WHY ARE WE HERE? WHAT’S OUR PURPOSE? WHAT’S THE POINT?
Great questions! We’re glad you asked. Besides getting to know Why, gettingtoknowwhy.com is here for the purpose of archiving and exhibiting the fruit of several writing projects, the focal point of which is Getting to Know Why: a monthly column that considers the great questions of meaning by discussing relations between religion and science and agonizing over the intellectual development of yours truly, “Dr. Why.” The primary author/editor of the series is my long-time mentor and friend, “Dr. X”; but I also contribute to most installments. Getting to Know Why installments are first published in the Norton-Lakeshore Examiner under the direction of visionary editor Cynthia Price, then republished here with my assistance.
Unlike most blogs and newspaper columns, Getting to Know Why is a serial: each installment builds on the one that precedes it and leads into the one that follows it. Maybe that’s the only reason Editor Price classes it with works by Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Herman Melville. In any event, because it’s a serial, Getting to Know Why installments are best read in the order in which they appeared, and they’re numbered for just this reason. If you’re a newcomer trying to decide whether Getting to Know Why is worth getting to know, however, then I recommend you start with installments #2 and #3. You can go back to #1 later if you decide you’re interested. Continue reading
* Why, it’s for you! *
Greetings from Firenze, Italy—also known as “Florence.” I’m in a café drinking cappuccino at the moment. It might seem strangely forward of me to start off reporting on my circumstances like this, as we don’t yet know each other; but since this is to be the first in a series of columns, and since you are my target audience, I hope to change that. So please allow me to introduce myself: I’m Dr. X.
I mean by the X that I’m no one in particular, of course. Not much of an introduction, I know, but it can’t be helped: I have to remain anonymous to protect my subject. Even my gender’s a secret. I hope that adds a bit of intrigue if nothing else. Continue reading
* For Our Parents *
Warm groeten from Amsterdam. I’m in town for a conference—always a good excuse to have some fun. I enjoyed dinner, conversation, and a tour all at the same time last night on one of the city’s many canal-boat restaurants. The boat was motorized, but my hosts said that it used to be drawn through these very canals by horses. Gezellig!
If you read last month’s installment, you know that I’m “Dr. X” and that this is a sort of critical intellectual biography of my friend and dialogue partner, “Dr. Why.” Rather than bore you with an orderly procession of all the significant moments in Why’s life, however, I’ll share something of his current intellectual position and then zig back and zag forth from that in subsequent installments. I will thereby prepare the ground from which to examine some of Why’s other—shall we say, more interesting—ideas. Continue reading
#1 of The Mythic-Man-Breasts Subseries
*For raising Cain*
In the second installment of Getting to Know Why, Dr. X drew a healthy joke from a source you might have thought too dry to produce one: the breast of a male young-Earth creationist. But in fact, every such breast holds at least two of the three ingredients Dr. X needed to get us laughing: first, a certain elegant piece of biological equipment; second, the conviction that every elegant piece of biological equipment is either broken or fulfils the purposes of the Intelligence who designed it; third, an expectation so strong that it amounts to a conviction about what purposes a proper designing Intelligence ought to have. None of these ingredients is very entertaining taken alone; but consider them together sympathetically and you’ll be so surprised by implications at once so compelling and so iconoclastic that you’ll roar with delight at the delicious irony.
Anyway, that’s the hope; it’s a joke, after all. Of course, you have to get it to laugh at it, and to get it you have to read it; so please do that now if you haven’t already. This is the place to be if you’ve read the joke and want to deepen your appreciation of it. Continue reading
* For The Dead *
HAPPY 50TH ANNIVERSARY TO THE DEAD! (Click to view image credits.)
Hello everyone. I’m “Dr. X,” and you’re reading the third installment of a serial biography I’m writing about my good friend and dialogue partner “Dr. Why,” who has some very interesting things to say about science, religion, and their relations—among other things. Why surprised us with a visit last time, and I’m pleased to report that he’s returned once again to continue our conversation.
