Darwin's DNA Now turning our attention directly to philosophy we are in a better position to understand why the question “why” arises so often in human beings. In light of consciousness as a virtual simulator, any organism that can develop a mental “pivot” tool will have a tremendous advantage in thinking of new and unexpected strategies.
A curious, but hopefully, useful analogy can be derived here from a well known sport. In basketball, for instance, a seasoned player knows well how to use his or her pivot “foot.” Once one has finished dribbling the ball, he or she must keep one foot firmly set on the ground. The other foot, however, is free to “pivot” or “revolve” or “turn” giving one options that the other foot doesn’t.
Asking “why” is consciousness’ pivot foot. It allows for a virtual simulator to turn and think of varying options and what they portend. It allows the mind to revolve and go into different directions. As F. Scott Fitzgerald essayed in his book, The Crack-Up: "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." Why is the mind’s way of allowing a multiplicity of ideas to compete and hopefully function better because of it.
“Why” is similar to an all-purpose function key on your laptop computer which opens up programs that are otherwise hidden from display. But though asking why can be quite helpful in very specific situations (why does it rain in the winter and not the summer, for example?), it can also serve as unnecessary nuisance if its protestations cannot be adequately met. Perhaps this can help us better understand the wide gulf between religion and science. We have already admitted that for a virtual simulator to be highly effective it must be able to conjure up all sorts of imagined nonsense, provided it doesn’t have to always act upon such in a real life situation. Science, though clearly built upon wild speculations and imaginings, is differentiated from religion because it measures its successes by actually “testing” its varying models with each other and placing them in real life contexts to determine which one holds up best under rigorous conditions. Science, in other words, attempts to falsify what consciousness conjures up so as to see which model best explains reality. And in so doing, it allows for a cataloging of both its successes and failures. In this way, science can indeed progress because it has a built-in tendency to eliminate less successful theoretic conjectures. Religion, on the other hand, tends to accept certain simulations above all others without resorting to any empirical verification and habitually substantiates such imaginary permutations as being beyond physical testing. In this way the virtual simulation protects its integrity and truth value by pointing to a transcendent arbiter and thereby foregoing any real world competition lest it be eliminated by such testing. Is it merely coincidence that there are tens of thousands of religions in the world each claiming exclusive truths, but nothing comparable in the world of science. There isn’t a Japanese physics or a Tibetan physics or an American physics. There is just physics. What country you come from is secondary. Gravity is universal and doesn’t have different acolytes claiming different revelations in different tongues. But which geographical region you come from in religion isn’t secondary, but primary, since as every geographer knows the gods change when you go to different landscapes.
Virtual simulation can also be instrumental in helping us better understand why beliefs systems can be so powerful, even when such ideologies can be regarded as wrongheaded or backward. Any meaning system, provided it allows one enough purpose and drive to live another day, is better than none at all.