Darwin and Beauty

Ecclesiastes 3:11 "He has made everything beautiful in its time."

Beauty is a characteristic of God's creation. Darwin struggled to explain beauty as a product of natural selection, but was unable to do so. (Some naturalists) he wrote, "believe that many structures have been created for the sake of beauty, to delight man or the Creator (but this latter point is beyond the scope of scientific discussion) or for the sake of mere variety, a view already discussed. SUCH DOCTRINES, IF TRUE, WOULD BE ABSOLUTELY FATAL TO MY THEORY. I fully admit that many structures are now of no use to their possessors, and may never have been of any use to their progenitors; but this does not prove that they were formed solely for beauty or variety." (Origin of Species, page 184) [Emphasis mine]

Darwin speculated that the melodic beauty of birds' songs developed because female birds chose males who sang most beautifully. But, "How the sense of beauty in its simplest form -- that is, the reception of a peculiar kind of pleasure from certain colours, forms, and sounds -- was first developed in the mind of man and of the lower animals, is a very obscure subject...." (Origin of Species, page 186)

Obscure indeed, for his explanation is no explanation at all.

"With respect to the belief that organic beings have been created beautiful for the delight of man, -- A BELIEF WHICH IT HAS BEEN PRONOUNCED IS SUBVERSIVE TO MY WHOLE THEORY, -- I may first remark that the sense of beauty obviously depends on the nature of the mind, irrespective of any real quality in the admired object; and that the idea of what is beautiful is not innate or unalterable. We see this, for instance, in the men of different races admiring an entirely different standard of beauty in their women. If beautiful objects have been created solely for man's gratification, it ought to be shown that before man appeared, there was less beauty on the face of the earth than since he came on the stage...." (Origin of Species, page 185] [Emphasis mine)

True, there are different standards of beauty. But the differences are within limits. And this does not explain why there should be any standards of beauty.

Also there are objective standards of beauty, as for example, balance and proportion. Mathematics plays a part in art and music, sometimes in subtle ways.

Darwin's argument that there should be less beauty before man appeared, ignores the fact that God made the earth for man. "He created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited." (Isaiah 45:12.) Why should there be less beauty in a garden created for human appreciation before men view it?

If evolution were true, then utility alone should be the criterion for natural selection. Beauty has nothing to do with utility.


Bill Carrell