from The Worldview Literacy Book       copyright 2009             back to worldview theme #4


     Recall previous discussion (theme #3) contrasting person A, whose worldview and associated behavior are dominated by "Focused Vision," and person B, who similarly embraces the diametrically opposite theme #4  "The Big Picture: Global Vision."  Person A has an egocentric worldview and lives in a mental world where everything revolves around him or her.  Person B's outlook is not plagued by this illusion of central position.  Accordingly, he or she is not only better able to empathize with others and imagine seeing through their eyes, but also is better able to step back and metaphorically see the world as other eyes see it, have seen it, or will see it.  Yet while Person B is not handicapped with the "tunnel vision" of Person A, he or she is not as attuned to lower level details.    

     Seeing the forest rather than the trees, being more of a lumper than a splitter, person B tends to be better at synthesizing and integrating, and more wholistic  than person A.  

While the mental universe of person A is heavily dependent on information obtained directly by the ordinary human senses— sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch—person B's worldview includes information derived from technological extensions of the human senses.  These capabilities for detecting the very small, the very far away, longer or shorter electromagnetic radiation than the human eye can detect, mere trace amounts in chemical analyses, etc. reveal an invisible world.

     While some have always sought to look beyond (see Figure #4c), one can argue that the year "Global Vision" really entered the human drama is 1609.  Then Galileo turned his telescope to the night sky and saw such wonders as four moons revolving around the planet Jupiter, and the planet Venus exhibiting lunar-like phases.  Rational interpretation of what he saw confirmed that the Earth should be removed from the special position it had been given at the center of the universe.  Humans are not in a privileged position (called the Copernican Principle—see Figure #4a).  This was rather humbling.  One can argue humility pervades the process by which science advances.  While its conceptual framework steadily evolves, new observations may necessitate tearing down and rebuilding parts of it.  Unlike the absolutes of religion, science is tentative. 

     Just as Galileo sought  meaning behind his observations, the global vision of many scientists who followed him and their search for meaning has built modern science's conceptual framework.  Much of this has been erected using an inductive process: from many observations, patterns are found, leading to hypotheses and ultimately, to broadly applicable theory.  Note  this logical reasoning moves from specifics or lower level facts upward to higher level generalizations in an integrating, synthesizing fashion.  Of course the opposite deductive process (employed by those skilled at seeing fine detail and with good analytical skills) has made important contributions to both


scientific understanding and to applying that understanding

in engineering the modern world.  And obviously, unlike our imaginary person A and person B, real people are capable—to one extent or another—of both induction and deduction, synthesizing and analyzing, lumping and splitting, holism and reductionism, egocentrism and empathy, etc. 

     Transcending specific methods or ways of seeing, unlike those with narrowly constrained worldviews, those with global vision possess an intellectual curiosity and a willingness to look that knows no boundaries.  Today, nearly four centuries after Galileo, there are those who, in either real or metaphorical terms refuse to look through the telescope: perhaps some with worldviews leaning heavily on "Religious Fundamentalism" and "Anthropocentrism" (worldview theme #9A & #25 respectively, ones diametrically opposed to worldview theme #4).   Rather than being afraid of seeing something that will disturb the comfortable security of the worldview they've grown up with, those with global vision look eagerly.  They seek to fill gaps in their understanding, make refinements or new connections, arrive at new syntheses, gain new insight into solving old problems, and sometimes just to gaze in awe of nature!

     To better understand what people with global vision see and appreciate, consider the question, "What are we made of and where did it come from?"  For those with intellectual curiosity and vision that sees through space and time, the answer to this question involves what has been called "The Great Story."  It is the story of the steps in physical, chemical, and biological evolution that ultimately made you and me what we are.  This      ultimate "roots" story starts with the Big Bang fourteen billion years ago, and highlights the birth of our solar system and Earth four and a half billion years ago.  In the interim, generations of billions of stars were born and died.  Just as human remains enrich the soil and foster new growth, stellar deaths enrich the surrounding space.  Most spectacularly, supernova explosions spew the byproducts of the nuclear reactions which powered these stars—like carbon, oxygen, iron, etc.—into space.  With-out this enrichment, the interstellar medium would consist of essentially the 75% hydrogen and 25% helium that it had shortly after the universe began.  Without this cosmic recycling, things that require heavier elements—Earth-like planets, water, plants, and people (61% oxygen, 23% carbon, etc.)—would not exist! 

     The story continues over geologic time (Figure #4b).  Single celled life on Earth began around  four billion years ago, grew in complexity and moved from water to land around four hundred million years ago, and finally produced primitive humans around four million years ago.  Roughly forty years ago this evolving intelligence, after comprehending the cosmic distance scale, finally realized that the iron rich hemoglobin in its blood owed its existence to stars that died billions of years ago!  


          Figure #4

a) Locating the Solar System

     in the Milky Way Galaxy            

c) The Ancient Quest to Look Beyond

                                         back to worldview theme #4

b) The Geologic Time Scale



Ma = millions of years ago