically, then finding out more about the mechanisms of the universe allows us to manipulate or control reality, including own bodies and minds. This taps into our basic survival issues in which knowledge of our environment and any dangers it might present is essential for supporting a viable future.
Mechanistic paradigms encourage a thirst for knowledge, because the more we know about mechanisms, the more accurately we can predict their future behaviour.
If, on the other hand, our view of the world was non-mechanistic, then our focus often falls on relationships with divine or supernatural beings and how to maintain them. That is why religion — from shamanism right the way across to Christianity — are all about ways to make peaceful and prosperous pacts with God(s) and/or spirits. (Don't piss God off or else!) When a system of knowledge is about relationship, rather than using experience to build mechanical models, we look to experience to find clues as to whether the Gods/spirits are happy or not with us, and depending upon our interpretation we modify our behaviour according to our beliefs on what makes Gods/spirits happy. These beliefs for restitution can often seem as arbitrary as the choice and description of the Gods/Spirits themselves.
Another non-mechanistic paradigm might be one where everything in experience just is, and that our focus is on being at one with what is rather than trying to modify it. This is a more Buddhist or Advaitic approach. Here, the focus is not on relationships as much as harmonization. We seek the harmony that is always there when we are mentally still.
There are, therefore, three main categories of worldview (probably in reverse order to their in terms of how long humanity has been using the):
- Pure Awareness
The first two seek to modify and control reality; the third seeks to accept reality as it is.
So going back to the thirst of knowledge: this is primarily associated with a mechanistic worldview in which we are trying to perfect our conceptual models of those mechanisms which allow us to better control reality. This type of epistemology favours novelty and change, provided that that change brings sufficient benefits. (Science often resists change not so much because of epistemological reasons, but because of the inertia of the scientific community built up around social considerations — relationship, position, prestige and power.)
With the relationship-centered category of paradigm, on the other hand, although it also involves a controlling worldview, it is one that tends to be quite conservative — we are unlikely to try to appease God with Turkish Delight if we have always thought His favourite is Praline chocolates.
So religions based on relationship tend to be slow evolving, trying to stick to tried and tested means of maintaining good relationships. Religions of relationship tend to create methods of government that favour tradition and that shun novelty.
It is interesting that new religions like the New Age movement evolve very quickly because they are based on more of a mechanistic worldview, often justified by pseudo-science.
Of course, we all have different aspects of our consciousness that are focused on each of these three primary categories of worldview. A scientist, for example, might be in a mechanistic worldview during research, a relationship worldview when he gets home and/or goes to church on Sunday, and a pure awareness worldview when he smokes pot and/or meditates. Indeed, as we have seen, even a scientist at work can be in all three: she is in a relationship worldview in regard to his standing with her peers, and in pure awareness when dreaming up new theory and having "ah-ha" moments. Maybe these happen simultaneously in consciousness on different levels, although we are only aware of the one we have most regard for in each moment?
It is interesting to see, in our lives, the times and situations where we have a mechanistic worldview, a relationship worldview and a pure awareness worldview. Which do you prefer to be in? Which makes you feel happiest? Which one do you feel most creative in? Which category is most challenging?
It is from understanding paradigm categories that we come to understand some of the paradoxes and conflicts that many of us feel.