Robby Lashua provides three criteria for evaluating worldviews in this class from his latest Stand to Reason University course.
All worldviews cannot be equally true, because they often contradict each other at important points. Either a God exists, or he doesn’t. Either the natural world is all that there is, or there is also a supernatural world. If a worldview is true, we should be able to give reasons and evidence to show why it is sound. We should be able to spot issues with false worldviews, meaning we should be able to see how they don’t line up with reality.
I’m going to discuss three criteria for evaluating a worldview. A good worldview should be logical, literal, and livable. With these three criteria as our guide, we will look at each worldview and see if they hold up under scrutiny.
We have three helpful criteria for evaluating a worldview. Is the worldview logical? Is the worldview literal? And is the worldview livable? Let’s talk about logical. “Logical” refers to the internal coherence of a worldview. Are the ideas within this worldview mutually supportive of one another, or do they conflict? If a worldview is not logically coherent, then that worldview is false. One of the basic laws of logic is the law of non-contradiction. Something cannot be both true and not true at the same time and in the same way. Here’s an example: If a worldview claimed that there is no God when it comes to origins, but then claimed that man’s purpose is to obey God and follow his rules perfectly when it comes to purpose, there is an obvious contradiction. This worldview could not be correct.
One worldview with a clear logical contradiction is relativism. Now, relativism falls under the major worldview of naturalism. Naturalists believe God does not exist, therefore objective moral standards do not exist. A common claim of a relativist is that there is no truth. This statement is clearly not logical. It violates the law of non-contradiction. If the statement is true that there is no truth, then there is at least one truth: the truth that there is no truth. Thus, the statement is contradictory. Making this assertion undercuts the very thing it is trying to claim. If the statement is true, then it is false.
There’s another way that the “logical” criteria can help us to evaluate a worldview. Many people treat a worldview like it’s a swirled-view. What I mean by that is they swirl together ideas that they like from many different worldviews, or they collect contradictory ideas as if a worldview is like a buffet. The problem is, mix and match worldviews do not fit together or reinforce each other. We can use the logical criteria to show the contradictory nature of a swirled-view.
An example of this would be the Unitarian Universalists. This liberal religion encompasses many faith traditions and has a few specific theological beliefs. The Unitarian Universalist Association website says, “Explore the links below to learn how Unitarian Universalists weave these traditions and identities into who they are today.” It then lists Atheist and Agnostic, Buddhist, Christian, Earth-Centered, Hindu, Humanist, Jewish, Muslim. These different worldviews cannot be harmonized. They conflict on major issues. Consequently, the Unitarian Universalist swirled-view means they live in constant contradiction.
Let’s move on to our second criteria: literal. Is the worldview literal? Factual? Does the worldview literally reflect reality? Are there facts and evidence in the real world that support this worldview? Is there evidence against this worldview being true? These are the types of questions that the literal criteria seeks to answer.
Naturalism is not literal. Its answers to questions about origins do not fit with the way the world actually is. The natural world, the universe, had a beginning. It’s not eternal. This can be demonstrated both scientifically and philosophically. The scientific evidence from the Second Law of Thermodynamics teaches that, given enough time, the universe and all its processes will run out of usable energy. Simply put, the universe is cooling down. If the universe is eternal, then it would have already run out of energy. However, we are here today in a universe that still has heat. Therefore, the universe cannot be eternal.
The scientific evidence actually supports theism. If God created the universe, then the universe had a beginning. Why would a naturalist hold on to naturalism if there’s compelling evidence that the literal world is not the way their worldview describes? Well, the late Richard Lewontin, who was an evolutionary biologist, tells us. He says, “[Evolutionists] have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” This is a denial of the literal world, the actual world, and it’s an assertion of a worldview that fits with how Lewontin wants things to be. It doesn’t matter whether a certain worldview works for us or fits with how we want things to be. The question to ask is, does it work with the way the world really is? Naturalism fails the “literal” criteria.
Let’s talk about the third criteria: livable. Is this worldview livable? We have to ask, do my beliefs allow me to live and behave according to the way the world really is? Hinduism is an example of a worldview that is not livable. When it comes to origins, the belief that the material world is Maya—an illusion—is not a livable view. Every minute of every day, the Hindu interacts with the material world as if it were real. To deny the reality of the material world would cause huge problems. Not eating illusory food. Not caring about ingesting illusionary poison. Not taking care of your illusory body. Hindus betray their worldview when they look both ways before crossing a busy intersection. This view is not livable, and thus it should be abandoned.
Buddhism is not livable. When it comes to identity—what a human being is—one of the key components of Buddhism is that our desires lead to suffering. So, in order to eliminate suffering, we must eliminate desire. This is an unlivable concept. It’s imploring us to desire not to desire. If I attempt to do this, I am failing at doing so because I’m desiring not to desire. This is not something a human being can accomplish, no matter how much meditation they practice.
Naturalism is not livable when it comes to purpose—specifically, personal significance. Even though naturalists admit there is no ultimate purpose to human existence, they can’t live this out. Instead, they create smaller purposes they know won’t matter in the grand scheme of the universe, but they need a purpose to keep living anyway. Skeptic Michael Shermer said, “Play hard, work hard, love hard.... The bottom line for me is to live life to the fullest in the here-and-now instead of a hoped-for hereafter, and make every day count in some meaningful way and do something—no matter how small it is—to make the world a better place.” The irony of Shermer’s statement is that naturalism believes the universe is a cause and effect system that is not open to reordering. This means that everything is cause and effect, including humans. We’re just sophisticated machines. There is no choice of our will to make every day count or to make the world a better place. Every decision we have ever made was predetermined by causes external to us since, according to naturalism, every human action is determined. Humans are unable to truly act free. This removes human responsibility. Our choices for good or for bad are not really our choices. We’re just reacting to previous causes. No one lives as if this were true. We can’t. We know that we are responsible for our choices and our actions. Naturalists act as if they are making a difference. They write books to persuade people to change their view on religion, all the while believing that humans cannot choose to do other than what cause and effect has determined. Determinism is not a livable view.
I hope that you found this helpful. These three criteria are a good grid for you to process worldviews with. Remember, the true worldview should be logical, literal, and livable.