This week I’ve spent a little time in Palo Alto, California, where my son attended an outstanding cello camp held at Stanford University. Last night we attended a recital of the instructor, Irene Sharp. Beautiful! One of the dramatic pieces on the program was the Sonata in D Minor of Shostakovich (Opus 40). Perhaps the most enjoyable work of Shostakovich I’ve heard, enhanced in part by the intense and almost theatrical delivery of the pianist, Steven Lightburn.
During the recital, I pondered the miracle of the gift of hearing and perhaps even more impressive, the gift of music, or the ability to ponder, enjoy, or even create music. Talk.origins lists music as one of the claims of creationists used to discredit evolution. It is dismissed as a mere attack based on incredulity, pointing out that the fact that we don’t know how something happened doesn’t mean it could not happen.
For me, the profound depth of beauty and meaning that is possible in the fine arts raises issues far greater than mere incredulity when it comes to the issue of divine versus accidental origins of human life. Selection of random mutations to give a survival advantage is an engine that just doesn’t seem to have the power to take the brain to heights far beyond what is needed to survive. Granted, some people need Bach and Mendelssohn and even Shostakovich to survive, but how could natural selection be responsible for the tools that could create and appreciate such wonders?
When it comes to music, the difference between cavemen needing to distinguish different pitches in their grunts in order to hunt down a beast versus modern humans enjoying the subtleties of fine music are so vast as to demand more attention than a quick dismissal. I’m not saying that music cannot be explained in any degree by standard theories of evolution – some forms of rap music seem to be well covered by those theories already – but the joy of great music seems light years beyond what natural selection can handle.
Thanks be to God for the divinely designed human ear and brain and for the gift of music.