As mentioned throughout, this project and the resulting study are intentionally exploratory in nature. While the project started out conceptually with the development of a few models examining the process of worldview integration and the effect of cognitive filters, it then continued with a quantitative study using samples of college students (freshmen, sophomore and graduate) from both a California evangelical institution and a random sample of California college students obtained through e-mail invitations. Each sample was requested to participate by completing a questionnaire. The evangelical sample was given the choice of using a paper and pencil or an online version of the questionnaire, while only the online version was available to the e-mail sample.
This study investigated a few of the many interactions and relationships that may exist between two foundational worldview areas (religious and epistemological) and the psychological constructs of motivation, subjective vitality and satisfaction with life. Here, due to the sampling methods, generalizations may be easily made regarding the strong sample from the evangelical institution. However, the results pertaining to the remaining sample is less generalizable. Yet, as an exploratory study, each sample (together with a combination of the two) may be helpful in pointing out issues and relationships deserving further study and investigation.
Findings from this Study
It was anticipated at the start of this study that participants from the evangelical institution would register higher scores on the Religious World View Scale than the participants from the e-mail sample. However, it was also anticipated that they might exhibit a significantly different epistemological worldview where knowledge is a) acquired more by authoritarian decree; b) more simple and orderly than complex; and c) more certain and objective than constructed and subjective. Pursuant to the suggestions of some (see chapter 4, 158), these views represent the less mature and less sophisticated epistemological positions. For example, some theorists such as Perry (1970) dealing with epistemological worldview have concluded that certain epistemic viewpoints are more mature and desirable than others. In addition, a few previous studies ( Nevard, 1988; Copeland, 1994) had suggested that those with more fundamental religious views tend to exhibit more dualistic and lower-level epistemological beliefs pursuant to Perry’s (1970) theory of developmental positions (see chapter 4).
It was also anticipated that the graduate level evangelical sample would exhibit higher levels of intrinsic motivation for the acquisition of knowledge, but that the beginning evangelical students (freshmen/sophomores), coming from largely insulated and protected family environments, would display high levels of External Regulated forms of extrinsic motivation and Amotivation. It was anticipated that the interaction between family upbringing and the allegedly less mature epistemological viewpoint might result in lower motivation to seek non- revelational human forms of knowledge. Later, it was expected that as the students learned to engage in the process of integrating their religious beliefs with human discovery and knowledge, both their epistemological maturity and motivation to learn would improve to the level exhibited by their secular counterparts. In addition, as noted in Chapter 4, Desimpelaere, et al. (1999) seem to have discovered that dualistic epistemological tendencies are found in both the extremely religious and the highly non-religious, with the higher epistemological positions adopted by the middle (more religiously moderate) participants. It was unknown whether similar observations would arise in this study.
Based upon these expectations, the results of this study show a number of surprises and confirm a few anticipated relationships. First, as anticipated, it appears that there are important interactions and relationships between a person’s religious worldview, their epistemic worldview and their reason for being motivated to learn. There are also relationships between each of these and one’s levels of subjective vitality and satisfaction with life. Yet, these relationships were often markedly different than anticipated and seemingly more complex and intertwined. Clearly, this study cannot lead us to any easy answers. For example, one cannot conclude from this study that either a high or low religious orthodoxy will result in a more mature epistemology. Likewise, this study cannot conclude that a child who is unleashed to discover his own religious worldview free from the guidance and direction of his parents will be any more likely to be epistemologically mature. Furthermore, this study cannot even settle whether these particular views of epistemic maturity are appropriate. However, what it can do is point out some some trends and patterns, while defeating some stereotypes and myths.
In general, a few findings were both enlightening and surprising. The first surprise was that although, age, gender, and year-in-school may have small effects on many of the measured concepts (Tables 7.9 through 7.14), one’s Religious World View Scale score seemed to play an important and more pervasive role. There were also clear differences between the samples (Table 7.8). Yet, many of these discovered differences and correlations could not be attributed to any of these main effects or to just sample differences. By categorizing religious worldview scores within each sample, the variable still showed significant relationships with the same other factors even when isolated from factors of gender, age, year-in-school or sample (Tables 7.16 through 7.25).
The second surprise was discovering the apparent curvilinear relationship between the epistemological factors of Simple Knowledge and Quick Learning (Table 7. 22); the motivational factors of Intrinsic – Knowledge and Amotivation (Table 7.25); and the concept of Subjective Vitality (Table 7.19). Here, both those with low religious worldview and high religious worldview tended to exhibit similar results and directions, while those in the middle often showed the most difference.
A third surprise was the discovery that no particular level of religious worldview claimed the high road when applying the theoretical concept of epistemological maturity. (See Figure 8). It seems that on some of the measured factors, the more religious orthodox participants exhibited more mature characteristics, while on other factors this might be claimed by either the low or middle religious worldview score participants.
This might either call into question the entire concept of epistemological maturity, or might simply indicate that while one’s religious beliefs are related to the beliefs one holds regarding these epistemological factors, no group can claim epistemic superiority over the other.
Figure 8 Chart showing highest and lowest scores, direction of score movement and typically perceived levels of epistemic maturity for factors on the Epistemic Belief Inventory.
