“Aesthetics is the study of beauty, more often associated today with art.”[i] Some believe that beauty and art have developed as we have evolved, mainly for mating purposes and driven by selfish desires. Others believe that beauty and art were designed by a beautiful, loving, creative God to show His nature and glory to us and through us. What is beauty? Why do we have beauty? Is beauty for more than just mating purposes? What is art? Why is art so mathematical? Why do beautiful things like a sunset move us?
Beauty is displayed through people of both genders, as well as through the natural world. Beauty is an evolutionary advantage, present in people who are possibly at a higher evolved state. Based on natural selection, they will be chosen first, mate sooner and potentially survive better. This is the theory of sexual selection.[ii] Some think that only certain people have “natural beauty” stored in them and that beauty will show in their physical appearance or even in their skills or talents.[iii] “Natural beauty” may instead be universal, within every human being to one degree or another and it may be passed down by Natural Selection.[iv]
“There are indeed atheists who find no meaning, beauty, and morality in the universe. There are also atheists who find objective, intrinsic morality, beauty, and meaning in the universe, though not on the same basis as religious theists like Christians. There are also atheists — as well as more than a few religious theists, including Christians — who argue that meaning and beauty are subjective things we must personally commit to. As abstract concepts, they are created in our minds from our experiences with individual objects or events and thus have no truly independent, objective existence apart from the way we bring those elements together to create those concepts.”[v] “The experience of love and beauty…is a passive function of the mind.”[vi]
“This would mean that things like beauty and love are created from how we approach our world or how we treat other people. If that’s true, then it also means that we are personally responsible for the existence of things like beauty and love — they aren’t created by any gods and they are permanent fixtures of the universe which will persist regardless of what we do. They are, instead, something we must take responsibility for and nurture through our attitudes, behavior, and beliefs.”[vii]
“That would arguably mean that atheists are in a better position to appreciate things like love and beauty. In recognizing their responsibility for their existence, atheists can’t take such concepts for granted. If the universe is undesigned and undirected, we can only speak meaningfully about beauty, love, intelligence, etc., if we really mean it and if we really care about it because we can’t shift responsibility for them to some supernatural being.”[viii] How much greater is the joy which comes from creating beauty.”[ix]
The concept of beauty does not necessitate a God. Beauty is merely the understanding, recognition and appreciation of natural patterns. Due to highly developed eyes, minds and mating processes, humans have a better appreciation of beauty than lower evolved animals. Beauty appears to be more appreciated when organisms are more effectively able to communicate it, and thus humans have the best appreciation for beauty. Other animals or organisms cannot comprehend beauty as well.[x] Beauty in nature happens by random chance and humans have evolved to appreciate it the most of all animals. Our fascination with the beauty in nature may be a leftover understanding or awareness of where we have evolved from and how to better survive..
Humans have evolved to be able to see beauty in other forms as well. Because of that evolved ability, humans have created many different kinds of art. Art is a creative work on paper, canvas or other mediums within the natural world. Art can be expressed through dance, music or other avenues. It is designed by a creative mind or even by some natural processes in nature. The earliest evidence of music dates back to 35,000 years ago, and the first art in the Chauvet caves in France to around 30,000-32,000 years ago. These forms of art show historic humanity’s higher creative spirit, which gave “them an edge over the Neanderthals.”[xi] There doesn’t need to be a God to give us art or beauty or that inspiration. They come about naturally.
Beauty is recognized when an experience causes sparks in the brain and automatically causes a desire to see or create more beauty. To some degree or another, humans have a natural desire to make beautiful art.[xii] The more creative and talented artists may also have evolutionary advantages, since art is another method to impress a potential mate. So the better one is at creating art and beauty, the better their chances to mate and survive. The bowerbird is a great example in that the male specifically builds a nest and integrates visually appealing aspects into it in an effort to impress the female.[xiii] As time has progressed, humans have evolved and gained more and more intelligence, so art styles have evolved and become more sophisticated over time.
In fact, the evolved ability of recognizing beauty may have allowed humans greater survival. For example, when humans see a beautiful blue sky, they are more attracted to that than moving towards a dangerous thunderstorm. Awareness of beauty may also lead to a general increase in observation, causing humans who would stand near a tremendous waterfall and look with a sense of awe and even fear, to be aware and thus avoid the dangers of the waterfall.
The awe and wonder that humans experience is not evidence of a God. “Nature inspires awe – awe of the reality of nature, not the fiction of God.”[xiv] The sense of awe is an emotional, psychological response to something so great, so vast, so beautiful that it causes us to marvel and wonder how it is possible. It inspires many humans to believe in a supernatural being in order to explain the amazing phenomenon.[xv] “The truth is far more inspiring and powerful than religious mythology. Knowing that the cosmos was not made just for us opens up whole new vistas of wonder and mystery – it makes it all the more surprising and amazing that we are here regardless.”[xvi]
“We have biases to see patterns and meaning and agency in the world, and the less rationally you think, the less likely you are to second-guess those biases. Awe might just let the spiritual floodgates open. The experience of awe leads to magical thinking, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also lead to scientific thinking. Once you’re done writing your poetry, you may still be driven to write the equations or conduct the experiments that will explain what you’ve just witnessed. We all have the Wow! We just choose our own ways of answering the How?”[xvii]
Beautiful things are often new and unique and so the fact that humans can recognize beautiful things means that they can better recognize new situations and better survive them. The observation of beautiful things is the start of the scientific process as observation is the first step. The more scientific an organism can be, the more they can learn and survive in this world.