We were discussing the importance of founding hypotheses when we concluded our last installment. Why had illustrated his belief that the historical sciences reason in circles against interventionist theism by pointing out that uniformitarian geological methods assume rather than prove that no God has intervened in Earth history.
Welcome back, Dr. Why. Is that a fair synopsis?
Y: Glad to be back, Dr. X. Fair enough, except what I last remember is discovering the gender-bending implications of the fact that creationists can’t think male nipples were useless back in Eden. Continue reading
* For Rent: To rent a GTKW dedication line, please contact Dr. X.*
If you’ve never joined us before, welcome. If you have joined us before, welcome back. I’m “Dr. X,” and the subject and star of this column is my good friend and fellow traveler, “Dr. Why,” who has many very interesting ideas to share with us.
Why has been telling me for years that inquiry of all sorts builds on “founding hypotheses” that may always be doubted and may often be replaced, sometimes with grandly surprising results—conceivably even creationist results. So last time—challenged by me to render belief in Adam and Eve “even remotely plausible” while accommodating the historical sciences—Why donned his comedian hat and shared an entertaining rendition of the so-called Fall-of-Man story of Genesis 3. By interpreting the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge as an hallucinogenic mushroom, Why created a scenario showing that the experience of any one person—no matter how much science it includes—is compatible with the hypothesis that s/he’s really Eve dying of a drug overdose in Eden.
Have I got that right, Dr. Why? Continue reading
Hello everyone. I’m “Dr. X,” editor and principal author of this rather unorthodox biography you’re reading about my friend and colleague, “Dr. Why.” I wrote this paragraph while relaxing in an evergreen-forest campground dotted with electrical boxes disguised as giant Christmas mushrooms. Given Why’s appeal to psychoactive fungi in his comedic rendition of the “Fall of Man” story two conversations ago, I couldn’t help but wonder if I really am Eve dying of an overdose in Eden!
(Click to read Dr. Why’s comedic rendition of the “Fall of Man” story in GTKW #3!)
We’ve been revisiting Why’s past to explicate his present thinking on science and religion—a topic about which he has some valuable things to say. Why is unavailable at the moment, however, so I’ve decided to introduce you to an old friend from his formative years, nicknamed Yec. Why’s dealings with Yec were mostly extra-curricular, as Yec was expelled from Why’s school when they were both quite young. The school said the expulsion was justified by Yec’s irrepressible tendency to blurt out ridiculous nonsense in class, and the government concurred with a statement that cited constitutional limits on free speech. But Yec’s supporters attributed it to a sort of bigotry inspired by Yec’s gross deformities and bizarre mannerisms. And Yec really is grossly deformed, so I won’t ask you to shake its hand during this introduction, only to stare at it long enough to get a sense of what we’re talking about. Yec’s full name, after all, is young-Earth creationism. Continue reading
*For Jerry Engle*
Jerry Engle published a helpful letter in The Norton-Lakeshore Examiner on Dec. 10. Continue reading
* For John Whitmore *
Back in the Precambrian several thousand years ago, coveting culinary adventures beyond the provisions of Paradise and talked by a walking snake into eating the only fruit God strenuously warned them against, our Greatest Great-Grandparents traded everlasting nudist bliss—theirs and ours—for leathers and harsh discipline by a neophyte Grim Reaper, who, mere generations later, in a Flood higher than Everest and a Grave deeper than Grand Canyon, overzealously drowned and then buried everything that breathed save the fortunate residents of a floating zoo called Ark. Or so we heard last time from an old friend of my usual guest.
Overzealous, Neophyte Grim Reaper
*For Rent: To rent this dedication line, contact Dr. X.*
For better or worse, authors of authorized biographies can’t write just anything they’d like to about their subjects. And since the subject of this authorized biography—my esteemed colleague, “Dr. Why”—accused me of having unjustly slandered an old friend of his a couple installments ago, I had to allow him to make some changes to my account last time. Why and Yec have been estranged for many years—rightly so given Yec’s bad manners, in my judgment—so Why’s accusation surprised me: I didn’t think he’d care if I had a little fun at Yec’s expense. But then again, Why always did aspire to be big-hearted.
Hello again, Dr. Why. Am I right to think you’ll continue making emendations today?
