Classic versions of the argument from design usually focus on the mechanisms in the universe, leaving no real place for Creation’s aesthetic facets. But art is often smuggled through the back-door to evade uncomfortable counter-arguments.
Tongue in cheek, Peter Kreeft gives an account of a theistic argument from aesthetic experience:
- “There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
- Therefore there must be a God.
You either see this one or you don’t.”
Kreeft captures the apparent difficulty of formulating an aesthetic argument. Aesthetics is however used to counter objections relating to the physical insignificance of humans in a vast universe.
Alvin Plantinga claims this a argument is predicated on the assumption of knowledge of the kind of character God possesses. It assumed God would be analogous to a classical artist, who employs his materials in the most effective way. Plantinga instead draws the analogy to a romantic artist who desires as much as possible of each different object.
Swinburne follows suit and rebuts with the one-liner: “God is not short of paint.” He interprets the meaning of apparent astronomical wastelands as an aesthetic choice, and calls the clashes of heavenly bodies “beautiful”.
William Lane Craig answers the same objection when formulated by Sean Carrol: “Suppose God is more like a cosmic artist who wants to splash his canvas with the extravagance of design”.
In contrast with the functionalistic tone of the teleological argument, it’s defenses become aesthetic in the work of these three (four counting Kreeft) philosophers of religion.