Archive for the 'Theology' Category

Snowflakes, Materialism and the Power of Beauty

We checked out Ken Lebbrecht’s Field Guide to Snowflakes from the library and as I took in the beauty of the photographs of the snowflakes, I was reminded of this thread at 4 Real Learning concerning the origin’s debate.

As I beheld nature’s tiny ice sculptures, the power of their beauty awakened my person, filling my heart with wonder. Inspired by beauty, my faith rose to the One greater than I, who out of Love created these beautiful & perfectly ordered love letters to his beloved children, knowing that one day they would have the capacity to see what once was only seen by the Artist.

As I investigated further taking in the text, I came to understand that it is true, no two snowflakes are a like. Each is unique to itself. My intellect was now engaged and seeing this truth, I knew it applied to people as well. Each person is a unique mystery unto themselves both in spirit and in body. I continued reading and discovered that it is a myth that all snowflakes are perfectly symmetrical. Often snowflakes will collide in the air while the are being formed and as a result will become asymmetrical. I found it curious that although the asymmetrical snowflakes are pretty, they aren’t nearly as beautiful as those that are perfectly formed.

I once heard that St. Thomas Aquinas, a Doctor of the Church said, “That a frog is more beautiful than a rose because it is more ordered.” This took me back, it seemed that once again I disagreed with possibly the greatest mind who ever lived. I have learned however that I should always hear St. Thomas out because he usually is right. When I disagree with him I know it warrants further study, although that study is seldom easy on this brain. I’m not nearly as logical or educated as the Angelic Doctor.

So, I wondered, why is something that is more ordered more beautiful? My guess is that beauty reflects Beauty and when we look at creation it is ordered just like the one who ordered it. It caused me to wonder how anyone, especially scientists (Dawkins for example) who know most about the order in the universe, don’t see this.

Perhaps I’m a simpleton, but as I was contemplating the mystery of the snowflake, I found myself reflecting on  the mystery of life and more precisely the mystery of beauty. How does beauty and order come from chaos? And for what purpose? What purpose does beauty serve in evolution? None that I can think of. You don’t need music or art for survival but you need it to be fully human, to be fully “evolved”, to be fully alive.

Perhaps beauty is the evidence of the Uncaused Cause. Beauty can not be explained away by materialism. Perhaps beauty is objective rather than subjective. Perhaps we’ve been lied to; maybe beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. Perhaps we men have lost our objectivity and hampered our faculty of reason to see this truth. Or perhaps post-modern man has just come to disdain that which is truly beautiful– a reasonable effect of a materialist worldview that voids life of any significant meaning.

While pondering this, I was reminded of a book I picked up months ago but somehow  never started. It somehow got lost it in the shuffle of life. (Really I think I just have ADD and can’t stay focused on one subject for an extended period of time, but that is another post that will probably never come to fruition; remember I have ADD.) The book is written by Thomas Dubay, SM (a contemplative priest) and is titled “The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet”. 

Here is an editorial from Amazon on Dubay’s book:

 “The physicist who knows nothing about Scripture and the theologian ignorant of calculus may yet see eye to eye on the remarkable power of beauty to manifest the presence of truth. It is this probative force of beauty that drives Dubay’s impressive reflection on how the perception of harmony instills a sense of conviction among honest seekers in both science and religion. With the help of testimony from a wide range of scientists, Dubay discerns a pattern of elegance and symmetry uniting everything from the astrophysics of the cosmos to the biology of the cell. Disdaining the crabbed literalism of creationist science (which he dismisses as fallacious), Dubay uses the metaphysical intuition of beauty to challenge neo-Darwinian dogmatists who deny the existence of design in our curiously fine-tuned universe. Non-Catholics may protest that Dubay overextends his argument when he concludes with a defense of Catholicism as the supreme depository of truth and beauty, but readers need not endorse Dubay’s Catholic orthodoxy to benefit from his philosophic insights.” Bryce Christensen

So it seems, I’m not the first to see the connection between beauty & the origin of creation amongst popular scientific theories! (I have to admit, I didn’t think I was. The connection seems quite obvious to me.)  I am excitied to hear what theologians and scientists have to say concerning the mystery of beauty. It should be a great read. I’ll try to keep you posted along the way!

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