May 2008

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« Ultimate One-Story House Plan Update and Ultimate Future City | Main | Beauty as God »



Bonus return question showing how the original question is ridiculous: if all creatures with brains *don't* have an innate and individual sense of beauty, is *that* evidence of God?


"[Your comment makes sense to me if you are either an expert in evolution yourself or an idiot. Where did you get your degree in biology? -- Scott]

Posted by: Tim "

Unfortunately, your logical disconnect (we find thing beautiful -> that's because it's God's will) shows either you're trolling (in which case Tim is counter-trolling), misled (in which case Tim is correct but rude) or deliberately obtuse (Tim is right and merely choosing appropriately for your blindness).

When it comes to evolution, your cognitive dissonance gets in the way and you can't be trusted to see around it. All you can really do is avoid situations you cannot help yourself. In much the same way as an alcoholic avoids any alcohol: they can't stop themselves when they start.

[You don't understand this blog or the meaning of trolling. -- Scott]


"Bonus philosophical question: If all creatures with brains have an innate and individual sense of beauty, is that evidence of God?"

What a ridiculous question. Beauty is just something you enjoy looking at; we already know we are all different (and so we might well have different ideas of beauty), so really what you're asking is whether "we enjoy looking at certain things" is evidence that God exists.

About as ridiculous as "the mona lisa is so beautiful, God must exist", "beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy", or "e^(i*pi) + 1 = 0 is proof that God exists".

(Sorry, had to slip in the maths one there!)


You fail at the first hurdle!

You have no wheels.

Cars have four.

Your cyborg offspring would then have one of

four wheels (wheels are a maternal genetic trait)
no wheels (wheels are a regressive trait)
two wheels



Humping Cars, Hmmmm, am I the only one who was brought back to the blog about a man, a bicycle and a hotel room?


I can't speak for anyone else, but my sense of beauty comes from many sources. Social conditioning, some active counter-conditioning on my own part, intellect (there is, of course, beauty in an elegant, powerful theory), instinct, the desire for novelty, the comfort of the familiar.

I reckon you'd be hard pressed to explain or find any cause for explanation in such a broad category. It's a bit like asking what causes geography and what geography might be evidence of.


I've always thought the same thing and that you choose a certain "type" of look in your mate, and assuming you have had enough partners in life to recognise a pattern you end up with one that corresponds to what your genes have subconsciously steered you towards in order to produce ideal offspring.

I am 6.1ft tall, blond blue eyes etc and my wife is tall, slim and has curly brunette hair: Our kids are gorgeous. Several previous partners have looked very similar to my wife.

Some people clearly haven't listened to their genes, hence the proliferation of ugly people in the world.

(I probably should never be given a position of power)


it's like you skimmed a newspaper article from the science section about evolutionary psych and then decided to write a post about it.

but i like you anyways.


As I read your blog, I was thinking to myself, "Whoa, guy's all over the place today."

And then I read your final nonsequitur.


How would this be evidence for the existence of god?


absurd! how can sense of beauty have anything to do with evidence of god!


An innate sense of beauty is evidence of evolution, not of any gods. No-one thinks "I want to have sex with that man (or woman) because his height (or her hips) indicate a good chance of reproductive success" - we just feel the urge from some primal area of our brains. Likewise, a beach or mountaintop feels like a more pleasant place to be than a cubicle, because it *is* a better place to be, as far as our pre-historic brains are concerned - more food and water available, fewer places for predators to hide, etc.

A more interesting philosophical question is - if our subconscious minds have such a strong influence over our actions, what are the implications for free will?


Depends what you think 'God' is.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - that is a truth I believe. I actually think that beauty is the natural state of things, it is our prejudices based on experience (especially early life) that hide that beauty. So when something is beautiful, it means you are seeing it without judgement. Something akin to love? I think so.

Then perhaps is 'God is love' as is sometimes stated, then God is found simply by looking without judgement.


What would I know about beauty? I'm a married man and have no eye for anybody else.
But here is what the data say: In psychological testing men or women very consistently pick a certain set of facial features as being attractive. The interesting bit is that the features women consider attractive are reasonably well correlated to male sperm number and motility, key determinants of fertility.
There even is a second layer to this. When people are filmed while dancing (with blinding to facial features) again certain types of male movements are consistently seen as attractive by women. And these male movement patterns again are reasonably well related to sperm number and motility.
Unfortunately, even a lot of dance lessons will not make you more fertile.


