Peat Moss—Man’s Wisdom or God’s Wisdom?

by Duane Miller on October 13, 2010
Featured in Answers in Depth


When we examine the world in the light of God’s Word, what we see makes sense—including the amazing design of Sphagnum peat moss.

The approach for studying God’s Word, understanding the natural world, and living our lives for the Lord rests upon a very important question: “Should I use man’s wisdom or God’s wisdom?” The desire for man’s wisdom as opposed to God’s wisdom within the scientific community has resulted in the tendency to look to man’s wisdom on the science of origins and disregard God’s wisdom. This broad disregard for God’s wisdom has resulted in a struggle for creationists to help our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as helping the unbelieving world understand that it was in wisdom that God has made all things (Psalms 104:24).

The understanding that God is our Creator, according to Genesis, is the basis for our looking first and foremost to the Bible for answers. As Christians, our lives, our faith, and understanding the world around us is based upon the authority of the Word of God (the Bible). The Bible touches every aspect of our lives, and it is by the Spirit’s leading that we are able to discern the differences between man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. As we study the Bible, it is interesting to discover that the Apostle Paul also considered the issue of whose wisdom we use to be very important for the first-century believers. Similar to today, the first-century church had a problem discerning the differences between man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom.

The Bible reveals that the people at Corinth desired man’s wisdom and had less regard for God’s wisdom. In 1 Corinthians 2:1–16, Paul shows that the Greek community of the first century struggled to understand that his message was brought to them by the wisdom of God. The reason being, in the Greek culture, the ability to speak well and the effective use of language (rhetoric) were the most prized abilities. In those days, men would stand at the street corners speaking and people would gather around just to hear well-orated speeches. The listeners would give money to the person who gave the best talk. This culture was all about the exchange of ideas and concepts centered upon man’s wisdom in philosophy. The contrast between men’s wisdom versus God’s wisdom is what Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians 2:1–16, which states the following:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

Paul stated that he did not come with a superior way of speaking or with the wisdom of man when he brought the testimony of God to the Corinthians. He brought the teaching of Jesus Christ in weakness, fear, and trembling—and by the demonstration of the Spirit in the power of God, not by enticing words. Furthermore, Paul wrote that we who are in Christ have “ . . . received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12). The Spirit of God helps us to know and understand the things of God.

When looking at the world around us, we base our thinking about it on the Bible since it is our ultimate authority and the infallible source of God’s revealed wisdom. Through observation, we have been able to understand the way in which the world operates via the scientific principles (chemistry, physics, mathematics, and biology). As with scientific observation of the natural world and its principles of operation, it is also possible to observe the way in which God designed the world to function. The discernment of this process of God’s design is enabled by His Holy Spirit dwelling within us as Paul stated, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). When studying science from both a professional and recreational aspect and using the Bible as our starting point, there are many processes we observe and can use to give a reasoned evidence of the handiwork of God. By studying the natural world, we can see God’s handiwork, and if we look carefully enough, we can actually see His engineering design at work.

In God’s infinite wisdom, He endowed plants with versatile structures that enable their survivability under various environmental conditions. Sphagnum peat moss is such a plant we can use to demonstrate God’s unique engineering design that enables the plant’s survival. Peat moss, according to the Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, is a classification of more than 160 species of plants that make up the bryophyte genus Sphagnum. Sphagnum moss is found in low-lying landscapes such as around lakeshores, ponds, swamps, and bogs. These low-lying landscapes pose a potential problem for moss to disperse their spores resulting from the stagnant and laminar flow regions that lay directly above the moss.

Laminar and turbulent flow regions

Fig. 1. Laminar and turbulent flow regions above the Sphagnum peat moss.

