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Pioneers in Worldview Analysis or Something Less Flattering ?

You Decide!

What follows is honest effort at critiquing the value of our worldview analysis structure and tools, written by us but with your help. Contact us if you'd like to contribute.       

Pioneers in Worldview Analysis  / responding to complaints Another  (Less Flattering!) Point of View / complaints 
The ultimate goal of worldview analysis is to provide a perfect description of an  individual's worldview and to provide a structure and methodology suitable for doing this for all individuals. It can be described as a mapping endeavor--as can all scientific attempts to describe aspects of reality.  So its limitations can be connected with the limitations of science itself. Think of the reality experienced as like terrain, and explicit statements describing it as like a map of the terrain. As science extends its map of reality, the scientific conceptual framework is steadily refined and becomes a better guide to the underlying terrain. But one must recognize that a limitation of science is that--as good as the map is--it can not replace the terrain itself, the actual experience of reality.  (Note: The postscript to Michael Crichton's 1988 autobiographical book Travels contains a wonderful section on how difficult it is to accurately describe the uniqueness of a hypothetical person named George.)

(see complaint at the right) In early 2022 new, version 5.0 theme structure based, updates of the "Top Cards and Discards" program and a program for sending a tweet were put online. These help liberate that 104 theme structure from its pairing into 52 choices and serves those wanting this flexibility. 

The version 4.0 Choices We Make paired themes focuses attention on choosing between alternatives, rather than fitting one's worldview into a box!   

I believe that we have to move beyond our desire to place people and things into defined boxes. People are much too complicated...Perfect knowledge of an individual's worldview or more completely "what is it like to be that person" is only available to the individual involved. For others, such knowledge falls in the realm of "tacit knowledge": knowledge that can not be put into words, symbols or otherwise made into explicit knowledge.



The 104 themes that make up the version 5.0 worldview theme structure are tightly paired up to make 52 choices. I don't like how some of those choices have been framed, and certainly everyone recognizes that alternate pairings are possible!

There are tradeoffs in designing a structure to use in conducting worldview analysis.  If it seeks to finely resolve small differences in worldviews, it risks being cumbersome to use. And the culture it grows out of--even the language it is written in--will perhaps unavoidably introduce biases. Nonetheless, while any  attempt at providing a structure will be imperfect,  some attempt is better than none. Admittedly the project Worldview  structure has an American / Western flavor to it.  Any attempt at providing a structure for analyzing the worldviews of all the world's people will fail since the structure will have its own cultural and other biases! 
Despite its obvious importance,  few  have made a serious attempt to provide worldview development, characterization, and analysis with a detailed structure. Exceptions include the 1) the general goals / guidelines published by the Apostel group at VUB in Belgium, 2) the scholarly work of Gabera and Aerts, 3) spiral dynamics, 4) the values heavy approach of Scott Bristol,  5) Christian academics, one being James W. Sire in The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog , and 6) the Public Sphere Project (scope limited as its name suggests).  No one else is idealistic or naive enough to tackle such a ridiculously complicated endeavor!
With the version 3.0  theme characterization structure, which saw the addition of (four) sub-themes to each of the eighty (version 2.0) themes, and its continuing refinement (see Wiki Worldview themes), project Worldview characterizations of individual worldviews that emerge are not just multi-dimensional but begin to resemble maps of unique individuals. 

