Beginnings Reporting on science and intelligent design

Beautiful plant spirals flummox secular science

Science | Nature’s appealing golden ratio evidences divine design
by Julie Borg
Posted 10/05/17, 04:24 pm

A Swiss botanist recently conducted an intensive study of why so many plants sport flowers or leaves with beautiful spiral patterns that conform to the golden ratio, also known as the divine ratio.

The golden ratio, approximately 1.618, has fascinated scientists, mathematicians, architectural designers, and artists for centuries because it appears abundantly in nature. The ratio occurs when the sum of two numbers divided by the larger number produces the same answer as the larger number divided by the smaller number.

A multitude of psychological studies show people seem pre-programmed to find the ratio aesthetically appealing. It appears throughout creation in things such as plants, seashells, spiral galaxies, hurricanes, human faces, fingerprints, animal bodies, bird flight patterns, and DNA molecules. But science cannot explain its purpose or allure.

Botanist Cris Kuhlemeier investigated tissue mechanics, the roles of plant hormones and proteins, cellular communication, and adaptive functioning in attempt to understand what generates the spiral patterns that align precisely in the golden ratio. He concluded that the mysterious spiral patterns must relate to “reproductive strategies.” But Discovery Institute experts point out, “Flowers don’t have ‘reproductive strategies,’ because they have no brains.”

At the end of the analysis, Kuhlemeier said his investigation suggested that spiral patterning works through a positive feedback loop between auxin, a plant hormone, and the mechanism that transports it from cell to cell. But “none of that explains the origin of the feedback loops, the origin of auxin, the origin of the transporter, the origin of the genes that build these machines, or why any of those factors should follow the golden ratio,” according to the Discovery Institute’s blog, Evolution News & Science Today.

Perhaps a better starting point for understanding the purpose of the divine ratio is to acknowledge the divine God who designed it. The Colorado River

Colorado River ‘sues’ for personhood

In the past year, New Zealand granted legal personhood to the Whanganui River, and an Indian court attempted to declare, but was overruled by India’s Supreme Court, that the rivers Ganga and Yamuna and two glaciers in the Himalayas were legally protected persons. Now an environmental group in the United States is suing on behalf of the Colorado River for personhood, The New York Times reported.

Deep Green Resistance (DGR) hopes to “create a life-centered resistance movement that will dismantle industrial civilization by any means necessary,” according to the group’s website. DGR claims Colorado violated the river’s right to flourish by polluting and draining it and threatening endangered species. If successful, the lawsuit could set a precedent by which natural features such as redwood forests or the Rocky Mountains could gain legal standing in cases against individuals, corporations, and governments over pollution and depleting resources.

Wesley J. Smith of the Discovery Institute said the somewhat favorable review The New York Times gave the idea showed the subversive nature-rights movement is no longer on the fringe. Smith sees the campaign as a threat to human thriving and a war on human exceptionalism. “If forests and swamps, insects and granite outcroppings—all aspects of nature—have rights, if rights cease to be restricted to the human realm, then all we are is another animal in the forest,” he wrote on the organization’s blog.

Many environmental experts believe DGR has little chance of winning the suit, and conservative lawmakers note the case could actually harm responsible conservation. “Radical obstructionists who contort common sense with this sort of nonsense undercut credible conservationists,” Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., told The New York Times. —J.B.

New help for hungry dieters?

Scientists just identified key brain cells that control appetite, a discovery that could offer help to those trying to lose weight.

Researchers at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England, found that taste buds detect the flavor of amino acids, especially arginine and lysine, in the foods we eat and then transmit that information to tanycytes, brain cells that control appetite and makes us feel full quicker.

Foods such as pork shoulder, beef sirloin steak, chicken, mackerel, plums, apricots, avocadoes, lentils, and almonds contain high concentrations of arginine and lysine. When the researchers added arginine and lysine to tancytes, the brain cells reacted to the amino acids within 30 seconds and released information to the part of the brain that controls appetite and body weight.

“Finding that tanycytes, located at the center of the brain region that controls body weight, directly sense amino acids has very significant implications for coming up with new ways to help people to control their body weight within healthy bounds,” Nicholas Dale, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Warwick, said in a statement. —J.B.

Retirees less healthy now than before

New research shows that while people are waiting longer to retire, they experience health-related limitations at younger ages than previous generations did. “We found that younger cohorts are facing more burdensome health issues, even as they have to wait until an older age to retire, so they will have to do so in poorer health,” Robert Schoeni, a University of Michigan economist and co-author of the study, said in a statement. The researchers found a significant correlation between the age at which health limitations set in and educational level, with those who did not complete high school experiencing a much higher percentage of limitations than those with a college education. —J.B.

Smart labels detect food spoilage

Food expiration labels that read “best by” often confuse consumers. Does “best” mean throw out after this date? Or does it mean it’s safe to eat two or three days past the date? Thanks to the innovation of researchers at Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y., such labels may soon become obsolete. The researchers developed a low cost smart label that can detect color or electrical changes in food that signal when the quality of the food is deteriorating. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio. She reports on science and intelligent design for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital.