Finally, although it was not a major concern for this study, those exhibiting higher religious orthodoxy did show higher levels of both subjective vitality and satisfaction with life. Thus, another study enters the long-standing debate concerning the relationship between religion and subjective well-being.
Discussion of Findings Regarding Epistemological Worldview (Chapter 4)
It seems clear that one’s epistemic beliefs cannot be easily categorized as mature or immature. Perry’s (1970) scale ranging from dualism to commitment in relativism is far too broad and monochromic. It also embraces a number of possibly unwarranted assumptions as to classification, order of progression, and the character of upper level or mature epistemology. People are epistemologically different and vary in a number of dimensions that prevent easy classification (see Figure 8). While our life experiences lead to constant change and reconsideration of our current epistemological foundations or filters, it seems suspect that the process is developmental.
Second, natural differences based upon gender or age are minimal. Woman in this study do exhibit slightly more belief in the certainty of knowledge and do tend to show more conviction that one’s ability to learn is a fixed, possibly innate, factor that does not change much over time (Tables 7.9 and 7.10). Older students also appear to show greater belief that knowledge is more simple than complex (Tables 7.11 through 7.14). Yet, these differences are not strong.
Third, the relationship between one’s religious worldview and their epistemic worldview may not be as straightforward as we would think. There are both similarities and differences between the beliefs held by those with high and low orthodox religious worldviews (Tables 7.20 to 7. 22). Religious worldview may not control one’s epistemology while, on the other hand, one’s epistemology likely does not dictate their religious views. In other words, for one person, his or her epistemology may lead that person down the path of worldview integration toward a certain religious conviction. Yet for another person, his or her religious views may eventually persuade the adoption of particular epistemological beliefs. The starting point may be different for each. Thus, educators and psychologists who suggest that one’s personal epistemology is a super- metacognitive process may need to consider whether this super- metacognitive level is controlled by a variety of foundational worldview beliefs (including both religious and epistemological beliefs), rather than simply the epistemological. These foundational beliefs may be more integrated than we have admitted and one’s choice concerning which beliefs will control may be more psychological than cognitive. For example, compare this Table 8.1 with Table 4.1 on page 108.
Possible 3-Level Model of Cognitive Processing
Similarly, an orthodox religious worldview does not correspond to (and certainly does not cause) a dualistic or immature view of learning. Nor does a naturalistic view with low Christian orthodoxy result in a more mature epistemology that is increasingly willing to either integrate knowledge or recognize its claimed relative and non-objective nature (see Figure 8). Neither side of the religious spectrum exhibits more complete maturity in any combination of epistemic dimensions. In fact, it appears that people who populate both ends of the religious orthodoxy spectrum are similar in many of their epistemological leanings (Table 7.22). In many cases, the difference could be viewed as dividing those who have made a clear choice one way or the other on the religious spectrum, versus those who may be content to sit in the middle without arriving at a commitment.
Yet, when it comes to one’s scores on each of the factors measured in this study, one’s religious worldview does matter. As discussed below, one’s religious worldview does have a relationship with one’s epistemic beliefs. It also seems to have a relationship with one’s levels and types of motivation – and it does have a relationship with one’s levels of vitality and satisfaction with life. Although the relationship with other factors will be discussed shortly, it appears that some of the strongest relationships involve the epistemic dimensions.
As discussed in Chapter 4, many theorists follow Schommer’s (1990) delineation of five epistemic dimensions, each with a continuum ranging from the least mature to the most mature. Two of these dimensions deal with the nature of truth and knowledge itself. The dimension of Simple Knowledge ranges from a belief that truth and knowledge are ontologically simple and orderly (the allegedly more immature level) to a belief that truth and knowledge are complex and less structured in nature, requiring more intricate, creative and detailed integration and organization (the allegedly more mature level). Here, the evangelical sample suggested that a belief in simplicity increases with a more orthodox religious worldview (Table 7.20). Yet, we also find from the e-mail sample that those with the lowest religious orthodoxy are even higher in their belief in simplicity. This is one of those dimensions exhibiting a curvilinear relationship (Table 7.22). Thus, the most allegedly mature epistemology is exhibited by those who are in the middle (see Figure 8).
The second dimension dealing with the ontology of truth and knowledge is Certain Knowledge. This dimension ranges from a belief that knowledge is quite certain (lucid, objective and absolute) to a belief that knowledge is more ambiguous and subjective. Here, we find a negative linear relationship where the higher the religious orthodoxy score, the lower the belief that knowledge is certain (Tables 7.26 and 7.27). The scores dip to their extreme lowest with those scoring highest in religious worldview among the evangelical sample (Table 7.20). In addition, the correlation among all participants shows the largest correlation (negative) among all of the epistemological (EBI) dimensions (Table 7.27). This belief in epistemic uncertainty is the allegedly more mature position and it is occupied by those with the higher religious orthodoxy (see Figure 8). This is surprising considering a stereotypical belief is often held that those who are strongly religious tend to be absolute and dogmatic in their thinking. One possible explanation is that the EBI never inquires into the certain nature of God’s revelation. When it comes to the knowledge discovered or espoused by man, many with orthodox religious views will agree that it is tentative at best.
