Beauty touches something deep within us. It captivates and delights us. It is consoling, stunning, intriguing, inspiring, exhilarating. We recognize it. It arrests our attention.
But beauty is elusive.
We are unable to analyze, categorize or place beauty together with all the other topics that we study. Our attempts to describe it fail miserably; our definitions fall short. The greatest philosophers acknowledge that the best we can do is to recognize it when it is there. Beauty will not be explained or contained.It is real, it is wonderful—but it defies analysis.
Something similar happens with God.
Humans have an innate sense that he is there, but we cannot reduce him to a formula or an equation. We can worship or reject him, but we cannot fully explain him. It is a mistake to ask scientists to prove or disprove his existence. He does not reside within their field of study—and good science recognizes its limitations.
“The secret of beauty lies, not in its chemical analysis, but in another mysterious reality,” writes J. Warner Wallace. Science cannot explain why a certain combination of pigments on a canvas is beautiful. And it is incapable of unraveling the mystery of God. When science finishes explaining everything it will have explained nothing.
Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
Wonder does not exist on the basis of rational explanations. It simply doesn’t work that way. It shows up unexpectedly and gives itself to those who are ready to be astonished. We are not about to figure out beauty and much less God—the source of all beauty—but they demand our attention. To ignore them is to be blind.
And to be fully alive involves responding to the awe-inspiring reality of both.
One of the fish in my tank told the other fish that he has discovered the explanation for the daily arrival of food which he observed always coincides with a large shadow; therefore the shadow produces the food. When asked what causes the shadow, he says “it’s a natural law”.
Another fish disagreed. She believes that the shadow is a sign of some Being that lives outside of the tank entirely. She also claims (with no evidence) that this Being loves the fish and provides for them. The first fish informed her that she is irrational and unscientific.
When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe
and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting
to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure
many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.
–Physicist Tony Rothman, Former post-doctoral fellow at Oxford University