Beauty As Proof Of Creation
I often hear those who support a Creationist view of the universe use the concept of beauty to support their position. “There is no way a sunset this beautiful happened by chance,” they say. “This definitely shows the activity of an intelligent designer.”
This article is not intended as a defense of an evolutionary process. Nor should it be considered an attack on Creationism per se. However, it is designed to demonstrate that the use of beauty as proof of the latter position may be all well and good for an opinion, but can in no way be considered proof. The reason why is because beauty is not a fact. It is, as mentioned, a concept. Christopher Hitchens, in his book God Is Not Great, recalls a story about an instructor, Mrs. Watts, who taught young Hitchens about nature and the Bible.
However, there came a day when poor, dear Mrs. Watts overreached herself. Seeking ambitiously to fuse her two roles as nature instructor and Bible teacher, she said, “So you see, children, how powerful and generous God is. He has made all the trees and grass to be green, which is exactly the color that is most restful to our eyes. Imagine if instead, the vegetation was all purple, orange, how awful that would be. (Hitchens 2)
Hitchens’ point was that nature did not change to suit the eye, but that the eye changed to suit nature. Perhaps more accurately, the human concept and expectation of beauty adapted to nature. We’ve all heard the old adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Truer words have never been spoken and fewer more illustrative ones.
Remaining with our nature theme, there are certain parts of the United States considered beautiful by some and reviled by others. For example, I have relatives in the southern state of Louisiana. They love the area and believe it to be beautiful. While Louisiana may have some attractive areas, most of what I’ve seen (and I have visited on several occasions) has been either unremarkable or entirely off-putting. On the other hand, I am from the state of Michigan and consider it to be a state with much to offer in the way of natural beauty. However, there are those from other parts of the country who consider Michigan to be the armpit of the nation.
A pattern begins to emerge—simply that people recognize beauty in that with which they are familiar. There are some commonalities, of course. Everybody loves a brilliant blue sky, because everybody has been exposed to a brilliant blue sky. Consider a science fiction movie that takes place on a planet featuring a red sky. We see that and think how terrible it would be if Earth had a red sky. How frightening and strange that would be! Yet it is completely reasonable to assume that those used to a red sky would think the same thing about our blue sky. Sunsets and sunrises are universal for humans. We love the red, yellows, and oranges that accompany them. However, if we were used to a brown and green rising or setting, what we now love would seem out of place and perhaps even sinister. We are accustomed to the features of our own planet and therefore consider them beautiful.
Douglas Adams, writing in his bestselling book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, includes a passage that, while not indisputably parallel to the topic at hand, is so charmingly demonstrative as to demand inclusion. In this brief passage, the earthling Arthur is talking with Marvin, a depressed and stoic robot. Arthur begins,
“I come from a planet called Earth, you know.”
“I know,” said Marvin, “you keep going on about it. It sounds awful.”
“Ah no, it was a beautiful place.”
“Did it have oceans?”
“Oh yes,” said Arthur with a sigh, “great wide rolling blue oceans…”
“Can’t bear oceans,” said Marvin. (Adams 135)
Humans love the familiar. It is more attractive to us. More beautiful. In general, we crave normality, predictability, and consistency. These qualities can raise our spirits when present and dampen them when absent.
When someone indicates a vision of natural beauty to me and says, “Are you telling me that such a lovely thing could have just happened? Surely it would take an intelligent being with inside knowledge of humanity to give us all these things that we enjoy and consider beautiful,” I must remark that the things of great beauty are such because they simply are the way they are. And if they were different, we would likely consider the alternative just as beautiful.
Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Twelve,
2009. 2. Print.
Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. New York: Del Rey, 1998. 135. Print.