The When, How and Why about our very existence. This is how I would grade the two general schools of thought:
When Wrong Evidence and Much Discovery
How Wrong Evidence and Much Discovery
Why God's Will No Explanation
Do you think science or atheism does, can and/or will ever answer Why? Must there even be a "reason" for the Universe.I do not think "to do good" is a necessarily a valid answer for atheists; why do good? It may be a valid answer for a theist. I feel the "why" questions undermines atheism because religion offers an (albeit, a ridiculous) answer. What are your thoughts on this matter?
As others have discussed, there doesn't seem to be a long term answer to the Why question. I have a short term answer for my own actions though. I have and am raising children without the easy guidance that a bible provides, so I thought long and hard about what my principles were going to be, both for myself and my children.
I and my mate try to model good behavior for our kids. Why, because I want them to have good lives, and we believe that this will help them to become better citizens and make the world a better place. This is my Why, which I consider to be superior to a theists why because I consciously have to make this decision every day, every moment, without someone real or imagined looking over my shoulder.
These decisions inform my every move, and sometimes makes me kinda boring, and occasionally straight-laced. I have no absolution to look forward to, no easy out of "God made me do it". My actions, writings, and spoken thoughts stand for me to the outside world. As an atheist, I have to take full responsibility for everything I have control over. Can a theist say that?
Before I had kids, I acted this way as well, although more as a means of survival than anything else.
One last thing, I visited a church service a few years ago, and I did learn something there about forgiving myself. I don't have any real problem forgiving others, but forgiving myself was a real challenge. Built into much scripture is a lot of absolution for heinous crimes. I don't need that, but I appreciated the reminder.
I think that asking "why" is what we humans do, and probably one of the things that sets us apart from all other animals - as the scorpion said to the swan, "It's in my nature --"
How tall is anger? How happy is lust? What colour is schadenfreude? All perfectly reasonable questions.
I have Grapheme-color synesthesia, so I can tell you that schadenfreude is orange on the right, blending to yellow.
You're on your own for the other two :)
Not a nuisance at all - it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I realised everyone else didn't see colours for words, letters and numbers too. Mental arithmetic and remembering names are both much easier when you have a colour clue.
Although I have been known to say "what's that place in Italy that starts with a D. Oh yes, Venice!", and received some funny looks. But to me, both D and V are dark blue, although V is a little bit softer.
Curious - any idea how prevalent that is among the world's population?
Clearly you've spent your life with it, so it's normal for you, but if I were to suddenly go from here to there, I suspect I would need to make a great many adjustments in my thought processes. Fascinating --
One thing I noticed after working for several years with computer projective geometry and mapping, I got better with 3d visualizations.
As I got older, my dreams are now colored, and I have the occasional dream where I get to notice I am having a dream while in the dream state.
I was able to catch the transition point from dreaming and waking the other night once some part of me noticed a change in the visual field/minds eye just before I woke up. I was rather shocked, and weirded out.
Some of my dream content looks more like TV transmissions at times, with vivid colors, and text. I can't seem to tune yet! LOL
Some of my dreams have a sort of mimsy to them. One night I dreamed that wife and I were riding a bicycle without wheels, and I wanted to show off my new successful flying skill. Wife and I like our flying dreams, sadly we are never sharing the same dream while aware of each other. LOL
In line with other responses, it may very well be that 'why' is simply a bad question in this context (once we separate it out from where it overlaps with 'how'). There may not be a 'why' at the ultimate level, but I am okay with the simple tautology that existence is; if it wasn't, it wouldn't be.
My atheism has allowed me to avoid fixating on 'why', yet to still keep it tucked away in my wallet like a teenage boy's "you never know what might happen" condom. Does atheism answer 'why'? Not as far as I know. Can science answer the question? I don't know. I find it unlikely that the question is meaningful. Perhaps time will tell. Perhaps not. In the meantime, I can focus more of my energy on 'so... what now?'.
I fully agree, but that's what I was referring to in separating out where 'why' and 'how' overlap.
For an example much like your own, when a child asks why the sky is blue, we tend to answer with an explanation on how light from the sun interacts with our atmosphere.
The 'why' I am not sure science can always answer is that which concerns purpose or motive. If the child's question is really asking, "What is the purpose of the sky being blue?", I'm not sure that science can provide a meaningful answer, or that there even is an answer to begin with (though I can kind of conceive of a possible answer, but I'm not sure it actually works).
@Blaine - that's easy for YOU to say --