Y: If that’s ok with you, Dr. X.
X: You’re within your rights even if it isn’t, Why. But aren’t you overdoing your defense of Yec? There’s a fine line between being magnanimous and being a chump. Continue reading
*For Harold Coffin and Richard Ritland*
Specimen Ridge, Yellowstone National Park. (Click to view image credits.)
Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen, to a formerly heated exchange grown safely cold. I hope we won’t reheat it too much if we revisit the inflammatory assertion we ended with last time.
You know the one I mean, Dr. Why?
Y: I’m sure I do, Dr. X. To paraphrase, I said that, just because it derives from the assumption that interventionism is false, nothing in the modern scientific worldview (a.k.a., naturalism) provides any reason whatsoever to think that interventionist theism really is false. Continue reading
Detail from a chauvinistically correct (but follicly challenged) version of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam.
Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Why has grown serious. I don’t mean seriously ill, just serious. Perhaps you’ve noticed. Our recent subject matter aside, the reason is that he’s currently living through material enough for several poignant future installments of GTKW and hasn’t fully spiraled into whatever sense of cosmic proportion he needs to laugh at all of it quite yet. It’ll be great comedy if he ever does fully spiral—greater tragedy if spiraling kills him fully first—but his recent seriousness is making Getting to Know Why a dull ploy. I’ve therefore decided to take a surprise holiday from Why and GTKW in tranquil Incommunicado, where I’ll quicken our pace and buy Why some time by writing without him. Besides, I’ve been cooking up this “Comment on Dr. Why’s Comment on My Mythic-Man-Breasts Joke” for several months already, and now’s the time to serve it. Continue reading
*For G. Bryant*
Back when the deadline for the fifth installment of this column first started to loom, my fascinating subject and co-author, “Dr. Why,” took off on an extended surprise holiday—much like I did just last month. Needing something to go to press with then, and finding in Why’s absence both the opportunity and the excuse I needed to introduce one of his formative relationships as I liked, I wrote up an “interview” with his formerly good friend, Yec. But Why returned the next month to complain that I had offensively mis-caricatured Yec’s irrationale, and, regrettably, he’s been defensively re-caricaturing Yec ever since.
Y: It isn’t my intention to defend young-Earth creationism, Dr. X!
X: Then you should be more careful, Why. You’ve accidentally defended it in six of the past eight installments. Continue reading
“DEAR DR. X:
“I was so relieved to find your substantial essay on the mythic-man-breasts joke here [at gettingtoknowwhy.com] last week! I have been reading Getting to Know Why since its conception (in #1), and I have grown increasingly appalled and frustrated by Dr. Why’s increasingly obvious GAY-HIPPIE-CREATIONIST AGENDA! Continue reading
*For Res Gardener*
Hear ye! Hear ye! Young-Earth creationists aren’t quite the Bible thumpers they appear to be! Not that Yecs don’t thump the Bible. Of course they thump the Bible! But they thump it to a march they’ve composed themselves and merely attributed to God. It seems that what The Rock cries out is as susceptible to creative creationist data massaging as mere rocks are—to massaging that’s aimed to un-tarnish the Creator’s image by smearing us with all that’s wrong with creation! Or so my biographee and esteemed colleague—himself a former Yec—argued in GTKW #9.
Isn’t that right, Dr. Why? Continue reading
*For Editor Price*
Welcome, dear readers, to this unusual column that’s mostly about and partly by my dearest friend and colleague: the intriguing “Dr. Why.” We’re eleven installments in—far enough to take stock of what we’ve gotten to know so far.
Thanks for being with us again, Dr. Why. Where are we going? Where have we been? Continue reading
If God made man perfect in the beginning, if our imperfections evince the Fall of Man, and if some men today sometimes lactate (however imperfectly), then unfallen Adam would have lactated perfectly. Thus Dr. X joked pithily in Getting to Know Why #2, and thus I argued ponderously (even if somewhat tongue-in-cheekedly) in my expository essay, “On Mythic-Man-Breasts.”
