An Intelligent Design Argument That Made Me Think.

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?

You choose.

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About agnophilo

Nerd.
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21 Responses to An Intelligent Design Argument That Made Me Think.

  1. YouToMe says:

    Interesting. thought provoking. I still see patterns in other things but agree for most part

  2. maniacsicko says:

    if that car coming at my direction at night, i’d definitely bring out my light saber

  3. ascultafili says:

    There are definitely patterns in nature, such as Fibonacci sequences.  Consistent recurrences in proportional distances in space that correspond to three times pi, and so on.  If you want to see intelligent design you’ll see it and if you dont you’ll see something else.

  4. MiDarkLyfe says:

     Math is the language of science. At its core, math is patterns. I try to indoctrinate my 2nd and 3rd grade students with this idea: “Math is patterns. Look for the pattern!”Since everything in the natural world derives from some scientific principal, and science is described by math, and math is patterns, the same patterns should arrise everywhere. I am guessing there must only be a finite set of patterns, maybe a huge number but finite in the end. It even explains, to a degree, why the potato chip looks like a duck. Or frost on a window looks like a fern, which looks like a pine tree, which looks like a cloud formation. We see the same pattern that arises from the same math formula. BTW, the new Common Core Curriculum (Educational standards set by the US govn.) has removed the study of patterns from the kindergarten math curriculum. Yeah, how dumb can you get? (I guess we’re about to find out!)

  5. musterion99 says:

     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.If God exists, don’t you think he created those forces which cause waves? 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.Do you believe the properties of nature always existed? If not, how do you think they came into existence?I agree with you that the fibonacci sequence is not proof for God.

  6. musterion99 says:

    @ascultafili –  proportional distances in space that correspond to three times piThat’s interesting. Do you have any links for that?

  7. agnophilo says:

    @YouToMe – Yuppers. : )  It’s not that the concept of a god is false, it’s that it’s totally un-testable because if there were a god it could make the universe or life any which way.  So there’s nothing that could possible be inconsistent with the god hypothesis, or that ought to be true if there is a god.  A benevolent god that answers prayers etc is another matter entirely though.@maniacsicko – That sounds wrong.@ascultafili – I neither want to see it nor don’t want to see it, so I saw like 6 things.  Some of which make more sense than others.  Bear in mind math itself is an artificial construct.@MiDarkLyfe – I think you know more about math than I do, lol.  And as for a finite number of patterns, attempts to calculate the number of possible stable chemicals that can exist suggest there might not be enough matter in the universe to make one of each possible chemical combination.  This makes sense when you consider that DNA is a single chemical and there are vast number of configurations of possible DNA/life just with 4 chemical base pairs, not even counting other possible types of DNA which incorporate other chemicals and elements.  So yes, a finite number of combinations, but one that would take perhaps trillions of universes worth of matter to fully express.  Then when you consider an animal or a person or a civilization one big “pattern”, it gets even more insane.  In that sense it would probably still be finite, but the number of possibilities would be so insanely vast that it might as well be infinite.  And people think we need to invoke a multiverse to explain the complexity of life…  The potential for complexity of just this universe dwarfs the universe itself which is more vast than we can begin to wrap our minds around.@musterion99 – “If God exists, don’t you think he created those forces which cause waves?”First of all I wouldn’t assume the origin of them was a “he” or was intelligent or was anything.  The only honest answer is “I don’t know”.  And if god created the properties of the universe, where did god come from?  How did “he” make the properties of the universe?  How did he make matter/energy?  Invoking a god, intelligent designer or whatever you want to call it doesn’t address the problem of origins at all.  And in this instance the ID proponents are saying that spiral galaxies were made spiral the same way a building is made rectangular.  They’re saying god actually made it that pattern, not that god made the properties of the universe which is a different notion.”Do you believe the properties of nature always existed? If not, how do you think they came into existence?”I have no idea (to both questions).  We are like cavemen asking why the sun moves across the sky.  One day we may have the answers, or our descendants, but for now we don’t know.  Invoking a god doesn’t give us any new information – only more questions.  So I choose not to do so.”I agree with you that the fibonacci sequence is not proof for God.”It’s just the god of the gaps argument in one of it’s zillion forms.

  8. ascultafili says:

    @musterion99 – sorry, no.  That’s from long ago in school, but probably any scientist or current science major would know a few.

  9. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo –  And if god created the properties of the universe, where did god come from? I really don’t know why atheists keep asking that question. God would have always existed just as something other than God could have always existed. There would have to be an eternally existing first cause, otherwise you have the problem of infinite regress.Invoking a god, intelligent designer or whatever you want to call it doesn’t address the problem of origins at all.Since we have no proof, it does address it as much as anything else. You can say it doesn’t but that’s just your opinion. If you mean “address” as meaning proof, then you’re right.

