How vs Why

Chrissy’s cousin David and I were climbing a hill to go deer hunting one November afternoon and we stopped to take a break.  It was a chance for me to catch my breath, and for him to smoke a cigarette.  He pointed out a tree that had a single stand of barbed wire running directly through the trunk.  I looked at it for a while, thought of a few ways people could have done this, and finally said, “Why did someone do that?”

David laughed and took a drag of his cigarette, but didn’t say anything.  I asked what was so funny and he replied, “I was standing right here this morning with another cousin.  He saw that tree, looked at it for a while, and asked me, ‘how did someone do that?'”

The answer, of course, is that nobody did that, they just ran the wire around a sapling 50 years ago, and over time it cut into the tree and tree healed around it.

I heard an interesting interview with Dr. Jeffrey Schweitzer, author of Beyond Cosmic Dice: Moral Life in a Random World on Point of Inquiry today.  At one point in the interview Dr. Schweitzer made the observation that science tends to ask “How?” while religion asks “Why?”  I thought about this for a while, and found it hard to disagree with.  I created an odd sort of dissonance in my head, as I’ve always thought of myself as someone who asks, “Why?”

Leave a Reply