Yesterday, we talked about the problem of beauty. The question is: “How could natural selection acting on random mutations create beauty which seems to have no survival value?” I suggested that natural selection acting on blind chance mutations cannot explain all of the beauty we see in animals and plants. Let’s continue to think about this as we examine the blessing of beauty.
The blessing of beauty involves more than just visual beauty. A humpback whale’s intricate and beautiful song lasts for half an hour. Does it have anything to contribute to the survival of these mammals? Well, in a way, it does. When human technology reached a point where the humpback’s song could be heard and recorded in the 1960s, more people than whale hunters got a chance to hear it. The exposure of that song to the general population of humans played a large part in the passage of laws preventing the slaughter of those animals. But that is evidence for human appreciation of beauty, not evolutionary natural selection. For those who suggest the male humpbacks use their songs to attract females, there is little to no evidence that the females are even paying attention.
No proponent of Darwinian evolution would suggest that humpback whales are even remotely related to nightingales, but those birds also contribute to the blessing of beauty. They sing long, complex, and beautiful songs, but rather than singing into the ocean, nightingales sing from twilight into the night. As those small birds sit on a branch singing, they make themselves easy prey for predators. Instead of singing for hours in the darkness, why don’t they just be quiet and stay safe until morning?
When scientists tape-recorded nightingales and slowed down the tape, lowering the pitch a couple of octaves, they discovered something very interesting. The result was that the nightingale’s song sounded much like the song of a humpback whale. On the other hand, if you take the humpback whale song and speed it up while raising the pitch, it compares to a nightingale’s song. Why should they be so much alike? Evolutionists like to call this sort of thing “convergent evolution.” I have another suggestion. Perhaps they got their music from the same original Composer.
Since the beauty of bird songs often goes beyond attracting mates for the survival of the fittest, do the birds sing because they love to hear music? I think they are merely doing what their Creator programmed them to do. But why did God design and program these animals to sing? Perhaps the blessing of beauty is God’s gift to us. Beauty brings us joy, eases our stress, and touches our emotions. Because God loves us, He created beauty for us to enjoy. The beauty around us provides an earthly sample of the beauty God has planned for us beyond this life. In other words, beauty is another evidence that God exists. With that in mind, the problem of beauty becomes the blessing of beauty.
Tomorrow, we will look at how beauty was a problem that, according to Darwin, “makes me sick.”
We were riding through the Arizona desert shortly before sunset on a Does God Exist? canyonlands field trip. We saw a storm in the distance, and it quickly surrounded us. Then, the storm lifted to reveal the sunset. We couldn’t stop gazing out of the bus window to enjoy the beauty of it all.
This incident reminded us that God sends the sunshine, and the rain, even in the desert. It also reminded us that God created a beautiful world and gave us the ability to enjoy that beauty. I think that ability is evidence that God created us in His image. God must enjoy beauty because He has created a universe of beautiful things that humans will never even see. We are aware of some of them only because our telescopes or space probes sometimes give us small glimpses of the beauty normally hidden from our eyes.
Even on our planet, there are beautiful things to be seen in locations where few people ever go. After scaling mountain peaks, a few of us enjoy the beauty of the valley below. While on the mountain, we look down and see beautiful flowers that grow in the rocky soil and cold air. Colorful plants and animals live and grow in the ocean, where only the most adventurous humans can enjoy their beauty. God sees all of the beauty, wherever it may be.
Are there any creatures other than humans that will stop to enjoy the beauty of a sunset? Thankfully, God has gifted humans with that ability. However, we often fail to do so because we think we are too busy. However, if we pause long enough to enjoy the beauty, we might be compelled to give thanks not only for the beauty but also for the ability to enjoy it.
The list of human problems is multiplying as more chemicals are used in beauty aids. Toluene is a solvent used in nail polishes and has been linked to miscarriages and some cancers. Foundations and eye shadows contain parabens, which disrupt hormones causing allergies and have been linked to miscarriages, cancer, and ADHD. Lipsticks and other cosmetics contain formaldehyde which causes cancer. Shampoos and conditioners contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which can cause liver damage, thyroid disease, and developmental issues. Many perfumes and deodorants contain phthalates which contribute to asthma, diabetes, and ADHD.
In their winter edition of Solutions magazine, the Environmental Defense Fund published stories of women working in beauty salons who have had miscarriages. The list of diseases they link to beauty products includes many soaps and lotions.
We cannot blame God when we use chemicals in cosmetics that cause serious diseases or organ failure. The real issue here is that most of us don’t know what will harm us and what will not. We urge our readers to look at the product labels to see the chemicals in cosmetics and lotions to ensure that what we use to improve our looks doesn’t cause serious health issues.
The beauty of autumn’s brilliant colors is an amazing testimony to the creative wisdom of God as well as an expression of His love of beauty. The colors of fall are caused by several pigments and the interaction of sunlight and sugar.
Most of us know that chlorophyll makes leaves green. When leaves receive reduced sunlight in the fall, they also have a reduced supply of nutrients and water, causing the chlorophyll to be removed. The chlorophyll masks two pigments that have different colors. Carotene is yellow, and several varieties of anthocyanins are red. Many leaves contain tannin, which is brown and is dominant in oak trees. Sunlight acting on trapped sugar also produces anthocyanins with various sparkling colors, which is why the color is so spectacular on a sunny autumn day in a maple forest.
As the days grow shorter, the reduced amount of sunlight causes a corky wall called the “abscission layer” to form between the twig and the leaf stalk. This wall will eventually break and cause the leaf to drop off in the breeze. The corky material seals off the vessels that supplied the leaf with nutrients and water and blocks any loss of sugars from the plant.