A third epistemological dimension (Omniscient Authority) deals with our source of knowledge. Are we dualistic in our attempts to secure knowledge from authorities and experts, or are we more likely to trust and depend upon personal critical thinking and integrative skills? This is arguably the factor relied upon by Perry’s (1970) theory of developmental positions. The latter is allegedly the more mature position. See Figure 8. Here, we discover that the e-mail sample is more likely to rely on authority. When correlated with religious worldview, the relationship is significant and negative (Table 7.27). Those with lower religious worldview scores tend to seek out more authority. Once again, those with higher religious orthodoxy seem to occupy the more mature position (Table 7.22). But are not the religious orthodox more likely to rely upon the authority of God and His revelation? But once again, the EBI only inquires into human authority and once again, those with high religious orthodoxy tend to be more uncertain of human authority and expertise. This may reflect simple skepticism or a more measured and critical worldview concerning the potential of human understanding.
The final two epistemological dimensions deal with one’s learning capabilities. The fourth dimension is that of Quick Learning. This dimension ranges from those who believe that learning is typically an immediate all or none proposition, to the allegedly more mature position (see Figure 8) that learning can be achieved over time with diligence, patience and perseverance. While no strong correlation arises here, any correlation that does exist appears to be curvilinear (Table 7.22). This is supported by mean scores that once again show that the highest (least mature) position is held by both ends of the religious worldview spectrum. Here, the most mature position tends to be held by those in the middle.
Finally, we are left with the dimension of Fixed Ability. This dimension ranges from the belief that one’s ability to learn is innate and fixed at birth, to the belief (allegedly more mature) that one’s learning capacity can be developed over time. Here we find a small positive correlation indicating that those with higher religious worldviews tend to think that learning capacities are more fixed (Table 7.27). Therefore, those with lower religious orthodoxy allegedly hold the epistemological high ground. See Figure 8. Yet, as one student suggested, those who believe that God made each individual differently with differing capacities (and who are less willing to suggest that this is improper, unfair or a defect of character), may be more inclined to accept and disclose such a belief.
The personal questions asked of each of the participants also shed some light. Interestingly, those students who seem to have been purposefully guided by parents concerning their religious worldview (and this guidance seems to seldom promote a low orthodox religious worldview), also exhibit less belief in the certainty of knowledge and the authority of experts (Table 7.28 and 7.30). This remains true even if the person’s religious views remain quite similar to one or both parents (Table 7.34). In addition, those who believe that their religious views are personal and should not be publically shared with others tend to believe that knowledge is more certain (Table 7.42). Finally, those who do not encounter a feeling of being pursued by God, tend to believe that knowledge is more certain, and is best obtained through authorities (Table 7.49).
Thus, it appears that religious worldview does exhibit an association with these designated epistemological dimensions. However, no clear conclusion can be reached in attempting to correlate religious beliefs with epistemic maturity. On some issues, those with high religious orthodoxy hold sway. On others, those with low orthodoxy appear more mature. See Figure 8. Yet, on some dimensions, it appears that those in the middle do best. This might cause one to wonder whether it is even appropriate to speak in terms of epistemic maturity. For example, while the middle religious category shows more maturity on both of the curvilinear dimensions, as will be discussed below, these persons also exhibit the lowest vitality and satisfaction with life, while also tending to be the most amotivated, or if motivated at all, more influenced by coercive forms of extrinsic motivation. Is it possible that epistemic maturity leads to a less satisfying, yet more fulfilled life. Socrates and Aristotle might propose this. Or is it possible that those in the middle are simply more indecisive (or lazy), adopting an allegedly mature epistemology that truth and knowledge are elusive, more complex and capable of discernment by all?
Discussion of Findings Regarding Motivation (Chapter 5)
While one’s personal epistemology and religious worldview combine to provide foundational filters for determining the content to be considered and to be integrated into one’s worldview, motivation is require to simply engage the process. One must be motivated to bring the actual beliefs constituting one’s operational worldview into consciousness; motivation is required to cognitively deal with any disequilibrium, the crises and the observations that lead to belief formation; and motivation is required to engage the rational justification and integration processes. Yet, the types of motivation may be quite different. In the case of a crisis situation, it may be sufficient that one respond to extrinsic and coercive forms of motivation. An extrinsic end, such as survival or well being, may serve as either internal or external pressure or coercion that requires action. Yet, on some occasions, a propensity to be amotivated may result in an inability or lack of desire to engage in any integration – even if one’s well-being or basic survival is at stake.
On the other hand, there may be times when one can get along in life quite well without being coerced or required to respond to disequilibrium or observations that arise. In these cases, a more cognitive and volitional decision to engage in belief formation, justification and integration will require internally generated intrinsic forms of motivation. Some may be intrinsically motivated to simply acquire knowledge. Others may be intrinsically motivated to pragmatically accomplish or create something, or to experience physical sensation. Yet, it seems that those who are intrinsically motivated and who are less amotivated will end up engaging in more volitional and comprehensive worldview integration. This, to Socrates, is the examined life that is worth living. Those who rely on the more extrinsic forms may require a bigger push.
