Thursday, February 09, 2006


It turns out that fossils of a crested dinosaur discovered in China in 2002 belong to an ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They call it Guanlong wucaii, meaning crowned dragon from five colors. I have no idea how scientists determine genetic lineage from examining a few fossil skeletons. Probability equations are probably involved because I dont think actual DNA samples survived the process of fossilization. Anyway...

The CNN article asks this: Why did this beast have a crest on its head? Which struck me as a very odd question. It's like asking somebody why he has an anus. "Gee, uhhh... I dont know. I was born with it and I never questioned the why of its existence. Dammit, youve given me pause. Now I have to ponder my asshole's philosophical significance." Maybe it's just me. To me, 'Why' is seeking an answer that's more than 'What for.' Or maybe it's not just me. When the Merovingian asked Morpheus why they seek him, Morpheus answered, "We are looking for the Keymaker." To which the Merovingian replies: "Oh yes... but this is not a reason; this is not a 'why'."
"Causality. There is no escape from it, we are forever slaves to it. Our only hope, our only peace is to understand it, to understand the 'why'. 'Why' is what separates us from them, you from me. `Why' is the only real social power, withoutit you are powerless." (Matrix Reloaded)
Why did the beast have a crest on its head? You see the absurdity? The author asks the dead dinosaur "Why?".

What the article meant to ask of course was, "What was the crest for?" Scientists speculate that it was probably used as a kind of display to other members of its own species. I'd like to think that, being hollow, it also probably had acoustic properties as well to amplify its cries, much like a brass instrument. The crest display and the sound box probably indicates that it is a social animal who lived in family groups and among family groups. The adults would have to find a way to be distinct from other adults just in case their babies get lost in the group. And they also need distinct calls. Or maybe they use the calls to mark territory much like a lion's roar does. "If you can hear this, youre trespassing on my territory." But these are not Why's.

Science cannot answer 'Why'. It can only answer 'What for'. And most of the time, it can answer 'What for' in probabilities. That's because Science isnt anybody. It's a disembodied concept. Only people can answer 'Why' since 'Why' is a faculty of the human mind; something that goes beyond the realm of the physical. the realm of the measurable. For Science, 'Why' does not exist.

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