• Empedocles
    This is an argument that mirrors the Argument from Fine Tuning. However, t’s based not on the improbability of life-friendly conditions under atheism, but on the improbability of there being so much beauty in the universe under atheism. In other words, I’m not arguing based on fine-tuning data (see this webpage for examples: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/designun.html) that the universe was designed. Instead, I’m trying to argue that the beauty of the universe points to a designer. The thought that started this argument was that it’s already surprising that the universe supports life (see the link above for examples). Beyond that, it seems even more surprising that the universe contains beauty. My argument goes like this:

    1.The beauty of the universe is improbable under atheism
    2.The beauty of the universe is not improbable under theism.
    3.If we have two hypotheses and some evidence is not improbable under the first hypothesis but is improbable under the second, then that evidence counts as evidence for the first hypothesis.
    4.Therefore, the beauty in the universe counts as evidence for God’s existence (1,2,3 Modus Ponens)

    I am anticipating two main objections:
    1.Beauty is subjective and therefore can’t be used to prove much of anything, let alone God’s existence. It is then absurd to talk about the universe being beautiful, and the argument is just meaningless.
    2.The beauty of the universe is not improbable, contra premise 1. Although we could imagine many ways in which the universe could be less beautiful, we can imagine just as many ways it could be more beautiful

    Against objection 1, I would say that while there certainly is some subjective element to beauty which allows for different tastes (e.g. I might not have an appreciation for ballet and so might not find it beautiful, or I might argue one singer’s voice is more beautiful than another but allow for other to disagree and not be wrong), there also seems to be an objective quality to it (e.g. most everyone would call a dramatic sunset beautiful, and they seem correct in saying so). Furthermore, if beauty were completely subjective, it would be meaningless to describe something as beautiful. Instead, we would say something like “I like it” or “it brings me pleasure”. All that being said, it seems to me that beauty is not entirely subjective. If this is true, I think I can carry on with the argument.

    Against objection 2, it seems to me that, although I can think of ways to make the world even more beautiful (that’s what lots of artists do, after all), I can think of far more ways it could be far less beautiful.This is perhaps an odd and abstract thought, but it seems right to me. I think that it’s already surprising that the universe supports life (see the godandscience.com link for examples). Beyond that, it seems even more surprising that the universe contains beauty. Additionally, it seems far more common for beautiful things to come from a conscious, sentient designer than chance or nature- I don’t see animals or natural forces creating nearly as many beautiful things as humans.

    Thanks for your time and objections!
  • BrianW

    Your atheists and theists seem too caricatured for my liking.
    I think, just as theists believe in an absolute God(s), atheists believe in an absolute reality. Therefore, whatever there is right now, for both, whether a manifestation of consciousness, sentience, beauty, etc., is believed to have come from the respective origin. So, what's with the disjointed 'probabilities'? If there's beauty, it is there for both. If there's consciousness and sentience, it occurs to both.

    I find there are two kinds of atheists => those who don't believe in any deity and those who are against the belief in deities. The former are true atheists, the latter are rebels, may be a-theists (anti-theists). The indifference of true atheists is just coincidentally (and not exclusively) antagonistic to any theism/deism, because those who concern themselves with theism, whether for or against it, still add emphasis to its significance. Anyway, your arguments do not reflect true atheism.
  • khaled
    I have more objections to this so I'm gonna say my main one and then the two you already said and why your retorts to them are not at all sufficient in my opinion

    My own response: Premise 1 is 100% false
    Having organisms that can derive dopamine just from looking at certain scenery is very very advantageous for that organisms mental health and thus its survival. Beauty is nothing more than a side effect of humans' survival instinct. Imagine someone saying "It is already unlikely that I exist but it even far more unlikely that I even have the capabilities to move, enjoy life and even procreate. God must be in charge here" that statement is false. It is VERY likely under atheism that evolution would lead to the development of an organism with a reward system (enjoy life), an ability to move and an ability to procreate. Similarly, it is likely that organisms deriving pleasure from scenery is another evolutionary quirk built for survival (in this case it helps the organism's mental health).

