John Horgan’s article “Can Science Solve—Really Solve—the Problem of Beauty?” tackles an issue I address in my book The Best Possible World–why does beauty exist? An agnostic, Horgan sees the “problem of beauty” as the counterbalance to the problem of evil…evidence that there may be some sort of benevolent creator after all. Though there is some limited scientific foundation for the existence of beauty, it is largely “unnecessary”, that is unnecessary to our survival. Human history has proven brutally efficient, weeding out that which does not provide some advantage. Like love, beauty’s primary purpose seems to be adding meaning to our lives. But why? Perhaps the bigger question is why do we need meaning in our lives? Is that simply a quirk (or even a curse) of having developed the highest-order brain on the planet, or do we seek something that we are supposed to find, something that beauty can help point us toward? Each of us must decide whether the beauty around us is simply a happy accident, or perhaps a clue to something else.
“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson
“I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” –Anne Frank