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  • Fuzzyface
    Posted: Thu, 10/05/2017 05:10 pm

    I think that the New York Times somewhat favorable representation of the Colorado River Personhood may more show the New York Times fringe ideas than that this idea is mainstream.  Of course, logic and common sense are seemingly getting less common now days.

  • Janet S
    Posted: Fri, 10/06/2017 09:08 am

    Find it interesting that people actually want to call things persons and yet an unborn human baby is not a person. What crazy days we are living in. 

  • RC
    Posted: Fri, 10/06/2017 09:42 am

    Agree 100 percent. They are confused. They replaced the Creator (God) with his creation, the earth.  

  • Janet S
    Posted: Fri, 10/06/2017 09:10 am

    Love it when nature confounds non-believers.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Fri, 10/06/2017 11:12 am

    Honestly, just because scientists don't have an explanation for a particular phenomenon does not mean that they are bumping up against something that can only be explained by God, nor does it mean that they are flummoxed, nor does it mean that the whole of secular science is actually about to come crashing down. This God of the gaps thing that we keep getting fed through these articles in World is not helpful. If there is a fully natural explanation for golden ratio spirals, that doesn't make them less beautiful, nor does it make it less a product of God's mind, any more than the fact that we can explain the existence of lightning from natural causes doesn't mean that we cannot still hear an echo of the voice of God in thunder.

  • bergevpi
    Posted: Sat, 10/07/2017 05:12 am

    Hans - while your statement is true you can plainly see that the secular point-of-view is lacking explanations from an ontological basis.  Why do human beings have an affinity to call this flower beautiful?  What made the lightning, or more specifically the physics behind lightning?  Why does God play with us (in a father-child joking kind-of-way) with beautiful numbers like the divine ratio?  There are no "fully natural" explanations for spiral-patterned flowers with tracings of the divine ratio only proof of a supernatural being with a creative mind that leaves things for us to endlessly explore. 

    We will never cease to find further and further depths of God's creation (cf. Isaiah 40:12-13).  There will always be plenty of excuses for "naturalists" to claim "well that's a convenient argument" (the "well God did it" argument), because we will never be able to prove with an absolute measure that God did it - because God is not measurable.  While the naturalists are endlessly busy trying to figure out ways to explain away God - an intelligent creator, Christians can rest in God's word, worshipping the creator instead of worshipping the created.

    The title of the story is perfectly fitting.  Scientist will always be flumoxed by further discovery in nature, while the elect will be delighted.  God designed an unsolvable puzzle in His creation: there will always be room for those who must believe in evolution to continue to be perplexed with the continued development of science and likewise, Christians will never find terminal objective proof that does not require faith.  God's intelligent like that.

  • DakotaLutheran
    Posted: Sat, 10/07/2017 04:12 pm

    I suppose the question here is related to something like an inference to design. OTOH, "natural explanations" clearly don't exclude the work of a designer. In fact, such explanations always stop short of explaining "everything." For example, the rate at which an apple falls from a tree is said to be explained "naturally" by the force of gravity, an attractive force between objects with "mass." None of this, however, explains why there is "mass" and why there is this attractive force of a certain magnitude between them. All of this is left completely unexplained and (for the most part) unexplored. Yet we still say that the falling of the apple to the ground at a given rate is explained "naturally." More sophisticated attempts to probe the nature of this phenomenon will never be able to fully explain gravity. There will always remain a residue that is impenetrably unexplainable. All we have succeeded in doing is relating impenetrables. These impenetrables are the specific particulars that make up reality. Why are they this way and not a myriad of seemingly possible other ways. What is more, we cannot avoid these impenetrable particulars because reality ALWAYS comes in particulars. They come as some-thing and not just any-thing or no-thing. There are a number of possible responses to such mysteries. These include a many-worlds hypothesis (something like an infinity of actuated real worlds), axiarchism, and theism. All of them are equally "fantastic" and "amazing. Perhaps the most popular response is no response at all: that that's just the way it is. This may be the most popular response among so-called naturalists. They throw up their hands and declare that there is no explanation. When explanation ends, we are done.This may be the most amazing of all the responses. Reality is the way that it is for no reason at all, and yet it is this way and no other way at all. Ultimately, all the responses come to something like this. What we must ask ourselves is whether saying that the ultimate is a God of a particular character and nature is different from saying that the ultimate is just this world and the way it is. I think there is. The nature of ultimates do matter. They matter now; they matter among us; and they matter later on. What then is objectionable about the inference to design? If one thinks that the inference is one that everyone can and should make, we are mistaken. But if the way the world is can be taken as a manifestation, a disclosure of the living God, then I find good reasons to do so, reasons that most "naturalists" ignore because they believe they have wrapped the world up neatly and completely, something I've argued they are mistaken. Mysteries abound. We only need open our eyes to find them. 

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Sat, 10/21/2017 09:47 pm


    Hans, I recommend John Lennox's work to you.  The heart of his apologetic work is also the heart of this article:  "But science cannot explain its purpose or allure."  As John Lennox puts it, science explains how things happen--the physical--but cannot explain why things happen--the metaphysical.  Yet scientists regularly trespass into the metaphysical, because of an a priori notion that science must be able to explain everything.  The study cited above is one example of this.  So World is not promoting a God of the Gaps, but rather defending against a Science of the Gaps, to use another of John Lennox's phrases.