I decided to do a blog about this because it’s actually the closest thing to a compelling argument for ID that I’ve ever actually heard, and it’s unsporting to just argue against the truly lame arguments. So when a difficult to refute one comes along I feel I ought to blog about it. I can see problems with it, and it’s not even really stated as an argument (just vague inferences). It’s just an observation in nature that’s given as “absolute proof” of a god with no actual logic. And it’s presented as science when it’s not testable in any way and isn’t actually science. But still, it’s the best I think I’ve ever heard from the ID camp.
Basically it’s the fibonacci sequence. If you don’t know this is a quirk of mathematics that was discovered by a dude in the middle ages where he was screwing around with numbers and graphs and found that if you take two numbers and add them together, then add the second number with the sum of the first two numbers, and repeat this process (ie add zero and 1 to get 1, add 1 and 1 to get 2, ad 1 and 2 to get three etc) that it formed a pattern that could be charted perfectly with no overlap, like so:
He then drew a line between the numbers to form a spiral:
This is often referred to as the “golden spiral”, and the ratio of the distances between each point is referred to as the “golden ratio”.
So what does this have to do with intelligent design? The guy who came up with this number (known as fibonacci, though that wasn’t his name) noticed that this “golden” ratio appeared in many places in nature, in the patterns of leaves and fruit and even the human body. It has since been seen in spiral galaxies and described in quantum interactions, which, while they don’t coherently state the argument in the video, I’m guessing the argument is “see, this is found in nature on the smallest and largest scales, so the same being must have been responsible for all of this”.
A few problems with this are a) it’s not testable. B) even if there were a common underlying cause that doesn’t mean it’s a god or it’s consciously intelligent etc. I could argue that because stars and planets are relatively round and exist on dramatically different scales they must therefore have both been created by god – but I wouldn’t make this argument since we know already that the common force that makes them round is the crude force of gravity. So too all of these phenomenon could have a common natural cause. It could be some quirk of quantum mechanics echoing out throughout every other scale of the universe.
Another explanation is that it could manifest itself in all these things for simple geometric reasons, the fact that that ratio is so fluid and perfect and doesn’t overlap might simply mean it will occur over and over again by simple forces moving things out of the way of other things. In other words it would manifest itself in different ways for the same reason a wake of a boat might mathematically be the same as the wake of a meteor going through a gas or dust cloud in space. Not because either is “designed” but because pushing something out of the way in one instance is much like pushing something out of the way in another instance. This seems plausible to me partly because one of the examples in the video was the crest of an ocean wave matching the fibinocci sequence, I was thinking “you think waves are ‘designed’?” They are by definition the result of crude, unintelligent forces. So it’s not that simple.
In nature this sequence could be common for a number of reasons – one could be that we share many genes with every other species due to common ancestry and the genes that plot the cell pathways in a banana also do things in your body. In fact genes often perform multiple functions. And genes operate on mathematical principles, cells divide specific numbers of times in specific patterns and then stop or do something else. This is why there is a mathematical relationship between the numbers of branches on a tree and the spaces between them. So a gene for “reproduce x number of times before stopping” could simply be shared by many species of plants and animals and be used for many functions. In evolution genes are copied and recycled and re-purposed all the time. Another reason could be that it’s simply the most efficient pattern so it’s favored by natural selection. Yet another reason could be that it’s simply a matter of what is physically possible – as I said the spiral pattern doesn’t overlap – it’s not like a plant would be efficient if it’s leaves overlapped themselves (if that’s even strictly possible). And maybe the dynamics of a galaxy don’t allow for or favor that kind of overlap either, at least at certain stages of their development (not nearly all galaxies are spiral). In the ID video when they stressed the “design” of spiral galaxies they used this picture:
Which ironically is a picture of two galaxies, one of which is not spiral and actually collided with the other galaxy. So pictures of galaxies smashing into each other is proof of perfect design, lol. I actually had a hard time finding this picture just searching for “galaxy collision” and “spiral galaxy” because there were so many pictures of spiral galaxies smashing into things. The fact that galaxies do actually change over time to get their spiral shape and can apparently become spiral again after being disrupted by interactions with other galaxies to me suggests that fundamental properties of nature are at work rather than galaxies being “arranged” that way like god was the universe’s interior decorator.
But yeah, anyway, you get the same spiral pattern mixing hot chocolate, so I think it’s a logistical/mechanical thing, not an intelligent design thing. Unless god is the architect of beverages, spoons, cups etc too. If we can easily make the same pattern without trying or applying any intelligence, that to me suggests that the same thing can happen in nature without the need for a deliberate intelligence.
Which brings me to my final hypothesis – that we’re just seeing things that aren’t there. We’ve all looked at clouds and seen shapes and patterns, or looked at this and gotten the joke:
Our minds are built to recognize patterns, and sometimes we see patterns that aren’t there or are accidental. Do you see a potato chip or a sleeping bird?
Or a candle?
Or a dog?
We can see things that aren’t there visually, but it’s actually much easier to do so with something as abstract as mathematics – anyone who has ventures into the world of numerology knows how easy it is to see patterns in nature that aren’t there. Here is an excerpt from one numerology website:
September 11th (9+1+1 = 11) is the 254th day of the year (2+5+4 = 11) which means there is 111 days left in the year. New York was the 11th state to endorse the constitution and New York City has 11 letters. World Trade Center buildings 1 and 2 were 110 stories tall. The Freemasonic Statue of Liberty right near the Trade Center stands on an 11-pointed star pedestal. The number “11” itself is two pillars side by side like the twin towers. It was even American Airlines (AA = 11) Flight 11 carrying 11 crew members that allegedly hit the north tower.
“What were the flight numbers on September 11, 2001? Flight 175 = 1 + 7 + 5 = 13, Flight 11, flight 77, Flight 93 left gate 17. And you all actually thought that radical Muslims with plastic knives and box cutters did this? Then you must be brainwashed. Try Masons.”
The webpage (of which this is a tiny fragment just to give you an idea of how far you can go with a single number) concludes:
Did you know World War I was declared over at precisely the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month? (11:00, November 11) To this day we celebrate this Armstice as Veterans Day every year on the 11th. Just after 9/11 the movie Oceans 11 was released 12/7/01 (1+2+7+1 = 11). The “Two Towers” Lord of the Rings movie featuring an evil all-seeing eye enemy came out the following year 12/19/02 (1+2+1+9-2 = 11 and 12+19+2 = 33). The trilogy starts with Bilbo’s 111th birthday party.
They are making exactly the same argument – all these things follow the same pattern and we see the same number repeated over and over so they must all be by a common design.
So is the fibonacci sequence “absolute proof” of intelligent design as the video claims? Were the “oceans” movies and the lord of the rings trilogy a masonic conspiracy to confuse people who are bad at math? Or do things sometimes happen for reasons that we don’t fully understand immediately and do people sometimes see things that aren’t there?