So beauty and art have developed to help organisms survive better to pass on their genes to the next generation. They are products of this natural world and are not evidence of a God or gods.
By Brian Mariani and others
Is the above correct? Do you evolutionists agree with this position? I have tried to write it as you believe it. Do you have any disagreements or concerns or additions?
Before commenting, please read the following disclosures.
Any offensive language will automatically disqualify your comment for publication, even if the arguments contained are good. Please comment on the ideas that are presented and not the presenter. If your comment becomes an ad hominem argument and does not substantially address the issue, your comment will be disqualified as well. We are looking for real arguments, not fallacious ones, so that we can present and challenge opposing ideas and arguments as they are truly believed by evolutionists. We do not want to tear down straw men as well as you do not want to be misrepresented. Also, please keep your comments as brief as possible, and if the majority of the comment does not address the current issue, but becomes a red-herring, it will not be posted as well. If your comment does not fall into one of the above restrictions, then your comment will be posted unedited (you may want to check your spelling, grammar, etc.) We thank you for your time and comments.
One thing to keep in mind, each blog is one piece of evidence. Evidence has to then be interpreted, which is not a fact…but evidence strengthening or weakening a specific hypothesis or theory. So there can be multiple ways of interpreting the same evidence. I am not being unscientific, but asking more questions and being skeptical is being more scientific. I am still working on these, so please help with your comments.
If you would like to see if an AOI seminar is right for you, or you would like to help the work of Alpha Omega Institute, please visit our website events page or our donate page. Keep up to date with what AOI is doing. Thanks for your partnership.
[i] God Caused Beauty, Institute for Creation Research, http://www.icr.org/aesthetics/, accessed August 22, 2014.
[ii] Roger Sandall, Beauty, Art, and Darwin: The American Magazine, American.com, http://www.american.com/archive/2009/october/beauty-art-and-darwin, accessed August 23, 2014.
[iii] Russell Husted, Beauty: By Evolution or Creative Design?, Beauty: By Evolution or Creative Design?, http://www.in-this-place.com/id18.htm or https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.bible.prophecy/3Ty_MqBSnzE, accessed August 23, 2014.
[iv] Nancy E. Aiken, An Evolutionary Perspective on the Nature of Art, American Psychological Association – Division 10, http://www.apa.org/divisions/div10/articles/aiken.html, accessed August 23, 2014.
[v] Austin Cline, Myth: Atheists Can’t Appreciate Love & Beauty, Can’t Believe in Love or Beauty, About.com Agnosticism/Atheism, http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismmeaninglesshopeless/a/AtheistsBeauty.htm, accessed August 22, 2014.
Hannah Ginsborg, Kant’s Aesthetics and Teleology, 2013, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-aesthetics/#2.6, accessed August 22, 2014.
[vi] Frank Zindler, Ethics Without Gods, American Atheists, http://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/ethics, accessed August 22, 2014.
[vii] Austin Cline, Myth: Atheists Can’t Appreciate Love & Beauty, Can’t Believe in Love or Beauty, About.com Agnosticism/Atheism, http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismmeaninglesshopeless/a/AtheistsBeauty.htm, accessed August 22, 2014.
[viii] Austin Cline, Myth: Atheists Can’t Appreciate Love & Beauty, Can’t Believe in Love or Beauty, About.com Agnosticism/Atheism, http://atheism.about.com/od/atheismmeaninglesshopeless/a/AtheistsBeauty.htm, accessed August 22, 2014.
[ix] Frank Zindler, Ethics Without Gods, American Atheists, http://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/ethics, accessed August 22, 2014.
[x] Russell Husted, Beauty: By Evolution or Creative Design?, Beauty: By Evolution or Creative Design?, http://www.in-this-place.com/id18.htm or https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.bible.prophecy/3Ty_MqBSnzE, accessed August 23, 2014.
[xi] Pallab Ghosh, ‘Oldest musical instrument’ found, June 25, 2009, BBC News, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8117915.stm, accessed July 25, 2014.
Michael Marshall, Bear DNA is clue to age of Chaevet cave art, April 19, 2011, New Scientist, Magazine issue 2809, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028093.900-bear-dna-is-clue-to-age-of-chauvet-cave-art.html#.U9KueHl0zZ4, accessed July 25, 2014.
Don Hitchcock, Chauvet Cave, last update November 13, 2013, Don’s Maps, http://www.donsmaps.com/chauvetcave.html, accessed July 25, 2014.
[xii] Roger Sandall, Beauty, Art, and Darwin: The American Magazine, American.com, http://www.american.com/archive/2009/october/beauty-art-and-darwin, accessed August 23, 2014.
[xiii] In attracting mates, male bowerbirds appear to rely on special optical effect, September 9, 2010, Phys.org, http://phys.org/news203257106.html, accessed August 22, 2014.
[xiv] Chapter Seven: Beyond Religion, Section 7: This wondrous universe, God would be an atheist, http://www.godwouldbeanatheist.com/7beyond/707wond.htm, accessed August 23, 2014.
[xv] Matthew Hutson, Awe Increases Religious Belief: The sense of awe leads to a sense of the divine, December 11, 2013, Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psyched/201312/awe-increases-religious-belief, accessed August 23, 2014.
[xvi] In Awe of Everything, Daylight Atheism, Pantheos.com, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/essays/in-awe-of-everything/, accessed August 23, 2014.
[xvii] Matthew Hutson, Awe Increases Religious Belief: The sense of awe leads to a sense of the divine, December 11, 2013, Psychology Today, http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/psyched/201312/awe-increases-religious-belief, accessed August 23, 2014.