One of the challenges that skeptics use to argue against the existence of God is often called “the problem of pain.” The argument goes something like this: “Why would an all-powerful and loving God allow pain and suffering?” We have dealt with that problem before, including on our website whypain.org. However, there is a contrasting argument for the existence of God that some have called “the problem of beauty.”
The problem of beauty asks the question: “How is it possible that evolution by natural selection could create such beauty in living things?” In other words, “How could natural selection acting on random mutations create beauty which seems to have no survival value?” Darwinian evolution operates on the survival of the fittest. So how can the seemingly simple process of natural selection or survival of the fittest explain many cases of beauty which seem to make animals less fit and thus less likely to survive?
Look around, and you will see beautiful designs that naturalistic evolution attempts to explain without a designer. Why do male cardinals have the beautiful red color? Why do butterflies have such exquisite designs and colors? Some animals display beautiful colors that make them more vulnerable to predators. Birds make sounds that we can describe as beautiful music. A male bird may sing for an hour, announcing himself not only to prospective mates but also to predators. How can those beautiful features promote the survival of the fittest?
Peacocks, lyrebirds, flowers, starfish, butterflies, and seashells all display beautiful features that cannot be fully explained as survival benefits. In some cases, they may be at least partially explained by mathematical principles. But then, where did mathematical principles in our three-dimensional world originate except from the Creator of all things. Why does the nightingale sing beautiful songs to the darkness? Why do some lizards display colorful crests? How can colorblind cuttlefish change their colors at will not just to camouflage but to send messages to other cuttlefish or predators or just to dazzle any observer? Why do flowers display not only beautiful colors but also soothing fragrances? The beauty of nature is visual, auditory, and even fragrant. Most of all, it is priceless.
It seems that natural selection acting on blind chance mutations cannot explain all of the beauty we see in living things–both plants and animals. If natural selection can’t explain it, does that indicate evidence for design by an Artist? Furthermore, how can we explain the fact that humans can recognize and appreciate beauty? Is that because the Artist created us in His image? These questions point out the problem of beauty. I hope you will join me as we continue to consider this problem tomorrow.
— Roland Earnst © 2022