Dr. X’s Mythic-Man-Breasts Hypothesis was first introduced in #2 of the Mythic-Man-Breasts Subseries.
I had thought, therefore, that Dr. X and I were in complete agreement about this: given creation and male nipples, Cain drank from Adam. But then, to my extreme surprise and mild chagrin, Dr. X attacked my position to defend “chauvinism.” Granting for sake of argument that Genesis is sober history, but denying that creationists have any reason to grant that Adam had nipples, Dr. X concluded that creationists might just as well exaggerate as bend the genders of Eden and thereby “close The Book on fruits and feminists.”
Dr. X was being sarcastic, of course; thus the mildness of my chagrin. But because even joking chauvinism should be contested, and because I kinda do think fundamentalists might be “progressives if they were any more backward,” I write to milk the mythic-man-breasts joke a little further on behalf of a “kinder, gentler fundamentalism.” Continue reading
*For Rent: To rent this dedication line, contact Dr. X.*
If you were with us for #11, dear reader, and if your memory is good, then you might recall that—after recapping our tale of Dr. Why’s flight from fundamentalism into agnosticism—we announced our plan to write ourselves a prequel starting now. That plan has changed, however, because our readers keep asking when we’re going to stop “obsessing” over creationism so they can start getting to know something “worthwhile.” Continue reading
*For Pat McManus*
I really hope you’ll lend me your ears today, dear readers. I can promise to repay you by earning your interest, as I’ve a memory that will grow fonder if you fondle it—a memory of my first meeting with the fit subject of this serial: my dear friend and colleague, the hefty-yet-quick—the Olympic—Dr. Why.
I’d like to keep the details of when and where to myself, so I’ll start like this: Once upon a time . . .
I was reclining on the chaise longue in my comfortable office library, on a great campus of a greater university in the middle of everywhere the modern Academy can take you. The term was done, the students were home, and my staff was gone at last. I had no task at hand, no plans afoot, neither gleaming typewriter nor blinking computer in sight, and only nothing on my mind. It was a rare and precious and consummate moment. I hoped at heart to keep it and resolved to try as I relaxed there—on my long chair, in the great midst—into nix . . . .
But then, as if maliciously possessed, my office door spoke to me:
“Knock, knock,” it joked. Continue reading
* For Life and those who survive her. *
“Life,” my friend sobbed through the phone, “committed suicide last week.” Continue reading
*For Last Valentine’s Day*
The first snow of winter is falling white outside, and I have a woman on my mind as I put everything I’ve got and all our hopes and dreams into a small, red box. Continue reading
* For those who pose as gods *
(Continued from #13.)
At long last, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the second half of what we started in #13: my account of meeting Dr. Why for the first time. What follows is the “clear memory” Why shared when I asked him how “it” started, if you know what I mean. –Dr. X
“I was about five, maybe six years old? Certainly no more than eight. I was at church with my parents like any other Sunday. And it must have been the morning service, because I was fighting to stay awake. In fact, it was probably during the sermon, because I wouldn’t have had any trouble if we hadn’t passed the part when we stood up and sat back down constantly—which was basically every part besides the sermon—as if we came to church to do aerobics. And I remember my father pinched me—which either meant the adults were trying to listen or that I should have been—so it was definitely during the sermon. Continue reading
* For Grandma and The King *
When the man on the radio announced the bad news, my mother, who had been inducting me into The King’s biggest-fan club ever since I was old enough to listen, paused a moment from her work in the kitchen to wipe my face and tell me sadly that he was gone for good. I was impressed by my mother’s sadness, so I quietly asked questions and felt distressed by what I understood. And when Grandma came over for dessert that evening, I paused in the middle of an ice-cream headache to tell her that The King was now with Jesus.
“It means no more records or movies or live specials on TV,” I informed her, sadly.
But Grandma thought she was better informed and felt that I should be too. So after peering over her shoulder at my mother a moment, she shook her head slowly and looked down at me.
“Elvis went to hell,” she said, gently. Continue reading
Boiled mixed vegetables: flaccid wax beans, puckered peas, rubbery carrots, passable corn, and just-plain-evil Lima beans.
Coming soon, pending revision.