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Keywords:

  • environment;
  • faith;
  • nonscientific;
  • scientific;
  • taboo;
  • unscientific;
  • worldview

Abstract. What is a scientific worldview, and why should we care? One worldview can knit together various notions, and therefore understanding a worldview requires analysis of its component parts. Stripped to its minimum, a scientific worldview consists strictly of falsifiable components. Such a worldview, based solely on ideas that can be tested with empirical observation, conforms to the highest levels of objectivity but is severely limited in utility. The limits arise for two reasons: first, many falsifiable ideas cannot be tested adequately until their repercussions already have been felt; second, the reach of science is limited, and ethics, which compose an inevitable part of any useful worldview, are largely unfalsifiable. Thus, a worldview that acts only on scientific components is crippled by a lack of moral relevance. Organized religion traditionally has played a central role in defining moral values, but it lost much of its influence after the discovery that key principles (such as the personal Creator of Genesis) contradict empirical reality. The apparent conundrum is that strictly scientific worldviews are amoral, while many long-held religious worldviews have proven unscientific. The way out of this conundrum is to recognize that nonscientific ideas, as distinct from unscientific ideas, are acceptable components of a scientific worldview, because they do not contradict science. Nonscientific components of a worldview should draw upon scientific findings to explore traditional religious themes, such as faith and taboo. In contrast, unscientific ideas have been falsified and survive only via ignorance, denial, wishful thinking, blind faith, and institutional inertia. A worldview composed of both scientific components and scientifically informed nonscientific components can be both objective and ethically persuasive.