    1- Beauty is subjective
    Your response: it's not completely subjective
    My response: Yes it is. Beauty is the most fickle and subjective thing there is. Just look at postmodern art as an example. Postmodern art has a massive market when some postmodern "art" could have literally been drawn my me. Humans' concept of beauty has changed drastically over history. Show Leonardo Da Vinci postmodern art or cubism and he would chuckle and ask whose kid drew this. The only thing you can say about beauty is that if follows certain trends among people and many people tend to see largely the same things as beautiful. This is no proof of an inter-species, inter-subjective beauty but it sounds more like beauty is a species specific way to obtain dopamine

    2- this is the same as my point except you took it to a different direction. I say premise one is false because it is in fact likely that species specific beauty would arise as a species specific survival mechanism
  • Christoffer
    1.The beauty of the universe is improbable under atheism
    2.The beauty of the universe is not improbable under theism.
    3.If we have two hypotheses and some evidence is not improbable under the first hypothesis but is improbable under the second, then that evidence counts as evidence for the first hypothesis.
    4.Therefore, the beauty in the universe counts as evidence for God’s existence (1,2,3 Modus Ponens)

    You are right about the objections to this argument and I don't think you can counter it with "there also seems to be an objective quality" or "Furthermore, if beauty were completely subjective, it would be meaningless to describe something as beautiful."
    You are trying to validate your invalid premiss with assuming there is objective quality or beauty because otherwise we can't have quality. There are so many flaws in this argument because you assume things based on your opinion and therefor trying to justify the conclusion of the original argument as true.

    You assume that there is an objective beauty and because of this there must be a designer of the universe since beauty like this cannot be without it. There's nothing to back this conclusion at all. You ignore the psychology science of how we perceive the universe and that us humans are pattern seeking animals who perceive the world through senses that in turn gets processed by our brain with a type of biological algorithm that fills in the blanks. This means that we perceive balance, symmetry and so on as harmony and harmony in turn gives the notion of beauty. Our emotions are based upon survival instincts we evolved through the necessity to guard ourselves from complex dangers and guide our intellect while outsmarting preys or evading predators. What we perceive as beauty is rather just a byproduct of all these processes in our brain which change our chemistry within our body.
    Therefor, you can't point to the universe having beauty as an objective statement since it's subjective, not for you as an individual, but through our perception as a species.

    Further, we might perceive a specific thing as dull, grey, formless pile of shit with the senses that we have. If we actually look at a pile of manure, smell it's foul smell, see it's dull colors, the appalling concept of what it is etc. we point to it not being a thing of beauty. But if we weren't limited to the senses that we have, if we would see frequencies of light we normally don't see, like infrared, ultraviolet, gamma, radio etc; if we could smell more nuances of the complexities within that pile of shit, we might perceive it as the most beautiful thing we've ever seen. But our senses and our brains processing is limiting us from that, together with the programmed instincts that tells us that shit is not to be preceived as beauty.

    Just as we could mix together two compounds of chemicals that react to each other with sparks and colors, like fireworks, it doesn't mean it is beautiful outside of human preception. A dog doesn't find fireworks to be anything other than pure terror.

    In essence, you can't claim truth to a conclusion about a designer for the universe based on the perception through human emotions. In order to do that, you need to place humans as intrinsically valuable within the universe and there's nothing that points to us being valuable in the context of the scale of our universe. We are a fraction of existence within this universe and it can't give two cents about our existence. To put ourselves and mankind on that pedestal in front of the entire universe in order to claim what is beautiful or not, is a foolish point of view.

    To elaborate further, our perception of our existence in the universe is coming from within the system that it perceives. We evolved emotions and perception to perceive life and value it based off our emotions.

    Water could not be anything else than water in order to put context into what water is. We are humans that perceive ourselves, we see value in us because we cannot see value outside of ourselves since we are humans and not anything else. The only thing that could put a value on us would be another species that could perceive mankind objectively in context of the entire universe.

