Gertrude, Gertrude, What is the Answer?

A bit more on this ‘science can’t answer the why questions’ trope. Because it’s a surprisingly enduring and frequently-heard one, and yet it’s completely worthless. If it’s so worthless, why is it so enduring and so often repeated? Because not enough people say often enough how worthless it is? That must be it. Okay so let’s all start saying that more often, and maybe with our combined weight we can beat it to death.

What the silly phrase means is that science doesn’t permit itself to make up answers to why questions, whereas religion and ‘theology’ do. The idea that that makes religion and theology superior rather than grossly inferior is ludicrous.

You could play that game in all sorts of ways (which means: behold, a reductio ad absurdum approaches). Ask a friend: ‘How many grains of sand are on this beach?’ ‘Don’t know.’ Shake head sadly – assert random number. ‘I can answer and you can’t.’ Repeat procedure. ‘How many leaves on that tree? What was the name of Shakespeare’s pet iguana? What did Napoleon eat for lunch on March 20 1784? What is the meaning of life?’ Rational people say they don’t know; you invent an answer; which party has a problem? Which party ‘can’ ‘answer’ the question?

And then, the answer that religion and ‘theology’ give is not an answer anyway, because the question is just as askable as it ever was. ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?’ ‘Because God.’ ‘Why is there God?’ ‘____’

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