Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why ask why

  1. Apr 15, 2003 #1


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    why are humans so intent on knowing why? what drives our curiosity, and why don't animals have the same drive?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 15, 2003 #2
    Animals do have this same drive, like people it is pushed to the back burner by accumulated habits. Infants of any species tend to be more aggressive, playful, and curious than adults. However, too aggressive, playful, or curious and they die off. Hence, nature apparently gives us all some genetic predispositions of individual character that maintains a variety so that some percentage of the population is adapted to the environmental demands of any particular time and place. Shyness, in particular, has been shown to be an inheritable personality characteristic.

    Notably, the more intelligent the animal generally the more curiosity they display and preditory animals tend to be the more intelligent. Hunting, especially in packs, requires a fair amount of learning and adapting to group. At the same time, it requires the group maintain some sort of social organization that is adaptable.

    One experiment that highlights the utility of playfullness and curiosity involved a computer program created to simulate the acquisition of language. It could learn five languages, including enlgish, in anywhere from a few hours to a few days by listening to the babbling of small children. It did this by constantly playing with the possibilities for what makes a well structured sentence or question and building upon whatever seemed to work best.
  4. Apr 15, 2003 #3
    Knowledge is Power!
    Information is food for your brain..
    so let it rain let it rain

    keep your eyes open...

    keep your mind in the frame..
  5. Apr 15, 2003 #4
    We are more complex. We thus have a hightened awareness of the essence of that which exists around us. This awareness causes us to contemplate "why?". Or, at least that's how I usually look at it.

    BTW, we are animals. Any animal that becomes as complex as the human animal, will probably also be curious.
  6. Apr 16, 2003 #5
    Because we are both ignorant and cognizant at the same time. Meaning we don't like to feel awkard, or stupid! ... Huh?
  7. Apr 16, 2003 #6
    1. For Kerrie:
    I think there's no certain reason for asking "why." Asking "why" will almost always lead into improved understanding until you learn to ask "why" you should ask "why". That's when no answers come. You've come to the brink of knowing "why." You've come to the brink of rationalization.

    After having asked this last "why," one may feel she/he has tried in vain to improve her/his understanding with asking "why." I'd quote wuliheron here: "virtue is its own reward." And another one: "the way is the destination."

    Asking "why" one goes through a long journey, a quest, for seeing beyond, for seeing through. The last step in the journey is to realize how precious yet worthless has all this been. After the realiazation, one's alone with improved understanding, that is no good to no one, and an intuition of existence, that is no warranty to no one, and a way to choose, that is of no significance to no one. Now the way becomes the destination, the virtue becomes the reward. Sit back and enjoy what you've seen and what you'll see.

    Yet this isn't a fall, it's a rise to countless possibilities. Now one is free to set her/his own rules of the game, for no obligation, no necessity, no preference, no significane and no fear remains to limit the range of possibilities. You can set a rule: "I may ask why whenever and from whatever I want, no matter whether or not it's in vain."
  8. Apr 16, 2003 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !

    Intresting, none of the above "answers"
    seem to actually adress the question...:wink:
    Because we want to know the reason for stuff.
    Stuff starts from the most basic things and
    extends - in our highly evolved minds to
    many abstract stuff.

    What is the original reason for us to want to
    know the reason for stuff ?

    By knowing the reason for stuff we can control,
    predict and understand the Universe. A reason
    or cause is something that is always present if
    we have (and we do :wink:) time.

    The Universe is guided by the laws of physics.
    The most primitive life-forms and objects are
    guided by the laws of Physics and Chemistry.
    The more complex life-forms are guided by the laws
    of Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

    What is Biology ?

    It is a science that explains the behaviour
    of complex systems of particles. These systems
    formed as a result of a certain balance of
    Physical and Chemical laws that was achieved.

    Why would these complex systems want to ask the
    question Why ?

    Simply because being part of nature they must
    follow the laws of Physics. A basic system seeks
    to reach an equalibrium. Complex systems do that
    too. For the latter, however, it is expressed in
    a seemingly different way - we strive towards
    our equalibrium by what we perceive as our
    "actions" dictated by no other than our
    minds - a result of the action of our minds.
    Of course they do. The above explains what
    drives this curiosity.

    Why are we more curious ?

    Simple - we're more complex.

    "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
    Leonardo Da Vinci

    Live long and prosper.
  9. Apr 16, 2003 #8
    Hey, did you happen to read my post? Yours is mainly an elaboration of the same point that I was making in mine.
  10. Apr 16, 2003 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings Mentat !
    Hmm... With all due respect Mentat, it would
    seem to me personally that your message did
    not quite provide a clear reason as requested
    by the question. But, I suppose that if
    you view it as such then I was wrong. :wink:

    As for me making the same point you made in your
    post, I personally find that slightly
    difficult to deduce from your post. But, I suppose
    you know what you meant.

    "If I have seen farther than other men, it is
    because I stood on the shoulders of giants."
    Sir Isaac Newton

    Live long and prosper.
  11. Apr 16, 2003 #10
    Why's that?
  12. Apr 16, 2003 #11

    i think i did - Knowledge is Power!

    there was a selective advantage for those who asked why...
  13. Apr 17, 2003 #12
    u know why the human more clever than the other being
    it's because we always ask why...
    and try to get the answer
    if we dun ask why....
    we will not get the answer
    ask why is the most important thing for learning
  14. Apr 17, 2003 #13
    Kerrie was asking why we, as humans, as why while other animals don't. I said...

    How is that not pertinent? Oh well, to each his/her own.

    By that, I meant that you were saying that the fact that we are more complex leads us to conimplate "why?". I was intending to say the same thing.

  15. Apr 20, 2003 #14
    I agree in that animals do this too just not in a verbal way. It is advantageous to any species to explore it's world, to play, and to be curious.
    Asking why is the human version of intellectual curiousity, getting a satisfactory answers will increase one's curiousity, and a curious animal may find a new food source and hopefully not a new predator.
    I didn't know that about shyness, I guess I was genetically predisposed to be overly cautious of the unfamiliar I guess that could be an advatage too provided most of humanity isn't terribly shy but just a few, like a watchdog staying up all night guarding the camp. I wonder if there is a correlation between a marked shyness of a child and growing up to an adult with a cautiousness or even dislike of the unfamiliar...
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook