Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Is there an argument from beauty to God

A redated post.

Mark Wynn, following up on F. R. Tennant, thinks that this is so. It is a type of design argument.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just looking at a beautiful flower produces beliefs that God exists.

stunney said...

Multiverses, Design, and the Beauty of the Laws of Nature

JD Walters said...

Mark Wynn develops this and other interesting design arguments in his God and Goodness: a natural theological perspective. In my view it's the most sophisticated, persuasive design argument on the market today, along with Robin Collins's in cosmology, which stunney refers to above.

Anonymous said...

Sweet, my University's library has a copy. Gotta read it sometime.

philip m said...

"Just looking at a beautiful flower produces beliefs that God exists."

It's funny you should say that, anon. Sherlock Holmes thought the exact same thing:

"There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion. It can be build up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers."

Rino said...

I think an argument from Beauty, or from Good is a good remedy to those who attempt to use the argument from Evil, or Harm against God. Ie, someone says 'if there is an all loving god, why all this evil'. To this one can respond 'If there is just randomness and survival of the fittest, why all this Beauty and Good'

Anonymous said...

As William Dembski once quoted Boethius in a paper on Theodicy, "If God exists, whence evil? But if God does not exist, whence good?" - Consolation of Philosophy

Ron said...

Interesting article. But I have to say that the main flaw is evolutionary theory. If evolution could ever explain more adequately our appreciation of beauty in the totality of nature, this argument would go down in flames. Also, because of this, the argument near the end sounds like a God-of-the-gaps type deal. That's hardly an appeal to human knowledge but an appeal to human ignorance.

mattghg said...

Of course evolution can "explain more adequately our appreciation of beauty in the totality of nature". Evolution explains everything.

Rino said...

Evolution will have far more luck solving the human experience of beauty than it will have solving the human experience of altruism. At least 'beauty' is not totally opposed, by very definition, to the essential core of evolution. Altruism is.

Ron said...

I'm not sure about altruism. In pre-historic times humans lived all their lives in clans of which their family would be one of several. Now, if there were a genetic component to altruism it would pass on because the people one is likely to sacrifice themselves for are likely to be family members which contain part of the persons genetic makeup. For example, lets say someone risks his life to save his sister. If he saves her and lives his genes have a chance of not just passing on through himself but also though her (when she eventually marries, etc.). If he happens to die but saves her then at least some of his genes that he shares in common with her can pass to the next generation.

stunney said...

Genes explain everything.

Except genes.

Victor Reppert said...

Ron: You have a good analysis of the appeal to ignorance fallacy that would refute this argument. And Larmer's objections to the across-the-board appeal to the
"god of the gaps" fallacy?"

Ron said...

Thanks, Victor. I like the blog you have going here.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how a "god of the gaps" is any worse than "evolution of the gaps". Especially given good arguments against naturalism, say, the AfR, and other arguments for theism.

The only thing I could think of that might let beauty get a foot in the door in evolution is the fact that "beauty" would attact mates (and then why would a rainbow be beautiful?), but then beauty is an arbitrary concept here and there's no need for it, versus say, fighting for the mate. Further, "beauty" might hinder the destruction of certain things for food/shelter/etc and thus hurt the genes.

mattghg said...

"beauty" would attact mates

Maybe, maybe not.

If male standards of beauty are rooted in the late Paleolithic era, men worldwide should now be looking for stout muscular women with broad backs, sturdy legs, a high threshold to pain, and a welcome eagerness to resume foraging directly after parturition
- David Berlinski

Anonymous said...

There is nothing more beautiful than a lovely garden that has not been left to God to look after.

Rino said...

Hi Ron,

I would define altruism as sacrificing for another without any selfish motive whatsoever. The scenario you posit seems to be like Dawkins used to adhere to in his 'Selfish Gene' days. Ie, our genes sacrifice themselves in this particular animal in order to preserve themselves in another animal. To me, that is still selfish at root, since the goal is still to perpetuate oneself, thus it is not genuine altruism.

