Perhaps the biggest of all questions is why. Some answers are obvious like the answer to why we eat (which only raises the question – eventually – of why we want to live at all). I am not about to attempt to answer life’s big questions.
Having read a fair bit of philosophy, science, and religion, it seems to me that many answers would simply disappear if we dismissed the original questions. A particular type of question, if rejected at source, would have saved millions of trees and forced thousands of journalists to seek alternative employment.
A recent article about babies that Emily pointed out is a classic example of a question that isn’t really a question along with an answer that pretends to be scientific by invoking the god of the gaps, natural selection.
Apparently babies are cutest at six months. The reason given is that they have survived most dangerous diseases by then – so it’s a signal to the parent(s) that it’s alright to love them.
Babies are definitely cute sometimes. Other times they are not. Sadly, babies often suffer injury from parents unable to cope with their lack of cuteness. Why babies are so cute is as moot a point as to why, sometimes, they are not very cute at all. Crying seems to be an excellent survival strategy, but some less irritating mechanism to indicate discomfort or hunger might be just as successful – if not more so.
There is a mythical organisation known as CANOE. (The Campaign to Assign a Nautical Origin to Everything). I think there should be a similar group for those who believe that all animal or plant behaviours must have some selective advantage.
As well as favouring survival strategies and skills, the theory of natural selection also suggests that if a behaviour or trait failed to kill your ancestors before they reproduced, then it can be passed on from one generation to the next unchecked. Some things must have been advantageous; many just didn’t need to be.
I think babies can be immensely cute. Ripe tomatoes taste marvellous. Okra tastes horrible. Dancing in the kitchen feels wonderful. Sitting in the sun’s rays is amazing. Waiting for a bus is tedious. I really don’t know why.
Charles Darwin probably didn’t know why either.