It’s All in the Numbers

I’m not a mathematician. In fact, I generally have an aversion to numbers. They’re restrictive, require systematic, step-by-step (*cough* laborious *cough*) methods to manipulate, are terribly predictable, and generally unresponsive to creativity—at least, the right-brained sort (my sort) of creativity. That said, though, numbers can still grab my attention sometimes, particularly when they have an application in the field of apologetics (in this case, the defense of God’s existence). After reading the following, perhaps you’ll agree with me that numbers and mathematics actually cry out “Designer” in a number of ways.

Consider, for example, the very fact that the universe can be understood through mathematics. With the aid of math, we’ve been able, with astonishing precision, to figure trajectories, velocities, the needed fuel to put satellites in orbit, men on the moon, and probes on Mars. That’s really quite strange if you think about it—that is, if you think that we and the universe are simply the products of random chance. As author James Nickel inquires: “Why does a mere product of man’s autonomous mind [namely, mathematics] accurately model the workings of the physical world?” (p. xix*). Good question. Interestingly, when brought face to face with this reality, “[h]umanistic mathematicians and scientists answer using terms like ‘incredible, unreasonably effective, and mysterious’” (Ibid.*). Mysterious only if God is taken out of the picture. Perfectly reasonable, otherwise. The same God who ordered the universe made humanity (in His image, Genesis 1:26-27) with a mind to understand and appreciate that order.

And order there is. The world around us is filled with it–filled with threes, for example. There are three types of human hair: terminal, vellus, and lanugo. Three human capacities: thought, word, and deed. Three primary particles to the atom: proton, neutron, and electron. Three aspects of the universe: time, space, and matter—each a trinity in itself (as far our day-to-day life is concerned): time (past, present, future); space (height, width, depth); matter (solid, liquid, gas). We could go on. Interestingly, we even like the sound of three. Just take note of speakers and writers, and the way they phrase statements in threes. Julius Caesar said “Veni, vidi, vici (I came, I saw, I conquered).” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “[W]e pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor.” Abraham Lincoln spoke of government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” We even pare statements down to make them triplets: Winston Churchill actually spoke of “blood, sweat, toil and tears,” but that didn’t ring like, well, you know. There’s something about three (Not surprisingly, God uses threes repeatedly throughout the Bible–who can name some?).

But perhaps that seems too cute, too easily refuted, unimpressive, unpersuasive. What about what follows? Ever heard of the Fibonacci sequence? I hadn’t until about a year ago. It’s a numerical sequence popularized in the thirteenth century by a mathematician named Leonardo of Pisa (yes, same as the tower) who later adopted the name Fibonacci (“son of Bonacci”). Written out, it looks like this: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377….” Note that the third number is always the sum of the previous two. What’s this seemingly obscure sequence have to do with evidence for design? Well, this sequence actually occurs with some frequency in nature. In fact, in 1963, a periodical entitled The Fibonacci Quarterly began to be published by an organization called “The Fibonacci Assocation,” and “[t]he sole purpose of this publication [was] to document the occurrence of this sequence in nature!” (p. 240*). It would require a lot of material to keep such a publication going for long (and it’s still going). Below is just a taste of the examples of this fascinating sequence in nature:

Example #1: Pinecones & Pineapples

If you look at the base of a pinecone, and trace the spiral arrangement of the sections, you’ll notice it numbers three spirals one way, and five the other, or five one way and eight the other, or as in the photographs below (sorry no pictures, ran into technical difficulties), eight one way, thirteen the other. Though the numbers may vary, all pinecone arrangements follow the Fibonacci sequence. A similar phenomenon is observable in pineapples.

Example #2: Sunflowers

The Fibonacci sequence is present in the seed configuration of sunflowers. Numbering the spirals one way, then the other, one discovers multiple patterns within the Fibonacci framework: eight and thirteen, twenty-one and thirty-four, thirty-four and fifty-five, fifty-five and eighty-nine, and eighty-nine and one hundred forty-four (p. 241).

Example #3: Genealogy of the Male Bee

The male bee has only one parent, the female bee. The female bee, however, has two parents, a male and a female. Drawing out the male bee’s family tree, we see the Fibonacci sequence being played out before our very eyes: one male bee, one parent, two grandparents, three great-grandparents, five great-great grandparents, eight great-great-great grandparents, and so on.

Example #4: The Human Hand

Measuring the phylanges (finger bones) and metacarpal bones of the human hand, one discovers that our very bodies (in part, at least) are based on the Fibonacci sequence (Google for great pictures of this).

Conclusion

Many other examples could be cited. We could discuss the structure of a music scale, phyllotaxis in trees, the shape of a nautilus shell, etc.–each following with amazing regularity this same sequence.

Inquiring minds want to know: “Why does mathematics, a product of the human mind, explain the universe?” “Why are there so many observable patterns in nature?” “Why should anything at all make sense if there was no One to give it sense?” Christians believe God offers satisfying answers to all these questions, and a great many more. What do you think?

Romans 1:20- “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse”

* Source cited in article: Mathematics: Is God Silent? by James Nickel

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