Every good logician must examine his favorite arguments for critical weaknesses. As we continue to look at Holmes’ argument for the goodness of Providence, we must poke holes in the argument of the world’s most famous deductive logician. Although even avowed atheists have struggled with the “problem of beauty,” others have taken the challenge to crumple Holmes’ argument. I thank them for their efforts, though those arguments fail to prove their objection.
One objection we must dispatch quickly. Whether intentional or not, Doyle chose a hybridized flower. That is, this flower does not exist in a naturally occurring state. Perhaps Doyle uses Holmes’ ignorance as a foil against his rigorous deduction. Deduction without intelligence leads to error. Then again, perhaps Doyle himself was unaware of the origin of the moss rose. Whatever the cause, the argument does not stand or fall on a technicality. Other wildflowers exist to force man to grapple with the question of beauty. Replace the moss rose with the daisy, the poppy, or the tulip, and man still faces the same question. How does man’s experience of beauty fit within a materialistic worldview?
The next objection to Sherlock’s argument follows the evolutionary course. This argument suggests that we naturally find ourselves attracted to flowers as do the insects. The evolutionist argues that since insects and man share an origination point, we would naturally share some traits. If insects find themselves attracted to flowers for evolutionary purposes (to find food) man mind has a vestigial attractions to them as well. They would argue that we needn’t flee the logic of evolutionary theory merely for some sentimental feeling that merely rises from a potentially evolutionary source.
This argument seem appropriate as it regards flowers, but fails to comprehend the totality of the “problem of beauty.” Why does man find things beautiful that cannot be justified by evolutionary theory? Here, I direct our thoughts to the space race. Why does man still look to the stars in wonder? What evolutionary cause brings this upward look? Psychology may propose a developmental explanation based on a child looking upward in wonder, but even this explanation conflicts with human experience.
How shall we deal with the “problem of beauty”? Before our experience of beauty, the materialist has no answer. Logically, the materialistic arguments may seem plausible, but our experience defies logic. We simply cannot accept the facile answers of materialism for the glories that appear before our eyes. Something beyond “matter in motion” must explain the data we experience. Why does man have a sense of awe at beauty? Does materialism explain the arts, music, and our awe at a sunset or the panorama of the mountains? Why can we feel our souls awakening at the pounding of the surf or the wind rustling the leaves in a forrest? There must be an explanation that transcends the sceptic’s materialism. Our logical argument must include an explanation of our feelings that grants them their true substance.
Why then does the sceptic deny transcendence in the face of the evidence? Something other than logic must drive his objections. Whether the sceptic recognizes it or not, he remains unconvinced of the problem of beauty not because the evidence lacks persuasion but because he refuses to see it. He clings too tightly to his preconceptions to allow the evidence to prove him wrong. This kind of blindness finds its justification in nature. Science demonstrates how reasoning life-forms may develop or inherit faults of perception. From color-blindness to hallucinations, people have experienced errors in sense perception. In a similar way, our minds tend to prevent transcendent perception. Our sense perception only recognizes the terrestrial. The force of the natural evidence only reveals to us the material. The oddity is not that we become materialists. This is natural when we only perceive the material. The oddity is that we remain convinced spiritualists. The sublime continues to entrance us while we only perceive the horrible, dirty events surrounding us. The soul, the part of our being that transcends “matter in motion” drives our minds to consider things other than the material.
I assume that if you are reading this, you are already convinced of the transcendent. The question that may trouble you, as it troubles me, is “Why?” I am devoted to logic. I understand beauty as a reflection of God’s glory in creation, but I struggle to integrate it into my theology. In the logical nature of Christian doctrine, how does God use beauty? Does beauty interface with logic in the proof of God? Why does Sherlock, the poster child from rigorous logic, go to the flowers for the defense of a good Providence?