Why is the sky blue?”
Along with the ‘birds and the bees’, or ‘the courier stork’ answers, parents around the world are frequently reminded of their lack of imagination/knowledge, from their curious 5-year olds, because kids are always asking ‘why…but why?’
We might even be impressed at the time, at their effectively making visible to us our knowledge gap, but usually we’re able to pick ourselves up and carry on as if nothing happened. But this is a serious thing believe it or not…we are under attack by a silent assassin. Here is ‘Exhibit A’… From NASA on the topic of ‘why is the sky blue?’
Sunlight reaches Earth’s atmosphere and is scattered in all directions by all the gases and particles in the air. Blue light is scattered in all directions by the tiny molecules of air in Earth’s atmosphere. Blue is scattered more than other colors because it travels as shorter, smaller waves. This is why we see a blue sky most of the time.
On first glance, this sounds perfectly reasonable, right (assuming you have any idea what they’re talking about)? Now for ‘Exhibit B’ from Phaedo by Plato, where the question is asked to Anaxagoras …’why is Socrates sitting in this prison cell?’ (I’ve added the bold emphasis):
Anaxagoras’ account of why Socrates is presently sitting would consist in his bones, sinews, and muscles being a certain way and in a certain position, and an account of why he is speaking to his interlocutors would deal with sound and air and hearing. But none of Anaxagoras’ theories would adduce the true reasons for Socrates’ sitting and talking–that he was sentenced to death and thought it just to face the sentence rather than attempt an escape. After all, Socrates notes, his bones and sinews would be in a very different place right now had he judged it better to attempt an escape! Socrates’ body being the way it is provides the conditions without which the reasons for his being here would not be possible, but the reasons themselves have more to do with Socrates’ intelligence and his sense of what is best.