project WORLDVIEW worldview theme info copyright 2009 Home
Related Words, Beliefs, Background
|Worldview Theme #4:
alphabetical listing: A to K
|alphabetical listing, continued: L to Z|
Worldview Themes #4 and #3 --
these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or
less) diametrically opposed! Note: The contrast between these
themes can be roughly captured by the difference between microscopic vs.
telescopic approaches, between one that emphasizes seeking depth and
one that prefers seeking breadth, or between someone who pays more
attention to the trees compared to someone who is more concerned with
Contrast Worldview Themes #4 and #9A -- these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!
Contrast Worldview Themes #4 and #25 -- these themes involve orientations, beliefs or behavior that are (more or less) diametrically opposed!
astronomy--the scientific study of the universe and its constituents that lie beyond Earth (moon, Sun, planets, stars, galaxies, etc.)
atmosphere--the thin layer of gases that surround the Earth. Near its surface, the atmosphere is composed of nitrogen (78%), oxygen (20%), smaller amounts of water vapor and carbon dioxide, and trace amounts of other gases. Thinning with altitude, most of it lies within five miles of the surface, and none above 60 miles.
Big Bang Theory—the cosmological theory that the observable universe began with everything (all matter, energy, etc) in an incredibly compact, hot, dense state, after which an event (the Big Bang) occurred that began the universe's currently observed expansion. More observational support comes from the detection and study of a primordial fireball radiation remnant left over from the early days of the universe, and continuing confirmation of the amounts of elements --notably helium--formed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang (currently believed to be roughly fourteen billion years ago). An important refinement of this theory occurred (in the 1980s) with the addition of an “inflationary era” to the universe’s initial moments.
biosphere -- the part of the Earth that supports life.
Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Cognitive Domain--a
classification for the thinking-related objectives that educators have
for students. At the bottom are those that involve lower level
processes, beginning with memorizing facts without understanding.
Beyond this, many teachers seek to promote higher level thinking. Accordingly their objectives may steadily move up this
taxonomy to involve comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and
catastrophism--view that Earth's geologic and life history has been mostly shaped by catastrophic events with global affects such as cosmic impacts, large volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods, etc. Influenced by theology / Biblical events such as Noah's flood, this was the prevailing view up until the mid-19th century. For the opposing view, see uniformitarianism
conscience, global environmental--while a few environmentally concerned individuals may build this into their conscience, futurists have imagined a human collective consciousness / global brain that automatically makes individuals aware of planetary well being and encourages them to factor it into their behavior. The book Coming of Age in the Global Village provided one example of this (called GAIA).
continental drift -- refers to slow changes in the positions of continents that become important over geologic time intervals, one of the phenomena nicely explained by the theory of plate tectonics.
Copernican Principle–the idea that human beings are not in a privileged position to make observations, named from Copernicus' removing Earth from its special position at the center of the universe with the publication of his Sun-centered (heliocentric) system in 1543. The 20th century saw two similar shifts 1) astronomers (led by Shapley) realized that the Sun was not in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, and 2) physicists (led by Einstein) argued that the laws of nature should look the same for all observers. Some similarly see Darwinian evolution as displacing humans from the center of the natural world.
cosmic distance -- distances so large that units like the kilometer or mile are too small to use. A better unit is the light year: the distance that light travels in empty space in one year, given that it travels at a speed of around 300,000 kilometers per second or 186,000 miles per second. The light reaching us from the Sun -- roughly 93 million miles away -- takes eight minutes to make its journey, so one can say that the Sun is roughly eight light minutes away. The nearest star is much much farther: slightly over four light years away. The most distant well known object readily visible on a clear night away from city lights is the Andromeda Galaxy--a huge collection of billions of stars around three million light years away! The universe contains hundreds of billions of such galaxies (we live in one called The Milky Way Galaxy) spread out over billions of light years.
cosmic recycling--like people, stars have a life history: they are born (from interstellar clouds of gas and dust), live to maturity, and die. Just as human remains are returned to the earth where they enrich the soil and foster new growth, stellar deaths often enrich the surrounding space. Specifically byproducts of the nuclear reactions which powered these stars (typically for at least millions and often billions of years)--like carbon, oxygen, iron, etc--enrich the interstellar medium for the next generation of star formation. Without this enrichment, interstellar space would consist of essentially 75% hydrogen and 25% helium, and things that require heavier elements, Earth-like planets, water, plants, and people, would not exist!
cosmology -- the study of the origin and structure of the universe.
dark matter / dark energy--hypothetical forms of matter and energy that don't emit radiation but whose existence can be inferred by other means. Astrophysicists believe that dark matter exists due to its gravitational effects on other matter and that 22% of the observable universe's mass / energy content is in this form. Black holes represent one form of it. Dark energy--believed to account for 74% of the observable universe's mass / energy content--can be inferred to exist from the observed acceleration in the expansion of the universe. Only 4% of the universe is believed to consist of ordinary matter that emits visible radiation. Failure to understand what 96% of the universe is should keep astrophysicists humble!
