I’m beginning to have a problem with whys.
Here’s the answer you expect:
Colour is built of certain frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. The waves of visible light go from longer waves (red) through the colours of the rainbow (and the blurs in between) to shorter waves (blues and violet). The atmosphere is made out of gas molecules, that absorb some of the light, and then scatter it outwards. Basically, the molecules absorb more of the high frequency short waves (blueyness) and then scatter them about, so wherever you look from, the sky is bluer (except at sunset and sunrise where the sun is at a different angle, and so ends up passing through more atmosphere before it reaches you, which means the lower frequency colours get absorbed some as well, and you end up with sheer beauty of purples and reds and pinks and oranges splashed across the clouds and skies).
So far, so obvious google.
But the truth is (that it isn’t blue it’s grey because the world is falling to pieces outside, or at least that’s what it sounds like).
Wait, that’s not what I was saying.
But the truth is, that’s how the sky is blue. Not why.
I’ve just given a huge simplification of the scientific principles that lead the sky to be blue. There is no why there, just a how. This is what happens. There is no reason for it, at least none that I can see without moving into philosophical sophistry, guess work, and belief systems that I don’t hold firm.
Why is anything anything?
Do we really ever know?
I don’t really think so. It becomes increasingly clear to me that the reason why I get baffled by whys is that there is no why.
I suspect this even runs true for human motivation.
One could suggest that the capacity for reasoning it what marks out humans from the rest of the animals. But increasingly reports suggest that humans just react and the reasoning comes later. Our decisions are based on instincts and impulses, not on the reasons we later tell ourselves why.
So we do not know the reason why, for we cannot reason like we suppose.
I’ve had this thought pootling around my head for a while now, and I can’t work out if it is a bad thing or not.
If there’s no reason to anything, does that make anything worse. Does it invalidate our investigations into how things work?
I don’t think it does, but I think we have to face up to the notion that when people try to put whys to hows, they have a bias. They are projecting an extra, assumed layer of understanding on top of what they have observed. Their own biases and schema filter information at the reasoning level.
And their motivation for that?
Well. If I started telling you that, I’d be falling into the same trap.
Be wary of the whys, especially here, because, well, I don’t know why.
Illustration by Lucy.