In physics, chemistry, and engineering, the transport phenomenon1 of low-density gases is the science whereby particles or quantities move from one place to another. The laws that govern the transport and flow regimes lying directly above the Sphagnum moss hinder the reproductive ability of the plant. Figure 1 shows a diagram of the flow regions that lay above the Sphagnum moss consisting of (i) a laminar region and (ii) a turbulent region. The laminar region (10 cm in width and directly above the peat moss) is characterized as “orderly flow” where air velocities are sufficiently low, such that tiny particles (spores) found within this region move along a smooth thin line. The turbulent region (beyond the 10 cm region) is characterized as “wildly chaotic flow” where air velocities are sufficiently high that tiny particles (spores) are flung apart and dispersed widely. The specific problem for the peat moss reproductive system results from having to transport their spores through the laminar region and into the turbulent region for their dispersal. Therefore, God specifically engineered the reproductive system of the Sphagnum moss to overcome the spore’s position (located in the laminar region) and the forces of gravity, and enter into the turbulent flow layer, which will facilitate sufficient horizontal translational forces for the transport of the spores to a suitable location for growth. Once the spores have reached the turbulent region, eddies can carry the small particles upward and laterally, thus dispersing the spores to new locations.

Recently, researchers have shown,2,3 by the use of high speed video, the mechanism God designed to enable the peat moss spores to reach the turbulent region by specifically crafting the spore capsule for this purpose. The peat moss spore capsule contains the spores, moisture, and air as shown in Figure 2. During the reproductive process, the evaporation of the moisture (the drying phase) results in a transformation of the round capsule to a narrow cylindrical shape which maintains its height. The final volume of the capsule is approximately 3/8 the size of the original hydrated size. The size reduction is accomplished by the compression of the trapped air inside of the capsule. The release of the spores into the air is achieved when the capsule ruptures due to pressure and stresses. Researchers say that the spores reach heights that cannot be explained by ballistic trajectories. The high speed video shows the formation of turbulent vortex rings, generated by the exploding capsule, enabling a sustained trajectory through the laminar layer and into the turbulent layer (see Figure 2). The cylindrical shape of the capsule is specifically designed to generate these vortexes, which enable the spores to maintain their translational motion through the 10 cm laminar layer.

Spore capsule of Sphagnum peat moss

Fig. 2. Spore capsule of Sphagnum peat moss.

Since we live in a world where the authority of the Word of God has been greatly undermined and especially in the scientific community, the researchers conclude that this unique solution to the reproductive problem of peat moss is the result of natural processes, “ . . . devised by nature to enhance the dispersal of microscopic particles.”2 It is here that we need to recognize man’s wisdom at work and apply God’s wisdom according to the Scriptures. It is in wisdom that God created all things; according to Genesis 1, God is the Creator and ultimately should be given credit for having created such an amazing way for peat moss to overcome this basic engineering problem.


It is concluded by the researchers2 that nature has provided a unique solution to enhance the dispersal of the Sphagnum moss spores. This conclusion on the origins of the transport mechanism, based upon man’s wisdom, has an obvious flaw. That is, due to the nature of the species of plant, if this mechanism was not provided from the very beginning, the Sphagnum moss would never have survived. Does the claim that God engineered the Sphagnum moss to overcome these transport problems detract from the underlying scientific analysis and understanding of the mechanism of operation? Certainly not, since in operational science it is possible to reject the anti-biblical thinking on the question of origins without detracting from the underlying scientific analysis.

We must be careful how we interpret the natural world and use the Bible as our guide to help us discern between man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. We should always trust God’s eternal Word over man’s wisdom and ideas. By starting with the plain teaching of God’s Word coupled with the observable scientific evidence of the Sphagnum moss reproductive system, God is glorified. Scripture states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18). When we recognize our Creator’s hand in the Sphagnum moss reproductive system, we are able to rejoice and give Him praise for such an amazing creation.

Answers in Depth

2010 Volume 5


  1. Bird, R. B., W. E. Stewart, and E. N. Lightfoot. 2002. Transport Phenomena, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 895.
  2. van Leeuwen, J. L., Launched at 36,000g. Science, 2010. 329(5990):395–396.
  3. Whitaker, D. L. and J. Edwards. 2010. Sphagnum Moss Disperses Spores with Vortex Rings. Science, 329(5990):406.


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