From another discussion with my friendly neighborhood atheist:
The fact that virtually all nature is beautiful, causes me
to believe it didn’t happen by chance. We don’t find 1 in 100 natural
scenes to be beautiful; or 1 in 10, or 1 in 5. Every natural scene is
beautiful. Hawaii is beautiful, Europe is beautiful, Africa is
beautiful, Australia is beautiful, each in its own way.
Virtually every type of flower is exquisite, its proportions and
coloring perfect, the size and shape of its leaves combined perfectly with
its petals — an absolute work of art. It’s a rare human artist
who has the perfect sense of taste and proportion to make up an
original design in which all the parts, sizes and colors fit together
to form a perfect whole. But in nature it’s not rare at all; it’s not
1 in 10 flowers that are exquisite, but ALL flowers are exquisite.
Again, too consistent to be random.
If it’s not by accident, then whoever or whatever made nature made it
beautiful on purpose. But as far as we know, only beings with
intellect can appreciate beauty. So no being would bother
making creation consistently gorgeous, but one with an intellect.
. . .
Here is my argument in syllogistic form:
A. Things that happen always or nearly always, do not happen by chance
B. Beauty in nature happens all the time
C. Therefore beauty does not happen by chance
If you’re saying my conclusion is false, then you have to tell me
which of my premisses, A or B, is false, or else tell me why my
conclusion does not follow logically from my premisses. If you can’t
do either of those things, then the conclusion stands. Merely
accusing me of “spinning” things amounts to nothing more than an “is
not”, “is so” argument.
. . .
You write, “Yes, the two premises are not absolute truths. In other
words, I’m not arguing your logic, just the premises.”
You can disagree with the premises, but since you have not shown them
to be false you have not refuted the argument.
In support of premiss A, I would argue that things that happen always
or nearly always, do not happen by chance. Examples would be, the sun
rising; the fact that human beings always reproduce human babies; when
you drop something (on earth), it always moves towards the ground;
etc. To say these things happen by chance is absurd.
An example of something that does happen by chance is flipping a coin.
Any time you flip a coin, you have no way of knowing which way it
will land. When you do it 1,000 times, you will get approximately 500
heads and 500 tails. In other words, when things happen by chance,
they do not always happen the same way. If a coin was flipped 1,000
times, and always turned up heads; or even if it turned up heads 900
times; we would know it was not by chance but that something was
interfering to make it happen that way. Therefore when things do
happen always, or nearly always, the same way, we know it is not by
In support of premiss B, I think I have provided sufficient evidence
that beauty in nature happens always or nearly always. In any case
you have not disputed that assertion, except to say that it’s not an
“absolute truth”. But the question is merely whether it’s true. I
submit that it’s self-evidently true.
. . .
Previously I gave as examples of things that don’t happen by chance,
“the sun rising; the fact that human beings always reproduce human
babies; when you drop something (on earth), it always moves towards
the ground; etc.”
In the case of the sun rising, humans producing humans, or things
falling to the earth, these things can be accounted for by purely
material causes. But as far as nature being beautiful, there can’t be
a material force that causes it to be beautiful the vast majority of
the time, because matter (as you have pointed out) is mindless and
unintelligent, therefore it can’t distinguish between beauty and
non-beauty. Thus it would have no “reason” to make things one way or
the other. The only thing we know of that can make that distinction,
is a conscious, intelligent mind.
Therefore if natural things are beautiful all the time, or even only
90% of the time, there are good grounds for concluding that they are
not that way by chance (per premiss A); but if they are not that way
by chance, then they must be that way either by unintelligent material
causes, or by a conscious, intelligent mind. But since unintelligent
material causes can’t distinguish between beauty and non-beauty, and
therefore would have no “reason” to make most of them beautiful, it’s
reasonable to conclude that the cause of beauty in nature is a
conscious, intelligent mind.
. . .
You write, “But again, your argument hinges on beauty being more than
an invented human concept and beauty being objective. Neither of those
two premises are substantiated.”
I disagree that it’s not substantiated.
When you say that beauty is subjective only, what you are saying is
that objectively, there is no beauty. Which is the same as saying,
beauty doesn’t exist. People who believe that beauty exists, are
suffering an illusion. But I don’t believe I am suffering an illusion
when I contemplate beautiful things, any more than I believe love and
trust are illusions when I contemplate my wife. Further, people in
every culture and from every period of time have understood and
appreciated beauty. I don’t believe the entire human race has been
suffering delusions in doing so. Rather, I believe the universality
of the concept of beauty reflects its objective existence; just as the
universality of the concept of love reflects the objective existence
Further, if beauty doesn’t exist, nothing can be more beautiful than
anything else. Therefore a factory belching black smoke is every bit
as beautiful as the Taj Mahal (or the latter is just as ugly as the
former). This is plainly absurd.
The argument for the subjectivity of beauty is basically, people
disagree whether particular things are beautiful, therefore beauty
must be a different thing in each person, therefore it’s only within
persons. But for that matter, people disagree about what is true.
Does it follow that nothing is objectively true?
People argue that if there were no persons, then no claim that
anything is beautiful would be true, because there would be no persons
to experience anything as beautiful. But consider, if there were no
persons, then no claim about anything would be true, because there
would be no one to make any claims. Does it then follow that truth is
only within persons? And therefore nothing is objectively true?
The objective existence of beauty may not be scientifically proven.
But in light of the universality of the concept of beauty, I submit
that those who claim it is an illusion have the burden of proof. I
believe what I see with my eyes is real, until someone gives me a darn
good reason to doubt it.
For these and other reasons, I am convinced that beauty is objective.