While this study is not a comprehensive examination of the nature and factors involved in motivation, we did learn that certain religious and epistemological worldviews are more or less associated with the different forms of motivation. With regard to our samples, we learned that the students at the evangelical institution have a significantly lower propensity to be amotivated. They also seem to depend less on the coercive internal (Extrinsic – Introjected) and external (Extrinsic – External Regulated) forms of motivation. Finally, they seem less intrinsically motivated to act simply for the sake of physical sensation (Table 7.8). We also learned that while neither gender nor the student’s year-in-school plays much of a role, females and graduate students do tend to exhibit less Extrinsic – Introjected forms of motivation and less amotivation than their male or undergraduate counterparts (Tables 7.9 through 7.12).
Yet, both one’s religious and epistemological worldview do play a part. For example, there appears to be a positive correlation between the epistemological dimension of Simple Knowledge and intrinsic motivation for the sake of knowledge (Intrinsic – Knowledge). Those who think of knowledge as more basic or simple may be more motivated to seek it. In addition, Simple Knowledge exhibits a clear negative correlation with both internally coerced forms of extrinsic motivation (Extrinsic – Introjected) and amotivation. Likewise, the learning capacity dimension of Quick Learning appears negatively correlated with these same two dimensions (Tables 7.26 and 7.27). Thus, as these participants increasingly believe that knowledge must either be learned quickly or not at all, their propensity for amotivation or to rely on coercive forms of extrinsic motivation decreased. Yet, interestingly, a belief in the certainty of knowledge (Certain Knowledge) led to more dependence upon externally coercive forms of motivation (Extrinsic – External Regulation). The explanation behind this is unclear unless it is based upon a more underlying and pervasive relationship between religious worldview and certain knowledge
Religious worldview and motivation also exhibit a few interesting relationships. First, while there appears to be no significant difference associated with one’s religious worldview concerning an intrinsic motivation to accomplish or create, there is a clear drop in Intrinsic – Knowledge motivation as one moves from a low religious worldview toward the middle categories. However, it appears to climb back up as religious worldview again increases to the higher levels (Table 7.25). The increase within the evangelical sample is dramatic between those in the moderate category (lowest for that sample) and the upper level (Table 7.23). Yet, it does not rise to the level exhibited by the lowest category in the combined sample. As this would suggest, Intrinsic – Knowledge appears to exhibit a curvilinear relationship with the middle religious worldview categories exhibiting less of this type of motivation. Thus, the upper level of religious orthodoxy does not appear to be as motivated to simply seek knowledge as those with low religious orthodoxy; however they rely on this form of motivation significantly more than those in the middle. On the other hand, Intrinsic – Sensation seems to show a linear decline as religious worldview increases (Table 7.27). Is it possible that those with more orthodox religious worldviews simply are not as motivated by a desire to experience physical sensation?
When it comes to extrinsic forms of motivation, there appears to be little correlation until we look at both Extrinsic – External Regulated and Amotivation. A negative linear correlation appears for Extrinsic – External Regulated where externally coercive (outside pressure, reward) extrinsic forms of motivation decrease as religious worldview increases (Tables 7.26 and 7.27). It seems that the more religiously orthodox are not as motivated by the expectations and manipulations of others, including possibly peer pressure. The propensity to be Amotivated appears to exhibit another curvilinear relationship similar to that of Intrinsic - Knowledge, although a bit more pronounced and inverted. Those in the middle of the religious worldview spectrum are substantially more likely to be amotivated than are either those in the low orthodoxy or upper orthodoxy categories (Table 7.25). Is it possible that these people are situated in this middle category as a result of an inability to find the motivation to properly consider their religious worldview and engage in worldview integration? On the other hand, is it possible that they possess an “anything goes” or laissez-faire outlook toward religious orthodoxy and possibly life in general that results in an ambivalence toward any such search?
Here again, the personal questions add some richness to the findings. For example, one would think that those people whose religious worldviews were purposefully guided by their parents, forced to attend religious services, and actually adopted similar beliefs would have done so out of coercive motivation and exhibit a high level of Extrinsic – External Regulated motivation. Yet, such a finding did not emerge. In at least one case, the level of Extrinsic – External Regulated motivation actually dropped for these participants (Table 7.31). Also of interest is the fact that Amotivation scores increased dramatically among those who claimed to have recently considered changing their religious beliefs or who were currently going through crisis regarding those beliefs (Tables 7.37 through 7.40). One might wonder if the changes have resulted in an increased amotivation or if the propensity to be amotivated contributed to an indecisiveness that brought on the change or crisis. Likewise, among those who believe that their religious beliefs are personal things that should not be publicly shared, the study shows both increases in Extrinsic – External Regulated and Amotivation (Table 7.42), while these sub-category scores both decreased among those expressing a strong belief in objective truth (Tables 7.43 and 7.44). Finally, lower scores in Extrinsic – External Regulated were also registered by those expressing feelings of majesty and wonder and those who encountered a feeling of being pursued by God (Tables 7.47 and 7.49).