Earth from Space -- pictures sent back to Earth from spacecraft have made people appreciate various things: the unity of all life that calls this planet home, its beauty, its fragility, its insignificance, etc. The most famous image in this regard was the "Earthrise" image captured by Apollo 8 in December, 1968 which showed a colorful Earth rising over the barren lunar landscape. Many people credit this photo with inspiring the environmental movement. Certainly it and similar views of the whole Earth helped bolster "global vision" and feelings of belonging, global citizenship, etc. The "Pale Blue Dot" image captured by Voyager 1 in 1990 showed how small and seemingly insignificant the Earth is given the vastness of the universe.
Earth's natural cycles--study of that very complex system, the roughly 8000 miles in diameter spherical planet Earth, is facilitated by considering its numerous subsystems--some of which are naturally conceptualized as cycles of matter moving within and between the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere. Driven by input of solar energy, especially critical to life is the closed system cycling of six chemicals--providing individual oxygen, water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur cycles. The key to understanding the appearance of the Earth's surface landforms--and operating over a much longer (geologic) time frame--is the rock cycle.
ecology--a branch of biology involving the study of living things and their interrelationship with each other and the environment. Its Greek roots (oikos = house & logy = study of) suggest it refers to study of one's habitat.
evolution -- the ongoing process of physical, chemical and biological change that can be traced from the beginning of the universe, to the lifeless Earth coming into existence 4.5 billion years ago, and to its current state of teeming with a diversity of living things. Biological evolution refers to the process by which the individual members of a species, and species themselves, slowly change due to changes in genetic makeup, environmental circumstances, etc.
extraterrestrial life--although efforts--most notably looking for artificially produced signals using huge radio telescopes--have been ongoing for nearly 50 years, intelligent life has not been detected! Beginning in the mid- 1990s extra-solar planets have been detected. There are now hundreds of such discoveries, allowing astronomers to conclude that, most likely, the majority of stars possess planets. Given that there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, and that galaxies each typically have hundreds of billions of stars, odds seem good that at least one of these (besides our Sun) has a planet where (like Earth) there is intelligent life. One might even guess that such life is commonplace...But then (as physicist Enrico Fermi asked), "Where are they?" Some have suggested that the lifetime of advanced civilizations is short (they destroy themselves, like we may!) and this explains the nil results of project SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence). Of course, no reputable astronomer believes that unidentified flying objects represent alien spacecraft visiting Earth!
generalist -- in contrast to a specialist, generalist has lots of breadth in studying or practicing something, but not much depth.
geological time scale -- a scheme by which the roughly 4.5 billion year history of the Earth is divided into eras -- the earliest being the so-called Precambrian era -- the eras into periods, and the periods into epochs. Out of an understanding of geologic principles, their application to the rock record, and growing appreciation of what fossils represented, came the belief that the Earth is incredibly old. By the twentieth century, geologists’ relative dating—based on the principle that younger horizontal layers sit on top of older such layers—was supplemented by techniques utilizing radioactive substances which decay at a known rate. Such radiometric dating transformed the geologic time scale from a relative dating scheme to one that assigned numerical dates.
global education -- wholistic education that focuses on whole systems and emphasizes the interconnections and interdependencies that traditional, reductionist education often overlooks. It extends boundaries of concern, and strives to involve the whole person -- seen as a thinking, feeling, and doing creature.
history, philosophy of--considers such topics as what can be learned by studying history, what should be the focus of such study, what patterns can be discerned, what purpose (if any) lies behind it, the causes of events, and biases in historical records (writings of "victors" may be more propaganda than truth!)
human evolution--the evolutionary change that saw modern humans (homo sapiens) develop from the earliest primates over the sixty-five million years since dinosaurs became extinct. The common ancestor of monkeys and apes (a family which includes "naked apes" or humans) was the lemur--a rat sized mammal. The evolutionary paths of gorillas, chimpanzees and humans split around ten million years ago. The first members of the genus "Homo" appeared around 2.5 million years ago, and homo sapiens around 250,000 years ago. A 1987 study, based on analysis of DNA in mitochondria (the cell's power plant), announced that all modern humans are descended from a female (dubbed "Eve") who lived 200,000 years ago. Studies based on both archeological and genetic evidence suggest that humans lived exclusively in Africa until 50,000 years ago--when a small group left their home-land in the Great Rift Valley. Geneticists' maps (based on DNA markers in Y chromosomes) trace their subsequent migration--to Asia, then the Middle East and Europe. There, they out-competed a rival species, homo neanderthalensis, which died out 30,000 years. After crossing Siberia, humans populated the Americas 10,000 to 20,000 years ago.
