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The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet [Paperback]

Thomas Dubay
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: 11.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Oct 1999
While everyone is delighted by beauty, and the more alive among us are positively fascinated by it, few are explicitly aware that we can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity. Dubay explores the reasons why all of the most eminent physicists of the twentieth century agree that beauty is the primary standard for scientific truth. Likewise, the best of contemporary theologians are also exploring with renewed vigor the aesthetic dimensions of divine revelation. Honest searchers after truth can hardly fail to be impressed that these two disciplines, science and theology, so different in methods, approaches and aims, are yet meeting in this and other surprising and gratifying ways. This book relates these developments to nature, music, academe and our unquenchable human thirst for unending beauty, truth and ecstasy, a thirst quenched only at the summit of contemplative prayer here below, and in the consummation of the beatific vision hereafter.

Product details

  • Paperback: 365 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (1 Oct 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898707528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898707526
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.6 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,024,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
In a work that often draws upon that of theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar, Thomas Dubay begins with a traditional Thomistic account of objective beauty, and in the context of the testimony of mordern science to the 'evidential power of beauty' (the beauty of a theory is an indication of its truth - especially in the realm of mathematical theory and its application to physics), he offers us a guided meditation on the grand, 'symphonic' beauty of creation, treating us to a tour of the universe from the very large to the very small. I appreciated this book for its emphasis on the objectivity of beauty, for bringing science and theology into a united vision of the beauty of creation, and for highlighting the ultimate nihilistic consequences of metaphysical naturalism. On the other hand: I don't think Aquinas provides the best account of the objectivity of beauty and Dubay gave little argument in support of an objective view of beauty (the interested should see chapter one of 'The Abolition of Man' by C.S.Lewis). Dubay also pushes for the 'otherness' of God to the point where one wonders how anything can be truly said of 'Him', even by analogy. Although Dubay presents the powerful new sentific/ philosophical evidence for 'Intelligent Design' provided by the 'Intelligent Design Movement' (Michael J. Denton, Michael A. Behe, et al.) it was sometimes hard to tell whether he interpreted this evidence in the context of some variety of 'creationism' or of 'theistic evolution', and this led to an unhelpful sense of theological and scientific vagueness at times. Dubay concludes with a meditation on the beauty of the gospel and the saints, using the 'evidential power of beauty' for apologetic effect, something I think other Christian apologists could usefully take on board and develop. Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
88 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Reading For Lovers Of Beauty 11 Feb 2000
By Gary Wiens - Published on
As the title suggests, this new book by Fr. Dubay is a wonderfully written and compelling argument for the power of Beauty as a primary evidence of the existence of Truth made evident in the handiwork of the Lord at every level of the created order. One of the most exhilarating books I have read in the past five years, Evidential Power makes the assertion that "every experience of beauty points to infinity".
Fr. Dubay structures this volume in three sections. The first, "Laying The Groundwork", deals primarily with a theology of Beauty, establishing the place that Beauty holds in declaring the glory of God in every created thing. The important cornerstone that is laid in this section is that all beauty in the created order, both in the heavens and on the earth, derives its beauty from the "radiant form" of the Person of Jesus Christ, Who is the express image of the Beautiful God. As human beings created in that image, we are made to resonate with the form of that which is beautiful, and we find ourselves captivated by beauty wherever we see it. All things have beauty in proportion to their conformity to the radiant form of Jesus, and ugliness, or deformity, emerges when the radiant form of Christ is denied or lost.
Fr. Dubay suggests three levels of common understanding of beauty: the comeliness of the appearance of something lovely on the sense level, the spiritual beauty of a person who has begun to transcend the natural realm through the consideration of higher things, and the beauty of Divine glory, which is the pinnacle of Beauty. All these levels find their meaning in relationship with (conformity to) the classical principle of Beauty, that which has unity, harmony, proportion, wholeness, and radiance. These qualities are found in perfection in the Trinitarian Godhead, in the beautiful and radiant relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As the first section proceeds, Fr. Dubay gives expression to the questions of how and why we are impacted by that which is beautiful, and the destiny that is in the heart of God as He draws us by the power of Beauty.
