Information icon.svg Results for the 2023 RationalWiki Moderator Election have now been posted. Thank you for participating in this election, and congratulations to the winners!


From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Thinking hardly
or hardly thinking?

Icon philosophy.svg
Major trains of thought
The good, the bad,
and the brain fart
Come to think of it

A worldview,[note 1] also world-view or world view, is the foundation upon which all one's beliefs and actions are based. It is the opinions and conclusions derived from a set of premises which are, by and large, unshakeable (if only because attempting to shake a person's established worldview tends to cause a severe anxiety attack, if not a complete mental breakdown).

The rational worldview is that all things are ultimately explainable by science and reason; it is not afraid to say "I don't know — yet". Other worldviews tend to involve a creator "moving in mysterious ways".

Of course, this entire page could all be irrelevant, as biologist and philosopher John S. Wilkins affirms, "I don't think worldviews exist."

Types of worldviews[edit]


See the main article on this topic: Philosophical naturalism

The naturalist worldview, also identified as the scientific humanist, metaphysical naturalist, materialist, or Brights Movement, is defined by philosopher Paul Draper as "the hypothesis that the natural world is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not a part of the natural world affects it."[1] It denies the existence of supernatural causes of natural phenomena, implying atheism, and instead relies on logic, mathematics, science, experience, the historical method, and trusted experts.

This worldview demonstrates trust in science and humanity and appreciates the connection between man and nature. Sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson remarks that naturalism "considers humanity to be a biological species that evolved over millions of years in a biological world, acquiring unprecedented intelligence yet still guided by complex inherited emotions and biased channels of learning. Human nature exists, and it was self-assembled."

Dr. Norman F. Hall, Ph.D., and humanist Lucia K. B. Hall bill the naturalist worldview as the "unifying theory for all of science" and the starting point of scientific research. Through science and education, we can influence the state of the world in order to improve our social life, and the success of naturalism in this regard provides strong evidence that it works.


See the main article on this topic: Rationalism

The rationalist or scientific worldview "assumes that there are no transcendent, immaterial forces and that all forces which do exist within the universe behave in an ultimately objective or random fashion." (Hall and Hall) This worldview makes use of logic, reason, empiricism, rational thought, and skepticism in order to generate explanations about natural phenomena.

Hall and Hall note that "a nonmysterious, understandable, material universe is the basic assumption behind all of science... scientists must assume that the universe they are investigating is playing fair, that it is not capable of conscious deceit,[note 2] that it does not play favorites, that miracles do not happen, and that there is no arcane or spiritual knowledge open only to a few." With its emphasis on evidence, a set of processes, the advancing of knowledge, and testable and useful explanations and predictions, rationalism is the basis for the scientific method. The Halls point out, "The nature of [existing] forces, and all other scientific knowledge, is revealed only through human effort in a dynamic process of inquiry."

This worldview does not posit that humans have a special place in any grand plan. The Halls note that according to the principles of rationalism "the universe as a whole is dispassionate of, indifferent to, and unswayed by human concerns and beliefs about its nature."

The rationalist worldview can in fact be drawn upon as the basis of a moral code. The Halls note, "Science has succeeded as a cooperative human effort by asserting the belief that the universe can only be understood through the values of integrity and truth-telling. In the process it has become a system of values, and it has provided humankind with a language which transcends cultural [boundaries] and connects us in a [highly] satisfying way to all the observable universe."


See the main article on this topic: Humanism

The humanist worldview merges a confidence in the effectiveness of freethinking and free inquiry with a profound appreciation for the needs of human beings and the importance of human experiences. The Council for Secular Humanism explains that this worldview "centers upon human concerns and employs rational and scientific methods," is "dedicated to the fulfillment of the individual and humankind in general," and promotes "the development of tolerance and compassion and an understanding of the methods of science, critical analysis, and philosophical reflection."[2]

Humanists recognize that the decisive factor in making an ethical decision must be its predicted effect on the good of humanity, and they identify humans as the only source of support and salvation for the human race. Although humanism has a strong element of atheism within it and realizes the necessity for separation of church and state, it is non-religious rather than anti-religious.