  10. MiDarkLyfe says:

    @agnophilo – Hardly! I once knew a lot more math than I know now. As a third grade teacher I get so focused on the skills they need that looking at a fourth grade math book makes me blanche and go weak in the knees.I think some patterns are easier to create, which maybe why we see them more often. Like some chemical combinations form more readily than others, which is why they exsist in such quantities and other substances are rare.  Or it may be that some patterns “speak” to us more. Example: Every year I have my students color the products of the different numbers on a hundreds chart. Each makes a pattern, but some are more pleasing to the eye and thus easier to see. Times 2 and x5 make straight lines, x3 makes slanting lines, and x9 makes one big slash across the chart. Times 7 makes a pattern too, but you really have to look for it – it is a skipped spaces, down one over two kind of pattern. We don’t see that pattern readily. Maybe the stuff in the universe that looks messy and strange to us is just following a pattern we don’t especially take to.Scientists have studied the rings left by coffee cups (I am not making this up!) and found they follow a predictable pattern in their formation! To us, it looks like a mess, but at the microscopic level, it is a thing of beauty. 

  11. agnophilo says:

    @musterion99 – “I really don’t know why atheists keep asking that question. God would have always existed just as something other than God could have always existed. There would have to be an eternally existing first cause, otherwise you have the problem of infinite regress.”So you avoid the problem of infinite regress by just deciding god’s existence regresses into infinity?  That anything (a god, universe, first cause, whatever) could begin to exist on it’s own or never not exist – neither of these options make any sense.  Theists just act like a god magically existing for no reason makes sense.  The universe existing doesn’t make any sense, but we have to accept it because it does observably exist.  We do not have to accept the existence of an unsupported creator.”Since we have no proof, it does address it as much as anything else. You can say it doesn’t but that’s just your opinion. If you mean “address” as meaning proof, then you’re right.”No, I mean it doesn’t explain it (the problem of origins) or shed any light on the matter in the least, and to make matters worse it overcomplicates the problem and creates more unanswerable questions than we had before.  In terms of an explanation the notion of god is a waste of time.

  12. agnophilo says:

    @MiDarkLyfe – Not sure I follow about the painting (hard to visualize) but I agree with the general idea similar to (chaos theory).  And I agree that the most mundane things are often beautiful and complex.  I found out awhile ago that we now have electron microscopes so sensitive they can see individual atoms in molecules.

  13. musterion99 says:

    @agnophilo – So you avoid the problem of infinite regress by just deciding god’s existence regresses into infinity? You sound confused. It doesn’t sound like you understand the difference between a  first cause and infinite regress. In the context of something existing eternally, time is a moot point because time requires a beginning. If time itself is infinite in the past, then we could never arrive at the present. The reason we are able to arrive at the present time is because time in this universe is not infinite but had a beginning. Even Stephen Hawking agrees with that. If you have something that has not eternally existed and requires a creator, which then also requires a creator, etc…. then you have the problem of infinite regress. How would it even be logically possible? That anything (a god, universe, first cause, whatever) could begin to exist on it’s own or never not exist – neither of these options make any sense.That’s not what I said. I never said it would “begin” to exist. It would have always existed. Something has to have always existed. If there was ever a point when absolutely nothing existed, then nothing would always exist. Absolute nothingness cannot logically produce something. There’s nowhere from it to come from. Theists just act like a god magically existing for no reason makes sense. It absolutely makes sense. Something has always existed and it makes sense that the complexities in life were created by something with intelligence. So even though it can’t be proven, it absolutely makes sense. I know you don’t agree, but millions of other people disagree with you.

  14. moss_icon says:

    I’m hopeless with Maths so I have nothing particularly intelligent r informed to add. But the presence of natural patterns suggests to me simply that there are natural laws at work, not that there is any conscious force behind them.Personally I feel that attribution of “intelligence” is a human conceit. “Intelligence” (that being the human capacity for self-awareness, analysis, memory, inspiration, creation, etc.) is a product of natural laws, not the cause. Humans just seem to arrogantly assume that because everything man-made is a result of our intellects, so to must everything that ever was be the result of an intellect. Highly species-centric conceit, in my opinion.

  15. YouToMe says:

    @agnophilo – Thanks friend. I know

  16. MiDarkLyfe says:

    @agnophilo – If you are still interested (some of my ideas appeal only to other teachers!) here is a link that shows the 6 times table on a hundreds chart- http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hands-on-math-hundreds-chart/id466906485?mt=8. You have to slide the image over to see it. It also shows the beginning of the four times table intersecting with the five times table. Just a little third grade math to relax your brain!

  17. Aloysius_son says:

    Maybe we should spend more time appreciating the intricate mathmatics of the universe rather than assigning an ultimate and absolute anthropomorphic cause to it all. Maybe we have been mistakingly calling pure mathmatics God all along. Love, hate, sin, reason all might just be an expression of complex mathmatical perfection. The Divine being may very well be exactly the total and complete function of the universe.

  18. Pcygniime says:

    …..looks like a sleeping bird to me…. Peace

  19. Image Girl says:

    Woah there this is getting real deep! Like it thought, makes you stop and think about things we often cover up. I wrote a brief post about how nature uses patterns in nature and included some pictures you may like http://www.fotoviva.co.uk/news/site-news/patterns-in-nature/

  20. Maverick83 says:

    Not at all. All that spiral represents is that adding two numbers produces the sum of those two numbers. Doing it repeatedly will produce a perfect spiral like that only because each square will be as long as the previous two combined.Similar patterns appear on multiple scales ultimately because everything in the universe is essentially made of the same stuff, and follows the same laws, which, makes no mistake, need not arise from intelligent design. Those laws could simply be a product of identity. That is, things are what they are, and identical things under identical circumstances behave identically.

  21. What about the video and/or its theory was compelling to you? What about it made you stop and think?

Speak yer mind.

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