The second section of the book, "Savoring The Symphony", is given over to the examination of how Beauty is expressed specifically in the created order. The author begins with the realm of non-human beauty in "macro-marvels" (the cosmos, stars, planets, and galaxies, etc.), "midi-marvels" (the world of plants and animals), and "mini-marvels" (the world of the microscopic). Focusing on the marvelous design of the created order, from the biggest to the smallest, Fr. Dubay leads us on a tour de force of intricacy, intelligence, and purpose rooted in the mind of God as He painstakingly fashioned the cosmos.
This section culminates in an overview of "the anthropic principle", an emerging scientific theory that deals with the inescapable conclusion that the whole universe was designed in a precise way so that human beings could live upon the earth in a very narrow window of time. Moving from this to a discussion of humankind as "the crown of the cosmos", the author shows that the creative power of God finds its highest expression in the creation of human beings as His own special treasure. This truly is a mind-boggling section of the book, as the author gives example after example of the intricacy with which God designed the whole thing so that we might live and have relationship with Him.
The final section, "Divine Glory", deals more specifically with Beauty as it is found in the Divine Personality, expressed in the radiant image of Jesus Christ, and as it emerges in those who give themselves extravagantly to the pursuit of holiness and beauty. This radiant beauty, or reflected glory, shines forth in proportion to the whole-hearted gazing upon the Lord Jesus in worship and contemplative prayer. As one would expect, Fr. Dubay's Catholic orientation is obvious here, but in a compelling way. As he cites the examples of the saints of the Church who have given themselves lavishly to this pursuit, it is difficult to argue with the results: the saints have lives that have reflected the character and beauty of Christ both in the personal realm, and in the realm of ministering to humanity in His Name.
For those who have a painful history in the Catholic Church (and what person who has been in any organized denomination for very long has emerged totally unscathed?), Fr. Dubay's enthusiasm may seem a bit much. However, the argument is solid: when we examine the lives of those who have given themselves in unrestrained ways to loving God, the fruit of their existence is self-evident. This reality is perhaps the final and most substantial proof that the thesis of the book is valid: there is an evidential power in Beauty, and we are blessed that Fr. Dubay has seen fit to instruct us.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ten Stars for Dubay 21 Dec 2003
By Sue Lit-Fan - Published on
I can't say enough about this book to do it real justice. Evidential Power of Beauty has not only opened my eyes, mind, and senses to creation on a deeper level, but it has intensified my hunger and wonder that is often stifled and desensitized in American pop culture. Though one reviewer commented on Dubay's "attack" on rock and roll, I don't believe it was an attack at all. Quite the opposite. Dubay simply made a point about why certain types of music produced harsh, often filthy, shallow repetitive melodies, while others, such as Mozart, produced a more complicated, pleasing piece that required the best of the mathematical beauty and design he discusses throughout the book. It was just another comparison of the beauty of complicated design versus simplistic noise. However,I can give Dubay grace in that area, as I must allow for his lack of knowledge for a band such as YES (very complicated, very beautiful pieces of music)often categorized as "rock." (Though quite a different caliber than,say,Ozzy Osbourne.)I give Dubay a break on that facet of the book.
I am not a scientist,a theologian, or a Catholic. You don't have to be to enjoy this book immensely and even learn a thing or two about something you probably never thought twice about--for example,water. Dubay takes time to explore the "givens" in our world that are so casually seen as "miraculous accidents." His marvelous prose and fire for God lights every page. The underlying push for even beginning to ponder God's mystery,awe, and love is, as Dubay quoted, the "ability to have the humility to sit at the foot of a dandelion."
The book is simply a masterful work of art, a lovely tour of how theology and science merge together at the point of Beauty. Though both disciplines have opposite starting points, they lead to many of the same conclusions about our Universe.
Buy or borrow this book, find a comfortable chair, and take your time absorbing the "evidential beauty" in this book.
