Humans are multicellular beings (eukaryotic heterotrophs) that are the product of a small planet rotating around a middle-age sun located in the outskirts of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Now, if we try to envision distances between the Earth and the more distant galaxies of the observable universe (and recall, the observable portion is only 30 percent of the entire universe) we are likely to endure a huge headache. For example, the distance to our sun is 93 million miles. If you were to simply count this number, it would take you three consecutive years without sleeping or eating! Now imagine the galaxies detected at the border of the observable universe. Their distance from Earth is approximately 46 billion light-years (and one light-year is six trillion miles!). Therefore, we would be counting for a period of almost 300 million years also without rest… To accomplish such a task, we would have to begin the enumeration well before the first fish had ventured onto land.
When pondering these immensities, it becomes difficult to escape the feeling that our perceived importance in this world might not be as crucial as we are first led to believe. This feeling has led me to re-examine the structure of what I call The Scale of Values. We will define Scale of Values as a prism through which we see the world. It is peculiar to humans and is incorporated in us through the teachings of our parents, schools, churches, governments, cultures, and our own experiences colored by trial and error.
The shaping of our Scale of Values begins at childhood and is constantly being updated as we adapt ourselves to the changes and challenges of a dynamic environment. Throughout human history, groups have always generated a ‘Communal Scale of Values’ establishing the rules on morality, ethics, and standards of public behavior in order to improve the survival efficiency of the group. However, each individual belonging to the group creates a ‘Personal Scale of Values’ to serve his or her own interests, but which also tends to avoid any conflict with the more concrete and accepted ‘Communal Scale of Values.’
These scales of values – personal and communal – present four functions based on the primordial principles of subsistence, reward and punishment.
- First, it functions with an intellectual intentionality of evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of any event through a comparison with the parameters already established in the scale of values, both personal and communal.
- Second, it functions with an emotional intentionality of evaluating the pleasantness and unpleasantness of any event through a comparison with the parameters already established in the scale of values, both personal and communal.
- Third, it functions with a physical intentionality of evaluating the material convenience and inconvenience of any event through a comparison with the parameters already established in the scale of values, personal and communal.
- Fourth, it functions with a spiritual intentionality of evaluating a better existence on Earth and everlasting existence in an after-life through a comparison with the parameters already established in the scale of values, both personal and communal.
These functions take shape in (a) points of view, (b) opinions, and (c) beliefs.
(a) A point of view is the result of a choice among an assortment of values.
(b) An opinion is the rationalization and justification of a point of view.
(c) A belief is a well-articulated opinion. Beliefs are barriers that are very difficult to overcome or overturn during discussion or deliberation, specifically when sequential logic is not accepted. “What the populace once learned to believe without reasons, who could— refute it to them by means of reasons?” (Friedrich Nietzsche)
As I said before, the structure of one’s Scale of Values is built by data flows from parents, teachers, and other authority figures. Accordingly, during the first two decades of our life we are like sponges soaking up second-hand knowledge which, after a time, we regard as our “own,” filing them within our own constructed Scale of Values. Therefore, when an individual has a different point of view from ours, and our opinion does not change their mind, we quickly assume that he is wrong, uninformed, or just plain stupid! This is a trait shared by both individuals and entire groups of people. The majority of persons in any society believe that their own culture is the best and that the others are simply uncivilized, uninformed, inefficient, or naive.
It is accurate, then, to say that a person who is flexible in the evaluation of facts and opinions denotes a broad Scale of Values. The opposite, a very inflexible evaluation scheme, can produce harm or even disastrous consequences that arise into conflict and violence. If a Scale of Values has plasticity, enlarging or modifying it is a feasible goal; however, the person or persons in point must be willing to allow a change, otherwise it will be an up-hill battle from beginning to end.
Karl de Azagra