By Gordon Anderson
The Values in Knowledge Foundation exists to meet the challenges and undo the harm caused by the the separation of values from knowledge and information.
Following the Enlightenment, Western Civilization underwent a scientific revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries that brought many positive developments not only to the West, but increasingly to the world at large. Particularly, this revolution greatly increased rational and scientific knowledge, anticipating the suffocating information overload that overtakes us today. But in addition to this great boon to the growth and expansion of scientific knowledge and the resulting advances in technology, intellectuals then and now began to define the world in ways that undercut many of the traditional moral and philosophical foundations on which society stood. Traditional beliefs were disproved, ignored, or relativized, including many Christian and spiritual doctrines and insights that evolved in Western civilization, including many of the philosophical assumptions of the U.S. Constitution.
The 20th century saw a proliferation of “facts” grounded in the corrosive and errant view that scientifically generated knowledge was the only knowledge that can be considered “true.” Knowledge, errantly defined in this way caused information to pile up without the constructive value perspective needed to help make sense of it all. As such, the desperately needed, healthy support for personal and social cohesion suffered, and relativistic pluralism and the atomistic isolation and alienation of individuals grew.
In “the information age” computers store vast amounts of “facts” that are instantaneously available over the internet, and now even in our phones. People are swamped with data but lack the all-important purpose and values needed to help them with guidelines for its organization, selection, and implementation.
This values vacuum has created mass vulnerability to political, economic, social, and moral deception, creating widespread brokenness, despite the miraculous advances and benefits coming from science and technology. It caused a “dumbing down” that has allowed the rise of cultural wars and political, economic, religious, and educational ponzi schemes that would easily have been shot down by earlier generations. The value relativity allows narcissistic leaders to use positions of power and influence for personal and selfish purposes, without any established values or procedures to check their behavior.
There is a need in the 21st century to integrate values and knowledge in a way that transcends the limitations of previous cultural biases and can bring genuine dialogue, learning, and understanding that will equip our global civilization with more universal values infused knowledge. This renewal at the level of our social consciousness can enable education to promote healthy ways of being human in community, and allow the growth of shared and integrated devotion to building a better world.