Friday, April 23, 2010

What For Beauty?

One argument that I have heard in favor of believing religion is the "argument from aesthetics". In short it is simply that the universe is beautiful, and random chance could not make beauty. Ignoring for the moment that physics, at least beyond the quantum level, does not propose the possibility of random chance, the argument is still weak. It assumes that beauty is an objective property of things and we simply have the ability to percieve it. This is obviously false. Beauty is purely subjective, personally I see beauty in things like crumbling buildings and wilted flowers that other people find ugly. Beauty is more likely a product of human nature, slightly different for everyone but with enough commonalities that most can agree. An object does not have a property of beauty we simply percieve it as beautiful or not.

The question now is why do we percieve beauty? What evolutionary purpose if any does a conception of beauty hold? In some cases it is obvious. Flowers and green fields are good signs of a rich area and we would naturaly be drawn to them. Symmetrical features are signs of health and potential for good mates. Streams and lakes are appealing because humans need to live near water. All of these make sense but other things less so. Currently I am surrounded by great icy peaks, a few months ago I was in a barren desert like area. I found both places gorgeous. Why?

I think it is due to our intelligence, emotions and love of symbols, all of which are evolutionary traits. An icy mountain range is dangerous and awe inspiring, this activates emotions in us, as symbol lovers those emotions inspire memories and association with symbols and stories. These peaks inspire in us a desire for accomplishment, they challenge us and give us a sense of romance therefore we find them beauitiful. The same can be true of a crumbling old building, the decay associates not only with visions of what the structure would have been like when whole but also a sense of melencholy and grief over it's fallen state. These feelings inspire a perception of beauty.

It seems that beauty is not a property of the world but a property of man. It is our nature to see beauty. There is no created beauty, icy peaks are nothing but rocks and frozen water. It is my aesthetic sensibilities that make them beautiful.

On that note I am surrounded by beauty here on my visit to Alaska. Yesterday, in the middle of the day in April it began snowing madly. I was simply in a parking lot, yet when the snow came it was transformed into a glorious wonderland. Right outside my hotel is a ring of snow covered mountains there are streams and flood plains every time I take a drive. Mighty stands of trees abound. I revel in this beauty, but I need not assign any magical creator to them. In fact the truth that they arise through millions of years of precise and inevitable natural processes enhances the majesty of them. Soil erosion, vulcanism, and evolution strike me as far more awesome and majestic than some magical creator. In truth belief in a creator strikes me as a limited and unimagitive way of looking at the world. Something that tries to encapsulate the majesty of our univers in a small and primitive myth, unworthy of the world assigned to its creation.


Tracy said...

:/ :(

Tracy said...

Awesome, Majestic
Dedicated to Ryk

Rain droplets, velvet leaves
Shimmering in the sun

Soft yellow roses
Stretch toward the sky

Wind blowing warmly
Whistling through the trees

Swaying back and forth
Their hands they clap

Rain shower sprinkled
Beaded jewels
Adorning a skillfully woven
Spider's web

Blue jay startled
Fluttering wings
Glorious shades of blue
Flirting for attention

Waves roll against the shore
Calling, lulling slumber

Glassy, sparkly ripples flow by
Thoughtful reflection

Heart-shaped rock
Lying on the sand

Waiting to be found
Its message...Love

Horizon's edge of water,land and sky
Billowing clouds colliding

Melodic rhythm of nestled birds
Monarch dancing by

Nature satisfies the senses
Wondrous, beautiful, pleasant
Lifts the weight of stress
Calms and soothes the soul

All nature cries out
Awesome, majestic
Is the glory of God

Demanding proof
Insisting evidence
Your claim of nature~
God doesn't exist

Creation is evidence
Of a Creator
(Why won't you allow it to be?)
As a painting is evidence
Of a painter
Intelligently designed.

By: Tracy Wagman 7/09

Ryk said...


Thanks for the poem I have commented about it before on your blog. It is pretty.

In many ways it speaks to what I am saying in this post. In fact I thought of it when composing this.

I can not see that beauty must be attributed to a creator. A perception of beauty is evidence of the finer sensibilities of mankind. That is the point I was trying to make. Through our intelligence and symbolic thinking humans have transcended functionality. We possess and exalt traits that have no bearing on purely physical survival.

Tracy said...

I think I understand your point Ryk.
Your post reminded me of this poem and my prayer for you.