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thomas Dubay - A Man Who Truly Understands Beauty 16 Oct 2000
By John J. Morley - Published on
This book is truely wonderfull. My journey with God has always been an interesting one and lately it has been a surprizing one but Thomas Dubay has helped me to understand a deep part of God's call to be that I did not really understand until I read this book.
I have always been fascinated by science and nature but lately in my work with the elderly and with prisoners in the criminal justice system as well as my growning sprituality which includes contemplative prayer. Thomas Dubay's book has helped to to understand how both of these aspects of my walk with God tie to my early appreication of science and nature.
I have also developed a great appreciation for Han Hurs Von Balthasar from this book.
Thomas Dubay is a truely gifted writer and I hope to see many more of his books in the future.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Evidential Power of Beauty. 27 Aug 2003
By Wesley L. Janssen - Published on
The author's thesis is simply distilled and has often been an overlooked feature of the teleological argument for the existence and nature of God: not only that design is evidence of intelligence and will, but that beauty is evidence of truth. Catholic theologian Thomas Dubay illustrates the connection between beauty and truth. Physicist Richard Feynman said, "You can recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity." Einstein regarded the beauty of a physical theory as a proof superior to empirical evidence. Mathematicians have long regarded the beauty and elegance of an equation or mathematical expression as the most necessary indicator of its truth. We have come to realize that nature is ultimately mathematics, beautiful mathematics (Plato was right). Why is reality, at its core, beauty? Whether the equations that describe the deepest features of the quantum world, the fine tuning of the cosmic initial conditions, the highly specified organization of microbiological cell "cities" (we could go on and on), nature is all about beauty. What does this indicate to the uncallused observer? And what then is the evidential power of ugliness? Dubay contrasts the two contending worldviews: materialism (existence is a meaningless and ultimately absurd accident), or theism (existence is intended, meaningful), concluding that the very ugliness of absurdity is evidence of the falsity of atheism/philosophical materialism.
"... simple observation shows that people, including academics, readily welcome intellectual interventions and therefore design, when the question is free of cultural biases and does not impinge on their personal lifestyle and chosen philosophy. I find it both amusing and instructive that when scientists come upon evidence in their field (anthropology, for example) that seems to support a theory popular among their colleagues, no one hints that an apparent causal connection was due to random chance. In an archeological dig, if the investigators find a stone so chipped that it could have served as a knife, they conclude that it was deliberately made, that is, designed for that purpose by a human ancestor. Their inference may well be true, but all the same, it is enormously weaker than design in a bird's wing, and fantastically weaker than design throughout any living cell. In the latter, the case for design is overwhelming. When it is rejected, the cause must be due to personal philosophy and bias having nothing to do with science. In more plain language, the rejection has all the appearance of a materialistic dogma that no divine mind must be admitted. This is bad science because it is a position based on a personal philosophy and not on scientific data. The carefully arranged and massive blocks of stone at Stonehenge are a more detailed example of a scientific acceptance of design when such is popular. Their precise positioning is explained, most likely correctly, by the deliberate will to align them to the sunrise at the summer solstice. This likelihood seems stronger than that of the chipped stone, but it remains far, far weaker than the endless examples nature furnishes ... Yes, something less than cool, objective scientific thinking lies behind the rejection of mind behind nature."
The science here isn't always precise, but where it is not it seems that Dubay has understated his case. Thus the discrepancies do not damage the author's thesis. The greater flaw to this volume is that the author has presented not only an apologia for the reality of a wise Creator but for the Roman Catholic Church. Cases against atheism suddenly incorporate attacks on Protestants, rock n roll, contraception, etc. If the book had been edited into something more lean and 'on-task' this would be a tremendous book. It's pretty good as is.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evidential Power of Beauty 9 Jan 2007
By jcf - Published on
Great book--doesn't completely overcome my doubts about God, but comes close. Everyone should read the chapters on the maxi, midi, and mini marvels we come in contact with every day.
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