Science is very good at telling us what happens. It is not able to tell us why something happens. It does seem to tell us ‘why’, but it doesn’t. It’s ‘why’ is invariably another, admittedly deeper level of ‘what’. So science will tell us that after a number of observations, it can declare that gasses rise when they heat up. They then investigated why that should be so. Their answer, however, was another ‘what’. They investigated and ultimately they found that the molecules that constituted the gas became excited as they were warmed, and so began to occupy a greater space, thereby lowering their weight to mass, and thereby rising relative to other gases that remained at a constant temperature. This is, of course, another ‘what’.
This does of course beg the question as to what a true ‘why’ would look like. It is indeed possible that all our knowledge and understanding can be reduced down to a multitude of ‘whats’. It is possible, but I cannot help feeling that if we accept that, then we are missing something vital. Many years ago, during my headmaster / headteacher / school principal days, I was eating lunch in our school dining room, half listening to a conversation between our head of science and an eight-year-old boy. They were discussing gravity. I heard the head of science saying that gravity was a consequence of the space-time continuum. At this point I looked up and said that that was indeed what science told us what happens, but why does it happen. Without missing a beat, the eight-year-old looked at me and said, ‘well Mr Dell, that’s when science ends and your Monday morning assemblies begin.