These findings among the motivational sub-categories arguably point to lower or more coercively derived forms of motivation among those in the lower (and certainly the middle) religious worldview categories. Here again, the question becomes whether one’s motivation has a causal effect on one’s religious worldview or whether one’s religious worldview has a causal effect on one’s form of motivation. We are not only unable to determine that from this study, but it may even be that both are affected by some other intervening causal factor. If my theological study in Chapter 2 is correct in indicating that we are all provided with an unavoidable knowledge of God, is it possible that simply deviating from this original worldview or worldview filter has a demotivating effect? If so, one would expect to also find that those with a higher religious worldview also find themselves feeling more vital and satisfied with life. While such a connection is simply speculative and would clearly be beyond the findings of this study, it is to these factors that we next turn our attention.
Discussion of Findings Regarding Subjective Well-Being (Chapter 5)
In each case, the evangelical sample exhibited a significantly higher level of both subjective vitality and satisfaction with life than did the e-mail sample. Furthermore, these differences seem to have no connection with gender, year-in-school or age. The only place where these differences appear to be explained is when we examine differences based upon religious worldview. Religious worldview is clearly involved.
While as suggested above, causal direction cannot be easily ascertained, a higher religious worldview was found to be associated with higher levels of satisfaction with life. Here, a positive correlation was found in every sample (Tables 7.26 and 7.27). However, a curious thing appears when we examine subjective vitality. While subjective vitality shows a linear increase along with increasing religious orthodoxy in the evangelical sample (Table 7.17), it shows a curvilinear relationship within the e-mail sample (Table 7.19). Here, as we found in several of the EBI and motivation sub-categories, the highest level of subjective vitality is found at both ends of the spectrum with the middle religious worldview categories lagging behind. This might also suggest that subjective vitality depends somewhat upon having made a commitment one way or the other on one’s religious worldview. Yet, in each case, despite the curvilinear relationship, the highest scores are still registered among those with the highest religious orthodoxy (Tables 7.17 and 7.19). Hence, it seems safe to conclude that the higher one’s religious worldview scores are, the likelier the person is to also exhibit high levels of vitality and satisfaction with life. Those with low religious worldview scores will likely exhibit lower degrees of satisfaction with life, but may still show relatively high levels of vitality. Thus, when it comes to the middle category, they will likely have higher satisfaction with life than the lower category, but may show less vitality.
Once again, the personal questions yield additional clarity. First, within the evangelical sample, the levels of vitality and satisfaction with life were so homogeneous that few significant differences were realized there. Yet, within the combined sample, students with parents who had strong religious beliefs, who were required to attend religious services, or who retained religious beliefs similar to their parents each exhibited this same increased level in both vitality and satisfaction with life (Tables 7.30, 7.32, and 7.34). Thus, it seems that parents who raise their children within their strong religious convictions do not predispose their children toward a life of dissatisfaction or lower levels of vitality.
Interestingly, there was no difference in these factors of vitality and satisfaction among those who claimed to have selected their religious beliefs independent of their parents and those who did not (Tables 7.35 and 7.36). Yet, for both samples, the fact that one recently considered a change in religious worldview or is currently undergoing change or crisis in the same, yielded a significant (and often numerically large) decrease in both vitality and satisfaction with life (Tables 7.37 through 7.40). It remains unknown whether this decrease is a function of instability and uncertainty, or whether people who tend to go through such changes simply tend to be those lacking in these two traits. Additionally, those who believe that religious views are a personal thing that need not be publicly shared with others also exhibited lower vitality and satisfaction with life (Table 7.42). Yet, this may simply reflect the interaction of a typically more orthodox religious worldview among those who do share.
Although it was a bit surprising, there was no significant difference in vitality or satisfaction with life among those who believed in objective truth or morality and those who did not (Tables 7.43 through 7.46). It seems that a belief in objective truth and the ability to agree on moral basics is more prevalent among all of the levels of religious worldviews than was anticipated. Finally, the level of vitality and satisfaction increased among both those who sense majesty and wonder (suggesting the existence of a good and benevolent creator) and those who encountered a feeling of being pursued by God (Tables 7.47 through 7.49).
In conclusion, while it might be tempting to suggest that if we would all adopt a more orthodox Christian worldview the world would be a more vital and satisfied place, the limitations of this study and lack of causal evidence will not allow it. Yet, it seems clear that absent a severe problem with validity in the SVS or the SWLS, or absent some evidence that not all who took the test answered truthfully or that people who answer e-mail questionnaires are a decidedly unsatisfied lot who lack in vitality, there is something to be learned. Thus the long investigative battle for a connection between religion and a life of vitality and satisfaction continues.
Limitations of this Study
As mentioned in the Introduction (Chapter 1), there are a number of limitations for this study that were purposefully adopted. For example, the study selected a cross-sectional quantitative methodology using self-report instrumentation. As the study progressed, it became more apparent that both longitudinal and qualitative methodologies will be required to grasp a better understanding of what is going on with the complex human interactions between these four major factors (religious worldview, epistemological worldview, motivation and subjective well-being). Secondly, it is clear from the study’s inability to find high effect sizes in many of the interactions, that a number of other factors play a role in not only the concept of worldview integration, but also within the interactions between the measured factors. This study was limited to looking at only four.