Ron said...

rino,

I agree that it is not true altruism at work but I think that for the one doing the 'altruistic' act, she may think it is and so may all the people who witness it. I tend to think it would truly be an altruistic act in a way since the 'selfishness' of the act is on an unconscious level.

Anonymous said...

Are suicide bombers altruistic in the way that Christian martyrs were not - because they believed that death lead to Heaven?

Mike Darus said...

Anonymous said...
Are suicide bombers altruistic in the way that Christian martyrs were not - because they believed that death lead to Heaven?

Victor once warned me that not every comment is deserving of a response...

... no, he's right.

Rick said...

beautiful pictures, good.

B. Prokop said...

"The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament His handiwork."

It is past time for people of all faiths to reclaim the wonder and beauty of creation as a manifestation of God's majesty. I for one from this point on will never again allow any skeptic to bleat "God of the Gaps" when I point out the wonder and mystery of this world as one of the reasons I believe.

As St. Paul wrote, "Ever since the creation of the world [God's] invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made."

This is no imaginary "God of the Gaps", but rather the very real "God of the Filled-in Spaces".

Papalinton said...

"It is past time for people of all faiths to reclaim the wonder and beauty of creation as a manifestation of God's majesty. I for one from this point on will never again allow any skeptic to bleat "God of the Gaps" when I point out the wonder and mystery of this world as one of the reasons I believe."

But you do allow for a jaundiced view of the wonder and beauty of your god. Being selective does not a claim substantiate unless you agree that all the following are a manifestation of the wonder and beauty of god's handiwork. To note a few:

1. The eye-burrowing worm
http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2009/01/eye-burrowing-worms-national-t.html

2. Christians rejoicing in god's HIV plan to keep homos in their place.
"In addition, they are not living within the protection of God's plan. HIV AIDS and over 20 venereal diseases attest to this."
http://www.newmediaministries.org/Sex/GodsPurposes_S.html

3. Spontaneous miscarriages and still births. Medical studies show that more than 60% of all people are killed by god's plan of spontaneous abortion (a biological fact).

4. God's intransigence in giving limbs to amputees.

5. I am reminded of Bret Harte, American author best known for his first hand account of pioneering life in California: "The creator who could put a cancer in a believer's stomach is above being interfered with by prayers."

You may attempt to defend the christian mythos against the 'god of the gaps' but unless god owns all these, your wonder and mystery vision of this world paints a very selectively gappy and highly picky landscape.

rank sophist said...

There is, in fact. It's Aquinas's argument from degree, the Fourth Way.

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton,

Just a little housekeeping here. It's useless to include links in any response to me. I never go to them. either say it in your posting, or don't bother.

finney said...

I was wondering about the connection between evil and goodness (and beauty) this morning on my drive to work. It seems that the arguments from evil and the arguments from morality/goodness/beauty, are really cousin arguments. The argument from evil proposes that there is real, objective evil in the world. The argument from morality/goodness/beauty proposes that, therefore, there is a real, objective standard of goodness/beauty. The evil suggests a malignant God. The standard for determining that there is evil suggests a God who is the source of our standards.

It just seems that any argument from beauty, etc., must be seasoned with a recognition of the real evil and suffering out there.

rank sophist said...

Googling brought up a counter-argument called the "argument from ugliness". It seems to go like this.

1. There is much ugliness in the world.
2. An intentional agent would have designed ugliness as well.
3. Therefore, either the world was created by an intentional agent that torments its creatures with ugliness, or the universe was not created by an intentional agent.

I don't think it's that bad of a counter-argument. At the very least, it seems to show that the argument from beauty is iffy. I'm inclined to agree.

B. Prokop said...

I don't see beauty as an "argument from" as much as a conclusion after the fact. I can point to beauty (and ugliness) in the world, and say "This is why..."

Using beauty as an argument would perhaps be getting things backwards.

physphilmusic said...

Talking about an argument from "beauty", I personally think there is real beauty in the ruthless efficiency of natural selection. Bach's Mass in B minor is beautiful, yes, but so is Webern's Six Pieces for Orchestra and Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1.