from The Worldview Literacy Book   copyright 2009                     back to worldview theme(s) #1    


#1A: As one who is humbly unsure, you value harmony.  You like seeing people with different worldviews peacefully coexist; sometimes you let incompatible thoughts peacefully coexist inside your own head (if there is no logical reason to banish one or the other and you can live with the cognitive dissonance!) 

But alas, sometimes such peaceful coexistence isn't possible.

     Imagine yourself, in a crowd of "True Believers" (worldview theme #2A) as a lone humble individual with uncertainty and doubt as to whatever it is  the rest of the crowd so confidently accepts and asserts.  Understandably you feel out of place.  Rather than simply sensing being different, the feelings may extend to include feeling unwelcome, inadequate, perhaps even alienated.  Imagine someone in the crowd who feels "I Know What's Best For You" (theme #2B) disrespects your humbly unsure orientation, associates it with your being ignorant, meek, lacking in spirit, and self deprecating, and attempts to sell you on their interpretation of Reality.  You feel humiliated!

     Don't let this happen to you!  Instead: be confident in and celebrate your humility!  Remember, your doubt and uncertainty are confined to those matters where nobody really knows for sure and to life's important questions—where disagreements between people can produce deep discord.  It does not extend to doubting who you are, your experience and knowledge!  Remember: all humans are imperfect creatures! (Figure #1a)

     Rather than arrogantly preaching to others, in some intellectual arenas you limit the amount of space you take up and leave room for others.  You honestly don't have all the answers, so you’re open to the contributions of others.  If they treat you with respect, you’ll politely listen. You value dialectic methods. You’re generally tolerant.  You like fresh air entering a smoke-filled room of cynicism (theme #36A).  For some things—especially natural beauty and its mysteries—you can be reverent. 

     Rather than arrogantly exaggerating your own importance, you (as Phillip Hewett puts it) "are humble enough to see yourself as a modest part of a greater whole, not the pivot around which it revolves."  You value your personal experience of Reality and your associated tacit knowledge—even if you don't always know how you know something.  And you realize  your senses can play tricks on you!  But you recognize that, in using words and symbols to transform tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, one loses something: such description is always incomplete!    

     Rather than valuing absolute truths, you (along with most scientists) recognize doubt and uncertainty have a fundamental place in human attempts to understand Reality.  Many people are surprised to learn that, despite all the phenomenal successes of science and technology, physicists are unable to make perfectly exact measurements.  Not only do all measurements have an uncertainty (or built-in error) based on the instruments used       


to make them, but quantum mechanics' uncertainty principle asserts it is meaningless to attempt to, without error, pin down the exact values of various physical quantities (such as the position and speed of an object).  As Figure #1b suggests, the best scientific descriptions at the most basic level involve probabilities, not certainties.  And a scientifically accurate, metaphorical account of the creation (as in the book of Genesis) might have God saying, "Let their be doubt!" Mathematicians, who understand that Gödel's theorem has the effect of inserting unavoidable doubt into mathematics, would perhaps concur!

     Speaking of God: you don't side with either the religious true believers or with the atheistic skeptics who promote scientism.   You trust your experience and judgment:  you'll believe when they dictate!  As it is now, some days you turn to a personal God (theme #8B) for help, while other days you disdain Him and embrace secular humanism (theme #10)!  Perhaps one day  your belief in God will be more than part-time useful fiction!

#1B: Scientists can be both humble and skeptical.  Despite what some perceive as the arrogance of scientists and engineers in creating nuclear weapons, manipulating genes, damming rivers, etc., science recognizes its limitations and where doubt exists.  It values what it does not understand.  Astrophysicists are not ashamed to admit they know virtually nothing about 96% of the universe's matter & energy— the part of it that exists as dark matter & dark energy and does not emit any radiation.  Yet, in employing scientific methods (theme #6) and being guardedly unbiased, scientists need a healthy amount of skepticism.

     If you're a Skeptic you may like everything discussed above with one exception.  Unlike those who value harmony and humility, you can't politely ignore pushy, arrogant true believers.  Indeed, the hostility you feel for how they promote their beliefs demands that you speak up and attack them!  How you counter these assertions depends on their nature.  If their claims appeal to reason and (seemingly) to science, you first establish whether or not they are testable.  If they are, you use scientific methods to further scrutinize and perhaps debunk them. If their claims are religious, your task is to expose the (perhaps shaky?) foundation of faith they rest on.  Debunking them completely may not be possible: the best you can do is raise doubts and provide alternative explanations that also fit the data. 

     Occasionally you'll find the beliefs you're skeptical of are dogmatic beliefs: firmly held based on the authority of others, but actually incompatible with existing facts or based on faulty premises or reasoning.  Your task then is to make this known.  If you persist in debunking religious beliefs you may be termed a "skeptic."  If you persist in exposing pseudoscience based fraud, quantum quackery, etc. people may increasingly think of you as a scientist!    



Figure #1a

Human Imperfection

To be human is to be:

an imperfect creature

unwhole or broken  (original sin?)

one who falls short

one who trespasses

one who is rejected by others


1) Jesus' healing around Nazareth was limited by unbelief (Mark 6)

2)  Mother  Teresa doubts and agonizes over God's existence

3) Einstein's put down of quantum mechanics → his being put down   


Figure #1b

The product of the uncertainty in position, Dx, and the uncertainty in momentum, Dp, is a constant.  Therefore if you know the position exactly

(Dx=0) the uncertainty in momentum must be infinitely large, and vice versa.



The Uncertainty Principle

According to this fundamental principle at the heart of physicists' quantum mechanical conception of Reality, it is meaningless to talk about exactly where an object is located, the best you can do is give the probability (plotted vertically) of finding it at a particular position x. Likewise for its momentum p—which is related to how fast it is moving.


Conclusion: Uncertainty (or doubt!) is inherently part of nature at the most basic level!

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