As creatures with faculties of memory, imagination, understanding, and will, we can form intentions about the future and then take purposive actions toward those intentions. We often project  this characteristic human ability beyond the domain of human action, taking what philosopher Daniel Dennett calls the intentional stance. This can generate useful and succinct understanding for some phenomena that may not be strictly be intentional (Darwinian natural selection being Dennett’s case in point) when the underlying logic of the selection algorithm of natural selection operates “as if” it were intentional.

However, beyond (and even within) such “as if” domains, the intentional stance can be dangerously misleading, as this mode of thinking generates reasons and purposes for phenomena where none may exist. It generates “why” questions that presuppose teleological answers, when in fact only “how” questions requiring efficient causal answers may be warranted.

“Why does the universe exist” implies some cosmic purpose that may not exist and so may not be a meaningful question. “How does the universe exist” is a scientific question that generates useful answers.