What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘Beauty’? Do you immediately recall the appearance of a person you find irresistible? Or a scenic view of a place close to your heart?…
Thomas Aquinas, prominent philosopher and Catholic Priest of the Middle Ages, defined beauty as ‘something which gives pleasure when seen’ – or as more accurate translation might suggest, ‘when contemplated’. He believed that beauty is both objective (can be formulated and recreated) and requires active intelligence to be appreciated.
Much of what we think of as beautiful is likely the result of human design and creation – a painted master piece or an emotive musical composition, for example. But have you ever seen anything so stunningly, but seemingly unnecessarily, beautiful – that it’s made you question how and why such a thing exists at all? You’re not alone: Beauty in existence has been the inspiration behind philosophical thinking for centuries!
Aquinas concluded that the only reasonable answer to nature’s naturally occurring beauty is an intelligent designer, or God, and that the only reason we are able to contemplate, recreate and find pleasure in it is because that God must be good and care about us.
Did you know, with all of Science’s accumulated knowledge and understanding – still no-one can explain why leaves are green? We know the thing that makes leaves green is chlorophyll. We know that chlorophyll works by absorbing light to fuel the photosynthesis needed to grow and sustain plants. But we also know that of all the available colours on the natural spectrum, black is by far the most efficient at light absorption. Evolution teaches us that things exist as they are because, through a process of trial and error, they have simply become the most efficient at doing what they do and have effectively beaten all the others to it. Why is it then that leaves, which can come in all colours and designs, have remained predominantly green? As I said before, no-one really knows.
Imagine, for a moment, that leaves were predominantly black though. Imagine that evolutionary function stripped the world’s fields and forests and jungles and plains of their vibrant and lush green hues and replaced them with dark monochrome tones. Is it an image that brings you pleasure?
Perhaps one of the most comforting privileges of embracing a spiritual faith, is not just being able to appreciate the natural and often needless beauty of creation – but to also be grateful to the designer who designed it to evolve that way.