The how's, the why's, and the only useful answer to the big "why"

Nikolaj
Superfan
Nikolaj's picture
Posts: 503
Joined: 2008-04-27
User is offlineOffline
The how's, the why's, and the only useful answer to the big "why"

Inspired by a letter in the RRS mailbag entitled "Science answers the HOW's, faith answers the WHY's" I feel it is time to say how I have always felt on this matter. Feel free to comment to your hearts content.

It is said that science answers the how's and Religion, or faith answers the why's.

I agree that there is an important distinction between those two words, but I fail to see how the above stament is true in either case: for both science and faith.

Take the following: HOW is the earth shaped? Science answers "Round". (There were infact a greek mathmatician, his name escapes me just now, who calculated this, long before Magellan sailed around the earth, and long before the 20th century where we flew out and took pictures).

Then: WHY is the earth round?

Science can answer this too: because of gravity (well, that's how I've understood it anyway. Something to do with centrafugal power or something. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but mind you, the point is just that you can correct me with a more accurate scientific explanation, because all I'm saying is science is prepared to answer that question, I'm not saying I know the scientific explanation in detail myself.)

Now let's try the same with Religion, or faith.

HOW is the earth shaped?

I am sure many, if not all religions have answered this question. Many have answered flat, mind. But even if some got it right, is this because of divine revalation, or because whatever profet that said it just guessed right, or because he had heard of it, from a scientist, who had calculated it (as per, the greek mathmatician)?

and: WHY is the earth round/Flat/whatever?

The answer is usually, because God he chose it to be that way, though it may sometimes not be answered at all.

And that particular answer begs the question that any child could, and indeed, often feel compelled to ask, namely why did God choose that shape? Why not a square, why not a pyramid, why not banana-shaped?

And indeed, why did he choose it? Why not she? Why not it?

And so on and so forth. For every why faith attempts to answer there is always a why not waiting to jump in.

My personal objection to faith it not what it asks, but what it answers. Faith answers questions like how old is the earth, How big is the universe, how am I supposed to behave on sundays. Notice, that all those questions begins with how, not why.

And to that one big "why", the one, that, in all fairness, the expression "Science answers how, religion answers why" is probably most commonly refering; the "Why are we here? Why is there something rather than nothing?", to that "why" question there is one answer that I find considerably more fullfilling and also encouraging than any I have ever heard stipulated by any faith.

Consider this: the universe was just bobbing along, minding its own business, when, by coincidence (or accident, as so many theists like to call it), on a small insignificant rock somewhere in a backwater galaxy someone popped out of the primordial ooze and started asking the heavens: "why?". Well, I can't imagine the universe minds, I mean there is more than enough room, and we're not exactly making any undue fuzz, considering our complete inability to make even the slightest dent on the universe as a whole, at least at the moment. So the more the merrier, I presume the universe would say.

What I'm trying to say is, the only useful answer to: "why is there something rather than nothing?" is, quite simply:

 

Why not?

 

Well I was born an original sinner
I was spawned from original sin
And if I had a dollar bill for all the things I've done
There'd be a mountain of money piled up to my chin


Anonymous
Posts: 4294964979
Joined: 1969-12-31
User is offlineOffline
All your questions answered. Poorly, but answered. Well, some

and: WHY is the earth round/Flat/whatever?

The answer is usually, because God he chose it to be that way, though it may sometimes not be answered at all.

And that particular answer begs the question that any child could, and indeed, often feel compelled to ask, namely why did God choose that shape? Why not a square, why not a pyramid, why not banana-shaped?

God made planets round so people could proclaim they were flat and make asses of themselves. Same goes for evolution, Earth not being the center of the Universe , etc.

And indeed, why did he choose it? Why not she? Why not it?

1. Patriarchal society.

2. "It" would seem more appropriate (why would God need reproductive characteristics), but "its" aren't generally viewed as things of significance. We attach genders to a lot of things where it doesn't make sense.

