HOW And WHY Questions


People often confuse ‘HOW’ questions with ‘WHY’ questions. ‘HOW’ questions deal with process, procedures, methods, plans, strategies, descriptions. ‘WHY’ questions, on the other hand, imply intentionality, reason, cause, motive, purpose.

The recent super blue blood moon had many people looking up to the skies. And some may have wondered (again), Why is there so much beauty and goodness in this world? Science has explained rather precisely how all this came about: how life developed to be what it is today, how planets have been formed from stardust and debris, how the stars themselves were formed from gases and cosmic dust, and how all of this has come from the primordial big bang. These are all answers to a how question, How did the universe begin, develop, and evolve.

The true ‘WHY’ question is more accurately phrased, ‘WHY’ is there something rather than nothing. Science has found the universe to be intelligible; that is, we can explain and understand the processes of nature. Because the universe is intelligible, it has intentionality, reason, cause. The WHY question eventually lead us to the WHO question – “WHO made all this?” The answer cannot be that it all came about spontaneously. That would be contrary to the logic and nature of the universe being intelligible and being intentional.

One of the pitfalls of confusing ‘HOW’ questions with ‘WHY’ questions is that it would lead us to wrong, unethical, immoral decisions. Like, just because we know to do things something, then we should do it. We know how to clone animals; therefore let us also clone human beings? We know how to harness the power of the atom; therefore let us also weaponize the atom against our enemies? We know that additional mouths to feed are a financial burden and strain on the earth’s limited resources; therefore let us get rid of unwanted or unproductive lives?

I recently came across the quote from Oscar Wilde, “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Some people see how human life eventually leads to the gutter, of the tomb. Others look at the stars and see reason and paradise in the gutter.


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