Forming a worldview - Did you create your thoughts?

Forming a Worldview

Have you ever wondered why young children annoy their parents by constantly asking 'why'? Why do clouds float? Why do you need to go to work? Why are vegetables gross? The child is a new human. A human that has no idea how the world works. They are still finding boundaries, and understanding the world they were born into. The child asking 'why" is forming their initial worldview. You can tell a child that the tooth fairy exists, because they do not yet have a working set of the world that can make magic impossible.

We all have a bias, and a starting point that we use to frame our perception of the world. New information we encounter, is weighed against our worldview for measurement. Confirming how we already believe the world works is easy, and does not take much information or arguing. Changing how we believe the world works takes much more effort. Better arguments and information are needed to be sure we are improving our worldview, and not misunderstanding the new information.

This is normal and healthy. If radical views could easily change our minds, we would be considered naive; gullible. But, if we too easily reject new information, we find ourselves taking the opposite course. We would be considered stubborn to ignore new information.

Skepticism is healthy in a world where everyone wants you to pick a side (theirs) in an argument.

Worldview Reinforcement

If you believe you understand the world, but are constantly challenged at a fundamental level; your worldview is about to collapse. If views built upon views built upon a lie is discovered, do you understand the world you live in? If something so fundamental can be challenged, is your worldview accurate? Reconstructing that many views at once is terrifying. When a core value is challenged, you are suddenly faced with the question: Am I insane?

If a person convinces themselves their incorrect views are accurate, are they sane? The admission of insanity is not required for the diagnosis. Even the insane can say 'the world is crazy, not me'. If you are insane, it can be said that; you do not have a useable model of the world to work from. Your core beliefs are incorrect, and require more reflection. The worst treatment for insanity is to give in to their delusions. We need to help ground each other using truth and measurement. We ourselves need to be open to the idea that, our beliefs need challenge and analysis before they can be considered correct.

Imagine a philosophical system that encourages people to create their own realities. Realities in which their views are made correct simply by interpreting their own thoughts. A system that gives in to the delusions of the insane, rather than helping define an objective truth that can be universally measured. This system is called postmodernism. See my article "Truth and Measurement in Postmodernism – Why can't people communicate with each other?" For more on this topic.

Cults and Echo chambers

Some institutions in the world exploit the safe space reinforcement of a person's worldview. Cults, for example, only work if they can be the sole shaper of your worldview. Their worlds normally involve some kind of paranormal higher meaning that would be rejected by a healthy worldview. There have been studies on the patterns of behavioral control that cults use to get devout members. Cults will:

  1. Cut a new member off from family and friends

  2. Keep them busy in simple tasks

  3. Keep them surrounded by other members

Cutting a person off from family removes a critical support group from affecting their worldview. It is the job of the family unit to help their family members live a long and healthy life. If your decision-making skills are hampered by a head full of lies, you will not make decisions that are in your best interest. Grounded emotional support is critical for mental stability.

Keeping someone's mind busy in simple tasks keep them from reflecting on their worldview, and coming to terms with discrepancies. It is easier to slip lies into a person's worldview if you keep them from reflecting on the information. Free time can be the death of lies, since the person has time to reflect.

Keeping the newcomer surrounded by devout members is the most important part. If you surround yourself with people that only have one perspective, it won’t take long for that perspective to shape your worldview. Once shaped, the new recruit will be much more resilient to conflicting views. Even worldview authorities, the person's family, will have a tough time breaking through a hardened worldview. Echo chambers make a worldview resilient.

Conversations within an echo chamber are faux challenges. Worldviews are made resilient by challenge. When you present your working of the world to another person, you are inviting that person to either shape, or reinforce your beliefs. Echo chambers sabotage this mechanic. You feel as if your worldview can survive challenge, when it cannot. You artificially harden a person's beliefs, making them more difficult to change. Echo chambers are where a person's worldview goes to rot.

Worldview Toolboxes

Political groups have the most to gain by giving you a ‘box’ of worldview reinforcement tools. These tools help people to advocate for their party's ideals. The box is a specially crafted view of the world. Everything in the box is designed to give you the impression that the political group is the answer to all the world's problems. They show you a panel of employees; paid to look like everyone in the room agrees with the party.

