An Argument from Beauty
by Jonathan Ruth
I recently had the privilege of seeing “Les Misérables” at the Queen’s Theatre in London. I believe it has played continuously for something like 26 years, so to say it was fantastic is to not quite do it justice. For some reason, while I sat enthralled in that theater (generally speaking, I’m not even a fan of musicals), I kept thinking about the popular atheistic beliefs of the big bang, evolution, causality, etc., and I wondered to myself, “If there is no creator, if there is no God, then why is this play popular? What is it inside us that is moved by what we see and hear on this stage?”
If you truly believe that we are evolved (and evolving) creatures, then there is so much that must be based on causality. For example, at some point a creature crawled out of the water and needed to breathe air, so after however many thousands of years, the creature developed lungs. And yet, here I sit in this theatre, with people literally being brought to tears by the drama unfolding before us. If you know the play or have read the book, then you understand the themes we are dealing with here: love, sacrifice, second-chance, redemption, forgiveness, independence, freedom, etc. What is utilitarian about any of that?
Of course, one might argue that as we evolved into more advanced creatures we gained a conscience, we developed the capacity to love, etc., but I do not see it. If we are to believe – as many would like us to do today – that all of life can be distilled to some chemical explanation or some lifeless, scientific cause, then why doesn’t Valjean kill Javert the first chance he gets? Why does he instead actually end up sparing his life when he is captured behind the barricade?
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