By focusing attention on choosing between alternatives, the version 4.0 Choices We Make paired themes hopes to get above stereotypes--but when it refers to generic worldviews it makes the underlying choices used in that characterization clear

Worldview themes are potentially dangerous because they can promote stereotypes--something no one wants! 
The Worldview Theme Book, with its neuroscience-based introduction and numerous theme based songs, focuses on the feelings / emotional aspects of worldview development. The "Oracle" it provides in its last section will surprise readers with how far away from the rational realm it is!  Despite attempts to rationally arrive at beliefs and values, emotions and feelings unavoidably play an important role in this building / refining of  worldviews. 
The version 2.0 structure for characterizing worldviews is based on 80 themes. While using it alone sacrifices some precision, it is relatively easy to use.  Conceivably a person could spend one hour with the "Top Cards & Discards" program and email someone else a meaningful "snapshot" of his or her worldview... Or take somewhat longer doing a Quick Worldview Analysis or still longer Worldview Analysis program.. Of course using the version 3.0 structure can more precisely describe worldviews but its use is somewhat more cumbersome.  Doing this worldview analysis right would require a structure so detailed and complicated that it would essentially be of academic interest only--that is, it would be practically useless!
Abiding by our "neutrality pledge" (i.e. "Your worldview should be uniquely yours! ... We won't force our beliefs on you! We will help you find your way in taking a free inquiry path to a worldview")  imposes obvious constraints and limitations on Project Worldview. About the only thing we feel obligated to take a strong stand on is that young people should not be oppressed by parents and those in positions of power rigidly imposing their own beliefs and values on them. While parents obviously need to impart "dos" and "don'ts" in shaping their children's behavior and share their own wisdom, as they grow up children should increasingly be encouraged to seek knowledge, organize their knowledge by making both distinctions and connections, acquire critical thinking skills, and eventually make their own choices after a thorough exploration of alternatives. Obviously not all beliefs can be justified nor are all values equally appropriate to uphold. To us, constantly revising one's worldview based on experiences in "The Reality Marketplace," "The School of Hard Knocks," etc. is part of what acquiring wisdom is all about. Ideally, sharing that wisdom will gradually make the world a better place to live!  What is missing from the Project Worldview system is any significant
attention to the deep threads of oppression and internalized oppression that
are shot through the fabric of our cultures. One possible reason for this is
that the flexible, open attitude of the authors (an openess and flexibility
of which we generally approve) could easily slip over a border into
something called 'pluralistic relativism'. This is a syndrome that, at its
most unhelpful, insists that we cannot make judgments about the
appropriateness of another person's or culture's value and belief systems,
that every set of values and beliefs is just as valid as any other
An effort has been  made to present worldview theme descriptions in a neutral way that doesn't convey acceptance or rejection. In some cases however, the need for concise descriptions has triumphed over more "politically correct" wording! Certainly there have been tradeoffs!  Of course what some find politically incorrect--embracing greed or selfishness, for example--is readily accepted by others--witness popularity of phrases like "greed is good" or "the virtue of selfishness"!  The names of some of the worldview themes--such as "Elitism", "Imperialism", "Militarism"-- have negative connotations that can prejudice people against embracing them!
A key database employed by  project Worldview involves 660 or so questions to assess compatibility with its worldview themes. Around 70% of these were written by social scientists and used in public opinion surveys. Admittedly it was sometimes difficult to find such survey questions that would be useful in assessing the compatibility of an individual's worldview with particular worldview themes. Not only do some questions slightly miss the mark in this regard, but some were part of surveys administered in the USA many years ago. Thus, the survey based scores for an "Average USA adult" that are presented for comparative use--but in some cases the comparison may not be that good. Here are some obvious problems with such analysis:
1) different people believe similar things or behave similarly for completely different reasons, 2) social scientist's surveys of these things are plagued by how questions are worded and by whimsical aspects of human nature, 3) individual beliefs and values change with time--sometimes from day to day! 4) some people's need for privacy or lack of honesty prevents researchers from truly understanding  a society's beliefs, values, behaviors. One example: reportedly 89.7% of Americans describe their diet as healthy--yet nearly 2/3 of them are overweight or obese Time Jan 17 2011)
