Can Nature Be Creative?

Can nature be considered an artist? Perhaps the water sculpted grandeur of the grand canyon is in fact a work of art. Is sentience and creativity a necessary condition to create? Is a masterpiece by accident any less of a masterpiece?
It may be narrow minded to restrict creativity to the brains of human beings. Most significant is the fact that nature is in fact responsible for crafting the human brain. This is an interesting vertex. It is apparently possible for an organ capable of creativity to come from random perturbations with no artistic instinct at all. Make no mistake, God does play dice. Mass and energy pops in and out of nothingness all the time at sufficiently small scales (h/2mc^2) stochastically. 3.2*10^-12 joules in natural units for a positron-electron pair (2*10^-12 meters in lay units). The fundamental laws of nature are probabilistic. It seems that a creative organ can be forged from random processes. What are the implications here? Either (1) A random process can be a creative process or (2) Creativity is not conserved and creativity can be…created or destroyed…out of nothing.
Let’s discuss the implications of (1) the possibility of a random process exhibiting creativity. This has rather deep consequences. It means someone or something can create art by accident with no intent whatsoever. We can trip over a stack of paint cans and the resulting mess can be considered art even though no emotion, message, or meaning is communicated by it. This runs against our intuitions of creativity. Though perhaps we are defining creativity in too much of a humano-centric frame. Creativity in the most basic sense means to bring something into existence that did not exist before. For artists this often means bringing a new thought or emotion into the world. For a quantum vacuum this means popping quark plasma out of nothing that would eventually cool and crystallize into our universe. The latter seems to run against our intuitions for what creativity means because there is no artist involved. Creating a new emotional landscape inside a viewer of your art seems on a higher plane than just creating a new subatomic particle. Though we may be too humano-centric in snubbing it. After all, almost all visual art is at least inspired by natural forms: landscapes, other people, animals, etc. Even highly abstract visual art relies on concepts like lines, curves, and other forms that come from the geometry of the universe around us (lines don’t exist in non-Euclidean Hyperbolic or Elliptic geometry). Natural creations are at the very least a muse of traditional human art.
A more humano-centric definition of art would be something that makes another human being experience and emotion or thought they otherwise would not have. However, a beautiful landscape is certainly capable of stimulating the human brain in this way. If we continue to insist that nature is not an artist then the only unique aspect to human art is communication. Human made art, creativity proper, communicates a novel emotion, thought, or concept from one human mind to another. It is a bridge of qualia then. Music especially has this quality. Listening to the first movement of Moonlight Sonata allows us to empathize with Beethoven’s stormy emotional plane. We can feel how he felt slowly losing his hearing, knowing he would soon never again be able to hear the voice of his student who he was madly in love with. Is it possible for the natural universe to create this sort of bridge between us and it. A proper student of physics will at least have the suspicion that this is the case.
There is a problem with the above definition of creativity: something brought into existence out of nothing. Everything must, at some point, be created. Therefore, everything must then be considered art. Though I have no qualm with this consequence personally. As someone who has a deep understanding and respect for nature I wouldn’t be surprised if the forge of the universe was in some sense an artist.
Let’s discuss the second possibility: that creativity is not conserved. Creativity itself was not created, it simply entered the plane of existence one day. One day it will presumably leave or be destroyed. It seems peculiar that a given system is not capable of creativity, yet it can generate another system that is creative. That new system it generated must then be considered distinct from its parent system. It seems odd that something not capable of creativity can simply build a proxy that can exhibit creativity. It would be as if a bunch of squirrels one day built a computer that could compose better than Mozart. In fact, we are creative beings and we have not been able to build a system that exhibits creativity. No computer has displayed creativity, artificial intelligence is a pipe dream at the moment. Does that mean that creative systems are much worse at generating other creative systems than non-creative systems are? Is it more likely for a non-creative system to give rise to a creative system than for a creative system to make another creative system?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s