    Beauty is an illusion. We can't deny beauty, but we can't use it for objective facts and truths since it is subjective, not to the individual, but to our species way of perceiving the world and universe around us. If we didn't perceive things like symmetry as beautiful, we would view the world as rather ugly.

    However you try and turn this argument, it all comes down to the values that mankind puts on things in the universe and those values doesn't prove a single thing.
  • Christoffer
    To add
    Have you ever seen random chaos suddenly form into a shape that you perceive as order? So, is it then unreasonable to conclude that random events, chaos and entropy may at a certain point in a long period of time, evolve into something that resembles order? Can this order then continue to arrange into further order going through more chaos? This is exactly how life formed, this is how evolution brought our intelligence. If you have almost an infinite amount of time and you let chaos unfold through that time, something will form. Especially if there's causality involved. A time glass with sand will have pure chaos and random order for each rock falling through, but at the center they might go through one at a time, like if there was order to the stream.

    Chaos and entropy as the cause for our existence and our perceived beauty of our existence is only unthinkable for those that cannot accept it. Science points to it being the truth, so why shoehorn in other explanations that have no reasonable or logical foundation just because it's hard to grasp the idea?

    In engineering, a lot of designs have been shifting towards using random iterations based on thousands of trial and errors out of a purpose. Jet engines have been engineered for maximum performance not by designing it intentionally, but by setting a goal for maximum performance and letting random algorithms design it instead, in many iterations over a period of time. The final design can look super weird, but also not something that a human could ever design by pure thought. This is part of my own argument against any kind of designer or intelligence behind our existence. If science points to chaos as the creator of all that we know and engineering benefiting from the concept of randomness, then nothing points to intelligent design or intentionally designing anything would yield the result we perceive as beauty around us. It doesn't argue against a creator creating a simulation in which we popped into existence by pure luck in that creators experiment vial through random events, but that would then not be intentional and therefor, that creator might not even know we are here in their simulation. Therefor us as a result as intentional design does not become valid.

    I have yet to see any counter argument to my argument about randomness as source of existence proving there are no intentional creator, other than assumptions based on subjective emotions and perception, both by individual and through us as a species. I think a lot of people don't even try to look past their own existence, they are stuck within their own perception so hard that they can't view things outside it and it's limiting the arguments to self-deluded assumptions instead of logic.
  • SophistiCat
    1.The beauty of the universe is improbable under atheism
    2.The beauty of the universe is not improbable under theism.
    3.If we have two hypotheses and some evidence is not improbable under the first hypothesis but is improbable under the second, then that evidence counts as evidence for the first hypothesis.
    4.Therefore, the beauty in the universe counts as evidence for God’s existence (1,2,3 Modus Ponens)

    Others have developed an objection along the lines that our sense of beauty is not independent of the universe's constitution, so it is no coincidence that we see beauty in the universe.

    In addition, there are more general considerations that also apply to the original fine-tuning argument, which have to do with the nature of the inference - your premise 3.

    Atheism places no constraints on the physical universe - in other words, atheism is completely uninformative with regards to its constitution. Therefore, under the assumption of atheism, the probability of any given feature of the universe is either inscrutable or infinitesimal (depending on who you talk to). This goes for the laws of nature, fundamental constants, initial conditions, and anything else, including beauty. But the flip side of this is that evidence of the universe's constitution is uninformative with respect to atheism. Evidence can only count for or against a hypothesis when there is some structural relationship between the two, but not otherwise.

