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How and Why

Can a question have more than one answer?

This idea that there can be more than one answer to a question is something many people struggle with. When we ask a question, we expect to get one answer.

But it makes more sense if we shift to a different example.

Take the question,

quote open“Why did Phar Lap, the famous race hquote closeorse, die?”

One answer is, “because gangsters poisoned him.”
Another answer is, “because the arsenic in his stomach spread around his body and led to organ failure.”
These two answers can work together because one answer tells you “why – in what manner?” and the other tells you, “Why, for what reason”.


Applying this ‘How and Why’ idea to science and religion

Now let’s see how this idea can be applied when thinking about the question, ‘Why do humans exist?’. According to supporters of Theistic Evolution (the name given to this approach) the answer is that God created life, but He did so using natural processes which are open to scientific investigation.

So in other words, according to this way of understanding how science and religion work together, God is the author of Creation, and evolution describes the mechanisms that He designed to produce life.

In the video below, astronomer, Dr Jennifer Wiseman and Physicist, Prof Jim Al-Khalili explain further.

How and Why

The ‘How and Why’ view as it’s sometimes called, says that science and religion address different kinds of question. Science investigates questions relating to how nature works; religion is concerned with questions about the meaning and value of life. Those supporting this view argue that religious texts are intended to present religious messages and not scientific claims. They point out that some of the ideas in the Creation stories are now so well established that we forget they ever needed to be said. Here are two examples.

Good, good

The ancient Greeks believed that the world of matter is foul and impure. In their view, the spiritual realm was the more perfect place to be. In contrast the creation stories of Christianity, Islam and Judaism tell the reader many times that the world of matter was created by God and it is ‘good’.

God or gods

At the time when the Creation story was written down, many people believed that there were many gods. Some thought that the Sun and Moon were gods. One of the aims of the Creation story in Genesis was to tell people at the time to believe that there is ONE God and He created everything.

Did you know that when scholars describe the writing style used in Genesis Chapter 1, they say it is ‘elevated prose’. In many ways elevated prose is similar to poetry because it has a structure, rhythm and patterns of symmetry.

© 2011 LASAR (Learning about Science and Religion)