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The Amazing Sunflower Defies Darwinian Evolution

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The Amazing Sunflower Defies Darwinian Evolution

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Few things in life have impressed me more than watching a field of beautiful, bright sunflowers pointing toward the sun. It seems as if they are obediently following a silent command to look up in unison.

Perhaps you’ve never asked yourself how they do it, but it truly borders on the miraculous. In fact, this humble plant poses a tremendous challenge to what Charles Darwin claimed the process of evolution could do.

Darwin stated that “if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case” (The Origin of Species, Mentor Edition, 1958, p. 171).

Although he couldn’t find an example, we can see one in the features of the sunflower. The sunflower has characteristics that do not appear to have evolved in a gradual, step-by-step fashion. Let’s look at three examples.

Fibonacci spirals optimally pack the seeds

First, let’s look at how sunflower seeds are organized. They are a product of the reproductive organs of the sunflower, called disk florets.

Inside the flower head, the seeds are arranged in a beautiful spiral. Incredibly, they form an elaborate pattern based on a mathematical formula that uses Fibonacci numbers. Fibonacci numbers were formulated in 1202 by the great Italian mathematician Leonardo Fibonacci. In the pattern, each number is added to the previous one, and the sum equals the next number. A string of Fibonacci numbers look something like this: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc. In a sunflower head, this means each seed is positioned at what scientists call “the golden angle,” the angle where the largest number of seeds fit into the smallest amount of space.

As the Biomimicry Institute mentions: “Patterning seeds in spirals of Fibonacci numbers allows for the maximum number of seeds on a seed head, packed uniformly, with no crowding at the center and no ‘bald patches’ at the edges. The Fibonacci sequence works well for the sunflower because of one key characteristic—growth. On a sunflower seed head, the individual seeds grow while the center of the head continues to add new seeds, pushing those at the periphery outwards. Following the Fibonacci sequence ensures growth on the same terms indefinitely. That is to say, as a seed head grows, seeds will always be packed uniformly, and with maximum compactness” (“Helianthus Sunflower,” Encyclopedia of Life, 2012).

We need to ask Darwinian evolutionists a question: How did the sunflower come up with the Fibonacci mathematical formula for packing its seeds in the most efficient way? What gradual, step-by-step process led to this? As expected, no process has yet been proposed by evolutionists to explain this elaborate design.

So according to evolution, did the sunflower become what amounts to a skillful mathematician to organize its seeds in the most efficient way? How would this be possible through evolution’s two mechanisms—mutation and natural selection?

Alternatively, doesn’t it make more sense that the sunflower was carefully designed by a Great Mathematician who originated this precise mathematical formula as part of the flower’s blueprint? Notice in Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

The sunflower’s amazing movements

One of the most astounding abilities of the sunflower is the way it can follow the sun across the sky for most of its life. This is called heliotropism, or the tracking of the sun’s path by a plant.

How can the sunflower do this? Amazingly, it has an organic hydraulic system that changes the pressure of the water in the neck of the stem, called the pulvinus, according to the angle of sunlight. So during the day, the stem of the sunflower uses its motor cells to elongate the side away from the sun, tilting leaves and immature flowers toward the sun, and ending up facing west at sunset.

During nighttime, the other side of the stem then expands, pushing the leaves and flowers back to the east where they will be facing the sun at dawn. Since leaves and immature flowers are green and actively carrying out photosynthesis, heliotropism provides them with 10-15 percent more sunlight than if they were in one fixed position. When the sunflower gets too heavy and its seeds mature, it settles in one position facing east.

Again, how could such an elaborate hydraulic system using motor cells gradually have evolved? If the water pressure was not just right at the neck of the stem, or if the rotating mechanism was not properly adjusted in the motor cells, the plant would not gain any benefit from it. Yet all of these mechanisms had to be fully assembled for them to work properly. No gradual process would get it done.

Mobile light sensors

For the sunflower to rotate toward the sun as it does, it needs sensitive light sensors that not only determine which direction the sun is moving across the sky, but also the time of day and the season. In fact, the light sensors are so sophisticated that they can distinguish between the solar rays and shadows, thus sending the right signals to the plant for it to turn correctly.

These light sensors in the plant organs can also determine how long the day is, how much light is available, and the direction from which the light shines. Included in the complex system is a molecular clock that automatically adjusts to the sun’s path and keeps track of the time of day and season. This is why sunflowers don’t get confused when moving during the day or night.

Furthermore, the sunflower is also able to sense the quality of light and adjust its productivity accordingly. For instance, in low light conditions, it can produce more photosynthetic pigments, whereas if the light is very bright and the levels of harmful ultraviolet light increase, it can produce more protective pigments to act as a sunscreen.

Do you believe all these features could have simply evolved on their own or rather that they came about by an all-wise and all-powerful Designer?

The sunflower was designed to benefit mankind

The cheerful sunflower has more to smile about. Beyond its intricate seed head and ability to follow the sun, it has other marvelous features that benefit humans.

The sunflower, one of the most economically important plants for mankind, can provide:

  • Edible seeds
  • Healthy oil for cooking
  • Animal feed
  • Paper
  • Latex
  • Environmental purification

Sunflower seeds are able to extract toxic ingredients from soils, such as lead, arsenic and uranium. In the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion, sunflowers were used to remove caesium-137 and strontium-90 from a nearby pond, and a similar campaign was mounted in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan.

So let’s give thanks and glory to God, who with great intelligence and love, made the amazingly complex and productive sunflower! “For Your mercy is great above the heavens, and Your truth reaches to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and Your glory above all the earth” (Psalm 108:4-5).