    How about the God hypothesis - is there any relationship between it and beauty? Well, I suppose there is, but that's just because you say so. Your God hypothesis is fashioned in such a way as to make beauty likely - it is ad hoc in this way. Ad hoc hypotheses have the annoying property that they automatically raise the likelihood of whatever evidence they were fine-tuned for. For example, looking out of the window and seeing a car with a particular license number passing along the road is a very unlikely event, assuming that there is no particular reason for a car with that number being there at that moment. But if, for example, you hypothesize that God intended you to see that number at that particular moment, then the event is pretty much inevitable! Does this mean that your observation of the license plate favors God (and disfavors atheism)? Of course not. Ad hoc hypotheses, depending on who you talk to, are either inadmissible, or else they pay a high penalty in credibility that cancels out any boost they can get from evidence.
  • Empedocles
    Let me reiterate your objections to make sure I'm understanding them correctly. I'm taking your first objection to be against my premise 1 (the beauty of the universe is improbable under atheism), and it looks like you're arguing this way:

    Beauty is not improbable under atheism since it provides a hit of dopamine, which improves mental health, which helps us survive.

    It seems like here you're talking about the experience/appreciation of beauty in the world, rather than the beauty itself of the world, which of course makes sense since you argue later that there is no objective quality of "beauty". So I think you're arguing that it isn't improbable under atheism that people would experience beauty. My response then is that you've changed my premise and argued against something I didn’t claim (which means I probably ought to have been more clear when I wrote it).

    Maybe if I can argue better that beauty is at least partly objective, then I can respond to both your objections. Your second objection is that beauty is entirely subjective. I'll regiment your argument like this:

    1- If tastes in art vary widely, then beauty is entirely subjective.
    2- Tastes in art do vary widely.
    3- Therefore, beauty is entirely subjective (1,2 MP)

    I have a couple objections to premise 1. First of all, I think it's clear that opinions can vary without changing the fact of the matter. For example, jurors might disagree on whether a defendant is guilty or innocent, but this doesn’t change whether or not the defendant actually committed the act. Similarly, maybe people can disagree on whether or not a piece of art is beautiful and that disagreement would have no bearing on whether it’s truly beautiful or not. My other objection is that it seems like most postmodern art isn’t art because it’s beautiful. Beauty doesn’t seem to me to be a necessary condition for something to be art (lots of metal songs can hardly be described as beautiful and yet qualify as art, also Munch’s The Scream and Donatello’s Penitent Magdalene are art but aren’t beautiful). So I don’t think that differing tastes in art prove beauty is subjective.
    As far as arguing that beauty is at least partly objective, I’ll stick with my sunset example. It does seems like most people are in agreement that a striking sunset is beautiful. If someone denied its beauty, it seems like I could confidently tell them they’re wrong and have faulty aesthetic senses, so to speak. So it seems to me like there is something about the beauty of the sunset that is objective. My argument looks something like this:

    1- If almost all people agree that something is beautiful, then it is at least very probable that there is at least some objective beauty.
    2- Almost all people agree striking sunsets are beautiful.
    3-Therefore, it is at least very probable that there is at least some objective beauty. (1,2 MP)

    But I don’t want to distract from your point that our appreciating beauty could have evolved in an atheistic universe, though, because I think there’s something important there. I’ll list a couple of quick objections to the idea that we evolved our aesthetic sense and see what you think of them:
    1- Other animals don’t seem to appreciate beauty. Why is it that only humans do? If appreciating beauty is an advantage for survival, why don’t we see it in other animals?
    2- Oftentimes dangerous things in nature are beautiful, like the markings on big cats, lightning, the colors on poisonous tree frogs and blue ringed octopuses, the ocean, fire, etc… So it doesn’t seem like appreciation of beauty is so great for survival after all.