Religious humanism is similar to secular humanism and differs primarily in the characterization of its role as a substitute for religion, including fulfilling personal and social needs. The Humanist Manifesto of 1933, which is associated mainly with religious humanism, avows the rejection of doctrine, affirms that the goal of religion is to improve societal health, and acknowledges that all human experience is religious.[3]


See the main article on this topic: Evolution

Wilson identifies the primary tenets of the evolutionary worldview as first that "all biological processes are ultimately obedient to... the laws of physics and chemistry" and secondly that "all biological processes arose through evolution of these physicochemical systems through natural selection." He notes "we must conclude that life has diversified on Earth autonomously without any kind of external guidance. Evolution in a pure Darwinian world has no goal or purpose." He concludes "we remain a member species of this planet’s biosphere... humanity is not the center of creation, and not its purpose either."

Wilson also reminds us of Theodosius Dobzhansky's observation that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."

Opponents of the evolutionary worldview criticize it because of their perception of its atheistic and materialistic premises and its desire to do away with God. They also disagree with the conclusions that the universe is self-creating, that humanity controls its own destiny, and that there are no moral absolutes.


See the main article on this topic: Religion

The religious worldview, also known as theist or supernaturalist, is a ready-made one for individuals without the time, energy, intelligence, or courage to develop their own. It permits the use of deities and miracles as explanations for natural phenomena. The Halls explain, "Untestable, unmeasureable, and nonrandom occurrences are commonplace in all supernatural religions and pseudosciences."

Wilson admits that religion is largely responsible for spreading "the ideals of altruism and public service. From the beginning of history it has inspired the arts. Creation myths were in a sense the beginning of science itself. Fabricating them was the best the early scribes could do to explain the universe and human existence." He also identifies religion as a source of "bigotry and the dehumanization of infidels."

The Halls explain that this worldview "makes the assumption that the universe and its inhabitants have been designed and created — and in many cases, are guided — by 'forces' or beings which transcend the material world. The material world is postulated to reflect a mysterious plan originating in these forces or beings, a plan which is knowable by humans only to the extent that it has been revealed to an exclusive few. Criticising or questioning any part of this plan is strongly discouraged, especially where it touches on questions of morals or ethics." Thus the Halls are able to conclude that the religious worldview portrays the universe as "passionately involved in, partial to, and swayed by human concerns and beliefs about its nature."


See the main article on this topic: Christianity

The Christian worldview represents an attempt to explain the relationship between man and God. It characterizes man as a sinful being that can only be saved by God and holds that the primary reason for our existence is to love and serve God. Wilson explains that the Christian worldview identifies "humanity as a creation of God. He brought us into being and He guides us still as father, judge, and friend. We interpret his will from sacred scriptures and the wisdom of ecclesiastical authorities." Wilkins describes this scripture and wisdom as "an extensive body of traditional dogma which they like to reassure themselves is true and consistent."

The Christian worldview identifies God as the source of the physical laws, truth, and logic. Astrophysicist Jason Lisle reasons, "Laws of logic require the existence of God — and not just any god, but the Christian God. Only the God of the Bible can be the foundation for knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; Colossians 2:3)... Rational thinking, science, and technology make sense in a Christian worldview. The Christian has a basis for these things."

The Christian worldview similarly recognizes God as the origin of moral absolutes. Per Jason Lisle and molecular biologist Georgia Purdom, "The Christian worldview accounts not only for morality but also for why evolutionists behave the way they do. Even those who have no basis for morality within their own professed worldview nonetheless hold to a moral code; this is because in their heart of hearts they really do know the God of creation, despite their profession to the contrary. Scripture tells us that everyone knows the biblical God, but that they suppress the truth about God (Romans 1:18-21)."


See the main article on this topic: Creationism

The creationist worldview, also referred to as fundamentalist or biblical, holds that God is the creator of the universe and of man. Purdom and Lisle note that creationism treats the Bible as "the ultimate standard" and holds that it is the inspired word of God and entirely true. A literal Genesis demonstrates man's responsibility to God and accounts for the immorality of people and for the evils of the world.

