Evolution’s Problem With Beauty

In some previous posts, I have articulated a few of the reasons I don’t embrace the theory of evolution, that all living creatures evolved from a single cell organism. I find the theory inadequate to explain the incredible complexity of our human bodies as well as the complexity of the living cell.

But the other day, as I was doing yard work, I was struck with another limitation of evolutionary theory: beauty. How does evolutionary theory account for beauty? While mowing the lawn, I noticed that a particular tree in our back yard was blossoming—beautiful white flowers filled the branches. As I was appreciating the incredible beauty on display, I realized that evolutionary theory has no explanation for beauty like this.

From Darwin’s perspective, the basis of evolution is survival of the fittest. In other words, evolution happens solely for functional reasons. An animal is able to survive better because of a mutation—something that gives it a functional advantage.

But if all species are here as a result of evolution, what would explain the presence of beauty? There is nothing about flowers on a tree blooming for a few weeks each year that would make it better suited for survival. What would explain the outward beauty on display in certain human beings? There is nothing about beautiful hair or a beautiful face that makes a person better suited for survival.

In fact, I find that an emphasis on function often leads to a removal of beauty. What happens when a company decides their new facility is going to be “functional”? You can guarantee there will be no money in the budget for beautiful furnishings. What about a car that is built for functionality? Same problem. Don’t plan on much that aesthetically pleasing about it. It would seem to me that after millions of years of evolution, everything would be “functional” but with rare, random glimpses of beauty if any beauty at all.

Maybe I’m missing something here. Perhaps some of you can comment on how evolutionary theory explains the beauty we see all around us. But for me, the beauty on display all around us points to the biblical perspective that God created. Genesis 1 describes how after God created, He often stopped and admired His work, declaring it good. There is a reason for beauty all around us—it points to the glory and wonder of God.

I realize there is much about this sin stained world that doesn’t seem to reflect the beauty and glory of God. But there is enough, in my view, to point to a Creator who loves beauty and who one day will once again make all things beautiful.

  3Comments

  1. Carol   •  

    I have shared your thought-provoking post with family and friends.

    I hope you enjoy this “God and Tree” limerick by Richard Knox.

    There was a young man who said “God
    Must think it exceedingly odd

    To think that this tree
    Should continue to be
    When there’s no one about in the quad.”

    Reply:
    “Dear Sir: Your astonishment’s odd;
    I am always about in the quad
    And that’s why the tree
    Will continue to be
    Since observed by, Yours faithfully, God.”

    🙂

  2. Thom   •  

    I have read this article and I have some points which I would like to respectfully share. I believe that science and religion can go hand in hand. My own faith is a very personal thing, and I will never tell somebody that they are wrong for believing in something, nor will I push my own beliefs on them. However, there are some facts that simply cannot be ignored.

    When we talk about survival, it’s about survival of the species, not survival of the individual. A species, be it human, plant, bacteria or any other living being, wants to survive. For a species to survive, it must reproduce, and from that perspective, beauty actually plays a very important role.

    “There is nothing about flowers on a tree blooming for a few weeks each year that would make it better suited for survival.” The beauty of the flowers attracts bees, which carry pollen to allow the plants to reproduce. Many berries and fruits are delicious and very attractive to the eye, so that animals will eat them, carry the seeds and spread them to allow new plants to grow. You mention “beautiful hair and a beautiful face” as a tool for survival. The fact is, everybody has something about them that someone else finds attractive and desirable. In terms of survival of the species, this will attract the opposite sex, making you more desirable to them and therefore more likely to have the opportunity to reproduce.

    There is also a lot to be said for the explanation of a LACK of beauty. How much of what we perceive as beautiful is a social construction? People’s ideas of what beauty is change with the trends and we are conditioned to go with what we are told. Many people consider certain creatures, particularly insects, to be far from beautiful. In general, we tend to think of spiders, insects, and many other plants and animals as “ugly.”

    The point I am making is, not everything is beautiful, but every creature has a function. You said that you think an “emphasis on function often leads to a removal of beauty” – really, that depends on how you look at it. In many cases, the beauty is a very important part of that function.

    • AlanKraft   •     Author

      Thanks Thom. Great points. I appreciate the thoughtful interaction.

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