|Feature Article - June 2010|
|by Do-While Jones|
Evolutionists finally realize the eye isn’t so backwards after all.
If you follow the creationist/evolutionist debates on the web, you know that creationists and evolutionists don’t see eye-to-eye on the design of the human eye.
Critics of Darwin like to ask how something so complex and as apparently perfect as the eye could possibly have evolved gradually, and the man himself devoted several pages of later editions of On the Origin of Species to refuting their arguments. Perhaps he need not have worried. Eyes are complex, but their structure reveals the unplanned nature of evolution.
The most famous flaw is found in vertebrate eyes. Their light-sensing structure, the retina, is wired up back-to-front, with the light-sensitive cells behind the nerves and blood vessels that support it. Not only does light have to pass through this layer first, obscuring the image, but the nerves and blood vessels have to dive through the retina, creating a blind spot in each eye.
In cephalopods, such as squid and octopuses, the eyes are built the "right" way around, so why not in vertebrates too? The answer is that when eyes first evolved in the ancestors of modern vertebrates, the retina arose from an infolding of the developing brain, and the cells that could form light receptors happened to end up on the inside of this fold. "Once you have done something like this it's very hard to change," says Michael Land, a specialist in eye physiology at the University of Sussex, UK. 1
IT LOOKS wrong, but the strange, "backwards" structure of the vertebrate retina actually improves vision. 2
The New Scientist article then goes on to give the technical explanation of why this is true, referencing work in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. 3
In an apparent attempt to do some damage control, the on-line title of the article is, “Evolution gave flawed eye better vision”. The body of the article cautions,
However, Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island cautions that this doesn't mean that the backwards retina itself helps us to see. Rather, it emphasises the extent to which evolution has coped with the flawed layout. "The shape, orientation and structure of the Müller cells help the retina to overcome one of the principal shortcomings of its inside-out wiring," says Miller. 4
Once again, evolutionists try to have it both ways. Everything wrong with the eye proves that it is the result of evolution; and everything right with the eye proves it is the result of evolution. With crazy logic like this, it is no wonder they see everything as proof of evolution.
The editors of New Scientist naturally had their own interpretation of the article. Here’s how their editorial began:
THE eye has long been an evolutionary battleground. Ever since William Paley came up with the watchmaker analogy in 1802 - that something as complex as a watch must have a maker - creationists have used it to make the "argument from design". Eyes are so intricate, they say, that it strains belief to suggest they evolved through the selection and accumulation of random mutations.
Recently, evolutionary biologists have turned this argument on its head. They say that the "inside out" vertebrate retina - curiously structured so that its wiring obscures the light sensors and leaves us with a blind spot - can be described as one of evolution's "greatest mistakes".
The anatomy of the retina is indeed good evidence that eyes were cobbled together bit by bit. Surely a creator would never have chosen to construct an eye in this way. In return, creationists have argued that the backwards retina clearly has no problems providing vertebrates with excellent vision - and even that its structure enhances vision.
This week, a study by (non-creationist) neurophysicists in Israel has found just that (see "Optical fibre cells transform our weird, 'backward' retinas"). Their simulations showed that Müller cells, which support and nourish the neurons overlying the retina's light-sensitive layer, also collect, filter and refocus light, before delivering it to the light sensors to make images clearer. 5
Let’s stop right there. They have accurately and correctly stated the facts. The creationists have been right all along. The human eye is well designed. It just didn’t look well designed to scientists because they didn’t really understand how it worked. This study has taught scientists something of practical value.
The new understanding of the role of Müller cells might find applications in more successful eye transplants and better camera designs, says Ribak. 6
Ironically, the pull-quote from the article, printed in large red bold type in the center of the page is,
“The findings do not mean the creationists have a point - although they may well quote the study” 7
We aren’t kidding. The point of the editorial is to say that just because the creationists are right, it doesn’t mean they are right! Apparently no matter which way their retinas are installed, evolutionists still can’t see.
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New Scientist, 10 August 2007, “Evolution's greatest mistakes”, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19526161.800-evolutions-greatest-mistakes.html
2 New Scientist, 8 May 2010, “ ‘Optical fibres’ aid vision in our backward eyes”, page 12, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627594.000-evolution-gave-flawed-eye-better-vision.html
3 Physical Review Letters, 16 April 2010, “Retinal Glial Cells Enhance Human Vision Acuity”, http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v104/i15/e158102
4 New Scientist, 8 May 2010, “ ‘Optical fibres’ aid vision in our backward eyes”, page 12, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627594.000-evolution-gave-flawed-eye-better-vision.html
5 New Scientist, 8 May 2010, “Evolution’s great invention, page 3, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627592.400-the-eye-was-evolutions-great-invention.html
6 New Scientist, 8 May 2010, “ ‘Optical fibres’ aid vision in our backward eyes”, page 12, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627594.000-evolution-gave-flawed-eye-better-vision.html
7 New Scientist, 8 May 2010, “Evolution’s great invention, page 3, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627592.400-the-eye-was-evolutions-great-invention.html