It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it exists.Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico Philosophicus (6.44)
Continuing on the theme of my previous essay Blinded by Science, it further occurs to me that sometimes people mix up the questions how does the universe work? with why does the universe exist? The first question is the purview of science, the second is not. You can’t go to a scientist for answers of meaning or purpose any more than you can go to a car mechanic to answer what kind of car you should buy. Sure, you can get info on reliability, maintenance, recalls, etc. – but no mechanic can tell you what kind of car you need or want. Why you should buy a Cooper Mini vs. a Hummer has to do with what you like, what you need, and your economic situation. How does the car work is a totally different question from why you should buy this model vs that model.
Why does the universe exist? I think we can all agree that answering “because God wanted it” is not very satisfying. It just pushes the question further down one level – why did God want it? Why does anyone want anything? Why do you want pizza or ice cream? Why do you like the desert vs. the beach? There is no answer to this; desires are value propositions and thus do not have externally validatable reasons – which means that it is not a question for science.
We cannot know why the world is, only that it is. We are thrown into it, like walking into the middle of a stage play without a script. Most Christians believe that there is a script (the Gospels), but even so the script we are handed is torn and tattered and missing some key pages. This is why each of us needs to work out our own salvation. And you cannot ask a physicist to do that for you.
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