Having a valid worldview could actually save your life. For example, here’s a view that could be dangerous: Wild grizzly bears are cute and cuddly. So long as the individual with that view only encounters representations, such as a photograph, they are safe. But given the opportunity to have their picture taken with an actual wild grizzly (“How cute, a mother and her cubs.”), they could end up dead. This may seem obvious, but people sometimes operate under convenient and even adaptable assumptions that don’t match reality. And keep in mind, it’s easier to see another person’s perceptual blinders than to see our own.
Here’s the story:
(Source: This American Life show 291- 6/30/2006)
Ralph Fisher owned a famous Brahman bull named Chance. Fisher had acquired the bull when it was seven years old, and the bull became a member of the family until he died at age 19. Chance became a celebrity, and was known far and wide for his gentleness. Shortly before Chance died, Fisher convinced scientists at Texas A&M University to clone Chance. They were successful. The new Brahman bull was named Second Chance. He looked just like Chance, and had many of the same mannerisms. It seemed uncanny to the family. Fisher believed that in some mysterious way, Second Chance was Chance. If not, he would become Chance. Fisher decided to personally raise Second Chance from a calf. Second Chance was to become a replacement for Chance and a new member of the family, like a pet dog.
On Second Chance’s fourth birthday, the bull purposely attacked and severely wounded Fisher. At that point, Fisher acknowledged that Chance and Second Chance were not the same animal. But since he did not acquire Chance until the bull was seven years old, he felt that Second Chance might “become” Chance at that age, that he would settle down and become the pet they desired. About a year and a half later, the radio crew visited Fisher’s ranch on a follow up. On that very day, Second Chance again purposely attacked and severely wounded Fisher. They interviewed Fisher in the hospital and Fisher stated that he still had hope for Second Chance, that he would continue to have hope until Second Chance reached the age of seven, the age at which he had acquired Chance.
According to ABC News, Second Chance died at age eight due to a stomach malady unrelated to the cloning process. There were no more reported attacks up until that time, and it seems likely that Fisher had learned to be careful around him. I can only speculate, but it seems probable to me that Second Chance was never going to be Chance, nor was he likely to behave anything like Chance, and that Providence spared Fisher of that discovery.
There is a problem intrinsic in this tale that love and appearances obscured. A more complete worldview may have recognized the problem, preventing unnecessary hardship. According to cattle expert Temple Grandin (ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION), bull dominance can be a problem. She cites an example of a deer buck raised by an individual who was gored trying to take the buck’s photograph. Grandin states that the buck saw the man as a competitor. “The bull must learn that he is a bull, not a person.” She therefore recommends that grazing animals are raised with their own kind so that humans are seen as outside the cattle’s social hierarchy.
It seems likely to me that Fisher’s first bull, Chance, was raised in this way – with his own kind. Obviously Second Chance was not, so Fisher became the target for dominance in the perceived social hierarchy of the bull. Grandin states that Brahman bulls do have the capacity for great affection, if dominance isn’t at issue. A more valid match with reality would have taken this view into account, and possibly saved a good deal of physical pain. But, when it comes to love, validity of view is not always easy. Love is the kind of perceptual curveball that can both open us up to marvelous experience or cause grave injury when love is misplaced or misperceived.
A bit more explanation:
A high degree of validity is achieved when our individual worldview matches our objective reality. Let’s just call objective reality the world in which we operate (with or without personal awareness).
Validity and adaptability are not always the same. For example, denial of an injury, illness, or debilitating circumstance may be adaptive if nothing can be done about it, but maladaptive if help is available and quality of life could emerge. In either case the view does not match with reality. In a similar example, a story, an interpretation of reality one tells oneself, may not match objective reality. But the story may seem adaptive if it helps one to cope in a limited way. Some stories we tell ourselves make reality more palatable. But there may come a time when lack of validity in that story may result in unforeseen consequences. It is good practice to challenge our assumptions from time to time.
Perceptual validity can never be 100%. That’s perfection, the ideal of Truth. But the more validity a worldview holds, the greater success it will have in correctly assessing reality, predicting outcomes, and expanding potential. Validity of View can be conceptualized as an ability to correctly identify what we see. The following is an example in which there is an increasing depth of validity, an increased awareness on the same perceptual subject (I’ve numbered each perception starting with limited awareness and progressing to higher awareness):
1. I see nothing but my immediate needs and preconceptions. 2. I see a movement in a tree. 3. I see the movement is a bird. 4. I identify the bird as a bluebird. 5. I know the bluebird by its song. 6. I can predict the bluebird’s behavior by knowledge of its habits: what a bluebird eats, where it will nest, and how to attract it to my bird feeder. 7. I can identify a bluebird at a distance, when others would just see a bird. 8. The bluebird visits me in a dream and is a genuine harbinger of happiness. 9. I have a degree of inner vision, whereby I perceive aspects of the bluebird’s spirit, the spirit-of-the-thing-itself. 10. I feel the interconnectedness of bird and self. For a timeless moment, we are one.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons