Web Design Worldview (Part 4): Making Nonsense Out of the Hybrid Worldview
May 7th, 2008 in Web Design Worldview
by: Matthew Griffin
The hybrid worldview is the mutant offspring of modernism and post-modernism. It's by far the dominant philosophy amongst designers right now. Its pick-and-choose methodology can make it extremely elusive and disorienting. But it's not impossible to nail down; you just have to have the right tools. In this article, I will be giving a brief summary of the hybrid worldview, how it affects design, and where it's headed. You should be able to read this article alone without trouble, but I would recommend going back to part , , and for better context.
As we've seen, the pure modernist worldview attempts to demolish the upper story of reality—the categories of beauty, love, etc. The pure postmodernist worldview attempts the opposite—it denies the lower story where undeniable facts, and overarching truth reside. The hybrid worldview, on the other hand, talks about beauty, transcendence, and human freedom out of one side of its mouth while praising impersonality, survival of the fittest, and origins of randomness out of the other.
This worldview can be found just about everywhere you turn. I would say it's the dominant position of modern western culture (sadly, including Christians). It's also one of the most deadly poisons to the Christian worldview because it renders Christianity impotent without denying Christianity altogether. A Christian with a hybrid worldview will be perfectly satisfied to relegate his or her beliefs to the spheres of ethics and religion. But they will be unable to apply Christianity as an unbroken worldview to all spheres of life.
That's why it's important to educate yourself about this worldview. We must be able to clearly identify it and push its proponents back to their first premises (eg. If you start with impersonal, you can't end with personal. If you start with disorder and relativism, you can't end with order).
Spotting the Hybrid Worldview
I heard Hugh MacLeod speak once, and he said something that I immediately recognized as capturing the heart of the hybrid worldview. In the middle of a talk about shucking the old mechanical way of marketing (modernism) in favor of a personal, social marketing (post-modernism) he said, "We're primates. We love to groom each other. We love to sit around the campfire and create meaning." There's a huge contradiction between this statement and the point he was making. When Hugh refers to humans as primates, he's not referring to the fact that our physical makeup is similar to that of a monkey. He means that we're nothing more than complex versions of animals in every way; and more specifically that our social behavior can be traced to our animal ancestors. Hugh is trying to use impersonal, random, meaningless evolutionary sociology to explain why personal, social marketing works.
This is what Francis Schaeffer called the "irrational leap of faith". It's an irrational jump from natural law to transcendence. In reality, though, our "animal ancestors" do not, and have never, tried to "create meaning", much less sit around a campfire. In fact, human beings are the only life form known to history that has ever built a campfire at all.
I ran across another vivid presentation of the hybrid worldview recently in the film No Country for Old Men (If you haven't seen it, I'll try not to ruin it for you). The story is narrated and framed by a West Texas sheriff played by Tommy Lee Jones. This sheriff's experiences have brought him to the brink of fatalism—a concept he struggles with throughout the movie. But he doesn't want to believe that every person's actions are the product of impersonal, possible malevolent, forces beyond their control. He's searching for a reason not to believe what seems so clearly true. In the end, admitting he can't deny fatalism, he takes an irrational leap of faith, simultaneously affirming a higher spiritual truth revealed to him in a dream about his dead father.
Again, I'll point you to Nancy Pearcy's Total Truth for more in-depth study of this subject. But for now we need to move on to the consequences of the hybrid worldview in design.
The Hybrid Worldview Applied to Design
I want to start by making it clear that I'm not always in disagreement with the conclusions of the hybrid worldview (though many times I am); rather I disagree with the worldview that gets them there. As I've stressed in the previous three articles, we need to learn to recognize truth wherever it's found and separate it out from the contradictions (Refer to ). The Bauhaus school is a good example of a design movement with a hybrid worldview. The Bauhaus school produced some of the most exceptional design of the twentieth century, and yet its worldview is broken. The Bauhaus Manifesto claims of the designer, "In rare moments of inspiration, transcending his conscious will, the grace of heaven may cause his work to blossom into art." But in many other writings its members promote a completely mechanical, utilitarian view of design.
I'm amazed sometimes at how much truth can come from a combination of the hybrid worldview and a "whatever works" approach to design. In fact, I find myself agreeing with hybrid worldviewers in many cases. They tend to have a goal-oriented view of design which is close to my own. And a lot of the ideas they propose are very down-to-earth commons sense (Hugh MacLeod is actually a great example of this). But upon closer scrutiny, you can see that their solutions have a false synthesis—a false harmony. It's a thin layer of icing on a cake that's been baking for a long time. It may work temporarily but that's only because it's standing on the the shoulders of 2000 years of embedded Christian thinking. Without an overarching system in which both unity and diversity can live and thrive side by side, the hybrid worldview is destined to shift radically to either the upper or lower story. And that puts us right back in the modernist or postmodernist way of thinking.
Moving on to Higher Thoughts
Our general willingness to live our lives according to contradictory and broken worldviews such as the hybrid worldview is indicative of one thing: our utter resistance to God's absolute control. Because of this intrinsic resistance, we are willing to go to great lengths—in fact, whatever lengths necessary—to deny truth. We will call white what is clearly black if it means we don't have to face the truth of an absolute being. These first three articles have dissected and exposed these contradictions in a condensed form. Now it's time to set these worldviews aside and move on to the Christian worldview. If you're already a Christian, you'll be hearing some stuff about your vocation that you've probably never heard before. If you are not a Christian, then I hope the next two articles clear up any questions you may have about Christianity and design.
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