    Let me know what you think of all that!
  • khaled
    I think you missed a very important line I said
    This is no proof of an inter-species, inter-subjective beauty but it sounds more like beauty is a species specific way to obtain dopaminekhaled

    You cannot use the argument "MOST people say a sunset is beautiful" to derive "The sunset's beauty is inherent in the sunset (is objective)". That is an argument from popularity which is a logical fallacy. Your entire argument assumes an objective beauty exists and never adequately proves it. You explicitly use a prove by popularity in premise 2:
    1- If almost all people agree that something is beautiful, then it is at least very probable that there is at least some objective beautyEmpedocles

    This is a logical fallacy. At some point everyone agreed that lightning daddy lived on a mountain and dictated the fate of men

    First of all, it is a minimum requirement for EVERYONE to agree unambiguously that a sunset is beautiful for it to even be considered as an objective existence but you deny this when you say "most people". What if you had people that throw up in disgust when seeing sunsets (someone like that probably exists) how do you explain to those people that sunsets are objectively beautiful when every instinct they have tells them otherwise? All you keep showing is that beauty is human specific which is not at all proof of objectivity. Beauty is not in the object it's in your head because it helps it survive.

    Secondly, as for your argument that appreciation of beauty is only present in humans and thus cannot be seen as having purely survival uses. What if I said that "Since humans have brains, and big brains are not common and not necessary for survival among species, you cannot say that brains evolved for survival". The argument doesn't stand at all. For a human, being more mentally stable is much more important and challenging than mental stability of other animals (because they don't have a complex range of emotions) and therefore he/she can appreciate beauty and that's why it evolved. For a fish, appreciating beauty would be a waste of resources but for humans it wouldn't be, THAT'S why our perception of beauty evolved. Not every animal has legs but I'm pretty sure you think yours are useful

    Now as for your point that often times beautiful things are dangerous that's a massive point for me if you follow the logical conclusion. If you think that a God made beauty and that it exists objectively then you'd have to contend that that God made beautiful things dangerous WILLINGLY and KNOWING that he would be killing humans by doing so. That's a pretty evil God which rules out all the Abrahamic religions if that's what you were defending. Now let's consider the athiestic side of this argument. Under evolution, it makes PERFECT SENSE for beautiful things to be dangerous as being beautiful lures pray to you and lets you catch it which is a very good survival technique. Animals evolve to be beautiful because the beautiful animals have a higher chance of survival and by beautiful I mean beautiful to their prey (not implying an objective beauty of any sort here).
  • khaled
    this aligns with my views pretty well https://youtu.be/-O5kNPlUV7w
  • Empedocles
    That is an argument from popularity which is a logical fallacykhaled

    Yep I think you got me there. I'll have to look for more solid arguments that argue beauty is at least in part objective. What if I change it to:
    1- It's unlikely that beauty is entirely subjective if almost everyone agrees that something is beautiful.
    2- Almost everyone agrees that sunsets are beautiful.
    3- Therefore, it's unlikely that beauty is entirely subjective (1,2 MP)

    I didn't actually expect that claim to be as contentious as it was. I'm more interested in the next step of the argument, which is that objective beauty is unlikely under atheism. I know you disagree, but if we assume that there is some objective beauty, then what do you think about this next step? It does seem unlikely to me that this would come about under atheism, but that's more of an intuition than a well supported belief. I provided a couple reasons in my first response to objection 2. What do you think about those? Doesn't it seem more likely that the beauty of the universe came from a designer than from chance, if we assume there is objective beauty in the universe?
  • reasonablewave

    Following the discussion thread of whether or not objective beauty is possible, I'd like to add that it seems your argument entirely hinges upon the fact that objective beauty exists. As other posters have mentioned, it's difficult to argue for the idea of objective beauty. Personally, I do think beauty is a subjective trait.

    If beauty is subjective, who is to then say that in the supposedly "ugly" world of atheism that the subjective human beings in that world will not decide that grey rainbows are beautiful? They could create their own scale for beauty based on the limited ugliness they have access to within their world. In that case, subjective beauty seems just as probable within an atheistic world as in a theistic world.

    If you simply look at the objects or phenomena within our world that some call beautiful (and others don't) in order to see the design of God, I think your argument does fail. Yet, there is something about the act of recognizing beauty that does seem to point to a creator. As such, I'd suggest the following revision to your argument to make it stronger.