Additionally, this study was purposefully limited to investigating college students in California (specifically freshmen / sophomores and graduates). These interactions arguably occur in all humans and may differ significantly based upon culture, geographic location and educational levels. Investigating college students will provide only a small piece of the final puzzle. Finally, religious worldview is a difficult concept to measure quantitatively. The use of the selected Religious World View Scale categorized the participants only on a continuum of Christian orthodoxy. While we discovered findings and made conclusions about both a “lower” and “middle” category, it is difficult to know what characteristics and beliefs truly constitute these categories.
Despite the above purposefully selected limitations, a few uninvited limitations also emerged. Many of these arose within the sample selection. For example, in general there are a large proportion of females in the samples. Secondly, the evangelical sample was taken from only one university and it is very possible that this population is an anomaly even among evangelical colleges. Therefore, generalizations may only be applicable to that school.
Finally, there were severe problems that arose with the e-mail invitation sample. First, the company that handled the random e-mail campaign to invite participants was apparently not as able to control the demographics of that campaign as it claimed. As a result, even when the second campaign was supposedly limited to freshmen and sophomores, nearly half of those who responded were, in fact, upperclassmen or graduates and were turned away. Second, even among the population of those who did respond, we are really unable to know who that population is. Are they a cross-section of California college students? Are they simply students who spend inordinate amounts of time at their computer looking for free Blockbuster rentals from survey companies? Finally, for a study that wished to investigate the effect of alternative religious worldviews, it was difficult to find a sufficient numbers of participants exhibiting those views. It may be better in future studies to compare a select highly orthodox sample with a select sample from a variety of different religious or atheistic groups. Yet, it is still a problem that within each such group, different levels of belief adherence can be found.
Another limitation can be found with the methodology chosen for questionnaire delivery. However, here there is more of a positive nature to report. In general, the use of an online survey was a blessing. Participants seemed to appreciate this manner of delivery. Even though the evangelical sample was provided with a choice of a pencil and paper format and the online format, over 90% chose the online format. The e-mail sample would have been impossible without the online methodology. This also made the collection of data quite simple—a function of simply downloading the data into MS Excel and then to SPSS. Therefore, while online generation of a sample remains quite problematic, online distribution of the instrument itself is not. However, the work involved in developing and formatting the online questionnaire was time consuming and, at times, frustrating. Here, integrating such things as passwords, IP lockouts, redirections and piping; along with administration of the survey and coupon websites was challenging. I would not suggest this for such a complex questionnaire unless one has prior html programming or website creation experience. Here, my choice to use SurveyZ.com as an online provider was rewarded. They were a bright spot in the process.
In addition, Blockbuster’s willingness to craft . pdf coupons to be distributed to e-mail participants was appreciated. Due to the cost of the coupons, participants could not be allowed to simply reprint coupons or to retake the test to obtain additional coupons. Here, Blockbuster provided individually bar-coded coupons that could not be reused, while Survey Z provided a filter that would not allow a computer with the same IP address to retake the test without advance permission and a password. Several attempts to stuff the ballot box were thwarted as a result. In the long run, while the online method saves on data entry costs, postage stamps, paper and envelopes, the cost in time more than accounted for the money saved.
Still, the online methodology also provided some minor limitations. First, unless both a pencil and paper and online choice are available, participants will be limited to those with computers and online experience. Yet, with a younger college sample, this limitation proved negligible. Second, I found a number of students who could take the questionnaire on their computer, but did not have access to a printer to print out the coupon at the end. A number of coupons had to be mailed or attached as a . pdf to return e-mails.
Finally, there were a few conceptual and data analysis limitations. First, worldview integration is an amorphous and difficult concept or behavior to measure. We do not know enough about it, how it works or how to measure it. There are currently no instruments designed to measure the degree to which people are engaging in worldview integration. As a result, this study was forced to resort to measuring the correlations and differences between the chosen factors. In addition, many of the participants may not have given serious consideration to their religious worldview or their epistemology. Therefore, self reports may be limited, inaccurate or difficult in these two areas. On the other hand, participants would be expected to know what motivates them and to have the ability to self-report subjective feelings of vitality and satisfaction with life.
With regard to data analysis, this study encountered a low sample size for many of the categories or factors to be compared. For example, on the personal questions, there might be 12 persons who fell in the “one to three” Likert categories, while over 300 fell in the “seven” category. As a result, although tests that allegedly mitigate the problems of disparate sample sizes were often used, there are still issues about the validity of the statistical analysis. Oftentimes, measures utilized were on the conservative side, so interactions that might be present may have also been overlooked. Finally, without knowing more about the total interactive picture affecting worldview integration, and without complex path analysis methods, determining causation is difficult or impossible.
Recommendations for Future Research
As with any exploratory study of this nature, one of the most important results is the discovery of areas where future research is needed. Here, Chapter 7 (Results) is replete with suggestions that further investigation is needed. Sadly, due to some of the sampling difficulties in this study, it may be necessary to simply repeat much of it using a population that is subject to greater generalization. Here, it might also be helpful to investigate populations with more diversity in religious worldview, as well as non-student populations. While it was important here to see the results from a doctrinally homogeneous evangelical educational institution, future studies may wish to simply take a cross-section of a state or otherwise secular university.
Since this study places heavy reliance on differences between the participants’ religious worldview and the other factors, it might also be helpful to use different measures for this variable. Although such measures are few and far between, it may be possible to use a spirituality inventory or spiritual well-being instrument. To truly get a good understanding of the relationship between religion and these factors, it may be necessary for the researcher to devise an instrument that is less dependent upon the concepts of Christian orthodoxy.