human senses, extending them--technology dramatically extends the capabilities of the human senses--most notably for seeing and detecting the presence of chemicals (as in smelling odors). Of course traditional microscopes and telescopes greatly extend vision, improving the ability of detecting both very small and very far away objects by a thousand times or more. The limitations they run into given their use of ordinary light waves--which are relatively large and lacking in penetrating power--can be overcome by using smaller waves (as in electron microscopes) or other electromagnetic waves (as in radio telescopes). Similarly other detectors allow humans to "see" all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum (x-rays, ultra-violet, infra-red, etc)--not just visible light their eyes are sensitive to. And whereas human noses typically detect concentrations in the parts per million range of various chemicals, modern analytical chemistry instrumentation can extend the range down to parts per trillion or less.
hydrosphere--the water component of Earth: 97% of which is found in oceans--which cover 71% of the planet's surface, their average depth is 2.5 miles--and 3% as fresh water on land.
hyperspace -- the (theoretically imagined, but conceivably real!) part of the universe that exists in higher (or hidden) dimensions outside our normal world of three spatial dimensions.
illusion of central position -- one naturally assumes that one’s current viewpoint or position is the preferred, best, central position for experiencing and interpreting some phenomenon, and -- if that assumption is incorrect -- this can create an illusion. Examples: 1) prior to Copernicus, people believed that the planets revolved around the Earth rather than the sun -- a geocentric illusion. 2) Some extraordinarily self centered people imagine that they are all important -- an egocentric illusion. 3) A related view is that the Earth belongs to human beings and is there for humans to exploit -- a conclusion which many feel is based on an anthropocentric illusion.
rigid outermost shell of the Earth. Its thickness averages 50 miles
under oceans and 100 miles under continents.
logical reasoning, use in math, science & engineering--such reasoning most notably involves use of deduction and induction. Deduction starts with axioms: unquestioned facts /assumptions / premises. It then applies rules and through a sequential process necessarily arrives at new facts / conclusions. It is a "top down" approach. In contrast, induction, in "bottom up" fashion, takes many related facts and generalizes them to arrive at a rule or rules. The former proceeds from wholes / more general to parts / more specific, whereas the latter moves in the opposite direction. Beginning with Euclidean geometry, much of mathematics developed in deductive fashion. In applied science and engineering, specific problems can be solved by a deductive process in which an accepted scientific theory is used to formulate a specific hypothesis to test / confirm. This can be rather mundane. Exciting scientific advances often result from an inductive process: from many observations, patterns are found, leading to hypotheses and ultimately, a more broadly applicable theory.
lumpers vs. splitters--refers to people who classify or categorize information in different ways: Lumpers see similarities as more important than differences and take a more wholistic, global approach, whereas Splitters focus in on differences which they view as more important. They are more likely to reductionistically "split hairs" in classifying or categorizing--even to the point of creating new categories to emphasize uniqueness.
macroeconomics -- the branch of economics which involves relationships between broad economic aggregates, such as national income, employment, money supply, etc. To be contrasted with microeconomics.
Milky Way Galaxy--there are two ways to relate to it: 1) It's the faint band of light seen to stretch across part of the sky as visible on a clear night from a dark sky location; 2) the huge (over 100,000 light years across) stellar system of over 100 billion stars, gas, dust, and dark matter that our Sun, Earth and solar system are part of. Once thought to be at the center of the universe, the Earth is now thought to located in the outskirts of this Galaxy in one of its spiral arms. Of course, given that we are inside the Milky Way Galaxy looking out, both of these descriptions are of the same thing!
multiverse-- a hypothetical structure containing the observable universe we live in and other disconnected space-time domains (parallel universes, etc.) Together these make up the multiverse, comprising all of Reality. While our universe was seemingly born 14 billion years ago, and shows assymmetries, the multiverse may be timeless and symmetric.
natural selection -- a natural process that has the effect of allowing the survival and reproduction of those individuals best adapted to their environment. It operates at genetic, individual organism, and group / species levels and over very long time periods and is the mechanism that explains the appearance of design in nature without invoking the presence of a designer.
plate tectonics -- the geological theory that the Earth’s crust is broken up into many large plates that move relative to each other. The interactions between these plates can be used to explain a wide variety of geological processes and associated surface features. For example, a plot of the Earth's major earthquakes shows they occur near plate boundaries.
prehistoric--a term which refers to something that happened before people began to use written language, that is, around 5500 years ago or roughly 3500 BC.
