The problem of beauty in a mechanistic world.

Posted: November 7, 2006 in Theo/Philo


Why do we see beauty in objects that have no impact on us genetically?

Looking at the Pleiades through a telescope or Jupiter’s rings we see beauty, a subjective

experience, where is the utilitarian currency in that?

Mr Holmes help!?!

“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion,”

Said Sherlock Holmes, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It

can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest

assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the

flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are

really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this

rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of

life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness, which gives extras,

and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

–Arthur Conan Doyle, in “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty” (Strand

Magazine, 1893).

Talking of flowers, if they evolved to attract insects for seed dispersal –

does that mean insects came before flowers?

  1. A Darwinian paradigm links biological features to functional utility. This infers a criterion for evidence of intelligent design. If beauty is superfluous from a fitness perspective (or any other properties for that matter) then an alternative explanation is suggested.

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