Actually, to address the first line in this post, I have always prefered shorter men or equal to my height. ;) From my first crushes in school, they were always the short guys. I'm only 5'4", so that limits a lot of guys out there too.

Maybe I'm just weird. Maybe I don't have a fear of being eaten by squirrels, I don't know. ;) All I know is that there are two main physical characteristics I look for, and can determine if I have any interest in a guy: 1) His hair. I like long hair. 2) His height. If he's gonna be taller, better not be much.


Your dog prefers the couch because softer spots hive it less back problems later in life, and dogs who took care of their backs were more likely to reproduce, therefore making later dogs even more likely to carry the "I want to sit on the couch" trait.

People like the mountains and the beach because these give us many things (exercise, sun, food) that made us more likely to survive and pass on our desires for these things.

Sexual attraction is only one evolutionary pressure. There are many others.

I'm not sure I can explain why natural selection produced a concept of beauty (there could be millions of reasons and I have no idea which is the correct one), but I'm pretty sure it can't be attributed to some invisible non-existent space monster... And even if you could somehow twist it into being consistent with a god, that would be nowhere even close to proving that such a god existed.

And anyway, the christian/jewish/muslim god can't exist. It's impossible for something to be all-knowing and all-powerful. If he is all-knowing, he knows everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen, including what he will do in the future, it means that he is not all-powerful, since he can't change his mind about what he will do in the future. If he can change his mind, then he isn't all-knowing. At best, beauty could be used as evidence for Buddha, Athena, or Spinoza's God (which is basically glorified atheism).


Answer to bonus question: definitely.

Andy Coulter



Could it be that the same principle of perception-of-circumstances (or "sense") that initiates the "flight or flight" chemical reaction in the brain is really what happens when we perceive something aesthetically pleasing? What if our brain, with its library of memories, experiences, instinct, and knowledge perceives something as pleasing and releases chemicals that cause physical responsiveness and attraction? Is that "beauty"? I don't know. Either way, I don't think it necessarily points to evidence of a supreme being, just evidence of a complex process. Yeah? No?



but those individual senses of beauty rarely match like perfectly
leading to many unrequited love or adultery or some other nuisance
which could be interpreted as an evidence against God may be, though one wants of course to believe that beauty will save the world

Rick in China

In your bonus question you've left out proper definition of beauty, while referencing it somewhat in your actual post! I don't believe there's any relation to God in the ability to feel something is beautiful - that sensation is simply a learned response based on both as you mentioned, environmental and natural selection instinct. Throughout history a classic "beauty" has changed so significantly, as well as being drastically different between cultures with different values and focus.


Beauty is most certainly evidence of God. From a philosophical perspective beauty should be a subjective concept, but nearly all humans from all parts of the world find nature and its spectacular sights (mountains, sunsets, etc.) to be a breathtaking experience for whatever reason.

Appreciation of beauty you can't mate with has no evolutionary benefit. Ergo, God.

Of course, "evidence" and "God" are opposing concepts. God demands faith, but our puny pathetic brains attempt to somehow explain him scientifically using our pathetic limited understanding of the tiny fraction of the visible universe in the tiny fraction of time we are present here.


A comedic philosophical argument between Good, Beauty and Truth:

(incidentally, this year marks that film's 50th anniversary)


I personally prefer men of a similar height to mine (I'm 5'6"). Tall men are a pain in the back... for serious. Plus, it's more comfortable to know..


interesting theory you have there, and makes sense to me. the thing is though, it would be to our benefit to be as small as physically possible. like in the kurt vonnegut book, slapstick, wherein the chinese make themselves tiny. think of our resources in proportion to our size. what would have been a meal for one could feed a family of four for a month, overpopulation wouldnt even be possible. if we had tiny cars, it wouldnt take but a drop of gas to fill a tank. and there would be some not so small people, maybe a foot or so high, who could operate some large machinery and even protect us from the now monstrous fauna. unless of course we could shrink them too.


"My hypothesis of evolution is that every creature with eyes and a brain has a sense of beauty that coincidentally overlaps with health, but is independent"
How would you explain this coincidence ?

"If all creatures with brains have an innate and individual sense of beauty, is that evidence of God?"
Honestly I do not even get the question. Why would it be an evidence of God ? (really, I do not get it at all. Hope you will say why you think it might be)

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