Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why? How?

My filmmaker friend Eric M Nilsson contacted me a couple of months ago, asking me to participate in a documentary of a philosophical nature for Swedish television on the sense of the two questions: Why? How? This is the distinction evoked by Richard Dawkins on page 56 of The God Delusion:

It is a tedious cliché (and, unlike many clichés, it isn’t even true) that science concerns itself with how questions, but only theology is equipped to answer why questions.

Eric arrived at Gamone yesterday, and we talked about the project during dinner last night. I suggested that he might like to shoot the interview in the fields alongside the splendid monastery of the Grande-Chartreuse, an hour away from my home. I felt that the background image of the great monastery would create a nice harmony. The thirty monks who spend their existence in that glorified prison, allegedly praying night and day for all of us on the outside, are convinced that the why question is valid, and their unique answer is Jesus. As for me, I explained on camera (like Dawkins) that the why question, applied to our human existence, is no more than a nonsensical alignment of words, not a valid question, and that science is obliged to carry on answering how questions exclusively.

Here I am in the snow-covered fields, answering Eric’s questions:

It was a delightful sunny outing. The only thing I regretted was that I hadn’t brought my dog along with us to participate in the discussion. Sophia could have clarified certain issues. After all, “dog” is “god” spelt backwards.

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