This study also appears to have discovered curvilinear relationships between participants’ religious worldview scores and Subjective Vitality, Simple Knowledge, Quick Learning and Amotivation. This matches some of the findings discovered by Desimpelaere, et al. (1999) where dualism was found to be greatest at both ends of their orthodoxy / external criticism continuum. Additional research may be helpful to confirm and further understand the dynamics of these correlations. This may also help to disclose what it is about a low religious worldview score that causes it to mirror the higher scores on that particular factor – or what may be present in the middle scores that cause them to differ from the upper and lower scores.
Further research would be helpful in confirming some of the particular findings within this study that were either surprising or unexpected. For example, does parental encouragement of college relate to one’s propensity to be intrinsically motivated toward knowledge? Why did there appear to be so little difference between those who claimed to have independently decided upon their religious views and those who seemed to simply adopt those of their parents? Likewise, what is it about having recently considered a change in one’s religious views or having recently gone through a crisis in religious worldview that led to greater amotivation or such a significant drop in vitality and satisfaction with life?
Finally, although past studies seem to have gone in both directions, this study found a direct correlation between one’s religious views and Satisfaction with Life scores. Additionally, while high religious scores generally led to higher Subjective Vitality scores, this relationship appeared to be curvilinear. Additional research would be helpful to determine if this is true, and if so, why a difference of this nature exists between Subjective Vitality and Satisfaction with Life.
Implications for Educational and Ministry Practice
The original and possibly naïve hope for this study was to discover that one’s epistemological worldview (and the filters created by it) had a direct impact on one’s motivation to learn and upon one’s selected worldview. Yet, while the issues and interactions are more complex than this, the relationships are clearly present. Whether or not we understand them completely does not detract from their importance. While we often seem intensely concerned about whether our children have learned the nuts and bolt of language, math and science, we do not seem as concerned about shoring up their foundational beliefs and how to integrate them with their experience and learning.
Modern education has wondered whether we do our children a disservice by force feeding or purposefully instilling our parental worldview upon them, including our epistemic and religious worldview. On one hand, we are terrified to leave our children flailing without any instilled worldview. After all, if parents do not provide a functional instilled worldview, other sources will—and we have all seen what kind of narcissistic and unprotected worldview is promoted by the unthinking segments of human society. On the other hand, we do not want to so indoctrinate our children with our worldview that they do not learn to properly perform their own integrative processes. But, is it not a parent’s role to critically develop and integrate their own worldview before passing it on to their children? This is the very essence of the cumulative nature of knowledge. Still, a good parent is right to be humble and understand that their worldview may be in need of further integration. Maybe there is a third possibility. A parent can pass on a reasonably good and foundational worldview – along with the cognitive and motivational tools to allow the child to responsibly engage in their own integration process. It becomes quite clear that this needs to both start at a young age and continue thereafter as a part of the child’s maturing process. Education seems to be increasingly ignoring or avoiding this role. This study suggests that those students who grew up in strongly religious homes where they were forced to attend religious services are no less epistemologically mature. In fact, they may simply exhibit more appropriate reservation and critical skepticism of human learning capabilities. In addition, they tend to be less motivationally influenced by external pressure or coercion. Finally, while one might wonder if feelings of vitality and satisfaction with life are proper ends, these students certainly are not deprived in this area.
Secondly, we worry today about whether or not we are improperly influencing anyone else’s worldview integration process. Therefore, we often argue that it is not our role to share either our integration process or the resulting product. However, it is unclear whether this is because we feel a need to protect those who do not have the capacity to think for themselves from undue influence, or because we do not believe that any worldview corresponds more to reality than another. If we believe the latter, then the entire idea of worldview integration and the marvel of human rationality becomes suspect. If we believe the former, we simply further indict our educational failure to develop this skill. Arguably, the 20 th century and its atrocities teach us to give careful thought to the worldviews we commit to, not to privatize or ignore them. No worldview seems more incendiary than one that promotes lack of integration and a belief that anything is right.
Third, this study seems to suggest that those who have made a commitment one way or the other (especially concerning religious views) may exhibit the greatest intrinsic motivation and well-being. Several of the curvilinear relationships suggest that the middle of the road is not the best course. The ancient Greek philosophy of the “golden mean” may be appropriate when considering a continuum between extreme character traits, but does not imply a cowardly indecision. This study suggests that there may be a certain satisfaction and vitality to having considered and committed on these issues. One wonders if those amotivated students in the middle of the Religious World View Scale with low levels of vitality and satisfaction are those who have never developed a foundational worldview and are subject to being battered back and forth by the claims of others. Within Christian ministry, practitioners are constantly wondering why those who have recently come of age leave the faith. It would be interesting to know whether these are the students who have never secured a firm foundation in what they believe and are unaware of how to integrate their now fast moving world full of dissonance and unsupported beliefs.
