3 Really Big Questions
We answered two of them. Kinda…
The answer to the question “How” is easy. The answer to the question “Why” is impossible: it doesn’t exist yet.
In Journalism 101, one learns that the essence of good reporting is answering six basic questions: who, what, why, where, when, and how. Answering these questions would constitute a good report about any event happening out there.
If we extend this to human knowledge as a whole, one would notice that, historically, our curiosity was always directed towards just three of those questions: What, How, and Why? It could be even construed that the history of humankind revolves around answering these.
What is happening?
At the beginning of the development of our species, we were perplexed by Nature and its phenomena. The basic question that we were trying to answer is: What is happening?! We didn’t know. Slowly, mostly by direct observation and trial and error, and in order to survive, we developed a utilitarian understanding of Nature and what surrounds us.
We also created religion, to explain those events that escaped our rationality.
How things are happening?
In the next phase, once we were relatively secure and safe from Mother Nature, our curiosity led us to try to answer the “How” question. That’s the root of all science, modern and ancient. We made great leaps in answering that question, utilizing newer and newer tools that we created. Also, our thinking got a lot better: we were no longer satisfied to attribute things/events to gods. We wanted to know, by deducing and experimenting, how things are working. Currently, we’re at the zenith of our scientific knowledge.
Why is it happening, at all?
Although philosophy is the mother of science and has been around for millennia, somehow it failed to provide any plausible answer to the third, most important question: Why? As in “Why is this happening?”.
When I say “Why”, I don’t mean simple causation: we covered that by the “How” question. I mean the purpose, as in “Why life exists?”. Some would say that this is rather an anthropocentric view: not everything has to have a purpose. Well, if not, what is the point, then?
Science provided us with technology and methodology; philosophy gave us reasoning and formal logic. Direct observation and deduction led us this far. But, the answer to “Why” escapes all of that. We know the mechanics of most events/things that surround us. Our reach is far and wide, across time and space, and it’s increasing rapidly. As for why things are happening, why are they there, in the first place, we’re still clueless.
So, the next phase in human knowledge development, imho, should be tackling the “Why” question. Call it post-scientific, metaphysical, or however you’d like. Without an answer to it, we’d be just chasing our tail in an ever-expanding Universe and, consequently, our body of knowledge about it.
At some point, soon, our body of knowledge will become insurmountable, and trivial, by nature. We’d need a paradigm shift in our approach. It wouldn’t satisfy us anymore to know what and how it is happening, we want to know why it is happening, as well. Without an answer for it, our knowledge and understanding of the World we live in won’t be complete.