Project 2061--The American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061 aims to increase the scientific literacy of Americans. According to the AAAS, "It began its work in 1985-the year Halley's Comet was last visible from earth. Children starting school now will see the return of the Comet in 2061-a reminder that today's education will shape the quality of their lives as they come of age in the 21st century amid profound scientific and technological change." For many with global vision, the 76 year interval between appearances of Halley's Comet is an appropriate time frame in which to plan for the future.
relativity theory--asserts that it only makes sense to describe motion in relative terms: there is no, absolute, fixed, stationary frame of reference. Relative motion between two reference frames that move at a constant velocity with respect to each other is treated by special relativity. This postulates that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. General relativity handles accelerated motion--and is linked to gravitation (see space-time continuum). While relativity theory, worked out by Einstein between 1905--1915, revolutionized physics, it is not needed unless objects / particles move at very high speeds / possess high energy, or where gravitational forces are incredibly strong. Relativity has been confirmed by nearly a century of physicists' experimental testing to a high degree of precision.
reverence and humility--reverence--defined as "profound respect mingled with love and awe"--requires humility argues UU minister Phillip Hewett. To feel reverent, he writes, necessitates that "you are humble enough to see yourself as a modest part of a greater whole, not the pivot around which it revolves."
seasons--periods associated with a particular kind of weather and activity. The Sun's apparent position in the sky during the middle of the day changes seasonally: high in summer (so radiant energy received is more direct/ greater and days are long); low in winter (radiation energy received is less direct / diluted and days are short). Seasons are caused by the tilt of the Earth's axis: 23.5o from the direction perpendicular to the plane of its annual orbit around the Sun.
solar energy--can be traced to nuclear fusion reactions occurring 93 million miles away inside the Sun, in which (light) hydrogen nuclei fuse together to make helium. Indeed, this radiant energy directly or indirectly powers life on Earth via the photosynthesis process, and many of the planet's natural cycles such as the hydrologic cycle. Meeting human technological societal energy needs using so-called renewable energy sources involves harnessing today's solar energy, whereas using fossil fuels involves drawing on the solar energy that millions of years ago was captured by the ancient plants. Astrophysicists believe the Sun will continue to exist in more or less its current form for another five billion years--making it essentially an inexhaustible energy source as far as humans are concerned.
solar system--the Sun, planets (including Earth), satellites of planets (included the Moon), minor planets (asteroids), and other space debris (comets, meteroids), all of which are gravitationally bound to the Sun (which has 99.9 % of its mass). The distance unit used to specify distances within the solar system is the astronomical unit (au) =average Earth--Sun distance =~93 million miles. The inner solar system--including the eight major planets--lies within 40 au of the Sun; the outer solar system stretches to 1000 au and beyond. The entire solar system formed around 4.6 billion years ago.
concept that was introduced by Einstein with his relativity theory. In
the simplest mathematical models, the three dimensions of space are
linked with a fourth one: time. This
space-time structure (think of it as flat in a two dimensional, analogy
sense) is distorted--warped or curved--by matter. The greater the
concentration of matter, the greater space-time is distorted: something
that general relativistic physics connects with the force of gravity.
space vs. time plots, using to characterize worldviews -- A two dimensional scheme in which distance from the current location would be plotted vertically, and time elapsed since the present moment would be plotted horizontally (with points to the right in the future, points to the left in the past). Imagine locating an individual’s concerns by plotting them using this scheme. For a person with a narrow worldview the points would cluster around the center or origin of the graph. In contrast, for a person with global vision, the points would extend out from the origin much farther in all directions.
stars--once thought to be pinholes in the celestial sphere that light from Heaven shown through, Giordano Bruno was the first to teach they are objects like the Sun. The latter is an 864,000 mile diameter ball of hot, mostly hydrogen and helium gas. Depending upon their mass, stars live from millions to tens of billions of years--producing energy (and building heavier elements from lighter ones) via nuclear reactions. This creates the outward force which counters the inward push of gravity and maintains stability. When nuclear fuel runs out, stability is upset. Stars can expand into red giants, go through an unstable phase where they regularly shrink and swell in pulsating. Eventually stars die: the most massive ones burning out quickest! They die in catastrophic supernova explosions, whereas less massive ones die relatively peacefully.
uniformitarianism--view that Earth's geologic and life history has been mostly shaped by the same forces that are seen operating today. While short-time changes are typically small, cumulative affects with the passage of long (especially geologic time!) intervals can be dramatic. By the mid 19th century this view began to replace catastrophism.
wholism (or holism) -- a philosophical orientation that promotes consideration of whole systems , rather than exclusive focus on individual, component parts. This consideration is urged in the belief that the essence of the system can not be grasped by merely analyzing its constituent parts. Examples of systems that lend themselves to wholistic study: a human being, the human species, the Earth’s biosphere, planet Earth, the Milky Way Galaxy, the universe. The opposite approach to wholism is reductionism.
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