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Is your worldview cohesive?

Last week, we introduced the concept of a worldview, our set of assumptions about the way that the world works. In my previous article, I suggested that the way in which you view the world can be broken down into about seven questions, and from these seven questions you wrestle through the big questions of life. These questions build, with each previous answer demanding a cohesive path in a very particular direction. The seven questions I brought up are:

  1. What is reality?
  2. What is the nature of the world around us?
  3. What are humans?
  4. What happens at death?
  5. Why can we know anything?
  6. How do we determine right and wrong?
  7. What is the meaning of human history?

I encouraged our readers last week to wrestle with the question of whether or not their worldview was cohesive. What I mean by this is, does your answer to number 1 appropriately lead into your response to number 2, and, therefore numbers 3 through 7? I wanted to give an example of this using the worldview commonly referred to as “naturalism” or as Nacho Libre would say, “You only believe in science.” (It’s a movie. Go watch it. Laugh a little and enjoy your life).

In response to the question of “what is reality,” the Naturalist would answer that God does
not exist and only matter exists eternally. For the Naturalist, there is no spiritual element in the world, no supernatural.

As such, there is only one way for the Naturalist to answer the second question regarding the nature of reality. The cosmos is a closed (you can’t interfere in it) system of cause and effect. There is no change or reordering possible. Practically, this means that you can’t be a Naturalist and believe in miracles or the supernatural. Everything has to be explained even if it cannot yet be explained.

If reality is a closed, cause and effect system, what are humans? The Naturalist must say that Humans are only complex machines of matter - an organic computer. Humans are unique from animals due to their ability to reason, create speech, and develop ethics. How they have these abilities, however, is a more difficult question to answer for the naturalist.

Upon death, the Naturalist must acknowledge, therefore, that there’s nothing else. Death is personal extinction. There is no “better” place. Practically speaking, the only sense of immortality lives on in your influence over others. There is no reason to comfort yourself with vacant platitudes about death, for the Naturalist, because there is nothing else.

If humans are complex machines, how can a person know anything at all? The Naturalist, in a closed cause and effect system, embraces the claim that we can only know anything from empiricism (sense-experience) or reason. Nothing is revealed to us from outside our box, so to speak.

But this creates a challenging situation for ethical dilemmas. If our ethical and moral values are only byproducts of empiricism and reason, what we have experienced and measured, what you think is good for you might be bad for me. Since there are no ethical systems in nature, the Naturalist has to assume that ethics only stem from societal and situational experiences and there are no moral absolutes. The difficulty of this is that if the Naturalist is honest with himself, things that are societally accepted in one culture (e.g. female mutilation) and not in another become complex issues to unravel. If there are no absolutes, who is to say if something is wrong as it relates to issues of human rights? On one level, to take a strong stand against these moral issues, for the Naturalist, is incongruous.

For the sake of space, we will stop there. So, what is the problem with this thought process? Naturalism is plagued by circular reasoning. It embraces a view of cause and effect that cannot be altered by any outside cause, yet it insists upon free will. If free will does not exist, then, within the worldview of Naturalism, ethics and morality cannot be created.

Beyond ethics and morality, Naturalism struggles to establish answers to the deep questions of life. What is the purpose of life if death is so empty and permanent? Why are we here?

Why do I share these things? Not to wave my finger at the Naturalist but to help him or her to realize where their thought process inevitably leads. As you get deeper into your worldview, you may not agree with or like the conclusions. Adopting a buffet approach, however, is not an option. You either must change the foundation (question #1) or knock the other answers in line so as to have congruence.