    Rather than focusing on what we decide is beautiful and how that object, phenomena, etc. points to a creator, I think you should redirect your argument's focus to the capacity to see beauty. How do we decide what is beautiful? Why do we think anything is beautiful (even if we disagree on the beauty of ballet)? Would human beings existing in a world without a creator have the ability to recognize beauty? If the capacity to recognize beauty is a trait designed within us so we connect that beauty back to our creator, it seems doubtful that those within an atheistic universe would have the capacity to recognize beauty.

    As such, I propose this argument instead:

    1. The capacity to recognize beauty within the universe is improbable under atheism.
    2. The capacity to recognize beauty within the universe is not improbable under theism.
    3. If we have two hypotheses and some evidence is not improbable under the first hypothesis but is improbable under the second, then that evidence counts as evidence for the first hypothesis.
    4. Therefore, the capacity to recognize beauty within the universe counts as evidence for God’s existence (1,2,3 Modus Ponens)

    I look forward to your thoughts.
  • Empedocles
    Khalid already gave a defense of why the capacity to recognize (subjective) beauty is not improbable under atheism. Check out the video they posted if you want to learn more.

    Otherwise, I’d love to hear your argument on why beauty is 100% subjective. It seems like that claim leads to a bad result: of beauty is 100% subjective, then when I describe something as beautiful, either my sentence is meaningless, or at most I’m expressing something like “when I see that thing, I feel pleasure”. But really, when I see a striking sunset and describe it as beautiful, I mean it really is beautiful, regardless of the pleasure/ aesthetic experience I have when looking at it. If I meant I get a certain kind of pleasure from viewing the sunset when I describe it as beautiful, I should just say that I get a certain kind of pleasure from viewing it. To regiment this into an argument, I guess I’m saying this:

    1) if beauty 100% subjective, then everyone who calls something beautiful is wrong.
    2) it seems pretty unlikely to me that everyone who describes a sunset as beautiful is wrong.
    3) therefore, beauty is not 100% subjective

    Of course, I’m still appealing to common opinion, so I might be a little guilty again of the argument from popularity fallacy. But to be honest, it does seem like a pretty bold statement to say every claim that something is beautiful is wrong or misguided, since almost everyone has made these claims going back millennia. Maybe I should keep looking for a stronger argument for beauty being at least partly objective...
  • SophistiCat
    Why do you think that subjective opinions are wrong or misguided? And what do you mean by subjective/objective, anyway?

    I would say that a statement is objective if its truth does not depend on who is making the statement. That, of course, implies that subjective statements can be true - it's just that that their truth condition includes the speaker.
  • khaled
    I'd say it is WAY more likely under atheism than under theism. If theism was true, why would God make an "objective beauty" that differs from person to person? Theism would require that God intentionally makes an objective beauty then proceed to make it ungraspable by humans. That is very unconvincing. However, atheism does not suffer from such an issue as it straight up denies an objective beauty which is much more fitting with the empirical observation. In other words, it is far more likely that humans' biases towards socializing and conforming to societal norms are the things responsible for the consensus when it comes to beauty rather than it being God saying "make an objective beauty. Now only make it partially graspable by humans so they can still disagree somewhat"
  • Terrapin Station
    So the main problem I have with arguments like this is pretty simple:

    1.The beauty of the universe is improbable under atheismEmpedocles

    The problem is that I see that as a ridiculous statement, because there's absolutely no way to figure probabilities for anything like that.

    Saying that the probability is n makes it sound all official and mathematical, but it's just nonsense. You might as well just pick a probability estimate out of a hat. We haven't the faintest idea what the probability of something like that would be.
  • Terrapin Station
    Another problem, by the way, is that you're doing that rather ignorant thing where you're assuming that atheism is some sort of worldview.

    All that "atheism" denotes is a lack of belief in a God, or a belief that there is no God. That's it. It denotes absolutely nothing else. It doesn't denote any claims about science, or what the world is like otherwise, or whether phenomena are completely deterministic or at least partially random, or anything like that. Someone can be an atheist and have any other belief. The only requirement is that they don't have a belief that a God exists. That's it..
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