Gospel Hypothesis 1: The nature of revelation »« Ockham and Twain

Worldviews in the balance

The observation is often made (and often by religious people) that each of us has our own worldview, by which we understand and interpret things in the world around us. When this observation is made during a debate over religion and/or science, it is often claimed that your conclusions owe as much to your worldview as my conclusions do to mine, and therefore I have just as much right to my conclusions as you do to yours.

This argument overlooks the fact that not all worldviews are created equal. There are two kinds of worldview, rational worldviews, and rationalizing worldviews, and they differ by the degree to which they accurately reflect the world they’re supposed to be viewing. In general, we want to avoid the rationalizing worldview because it tends to isolate us from the truth and leads us to make mistakes that are both painful and avoidable. But how do we know which kind of worldview our worldview is?

The problem is that rationalizing is something we humans do very well. To the person that embraces it, a rationalizing worldview appears to have covered all the bases, and produced a view of the world that successfully and consistently accounts for all the facts, just like the rational worldview does. No matter what inconsistencies may exist in our original assumptions, or between our worldview and the real world, we can always think of some rationalization that reconciles what we see with what we want to believe.

The catch is that, as we discussed yesterday and the day before, the rationalizing worldview can never be as simple as the rational worldview, due to the nature of truth. Truth means being consistent with the real world, and therefore the worldview that is the most true is going to be the worldview that will have the fewest inconsistencies that need rationalizing. The way to measure which worldview is more rational, therefore, is to compare two worldviews and see which is most consistent with the most facts while requiring the fewest extra explanations to account for the discrepancies between belief and reality.

I have a series of posts in mind that I’ve done before on my old blog, and I think it might be fun to bring them up again for another look. The theme of the series is the Gospel Hypothesis versus the Myth Hypothesis. Let’s compare the Christian worldview and the secular worldview and compare the two in terms of two assumptions regarding the origin of religion. The Gospel Hypothesis proposes that there exists a divine Heavenly Father who is loving, omniscient, omnipotent, and all-good, and that religion exists because He revealed it to man in order that we might be saved and be with Him forever. The Myth Hypothesis proposes that no such God exists, and that religion comes from ordinary human superstition and myth-making, coupled with gullibility and wishful thinking.

What I want to do is look at the verifiable facts we can observe concerning religion and its history, and compare them to each of these two hypotheses, to see which hypothesis requires the greatest number of additional rationalizations in order to reconcile the original assumption with the observable facts. The last time we did this, we attracted the attention of one or two believers, and things got pretty exciting, but it was great fun. We probably won’t be as lucky this time, but I think it will be interesting anyway.