Monday, April 27, 2009

World Views

I've been listening to a book called "The Day the Universe Changed".

It has an abundance of interesting instances when people made discoveries (mostly those) that challenged the world view as described in the Bible and promoted by the Church. Mostly relating to understanding nature - that it works without "God's" hand active in every instance - that there are forces such as gravity - that can explain movement. That the earth is not the center of the universe, etc. Some were instances that changed how workers were viewed - such as after the Black Plague in Europe.

The one thing that struck me as odd - was in the midst of all this - the author inserts the idea that all ways of looking at the world are equally valid or should be considered equitably. While I get his assertion that we all have world views that are skewed because of one thing or another - beliefs that interfere with a truly objective view - I can't agree that all have the same value.

You could consider - in the extreme - those who justify torture - either as individuals against another individual(s) or by people in positions of power who are able to order systematic torture. Even though torture has never been shown to be a useful tool - and in fact creates many problems. One imagines that the only "benefit" is that people are intimidated and frightened into submission. (I don't consider that a benefit - but the practitioners probably do).

Or there is the world-view of business people who don't see a problem with overfishing, or polluting or what-not. They see an increase in their profits and can't see any reason to consider anything else.

And both of these world views are accepted by people who don't benefit from either of them - and are actually harmed by them - but prefer not to notice.

In this society - most people are less aware than we could be of the harm caused by things we take for granted. It's easy to use electricity and not to be constantly thinking of how a mountain somewhere is being destroyed so that I can use this computer, for instance. Or keep the refrigerator going or whatever.... We have to eat - there are consequences - to other animals, to the world from fossil fuel use, etc.

But in general - I see a problem with the European western viewpoint being against nature generally - as if we are at odds to nature. And there is a problem with that world view being exported around the world. We would all be better off adopting the Asian idea of people being an integral part of nature. As in the artwork where people are a small part of things -instead of the dominant and dominating part. The idea that Europeans don't always have the best ideas is something that many are not willing to accept. I think that it is not different in effect than thinking that the earth is the center of the universe and being opposed to any idea that challenged that belief.

So some of these world views are definitely harmful to the planet, to ecosystems and to ourselves individually and collectively. And the more people who have a more positive world view - the better for all of us. It's blind to say that to glorify consumption is just as valuable as to glorify nature. One view leads the world into a downward spiral of destruction - the other looks to solve problems in ways that are not only humane, but which would benefit all life.

Some world views are that the only thing that matters is a "life" after death (that may not even exist). Other world views prefer to consider the matter of this world where we definitely exist. If the consequences to this world are to be considered - than a "world" view that does not seriously consider this world cannot be as valid as one that does. That seems almost too obvious to mention. And yet - many people don't get it. :(

I was listening to the opening of the book again - and noticed that the author's viewpoint is that nature is "disordered, powerful and chaotic" and that people impose systems because they fear the chaos. The whole premise is goofed up. Sure, when people had little understanding as to what some of the forces of nature are - it made sense that "systems" would be created - ie. superstitions and what now can be seen as pretty delusional religious views.

Nature does not seem nearly so chaotic when it's systems are more understood. And anyway - there is quite a bit of order and systems - like seasons, cycles of life and death, water cycles- evaporation, rain, etc. that people would have had some ideas about, regardless.

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