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Compare Nature’s Sublime Art to Man’s

David Klinghoffer

Järise_järv_Saaremaal.jpg

Science News throws out some striking figures:

Have you ever felt weighed down by your material possessions? The boundless variety of stuff that humans manufacture — tractors, buildings, ballpoint pens, Hello Kitty backpacks — has serious heft: 30 trillion metric tons, a new study estimates. That’s about 50 kilograms for every square meter of Earth’s surface.

The human-made “technosphere,” all the manufactured goods around today, surpasses the natural biosphere in mass and variety, geologist Jan Zalasiewicz of the University of Leicester in England and colleagues report online November 28 in The Anthropocene Review.

To which Douglas Axe, author of Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed, aptly replies:

Human beings have created sublime art that, as George Steiner says memorably in a brief video I’ve recommended before, gestures to the mysterium tremendum. That might be true of music above all, which of course leaves no trace. It’s pure information, if you want to call it that. Yet human beings also create a lot of trash, mountains of sheer ugliness. Our total work product, the “technosphere,” outweighs human beings ourselves, en masse, by 60,000 to 1. Much of that stuff is garbage.

Volume aside, the contrast with nature and its elegance is Dr. Axe’s point. A dolphin or a spider is a masterpiece of what he calls “functional coherence.” Which is the more sublime artist, man or nature? It’s an interesting question to put to a Darwinist, if he’s honest enough to answer forthrightly. I have a view on it, and you likely have yours. We could talk about that.

Why would we expect art in nature at all, given the premise of a cosmos without purpose or design? The fact that there’s something to discuss at all, that nature can be compared meaningfully with Mozart, say, seems pregnant with significance.

Photo: Järise Lake, Estonia, by Margus6 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m on Twitter. Follow me @d_klinghoffer.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.

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