In “The God Delusion,” part of Richard Dawkins purpose is to do away with Stephen Jay Gould’s “Non-Overlapping Magisteria,” or the idea that science and religion are “non-overlapping” areas of study. Dawkins wants to establish that there are no questions that are outside the purview of science, or no ultimately answerable questions anyway:
It is a tedious cliche … that science concerns itself with how questions, but only theology is equipped to answer why questions.
Perhaps there are some genuinely profound and meaningful questions that are forever beyond the reach of science. … But if science cannot answer some ultimate questions, what makes anybody think that religion can? … I have yet to see any good reason to suppose that theology (as opposed to biblical history, literature, etc.) is a subject at all.
But during this passage, Dawkins also brings up a third magisteria, one that overlaps neither what is largely held to be the purview of science or religion: stupid questions.
[N]ot every English sentence beginning with the word “why” is a legitimate question. Why are unicorns hollow? Some questions simply do not deserve an answer. What is the colour of abstraction? What is the smell of hope? The fact that a question can be phrased in a grammatically correct English sentence doesn’t make it meaningful, or entitle it to our serious attention.
But given Dawkins’ disdain for the theological magisteria, and the attention it has been granted over the millennia anyway, I think that a huge opportunity presents itself here. Just because something is stupid, doesn’t mean that it can’t make lots and lots of money. Just as scientists claim dominion over their magisteria, and theologians claim dominion over theirs, a huge and empty space is left for the stupid questions. Who claims dominion over them?
Starting now, I do. I declare myself the world’s primary expert in questions so stupid that they lack any sort of meaning other than reasonably correct grammar.
I hereby also demand co-equal attention with the other magisteria. If there’s a debate to be had about evolution and both science and religion are represented, then so should stupid questions, in the person of me. If government money is to be divided between science and religious (“faith-based”) functions, then meaningless twaddle should get a share of the loot. And any news story from a supposedly objective source must now include the perspective of the ridiculously idiotic to be considered impartial. I’m available for quotes and press-shoots by request.
Why is a unicorn hollow? Since there is no such thing as a unicorn, it obviously cannot be filled with unicorn guts, because without unicorns there can be no unicorn guts. Therefore, it must be hollow.
What is the color of abstraction? A sort of mauvey shade of pinky russet.
What is the smell of hope? Like wet feet. You wouldn’t want anything to do with it. Seriously.
Like an explorer who has stumbled across a new continent, I have only managed to claim this vast wilderness for myself, not explored it yet. I can’t help but think that there are treacherous dangers and untold riches yet to be found. And if, like most continents, this one is already populated, I’ll have to get on with the business of killing everybody so I can have it all to myself.
So it is done: I hereby declare myself the single and ultimate authority on really stupid nonsense. I’m also accepting applications for acolytes and/or undergrads who want to get in on the action early.
Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.
Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").
My e-mail address is email@example.com. I'd love to hear from you!