How to Know Truth and Evaluate Competing Worldviews
- Wednesday, August 11, 2010
How to Test a Worldview
Now that we see a bit about how knowledge works and how we come to know things, let's take a look at how to actually go about evaluating the competing worldviews in our culture. What is a worldview? A worldview is simply a comprehensive view of reality. And there are many worldviews out there such as Humanism, Buddhism, Deism, Naturalism, Postmodernism, Christian Theism, Islamic Theism, and Nihilism—to name a few.
How are we to think about this competition of worldviews? There is a drive in our culture today to affirm everybody in whatever he or she believes. That raises an important question. Why can't we all just be right? Why do we have to say "This is true and that is false; this is right and that is wrong"?
There are two reasons. First, very often different worldviews contradict each other at the core. So it is not possible that they could both be true. For example, take Atheism and Theism. Theism says, "God exists," and without this, Theism falls apart. Atheism says, "God does not exist," and without this, Atheism falls apart. So if it's really true that God exists, Atheism cannot be true. On the other hand, if it's really true that God does not exist, Theism cannot be true. Of course, God either exists or he doesn't. So one of these worldviews has to fail.
The second reason we can't all be right is because there is, of course, only one reality and we all live in it. And our worldviews either fit or fail to fit the nature of the world we live in. Different worldviews paint fundamentally different pictures of reality. But since there is only one reality, only one worldview can match reality as it actually is and thus be true. All other worldviews would be painting pictures different from reality and thus would be essentially false.
For the sake of illustration, let's assume that DaVinci's Mona Lisa represents reality. Now consider Grant Wood's American Gothic. There is much that it has in common with the Mona Lisa (faces, backgrounds, etc.), but it is essentially a different picture. Take Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam. Again, there is much that it has in common with the Mona Lisa (eyes, hair, etc.), but it is not the Mona Lisa. Now let's consider a replica of the Mona Lisa. Of course, it represents the Mona Lisa (i.e., reality) as it actually is. In the same way, since there is only one reality, only one worldview could paint a picture of reality as it actually is.
This leads to the fundamental question we have to ask when evaluating a worldview, "Is this worldview consistent with reality or not?"
It seems to me that there are at least three tests by which we can determine whether a worldview is consistent with reality. First is the Test of Logical Consistency, which asks "Is this worldview consistent with itself?" If this worldview represents reality, in order to be consistent with reality it has to be consistent with itself. Second is the Test of Historical Consistency, which asks "Is this worldview consistent with history?" History tells us what the world has been like up to this point. So if a worldview is going to fit reality, it will have to be consistent with history. Third is the Test of Experiential Consistency, which asks "Is this worldview consistent with life as it presents itself to us?" If a worldview is going to fit reality, it is going to have to fit the data that life lays out before us.
Though I do not want to oversimplify the various worldviews in our culture (there is always more to learn), I do want to show that worldviews tend to have core, decisive elements that allow the average Joe on the street to evaluate them in light of the tests just mentioned.
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