A worldview is the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the universe and life. Since every persons interaction with the world is different, worldviews are unique to each individual. worldviews are built out of answers to the Big Questions of life however provisional those answers may be. These are the most basic questions that humans have wondered about since they became human beings. Perhaps it is the ability to phrase them that distinguishes us from other conscious animals.
The Big Questions can be organized into categories:
a. Cosmological What is the universe like? Does it make sense? What kind of sense? What is our place in the universe? Can we find it?
b. Biological What is life? What is mind? How did they originate?
c. Social and historical What are human beings like? Why is there so much conflict within our species? What might be our long-range future? Is the world progressing? What is progress?
d. Theological and metaphysical Is there a power, a will behind phenomena? Is there purpose and design in the universe? Does the human race have a special role or is it an illusion? Does human life have a purpose, a meaning? What is the nature of reality? Is this world all there is?
e. Ethical and aesthetic Do we want the right things? What is the best way to live? What do we mean by good or bad, beautiful or ugly?
The study of science can, to some extent, help us find answers to some of these questions. But science is new in human experience and its nature is that of an ongoing investigation. All answers it provides are tentative and subject to new discoveries. However, since they are based on painstaking observations, deep thinking, collective inspection and critical examination by people who spend their lives in the field, the answers science provides are our best guide to what the real world is like.
It seems to be the nature of human beings that their desire for answers is so great that when established facts are not available they invent answers. Most people are unaware that their controlling conceptions of the world are based assumptions whose truth may be dubious.
Some of the questions listed above are not subject to scientific investigation and are not considered in this collection of documents. Some of them like, What is the destiny of the human race? seem unanswerable, but some speculations based on knowledge may be possible.
What then is the use of unanswerable questions? Why bother with the Big Questions at all?
We have no choice. If we are thinking beings, the Questions arise by themselves to trouble us in contemplative moments or at special times when the hurly-burly of daily living ceases or when death enters our lives. Human beings are forever in search of meaning. Once consciousness is achieved, there is no way of putting these deep questions aside. Sometime in life, circumstances will thrust them upon us. These Questions are as old as human experience. They are an essential part of life.
Also, there is hope of slight success. There are provisional answers and illuminating insights. For the first of the questions, What is the universe like? there is a flood of new information. And that is the main thread of this collection of writings. Views of what the world looks like, what it is made up of, and how it works have changed over the centuries. From prehistoric times down to the present humans have sought to understand our physical world as the first step toward finding our place in it.
Individuals of extraordinary intelligence have traveled the road before us and have sent back reports of what they have seen. We have nothing to lose and possibly much to gain by listening to them.
No doubt life would be easier if we could ignore the Big Questions but is it true that ignorance is bliss? Such a life would be apathetic and much less interesting. The unexamined life is not worth living, said Socrates.
danger of asking the Big Questions
The Big Questions come up from the depths and there is the danger of being overwhelmed. Confused by the seeming multiplicity of views, inundated by unfamiliar ideas, the tendency is to retreat to the firm ground of everyday thoughts. But deep thoughts are as exciting as they are dangerous.
American philosopher John Dewey wrote, If we once start thinking
deeply no one can guarantee where we shall come out, except that
many objects, ends, and institutions are doomed. Every thinker puts
some portion of an apparently stable world in peril and no one can
wholly predict what will emerge in its place.