by Richard Martin
from Signs of the Times No. 17 - Apr 2005

Four Thousand and Something B.C. The Garden of Eden. Adam enters, looks with admiration at the splendour of the trees around him. A serpent enters. Adam sees the serpent and recognises him.

Adam: Oh, hello, Serpent. What beautiful trees these are. God planted them only a few days ago, I believe.

Serpent: Only a few days ago? Is that what he told you? More like a hundred years - just look how mature they are!

Adam: Why do you have to be so unbelieving? I don't question God - nor should you.

Serpent: Well, there is one way to find out - cut one of the trees down, and count the rings.

Adam: They are only a few days old. There can't be any rings.

Serpent: Then they can't be normal trees.

Adam: All right, we'll cut one down just to make sure. But I don't like this idea of checking up on God.

They proceed to cut one of the trees down... They find lots of rings.

Serpent: What did I tell you?

Adam is a little shocked, and for a moment he has nothing to say. Then:

Adam: I for one am going to believe the Word of God. I tell you he made the trees this week. But he made them with rings so that they could be normal trees.

Serpent: You mean, God made the trees this week but made them look old by giving them lots of rings? Doesn't that seem like planting false evidence?

Adam: Well, I'd rather believe in God's Word than in the dubious theories of scientists!

Serpent: So you're going to believe God's Word so completely that you are willing to set aside plain evidence and discount it?

Adam: You're twisting my words!

Two Thousand and Something A.D. A Country Park. Adam Eveson enters, looks with admiration at the splendour of the trees around him. His distinguished friend Sir Pent enters. Adam Eveson sees Sir Pent and recognises him.

Adam: Oh, hello, Sir Pent. What beautiful trees these are. There is something about them which is, well, magnificent - don't you agree?

Sir Pent nods in agreement.

Adam: Why does beauty stir us to such admiration? Surely God must have put beauty into our inner beings for us to love it so much?

Sir Pent: Is that what the church tells you? I don't think so; I think we only love beauty because of our genes. Millions of years ago chance mutations gave the human race those genes and so chance is the only reason why we love beauty today.

Pause: Adam gives a startled look.

Sir Pent: Blind evolution explains it all. A love of beauty somehow helped us in the past to survive a hostile environment - you've heard of the survival of the fittest, haven't you. Well, the fittest turned out to be those who saw beauty in their surroundings.

Adam: But what you say about chance mutations... seems to link up with something else you said the other day...

Sir Pent: What was that?

Adam: Well, you were describing how the whole universe started with the Big Bang. You said that at that beginning there were billions of electrons, atoms, energy, and what not. And then, you said, millions of chance happenings was all that the universe needed to develop to its present state.

Sir Pent: Yes. Well?

Adam: Well, where does beauty come in? It begins to look to me as if in your thinking nothing but material things like atoms existed at the Big Bang. There seems to have been no place for beauty, or justice. Mankind did not (in your thinking) just learn to value beauty, it actually created the idea of beauty. I don't mean consciously create - as you say, it was chance mutations which did it. But it seems that there was no such thing as beauty until humanity produced it in its thinking.

Sir Pent: Yes. Beauty is just an artificial thing which chance mutations have planted in us. So we don't need the idea of God to explain it.

Adam: But don't even scientists value beauty in the things they are studying? Doesn't the elegance of a theory help to persuade them of its validity?

Sir Pent: Oh yes. But that isn't evidence that God made the things that way. They just evolved like it.

Adam: But why should scientists value beauty if beauty doesn't really exist?...

Sir Pent lifts his hand as if to interrupt, but then appears to change his mind, so Adam proceeds.

Adam: And also, do we not rank civilisations which love music, sculpture, etc, above those which are indifferent towards such things? Well now, Nature, if you are right, has no beauty or love of beauty. It follows that humanity, which loves beauty, should be ranked above Nature even though Nature brought us into being! Isn't that ridiculous - unless you believe in God?

Sir Pent: But I love the Arts as much as you do - all I'm saying is that this love of beauty is just due to purposeless random evolution.

Adam: I know you are a patron of the Arts, and I admire you for it - but you have missed my point. Let me put it another way. Do you not admit that the presence of something wonderful in us -

Sir Pent: Something wonderful? What are you talking about?

Adam: Why, the fact that we value beauty. Don't you admit that that is wonderful, and that all our instincts cry out that it is plain evidence of something wonderful and beautiful outside us - that is, God?

Sir Pent: No I don't. I agree that we all love beauty and instinctively feel that beauty points to some reality outside us. But that feeling is deceptive: it simply comes from genes in us which came from pure chance, from blind evolution.

Adam: So you're going to believe a scientific theory so completely that you are willing to set aside plain evidence and discount it?

Sir Pent: You're twisting my words!

Richard Martin is a retired physics teacher. He organizes the meetings of the North West regional group of Modern Church.