Eric Hedin writes:
Beauty and the Beholder
Although beauty has an objective quality even within science, in another sense beauty is in the eye (or the mind) of the beholder. By this, I do not mean that it is purely subjective, but that its appreciation is dependent on qualities of perception, sympathy, and intellect within the beholder. “The mere animal hears the Mozart concerto and sees the daffodil,” writes Dubay, “but it is neither enraptured nor overwhelmed. It has no intellect to perceive the inner depth, the form.”
Besides needing a sufficient level of intellect to respond to beauty, we also need the ability to delight in something other than ourselves. Being fully responsive to beauty requires having enough humility to let something else move you. It requires the ability to appreciate a thing for what it is, not just for what use it may have. Such a quality of intellect is neither animal-like, nor mechanistic.
Beauty abounds on this Earth in majestic mountains, sparkling waterfalls, pastoral landscapes, white sandy beaches splashed by turquoise-blue waves. Beauty deepens in form and variety in the living creatures which grace our planet in endless abundance: flowers of every hue and symmetric form, tropical fish, songbirds and raptors, mammals large and small, each manifesting radiant beauty.
Human art demands an artist. The artistry of the beauties of nature is surely no less than that of any painting in The Louvre. What are we to make of this? Dubay sees in this evidence of foresight and planning: “One bluebird ‘in its way absolutely perfect’ is staggering evidence of art and design.”
Depth of Form, by Design
The forces of nature, acting on matter according to the laws of physics often give rise to forms of beauty manifesting simplicity, symmetry, and harmony. Patterns can arise naturally that show simple, symmetric repetition of form, as in crystals. Beauty is also found in complex arrangements of matter involving a significant degree of randomness, as seen in clouds illuminated by the setting sun. Throughout the natural universe we see beautiful images revealed to us by astronomers’ powerful telescopes. Diamond-like clusters of stars, vaporous nebulae of almost every conceivable color, and majestic galaxies all strike our senses as beautiful examples of celestial art.
These examples of beauty in nature, however, possess only a limited degree of depth of form. The greatest depths of beauty are in living things, such as flowers, animals of all types and, in our fellow human beings. From where does the intense depth of form seen in a rose, a butterfly, or a human face arise?
Beauty in nature reveals a conjunction both curious, and curiously fitting. We find depth of beauty in living things; Earth’s most intelligent living organisms, humans, alone appear able to intensely appreciate depth of form; only with intelligent agents do we observe the creation of information-rich artifacts, such as novels and symphonies; and depth of beauty is the purview of the most information-rich structures in nature, living things. Depth of beauty appears to be—in its manifestation, creation, and appreciation—the purview of a mind attuned to beauty.
A living thing’s depth of form is coded into its DNA and its other reservoirs of biological information. The form arises from DNA being read in conjunction with the marvelously orchestrated biochemistry of a cell. What is the explanation for such information-rich artistry? One easy response is, “Isn’t evolution grand?” Well, something is grand—something or someone. But if we want to address the question of the origin of living forms rationally, merely genuflecting before the theory of evolution won’t do. We need to compare the explanatory power of competing explanations and find one with the demonstrated capacity for generating depths of form and information. Blind evolution, I have argued, being subject solely to the laws of nature, lacks that capacity. Intelligent agents, by contrast, have demonstrated the capacity repeatedly.
 Thomas Dubay, S.M., The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1999), 51.
 Dubay, The Evidential Power of Beauty (1999), 24. Dubay quotes the phrase, “in its way absolutely perfect,” from biochemist Lewis Thomas, “On the Uncertainty of Science,” Harvard Magazine 83(1):19– 22, 1980.
Excerpted from Eric Hedin, Canceled Science: What Some Atheists Don’t Want You to See, (Discovery Institute Press, Seattle, 2021), pp. 202-204.