Ask someone on the street what they think is wrong with the world today, then get behind your mental blast shield. The torrent of answers will range from the wrong “leader” in “power,” pollution, racism, lack of “faith” (whatever that means), “human nature” (whatever that means), inflation, the market, and a million other bizarre half-baked explanations. The answer you’ll be sure to never get is: the beliefs that drive the behavior of the individual.
Human beings are not a mindless blob that create destruction at the behest of those who control the money, or because it’s “human nature”. The destruction created on our earth is the product of independent chosen behavior. What makes the actions look like a mindless blob is the fact that beliefs can be formed, shaped, and acted on in mass. The mass of these beliefs are rooted in the minds of each one of us and forms a unique way of seeing what we call “the world,” “people,” and “society.” These worldviews are held often at the subconscious level and very often in stark contradiction to evidence.
Worldview seems to be such a big idea that you might say that a true understanding is impossible, and yet many people maintain their perspective is “the way things are.” Big ideas may seem complex but they can fracture into big categories that are easy to understand. These categories act as a model to help us understand and interact with the seeming complexity of life. This fracturing of worldview drives two very different types of behavior that in turn make a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
On the subject of big ideas, let’s kick this worldview stuff off with a bang, a big bang. The entire universe and everything in it, including you, is a purposeless accident of physics in a great big mysterious nothing. “The soul” is a fiction invented by a confused biological random number generator that wants another hit of oxytocin to feel less uncomfortable about reality. Trapped on a lonely ball of dirt, the only thing to do is fight the tide of extinction with ruthless hoarding to secure a chance at survival.
Wasn’t that lovely? A random meaningless void is a common “scientific” view of what some people call, “the way things are.” The cosmic accident idea leads to a lot of destructive beliefs. The notion that everything is too complicated to understand creates a sort of give-up type feeling, which is remedied by the lament that there just is no truth at all. Moral action goes out the window with it; if we all need to survive and I need to be a bad guy to do that, so be it. If someone is better than me and wins, well that’s “just the way things are,” they get to rule because they are more fit to survive. Locked in this fear, the over-abundance of earth gets scourged by hoarders, war, or comically, systems of “sustainable management.” Without such a worldview how else could we survive?
Gifted with creation, we are all under “Gods Will” (again, whatever that means). This worldview stands on the other side, and it is determinism; nothing is accidental. The will of a power beyond all control sets up all the world events and each persons life according to the “divine plan.” No matter what you do, every action is ultimately meaningless; you can never act outside “the plan.” Evil is destined to win, but those people will “get theirs” (for the actions they chose?). With the events all set in stone, the only thing to do is wait and pray.
Determinists have all the “faith” in the world that they will be “saved.” Like a train barreling towards them in a wide open field, there seemingly is simply nothing that can be done to avoid the ultimate fate. The self-fulfilling prophecy of this worldview really does destroy the use of freewill. Often but not always, a deterministic religious mindset has the behavior of inaction. After all, why fight evil when it’s all in Gods hands? Perhaps rooted in confusion or self-loathing, determinists are not innovators; at least the survival of the fittest mindset spurs some creativity. The end result is an individual in a state of passivity, not even willing to try creating a world they’d like to see.
In the course of human belief, these two perspectives drive almost all the actions of individuals. It might seem like a dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t; meat robots programmed to destroy, or puppets of an apparently cynical creator. Makes you wonder if a middle ground even exists. That train in the open field might be useful; its tracks are determinism, the terrain an unknown but, the conductor is not a mindless machine and the tracks didn’t get there on their own. We have the freewill to lay the course we take as individuals and as a species. The terrain may determine the outcome of actions but our actions are determined by us. It’s only by standing in the middle; in honor of nature and freewill that we can stay on track.