Religion fails to answer “why” questions

Christians sometimes tell us that religion answers the “why” questions, while science answers the “how” questions, a topic I’ve written about before. Daniel, of the Good Reason blog, has written an excellent post that raises enormous problems for this idea. Go read it!

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2 Responses to Religion fails to answer “why” questions

  1. Sometimes I find Dawkins a bit frustrating because he never quite gives the killer answer. But it’s alright for me to say that, of course, sat behind my computer with plenty of time to think – and even then I often think that I wished I’d provided a better answer.

    On the other hand, Pell was an embarrassment – nothing more than ignorant and uninformed clichés. I cringed at some of the things he said.

    The Christian idea of the separation of “how” and “why” is one of those clichés. In fact they’re not as separate as the Christian apologists would have us believe.

    We’re used to the Humean view that actions should be viewed as a caused series of events. In fact actions should be looked at as properties of objects just as much as physical characteristics are. Purpose is a function of our attributes just as much as our physical properties looked at in this way. Any object is subject to its own limitations – this is what makes it an object that we can describe. If it didn’t conform to its limitations it wouldn’t be that object.

    This can apply to actions, including thoughts, just as much as physical properties. The reason that we don’t get up and fly, or grow hair on the soles of our feet, is because of our limitations. Another way of looking at it is that we are limited by our identity, and the law of identity (A=A) is an expression of not only what something is but also what it is not, according to its limitations. Causation is therefore more appropriately viewed as the law of identity applied to action, and any “why” questions are answered as actions that conform to an object’s identity just as much as “how” questions. As humans we have alternatives, but only within a certain range confined within our identity, and “how” and “why” are aspects of the same thing.

    • Keith says:

      Interesting thoughts!

      Incidentally, I recently watched the February meeting at Oxford of Richard Dawkins and Rowan Williams, and I have to say that Williams was, if anything, an even greater embarrassment than Pell. Not because he was ignorant of the science, though, but because his theology is so watered down and insubstantial that he was barely able to take a coherent position on any issue that came up in the discussion. It’s almost as if he felt ashamed to come out and admit that he believed in God at all, or at least that’s the impression I got.

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