Unhealthy Questions[1]

Whatever your stance on God, Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, makes an important point about The Big Questions like “what is the meaning of life?” and “why does the universe exist?” Dawkins says:

“Just because a question can be asked, doesn’t mean it deserves an answer. The mere fact that you can frame an English sentence beginning with the word “why” does not mean that English sentence should receive an answer. I could say, why are unicorns hollow?”

Language can make things tricky. Many questions are loaded with hidden presuppositions. Just ask lawyers. I especially hate it when I see courtroom dramas where the attorney instructs the witness to simply answer “yes” or “no,” as though the truth can be fully conveyed in binary. Bad questions abound, and so being aware of their existence really helps you to fend against them.

Of course the source of those Big Questions is the pre-linguistic emotional process of humans trying to make sense of a confounding universe, so Dawkins isn’t saying that our yearning for the universe to make sense is invalid, just that our inquiry needs to be more articulately stated. Other questions such as “how did the universe begin?” and “what made those amino acids form the first protein?” are perhaps more likely to get us on track toward a greater understanding of existence.

1.) Note that I didn’t say “bad questions,” because I’m a firm believer that the words “good” and “bad” are the philosophical equivalent of blunt objects. They can cut through nothing and inflict only trauma.

2 thoughts on “Unhealthy Questions[1]”

  1. oh my you are going to love jess’s project that you filled out the survey for. i will send the link once it is web ready, which will probably be sometime in january.

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