ID and Fibonacci

by Neil Rickert

Over at the Uncommon Descent blog, there is a post expressing awe at how the Fibonacci sequence crops up in nature.  And it is not just the post itself that is expressing awe.  We see the same theme echoed in the comments on that post.

The Fibonacci numbers are a sequence where each number is the sum of the two that precede it.  The Wikipedia entry probably has more than most people would ever want to know about them.  They are said to show up in such things as the growth of sunflowers.  The UD blog post suggests that they also crop up in the shape of spiral galaxies.

It is true that they show up in sunflower growth.  But what shows up is only an approximation.  The actual flowers are a bit irregular, so not exactly in conformance with the Fibonacci sequence.  But this is not particularly surprising.  The Fibonacci sequence of numbers is formed by a rather simple rule.  It would not be at all surprising for natural growth processes to grow at a rate dependent on what is already there, and a Fibonacci pattern is a rather simple possibility for this.  It is not even surprising if the sequence shows up in the natural growth of galaxies by gravitational attraction.

The poster and commenters at UD seem to be awestruck by all of this, and they see it as the mark of an intelligent designer.  However, as I just commented above, it is surely only the mark of natural processes.  If they are so easily awestruck, how can they expect to be taken seriously in their claims that there is a scientific basis for their intelligent design thesis?

Footnote: What’s up with the UD site?  On a couple of occasions, I have considered posting a comment.  When I click on the “login” link, a WordPress OpenID login form comes up.  But it looks as if the password would be sent unencrypted to uncommondescent, whereas it should be sent encrypted to wordpress.  Either I am doing it wrong, or they are doing it wrong.  I chose not to continue with the login.  That might be just as well, for it sure looks as if they really only want comments that agree with them.


2 Comments to “ID and Fibonacci”

  1. If there were no patterns in nature, at all – that is if everything was truly random (whatever that means) – then there would be nothing in particular to observe, and no observers, no nature, no worlds, no galaxies. It doesn’t seem at all surprising that, given we are here, and we and all the groups of everything we observe have in-group similarity, that there must be some patterns. That we, the human race generally, are late to spotting some of these patterns, such as Fibonacci numbers, is why they seem surprising to us when we personally first discover them. Who is to say what pattern forming capability the universe should and should not have. These are always arguments from incredulity.

    Not, of course, that we can’t acknowledge our ignorance and enjoy the beauty and be amazed by nature anyway.


    • I’m not persuaded that “patterns in nature” actually has any meaning.

      We find patterns in our representations of nature. But what we find is dependent on how we represent. The Ptolemaics saw cycles and epicycles in the motion of the planets. We see ellipses. The difference is due to the different ways of representing (a geocentric coordinate system for the Ptolemaics and a heliocentric coordinate system for us).


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