An individual's creation-worldview aptitude can be measured. Answers in Genesis reports:

"An ongoing study at Liberty University is being conducted to define and measure a creationist worldview while determining factors that influence the beliefs and attitudes about origins in a Christian college student population. The Creation Worldview Test (CWT) was administered before and after completion of a required apologetics course... Following the apologetics course, which was taught from a young-earth creation perspective, a large number of students showed a much stronger creation worldview."[4]

Intelligent design[edit]
See the main article on this topic: Intelligent design

The intelligent-design worldview, though essentially the same as creationism, has the obvious religious connotations removed in order to make it appear scientific. Those who hold this worldview claim that the scientific community refuse to consider "intelligent design" because "scientists resist the supernatural theory because it is counter to their own personal secular beliefs".[5]

Opponents of the proponents of the intelligent-design worldview criticize the proponents for the lack of substance to their arguments. Wilson points out, "The reasoning they offer is not based on evidence but on the lack of it. The formulation of intelligent design is a default argument advanced in support of a non sequitur."[6] He concludes that they have "no evidence, no theory, and no criteria for proof that even marginally might pass for science."[7]


See the main article on this topic: Atheism

Atheism is the lack of belief in deities. Proponents maintain that it is not equivalent to materialism. Biology professor Paul Zachary Myers explains that atheism is not necessarily implied by a scientific worldview, but that it is consistent with it. Lisle argues, "The materialistic atheist can’t have laws of logic. He believes that everything that exists is material — part of the physical world. But laws of logic are not physical... the atheist, in arguing that God does not exist, must use laws of logic that only make sense if God does exist... If the universe and our minds are simply the results of time and chance, as the atheist contends, why would we expect that the mind could make sense of the universe? How could science and technology be possible?"[8] He considers responses that materialists might give, and claims all of these fail (many will view these as caricatures or excluding other possibilities). It also wrongly assumes that all atheists are materialists.

Critics accuse atheism of being a religion and accuse atheists "of having a worldview that precluded the existence of God." (Wilkins) These are inaccurate representations, as atheism is the lack of a belief. Wilkins in fact concludes that atheism does not even constitute a worldview.[note 3]

Luke Muehlhauser of Common Sense Atheism reaches this same conclusion. He notes, "Atheism and a-unicornism are each a single belief about one thing. Neither of these positions tell you anything else about the person who holds them: their moral values, their political views, their driving purpose, their explanations for life or the universe, their beliefs about magic or ghosts or elves, their rationality or their intelligence... Neither an atheist nor an a-unicornist must believe in eternal matter, a multiverse, or moral relativism."[9]

Scientific versus religious worldviews[edit]

See NASA for more beautiful worldviews like this.
See main article: Science and religion

One could reasonably conclude that, since science and religion comprise different realms, one could simultaneously hold both worldviews. The Halls concede, after all, that the postulate of design "insures that it will never be incompatible with any of the findings of science. This ability of the supernatural view to adjust itself to any finite set of facts has, ironically, made it seem easy to accept both the findings of science and the consolations of spiritualism."

However, the Halls also remind us, "Science and religion are diametrically opposed at their deepest philosophical levels. And, because the two worldviews make claims to the same intellectual territory — that of the origin of the universe and humankind's relationship to it — conflict is inevitable." The consistent success of science at explaining our universe confirms the usefulness of the rationalist worldview. Wilson notes, "The inexorable growth of [biology] continues to widen, not to close, the tectonic gap between science and faith-based religion."

Likewise, proponents of the religious worldview contend that science is trespassing on their domain. The Halls attest, "From the point of view of the religious believer, it has seemed as though the goal of science has been to push belief in the supernatural to ever more remote redoubts until it might disappear entirely."

Note that promoting religion at the expense of science comes at a price. The Halls mention that by favoring a religious worldview "the hard work of making and testing theories becomes a pointless enterprise, along with all human-made explanations and meaning." Advocating religion has consequences for one's conscience too, as the Halls note, "But by accepting [scientific] findings as a free bounty — while rejecting the hard assumptions and hard work that made them possible — the supernaturalist embraces a lie."

Religion cannot serve as a valid substitute for rationalism in order to explain observations of the universe. In this regard, it is a vague, unfounded, and empty hypothesis. Its conclusions are not useful or testable, are not based on evidence, and do not advance knowledge.

