The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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Argument from the Beauty of Nature

This argument is actually a variation of the Teleological Argument, it is called the Argument From Beauty of Nature. The basic tenet is that the beauty of the natural world, animate or inanimate, is sufficient to convince us of the existence of a benevolent God. This argument is very often utilized by priests, pastors and lay Christians. Some might even go so far as to say that when they see a beautiful flower they "see God." [1]

The philosophical objections to this argument has already been presented in our section on the Teleological argument. Our objection here is more colloquial, more direct. It involves a simple question: is there really so much beauty in nature that we forget the ugliness in it? How do we account for the ugliness in nature? The following anecdote by Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) serves to show the naivete of the theist's position:

An agnostic friend of mine was invited by the his clergyman to regard a beautiful rose and say that he did not see the working of a supreme intelligence in its production. He had just come from a bed on which a beautiful and innocent girl was being slowly killed by a parasite microbe, and he silenced his pastor by asking if God had also created the microbe. [2]

The point is that many theist prefer to see the world through their own rose-tinted glasses and forget about its ugliness. There is beauty is nature, yes, but there is ugliness too. And until the ugliness can be satisfactorily explained away, the proof of a benevolent deity is lacking:

I need hardly to enlarge on this aspect of nature. There is much sunshine and happiness and beauty in nature: there is also much gloom and pain and ugliness ... Whatever in nature produced the antelope, produces the tiger; whatever produced the woman produced the germ (or other agency) of cancer; whatever gave the child its beauty created the germ of diphtheria. Most of us prefer not to ascribe intelligence to that creative power. [3]

Before leaving this argument for good, I would like to quote an eminent nonbeliever, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), on the subject:

I do not understand where the "beauty" and "harmony" or nature are supposed to be found. Throughout the animal kingdom, animals prey ruthlessly upon each other. Most of them are either cruelly killed by other animals or slowly die of hunger. For my part, I am unable to see any great beauty or harmony in the tapeworm. Let it not be said that this creature is sent as punishment for our sins, for it is more prevalent among animals than among humans. I suppose what is meant by this "beauty" and "harmony" are such things as the beauty of the starry heavens. But one should remember that the stars every now and again explode and reduce everything in their neighborhood to a vague mist. [4]

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1.McCabe, The Existence of God: p75
2.Ibid: p81
3.Ibid: p81-83
4.Egner, Bertrand Russell's Best: p33

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