Besides difficulties comparing an individual's worldview with some average worldview of a larger population, an individual's worldview should be internally consistent.  The Worldview Analysis program (checks for obvious signs of such inconsistency. (To see the List of Contradictory Worldview Themes click here). Likewise a version 4.0 Choices We Make check list facilitates this finding inconsistencies for the most important card choices. Of course there is little that can be done for people who delude themselves or don't "practice what you preach". If one is aware of a gulf between actual behavior and idealized beliefs and values, worldview analysis could be done twice from these differing perspectives.    For many people, perhaps most,  how they behave and their supposed beliefs and values are not very consistent. In other words, their worldview based on an analysis of their actions can differ substantially from their worldview based on what they say they believe in and what values they tell other people are dear to them. 
Even if the project Worldview website falls short in reaching the goal of providing an ideal structure and methodology that is wonderfully useful in understanding and characterizing worldviews, supplementing it with the additional material in The Worldview Literacy Book  provides a powerful educational tool.  Helping individuals make sense out of "the confusion of existence," helping those who disagree find common ground and resolve conflicts--these are wonderful goals in their own right! It is naive to think that people in general employ any type of understandable or describable process based on reason, experience, language, culture or whatever to significantly shape their worldviews, and that given the right type of education, so many people might adopt certain beliefs,  values, and behaviors that this could make the world a better place!
Part of project Worldview's mission is to provide "education for the global village." One can imagine how much different the world would be in terms of peace and planetary well being if none of its children received narrow, sectarian based educations but rather all got truly global educations!    Many of the world's most significant conflicts originated long ago (often measured in hundreds of centuries) and are driven by powerful emotions including hate. To think that they can be resolved in a short time using a rational approach based on education is naive. 
Where else can you go on the web and find a website that tries to be "a good place to get free and unbiased help as you tackle life's big questions and expand your worldview?"  You'll find websites devoted to helping you answer a few such questions--but typically they will steer you in heavily biased fashion toward answers consistent with their own mission or beliefs!  And you'll find information services--notably Wikipedia (which we love!)  There you can find answers to millions of questions --questions which typically you must frame to begin with. Here, project Worldview provides you with   "50 Questions for Use in Worldview Development" and offers unbiased help in answering each of them. This is integrated into a free-inquiry based, systematic approach to individual worldview development. Yes, several of your fifty questions are truly among "Life's Big Questions". But many of them are questions not necessarily on everyone's top fifty list--so your own mission and bias is evident in this selection effect! 
Project Worldview is a work in progress.  In 2010 our periodic Worldview Watch columns began. One goal was providing real world examples of the conflicting worldviews behind important, controversial issues. The worldview analysis its commentaries offer, while at times admittedly only skimming the surface in rather simplistic fashion, attempt to do something else: simulate thinking and dialogue from which we might learn. And dare I say revise our own worldviews?  I believe that our society's penchant for categorizing, for placing people into boxes with well defined borders, is the major problem facing us as a nation. Those borders are most often created by those who are outside the group and carry a seemingly different point of view. This may be the one thing that causes us to implode as a nation...In [Worldview Watch] I think that you may have fallen into this trap. The trap closes for many any opportunity for dialogue. Those on the other side of the issue see the treatise as a confirmation of their point of view. Dialogue is too often shut down...
So my hope is that we will as individuals drop the categories into which we place others and talk to each other with civility and try to understand each others' beliefs. 
Project Worldview founder Stephen Cook has been working on this project since 1984. In that year, near the beginning of what eventually became the book Coming of Age in the Global Village, he admitted to incorporating seemingly contradictory worldview themes based on being a "humble skeptic" and being a "true believer" into his overall worldview. And he wrote, "My worldview pendulum has long swung back and forth between 'what is' and 'what ought to be' orientations."  The failure of anyone else to provide a good structure and methodology for doing worldview development, characterization and analysis, and the firm conviction that this was needed--that it "ought to be"--has inspired his pioneering--and perhaps hopelessly naive--efforts in this field. You decide! The guy behind all this must be not only extraordinarily naive but also rather arrogant to think that someone could get a good handle on this incredibly complicated worldview business!

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