Why is Why Important?

My last post discussed Richard Dawkins’ quotation that the “why” questions in life were “silly”. In that post, I did not explain why I thought these questions were important. So you can consider this post to be part 2 of this topic. 

To show why I believe these types of questions are important, I am going to pick an example and expand on it. The example I will use is “Why do humans exist?’, or put in a personal way, “Why do you exist?”.

You can ask “How did humans come to exist?” and attempt to answer it through scientific study (perhaps by discovering that primates can evolve into humans through a process of natural selection). You can also ask “Do humans exist?”, and through introspection and observation determine that they do.

This question of “Why do humans exist?” is quite a different question. The “how” question above explains the past and the lead up to the present. The “do” question explains the current state of things. However, neither question hits on the potentiality of humans into the future.

You could use the “how” question as a basis to talk about the future. For example, you could say that since humans evolved from primates (the how), humans need to continue their evolutionary progression and become more intelligent beings. But as soon as you talk about the future, the how question is no longer being answered. You are now explaining what should be (humans need to become smarter) and the purpose of human existence (humans exist to continue evolutionary development).

So when you cut off asking “why”, you lose the ability to consider many questions about the future. Instead, you can basically only explain the present and the events leading up to that point. So WHY is this point problematic? Some of those future-looking questions potentially have huge implications for human existence, even more so than the question of how we got to this point. My next post will explain these possible implications.

(side note: I am not affirming evolutionary theory or saying people have a view like I described above! I just made up a science-based example in light of my last post’s reference to Dawkins).

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