Monday, April 30, 2007

Beauty in a Godless Universe

With a title like this, a post should be much, much longer than this one will be. All I have to share is this. I do not believe in God. Certainly not the traditional sense. I can agree in some sort of principle to the Universe, but not a sentient intelligence designing some degree of order in a concerted manner. We could call the organizing principle and underlying order Nature or something like that and I could buy in. In any case, as an atheist, there are few things that I know to exist and that I can't justify with a rational explanation. I could try to explain romantic love in a rational fashion, but having experienced it, I know that little about it makes any rational sense. Sure, sure. Love helps to stabilize the family unit and all. But resource scarcity or proto-culture values could fuel the rational self-interest behind it. So, do we really need romantic love, or other degrees of love, to make things work for our species? No, I think love is something that we can't really explain in scientific terms and so I can't make much sense of it. There is no true reason for it, but it exists. The same goes for beauty, I think.

Beauty is an amazingly subjective thing. We can find things beautiful and there does seem to be some reason for it. We find a person to be beautiful and we can likely agree that the reason behind this is basically sexual attraction leading to procreation, if we are so lucky as to get a chance to have sex with the person we find beautiful. In any case, there is an obvious reason. But what about other kinds of beauty? What about the natural beauty of the Appalachians when the leaves turn? Why would we have the capacity to recognize this in the first place? And, why would we find so much beauty in song and music? More specifically, why would we have evolved to have the capacity to not only hear the beauty in music, but to be able to add our voices together and harmonize to create such beauty? I am listening to a song by a group of South African children. The song is nothing but their voices, backed up by some adults. No instruments. I have no idea what they are saying, but the song gives me freaking goosebumps all the same. I can't explain this in rational terms, certainly not in a manner that can point to some evolutionary value for the ability to enjoy this music or to have a skin response to it.

So, I don't bother to try. I am just enjoying the music instead and accepting the fact that there is something more to life than cold rationalism.

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