Have you ever agreed or disagreed with someone on a single topic, and they immediately accuse you of being for/against another topic? Have you gotten the motivation for someone on one topic, that contradicts their motivation for another? That person is using their ‘worldview toolbox’ in an attempt to keep information from affecting them.

Political news networks will give you the talking points of the day. They will bring on 'experts' to show you the counter points. They will feign a debate, showing the viewer when to use the toolbox. Some arguments can be counter argued, and some require deflection. Near the end, these mock debates usually end in the host yelling over, or insulting the expert.

It seems like something went wrong in their conversation, but I believe this is also a tool in the box they are crafting for the viewer. I have seen friends on the political right and left go through these motions word for word. The yelling may be the most important part of the 'debate'. Once someone gets to this point, they are no longer listening to the other person. They disengage the conversation with their worldviews intact and unchallenged.

Worldview Pain

It is difficult to challenge a person's worldview with new information. A person is likely to shut down from the conversation and go back to talking points from their toolbox. I have even seen people 'topic swap' to other talking points in the middle of a conversation.

This is the most common debate step that I have seen when challenging someone's views with a solid argument. Real arguments that can be measured are kryptonite for fake talking points. They require that the listener either challenge, or confirm the new argument. Either of these steps are difficult. If a challenge cannot be made, the listener must confirm the argument as valid.

This almost never happens. Confirming a counter argument against you is not a tool in the box. If none of the normal rhetoric will work, you cannot continue the conversation. This is where the person will immediately change the subject to another topic that is covered by the normal talking point tools they were given.

Whenever someone changes the subject of the conversation, it does two things. It prevents them from processing the information they just heard. It helps them to reorganize other topics also challenged by the new information.

When a person starts down this path, you are no longer involved or relevant in the conversation. Once a person’s worldview is challenged, they will make sure to organize everything in their box. If you challenged 3 other views with the new argument, all 3 need to be reinforced. We humans have a tendency to avoid pain, physical and mental. Rebuilding views takes far more energy than dismissing conflicting information.

If a person's view on climate change is challenged, their views on carbon tax legislation may need to change. They may have ridiculed friends over the Paris climate accord. They may need to read through all the complicated scientific documentation to form a new working set of the world, or risk abandoning everything built up off this view. Admitting a defective view is difficult. It is far easier to call someone a science denier.

People hold views of themselves as well. An objective view of yourself may be the most difficult thing to measure. Not because the measurement itself is difficult, but the results may be difficult to bear. Critical self-evaluation is almost never done.

If a gamer that believes themselves to be talented and loses a match, they will complain that their opponent was bad. If a person who believes they are smart loses an argument, will consider their opposition stupid. Deflection helps to criticize the other person for your deficiencies. Keep this in mind the next time someone needlessly ridicules you for being hateful. People speak volumes about themselves without knowing it.

I believe this is the pain we see in the news, in places like Berkley. When a person claims that words are violence; I believe it is because the person felt actual pain when challenged. When a person wants to physically assault someone for their views and claim it as self-defense; this is why. They are defending themselves from the attack on their worldview. They were 'struck' first. They felt pain when challenged, and need to protect themselves.

Have you heard of the term "Safe Space"? A place where you are free from the threat of intellectual challenge. Safe from the mental pain of conflicting views. We encourage our youth to hide from mental pain. We tell our youth 'no one should challenge you'. We teach them postmodernism; the idea that you can never be wrong. We can do better for them.

Embrace Challenge

Make sure to examine WHY you believe in your position. Examine HOW your worldview holds up to, or falls apart with, new information. If you hold positions on a moral basis, make sure the other views that you hold can meet the same moral standard.

Your worldview is important to maintain; but, at the same time, it is crucial to review. Being closed off to outside ideas means never growing your perspective. Empathy is the tool to understand a conflicting idea. Give the person the benefit of the doubt, and try to keep an objective mind to their ideas. If you listen closely, you can find how they arrived at their conclusion, and see the pillars of views that are holding this one together. If we can help each other to pull the weeds of bad ideas from our minds; and be open to grooming our own views, we can start to learn from each other.

Humility always leads closer to truth.