Here’s a question: why is there an ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere? If you answered “to keep UV rays from harming life,” you’re thinking teleologically. Teleology is the idea that there are goals or purposes in everything from the decomposition of soil to the big picture of cosmic destiny. Of course, science generally doesn’t see the world teleologically, because scientists have found that focusing on proximate, mechanical causes is more useful for discovering how things work. But a new study shows that teleological thinking, while not scientific, may serve another function – staving off the fear of death.