Fourth, we learn something about the issue of epistemic and educational skepticism and possibly, beliefs in the limitations of human knowledge. In this study, it was surprising to find that those with high religious orthodoxy had less confidence in the certainty of human knowledge and expertise. This contradicts the notion of the dogmatic, certain and non-introspective follower of religious authority. Instead, it suggests a person who has made considered choices and settled on their foundational beliefs within an uncertain world. This seems to describe Perry’s (1970) notion of commitment – however lacking the component of commitment in relativism. In addition, a humble acceptance of the limitations of human knowledge makes us worldview critical, but not worldview sensitive. This means that we use critical skills to develop and commit to a worldview, yet we are not overly sensitive to the fact that others may disagree or disapprove. Such a position allows the learner to understand that differences will arise and that critical thinking and discourse is appropriate in discussing and mitigating these differences, but that it may be improper to influence others through manipulative coercion, disapproval or ridicule. Tolerance may simply be a lazy middle of the road response.
It also follows that the issue of epistemic maturity simply informs us that we are not properly developing the tools of integration and critical thinking. Schommer (1990) seems to be on the mark with her understanding that one’s personal epistemology is multi-dimensional. She also appears correct in understanding that these dimensions involve factors concerning the nature of truth, the source of truth, and one’s capability to discern truth. Yet, epistemic maturity is not a measure of the man, it is a measure of the tools and worldview he or she has developed. One’s belief as to whether truth is simple or complex likely has no bearing on maturity so long as it does not prevent continued learning and integration. On the other hand, extreme beliefs that experts know everything, or that man is capable of god-like certitude, are problematic and point to an improper epistemic and learning humility. What seems to determine epistemic maturity is one’s willingness to continuously engage in learning and the process of integrating their foundations of life. Furthermore, it just may be a fact that some people do learn quicker than others or possess more or less fixed capabilities. Such a belief is not necessarily immature unless it is used as an unwarranted excuse to diminish that person’s volitional motivation to continue the effort.
It would seem that the greatest implication to education (both Christian and secular) is the need to teach and practice tools of rational, yet humble worldview integration. If this is not done in the schools, it must be both purposefully and directly addressed by the church in its educational programs, starting with our children’s ministries. We need to constantly provide worldview awareness and point out those areas where our foundations yield different results. This process should also consciously force us to recognize and examine the filters that we have erected. What is it that leads us to believe one way and not the other? This becomes a discussion of foundations rather than an ad hominem attack on the person. Filters must be recognized as belief systems that monitor which truths we will allow to pass and be considered and which falsehoods we wish to suppress from further consideration. They are not capable of constructing or modifying truth and are not akin to glasses (rose colored or otherwise) that change or color already existing truth.
As Christians, we believe that even the youngest of us are provided with either an initial worldview or a properly calibrated filter that allows correct beliefs about God and his benevolent nature to enter. Yet, due to the Fall and man’s imperfection, this filter alone is insufficient and prone to being supplanted by inefficient replacement filters and worldviews. As with the emergency procedures on an aircraft, we must help the children and infirmed to put on their masks to breathe properly filtered air, but only if and when ours is firmly attached and operational. Our goal is to keep this filter constantly washed clean through both the support of the Holy Spirit and God’s truth. Then, while we cannot ensure that the child will accept our worldview, we can at least provide a foundation from which that decision can be made. While much of the world expresses a fear of fundamental religious beliefs, that fear is actually misplaced. Rather, than fear the concept of religion, we should fear the beliefs that arise out of a system where critical discourse and worldview integration are neither taught nor expected.
In summary, this study has attempted to learn more about the concept of worldview formation and integration. It began by proposing a model for the typical process of worldview integration and the creation of filters and other methods that control and direct this process. It followed by examining biblical (Romans 1) and theological descriptions of the initial worldview that man is provided concerning knowledge of God and God’s attributes. In the process, an additional model of filter construction was developed to help explain what often happens to this initial worldview during the course of one’s life. One’s worldview clearly begins somewhere and consideration as to the source and content of that original worldview seems necessary.
This study then investigated our current research and understanding within the domains of religious worldview, epistemological worldview (today often referred as one’s personal epistemology), and the psychological constructs of motivation (from as self-determination theory point of view) and subjective well-being (subjective vitality and satisfaction with life). Then, using a sample of college students from an Evangelical Christian university in California and a more random selection of students from other institutions in California, the study investigated the differences and correlations among these domains. It discovered that while differences based upon gender, age and year-in-school are minimal; one’s religious worldview (on a continuum of Christian orthodoxy) is significantly related to many of the domains that were measured.
Despite the limitations of such an exploratory study, this study strongly suggests that religious worldview has a significant influence regarding one’s epistemic outlook, one’s propensity to be stimulated by different forms of motivation (intrinsic, extrinsic and amotivation), and one’s level of vitality and satisfaction with life. Similar differences and correlations may be found between these domains and the manner in which the student was raised as a child. Some of these relationships appear to be curvilinear in nature where those falling into the liberal (or possibly apathetic) middle of the religious worldview continuum show significant differences from each end of the spectrum.
The final analysis calls into question some past notions about epistemological maturity and the effect and influence of worldview instruction by parents, while pointing out the need for both parents and educators to focus on not only providing a strong initial foundation in children, but also concentrating on providing and developing those tools for critical worldview integration throughout life.
Copyright 2005 Mark E. Henze - BBuilders.org