What is especially interesting is that the leaf colors are not all the same. Some vines produce spectacular colors. Poison ivy takes on a beautiful red due to a high concentration of anthocyanin. Aspen has a high concentration of carotene producing the vivid yellows which dominate the woods in the Rocky Mountains. In Michigan, we have maples, gum, aspen, and oak, giving us spectacular colors that vary from one location to another.
The colors of fall are a great testimony to the fact that God paid attention to aesthetics in the creation. If survival of the fittest were the only criteria for choosing the chemicals that allow plants to survive, it seems that there would be one best choice. Different chemicals provide a vivid, beautiful splash of color for humans to enjoy. Beauty is not part of the evolutionary model, but it speaks of God’s creativity, giving us a wonderful and beautiful world in which to live.
Imagine that you are walking along an unfamiliar street, and you see a sign that says, “Magic Potions from the Periodic Table.” The unusual sign and the look of the store arouse your curiosity.
As you walk in, you notice that the room is dark, and you see a man who looks like the stereotype of a wizard. On shelves lining the walls, there are 92 bottles of chemicals. You see labels on some of them that say “carbon,” “oxygen,” “nitrogen,” “phosphorous,” “zinc,” and other elements. The “wizard” is pouring some chemicals from bottles into some beakers. He looks at you with a smile and says, “What can I mix for you today? I can give you a potion for morality. How about something to make you appreciate beauty? Love—the true, unconditional kind of love is right here. How about letting me mix you up some meaning and purpose in life?”
You are startled and a bit confused because you had chemistry class in school. You realize that putting together the chemical elements you see on the shelves will not give you the things this “wizard” is offering. Even carbon-based molecules cannot supply morality, appreciation of beauty, true unselfish love, or meaning and purpose in life.
Chemistry is not enough. There is something beyond the chemical formulas and covalent bonding that comes into play in humans. The “wizard” is the naturalist who says that chance evolution and chemistry explain everything about our existence. Do we accept his suggestion? Does chemistry explain it all? Can the wizard’s magic potions from the periodic table fully explain what it means to be human?
Shouldn’t we look for an explanation beyond naturalism? We think a better explanation is that there is a God who created us in His image. It seems evident that we are more than bodies made of chemicals assembled by chance.
My daughter and I were digging up potatoes in the garden. Most of the potatoes were pretty small, but we try to be sure we do not waste anything, so all of them were going in the bucket. Suddenly I heard, “Yuk, this isn’t a potato” and she reared back to pitch a tulip bulb she had dug up into the compost pile. I stopped her and said, “Hey, we want to plant that in the flower bed, and it will be beautiful by spring.” She looked at the dirty, shabby tulip bulb and said, “How can anything as pretty as a tulip come out of something as ugly, old, and beat up as this?”
The fact of the matter is that it is a basic design of the Creator that causes all kinds of beauty and new life to come from an old source that has been buried. These beautiful flowers all were dead looking ugly bulbs at one time. It is a design of nature that allows seeds to come out of a dying and rotten vegetable.
The same thing is true on a spiritual, psychological, and emotional level. A beautiful Christian life is only possible when the ugly old person of sin is buried. Those of us who have found ourselves deep in sin, fight a losing battle if we try to overcome that sin on our own. It is only when we bury that sinful, ugly old person that something beautiful can blossom and grow. That is why baptism is such a wonderful and beautiful act. Perhaps those who have grown up in the church cannot appreciate it as much as those of us who experienced total contamination by the world, but it is far from a meaningless or senseless act.
One of the joys of life is the beauty that we see in the natural world. The beauty of flowers is so great that we decorate our homes inside and out with flowers of every description. People will get out of bed early in the morning to watch a sunrise display colors of incredible beauty and complexity. We admire the work of artists and photographers who can capture a permanent record of the colors of the world on canvas or film. Why is there color in the world?
There are hundreds of papers that have been written by scientists and science writers concerning the reason for color. The design of the Earth and of the life systems on Earth frequently demand that certain colors exist. For example, the green in vegetation is necessary to protect plants from the high energy wavelengths of the Sun’s light.
There are some colors in the natural world, however, that seem to defy a naturalistic evolutionary explanation. Flowers living in identical environments will frequently have radically different colors. If we postulate that the colors are different to attract different pollinators, we run into logical problems. Wouldn’t the most efficient pollinators provide the same advantages to all flowers of similar geometric design? In caves deep in the ocean, there are some of the more vividly colored tropical fish. These fish never see sunlight and have no camouflage advantage given by their colors. There are worms and burrowing animals in thermal vents deep in the floor of the ocean that display rich and beautiful colors.
A skeptic may reply that these colors are a chance consequence of the materials that make up the bodies of these organisms. The fact is that, in many cases, the colored materials in the organism are inconsequential to the survival of the organism. We would suggest an equally plausible and perhaps more realistic explanation. Could it be that a God of intelligence and creative power designed the creation not only with functional wisdom but also with aesthetic intelligence?
When my oldest daughter married and moved to West Texas, I worried about how a young lady born and raised in Indiana would fare in an area that was essentially a desert. Leaving a state full of lakes, streams, trees, and fruit and vegetable crops for a world of cactus and yucca seemed to be quite an adjustment. When my daughter and her husband showed us a lot they were buying high on a butte, I worried even more. They were miles from town and surrounded by nothing but thorn-covered plants, mesquite trees, and bare rock and dirt.
Our first visit after they built their new house was during a time when they had been blessed with a great deal of rain. I was amazed at the transformation that had taken place in the landscape. Everything was green, and most things were blooming. Even the obnoxious cactus I always managed to get scratched by was covered with beautiful flowers.