The faculty picked up the other day with Chapter 4 of Integrative Approaches by David Entwistle. This chapter is titled “Windows on the World: Assumptions and Worldviews.” Entwistle gives us a classic definition of a worldview from James Sire:
A worldview is a set of presuppositions, (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconscious, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic make-up of the world.
Entwistle briefly reviews animism, polytheism, pantheism, monotheism, modernism, and postmodernism. He then discusses a Christian worldview by framing it within what is commonly seen as the four acts of the biblical drama: creation, the fall, redemption, and consummation.
What’s interesting to me is to reflect on the practice of contemporary psychology. Psychology emerged as a scientific discipline in the context of a modernist worldview with its emphasis on scientific progress. We are now as a field reflecting in some instances these assumptions while in other ways reflecting assumptions found in postmodernism, including the assertion that there is no objective truth. Also interesting is that many in the field may not even know which worldview they are operating from, as we can sometimes float between them based on the topic we are discussing or the project we are undertaking. (The multicultural movement in psychology, for example, reflects more postmodernist assumptions, which makes sense if you think about what it means to recognize different cultural assumptions and values.)
Another thought that came up in the discussion is that some folks will attempt to create a sharp distinction between religion and science, suggesting that religion is not tied to reason or logic, that it is subjective, and so on, while science is rational/logical, objective (reflecting a modernist optimism surrounding science). In doing so they create intellectual space to do their work as a psychologist but then can fail to see their own worldview in practice (because, of course, they believe or want others to believe that they are just “doing science”). In our field the common worldviews are naturalism and secular humanism. These become a default assumptive framework, a frame of reference for understanding human beings, behavior, morality, and so on. But it is rarely acknowledged by those who adopt the framework. To fail to recognize how these valuative frameworks function in a person’s practice of science is a significant concern, particularly if this is the only approach that is considered legitimate and is constantly used and contrasted with religion.