Myers contends that when the religious worldview is allowed to serve as a basis for explanations of natural phenomena, that scientific literacy suffers. He asserts, "If we insist on treating people like four-year-olds who mustn't be told that Santa isn't real, what we get is people with the wisdom and attention spans and screwy ideas about how the world works of four-year-olds." He concludes that "shying away from the fact that it is a god-free scientific worldview that makes evolutionary biology powerful and persuasive impairs our ability to promote good science."


See main article: Nationalism

As children, we absorb the national mythologies of our nations as to who and what we are. This can be overt: for example, the national history syllabus, in which the nationally accepted version of history is taught in school, and which we have to memorize in order to pass our history exams. So a student in Japan will learn the Japanese version of the Nanking Massacre Incident, and a Chinese student the official Chinese version. Less obvious is our absorption of national myths through cultural acclimatisation. Although globalisation has had a levelling effect, we can see the reinforcement of national myths at play in playgrounds, films and television, news media and literature. National rituals such as Rememberance Sunday, Veteran's Day, and the May Day Victory Parade reinforce both what we have learnt through indoctrination and absorbed through cultural osmosis. The danger of these myths is that they can have real political consequences; the facts behind the rhetoric may not be true, but the people have so bought into the national myths that their fears and jingoism can be used and manipulated by those at the top (e.g. we are God's own country and we can bomb who we want; we have been betrayed by all other nations throughout history, so we need to make would-be enemies fear us lest we be betrayed again; we gave them cause to hate us — we have to isolate them and keep them weak or else they will seek revenge and destroy us; that land was always ours, and we just want back what is ours; if they grow stronger and richer, then we become weaker and poorer; we are the master race — it is our right to destroy and enslave the inferior). As dangerous as the political worldviews we subscribe to ourselves are those that we ascribe to others: the two work together to produce mutual fear and antagonism.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. dictionary definition:
    1: The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.
    2: A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group.
    Derived from the German Weltanschauung[yes, the double 'u' is correct] pron: velt an show ung
  2. While not directly stated in this quote, there is also an assumption that the universe is not conscious, and is therefore not capable of consciously doing anything.
  3. To paraphrase RationalWiki's own article on atheism (and the article on freedom of religion), atheism amounts to no more or less than the "N/A" box on a checklist of religions.


  1. Draper, Paul. "Natural Selection and the Problem of Evil (2007)." Internet Infidels.
  2. Stevens, Fritz; et. al. "What is Secular Humanism?" Council for Secular Humanism. 2011.
  3. "About Humanism: Humanist Manifesto I." American Humanist Association. 2008-2011.
  4. Deckard, Steve; et. al. (April 2003). "Role of educational factors in college students' creation worldview." Answers in Genesis.
  5. Compare: Wilson, Edward O. (November-December 2005). "Intelligent Evolution: the consequences of Charles Darwin's 'one long argument'". Harvard Magazine (Harvard Magazine Inc.). "Flipping the scientific argument upside down, the intelligent designers join the strict creationists (who insist that no evolution ever occurred in the first place) by arguing that scientists resist the supernatural theory because it is counter to their own personal secular beliefs." 
  6. Wilson, Edward O. (November-December 2005). "Intelligent Evolution: the consequences of Charles Darwin's 'one long argument'". Harvard Magazine (Harvard Magazine Inc.). "Many who accept the fact of evolution cannot, however, on religious grounds, accept the operation of blind chance and the absence of divine purpose implicit in natural selection. They support the alternative explanation of intelligent design. The reasoning they offer is not based on evidence but on the lack of it. The formulation of intelligent design is a default argument advanced in support of a non sequitur." 
  7. Compare: Wilson, Edward O. (November-December 2005). "Intelligent Evolution: the consequences of Charles Darwin's 'one long argument'". Harvard Magazine (Harvard Magazine Inc.). "[...] unfortunately there is no evidence, no theory, and no criteria for proof that even marginally might pass for science. There is only the residue of hoped-for default, which steadily shrinks as the science of biology expands." 
  8. Atheism: An Irrational Worldview, Answers in Genesis
  9. Is Atheism A Worldview?, Common Sense Atheism