My personal objection to faith it not what it asks, but what it answers. Faith answers questions like how old is the earth, How big is the universe, how am I supposed to behave on sundays. Notice, that all those questions begins with how, not why.

My only objection to faith or other forms of belief is when one tries to impose them on me, beyond the imposition required to maintain a reasonable degree of civilization, except for the parts I don't like.

What I'm trying to say is, the only useful answer to: "why is there something rather than nothing?" is, quite simply:

 

Why not?

I go with "Hell if i know."


Eloise
Theist
Eloise's picture
Posts: 1804
Joined: 2007-05-26
User is offlineOffline
Love your final answer

 

Love your final answer Nikolaj, it sums up precisely how I feel about it. Smiling

also...

Nikolaj wrote:

Take the following: HOW is the earth shaped? Science answers "Round". (There were infact a greek mathmatician, his name escapes me just now, who calculated this, long before Magellan sailed around the earth, and long before the 20th century where we flew out and took pictures).

I think there is another 'How' to this question to explore. Science answers HOW is the earth shaped? with 'Gradually by interacting forces over time' while the answer "Round" is more, in my opinion, an answer to What is the earth's shape?

Religion thus answers this How is the earth shaped? question with - God did it. And in that way religion isn't answering the 'How' at all, it's just invoking one word to cover all the explanations that science can give.

So then Why is the earth Round? is answered by science by citing the consistent empirical observations of interaction to show that they accord with the How answer. That is, science says - put the original answer together, true to basically all its parts, and the earth results. So, why, is because it follows quite consistently from something that appears very simple, therefore, in essence, the why and how are near enough the same and one should ultimately explain the other.

Religion's answer to Why is the earth round must come from "God did it" and that's where theism generally comes unstuck with making the "religion answers why" claim. From God did it, you can infer whatever you like and call it revealed knowledge, it's Bush Week for one and all.

 

What's clear to me here, though, is that the theological "how" is pretty safe. It is just a word, after all.  Moreover, it directly indicates that it's a word for an entity equivalent to interacting forces, and there's no known entity which isn't fundamentally equivalent to interacting forces anyway. 

Theology is in waaay more trouble with the Why than the How, theology's "why"s are little more than a string of peremptory, capricious declarations seemingly without any plausible connection to the implications of the 'God did it' answer. And how does apologetics react to this disconnect? By reasserting them with equal caprice and peremptoriness! These are the why's because they are and we have them so nah nah nah *fingers in ears*, what a crock.

So basically, Nikolaj, even from another perspective on the distinction between How and Why, I agree with what you've said. The statement just isn't true.

Theist badge qualifier : Gnostic/Philosophical Panentheist

www.mathematicianspictures.com


I AM GOD AS YOU
Superfan
Posts: 4793
Joined: 2007-09-29
User is offlineOffline
Thanks friend. How and Why

Thanks friends. How and Why should more often, be seen as very different questions?

This is partly why I refuse to let the "religious" own the words, such as g-o-d, saved, holy, christ, divine, heaven, etc etc. I don't think it is possible to simply make them go away, so I seek to make them atheist, as they belong. The atheist is "saved" , as the christ is in thee ..... etc.

   Folklore: When a buddha was asked about god (or why) , he laughed at the question, implying is was meaningless .....

   I wish there was no need to be "atheist" or "theist", but we simply haven't all evolved as a world community to that "awakened" state of mind.


JillSwift
Superfan
JillSwift's picture
Posts: 1758
Joined: 2008-01-13
User is offlineOffline
Nikolaj wrote:What I'm

Nikolaj wrote:
What I'm trying to say is, the only useful answer to: "why is there something rather than nothing?" is, quite simply:

 

Why not?

Well said.

"Anyone can repress a woman, but you need 'dictated' scriptures to feel you're really right in repressing her. In the same way, homophobes thrive everywhere. But you must feel you've got scripture on your side to come up with the tedious 'Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve' style arguments instead of just recognising that some people are different." - Douglas Murray