Monthly Archives: November 2013

eye

Refuting the Skeptic: The Eye Shows Evidence of Design, Not Evolution

The Skeptic’s Society published a brief .pdf file in 2010 (available for download on skeptic.com or here: top-10-evolution-myths) titled “Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)”. The article basically lists ten examples opposing the theory of evolution and attempts to refute them. NotAccidental.com’s “Refuting the Skeptic” articles look into their claims in much more detail, and exposes their falacies. The “Top 10 Myths” article only superficially states their case in favor of evolution in one or two paragraphs, which is fortunate for them, because delving more deeply into each issue exposes the falsehood of evolution more substantially.

The Skeptic Claims that this is False: Only an Intelligent Designer Could Have Made Something as Complex as an Eye

“The anatomy of the human eye shows that it is anything but “intelligently designed.” It is built upside down and backwards, with photons of light having to travel through the cornea, lens, aqueous fluid, blood vessels, ganglion cells, amacrine cells, horizontal cells, and bipolar cells, before reaching the light sensitive rods and cones that convert the light signal into neural impulses, which are then sent to the visual cortex at the back of the brain for processing into meaningful patterns. For optimal vision, why would an intelligent designer have built an eye upside down and backwards? This “design” only makes sense if natural selection built eyes from available materials, and in the particular configuration of the ancestral organism’s pre-existing organic structures. The eye shows the pathways of evolutionary history, not intelligent design.”

The Reality

The eye is frequently used in the discussion of evolution and creationism. I think this is because much is known about how the eye functions, it is very accessible for research in design and function, and because people place much value on their vision. However, as an ophthalmologist (eye physician and surgeon), I have more than just a passing knowledge and appreciation for the eye. The arguments that the writer makes in the article above reveal only a cursory knowledge of the function of the eye and in reality point toward design by a Creator rather than random development through evolution.

First, the author argues that the eye is build upside down and backwards, and that this is an example of imperfect design (i.e. not by a Creator). It is true that the superior retina serves the lower field of vision, the lower retina the upper field of vision, etc. However, this issue is resolved as the optic radiations reach the visual cortex of the brain, and the brain automatically orients the visual stimuli appropriately through perception. Cameras and many telescopes also take an inverted and backward photograph because it is optically more straightforward for the eye and the camera to capture an image in this fashion. Similar to digital processing in a digital camera, the brain properly orients the visual stimuli. My challenge to evolutionists would be to describe how an eye could have even evolved without accounting for this need for the re-orientation. Otherwise, vision would have been a significant selective disadvantage for an organism trying to escape a predator, for example, where instead running from the predator it might run right into it!

Second, the author also takes a stab at a well known alleged imperfection of the eye that light has to travel through a large number of structures in the eye including many retinal layers before reaching photoreceptors that actually receive the visual input. This is allegedly imperfect, inefficient, and would lead to degradation of the image. First, the human eye is capable of perceiving a single photon of light (the smallest possible unit of light), which would be the dimmest star visible in a clear night sky. So, there is no significant loss of light through these layers. What is more amazing from an evolutionary standpoint is how the structures of the eye could have simultaneously evolved with the requirement that all of the following structures would have to be not only functional but also transparent, and all at the same time: the corneal epithelium, the corneal stroma, the cornea endothelium, the aqueous fluid, the lens capsule, the substance of the lens, the vitreous fluid, the internal limiting membrane of the retina, and a large number of additional retinal cell layers, retinal neurons, retinal blood vessels, and retinal supporting cells before reaching the light sensitive photoreceptors! Any opacity of any of these structures would have halted visual function completely.

The primary reason, from a functional level, that the retina has photoreceptors as an outer layer of the retina is so that their high metabolic need can be met by nutrients and oxygen diffusing through the opaque retinal pigment epithelium from the very vascular choroid behind the retina. The retinal blood vessels serve the less demanding inner layers of the retina. Two separate blood supplies to accomplish one function – another mystery for the evolutionists.

The vertebrate eye actually illustrates several of the Concepts of Non-evolution (click to review these concepts). If we go back to the example above of the multiple transparent structures, layers, and membranes of the eye, consider how those structures fit into the hypothesized evolution of the eye. Each of those structures has a different function, and yet must be transparent.

eye_evolutionIn the diagram showing hypothetical eye evolution, the drawing labeled “c” has a small opening into a fluid filled eye cavity, while in “d” the cavity is closed over. If natural selection was driving this process, the “epithelium” lining the entry point of the pinhole camera-type eye “c” would need to be as opaque as possible to maximize the effectiveness of the pinhole. However, in “d”, the membrane covering the opening must suddenly switch to being transparent rather than opaque, or all light would be blocked from entering the eye. The process of natural selection would block any evolutionary change causing the ocular opening to be covered by anything but a transparent membrane. This process would be similar for the formation of the lens in the eye. This is one of the Concepts of Non-Evolution, that natural selection impedes the formation of new traits rather than facilitates them.

Even more interesting, as well as impossible from an evolutionary standpoint, are the mechanisms that make the cornea of the eye transparent.  As stated in an article “Corneal transparency: genesis, maintenance and dysfunction“,

The corneal stroma is carefully structured to minimize light scatter with important contributions from the extracellular matrix with its proteoglycans, carefully spaced collagen fibrils and crystallin-expressing keratocytes. Dysfunction in any of these components can cause a loss of transparency and crucial loss of function.

The amount of light scatter across the front to the back of the corneal stroma has been estimated at less than 1%. The cornea is even more complex than this, with an active pumping mechanism within the corneal endothelium that keeps fluid from building up within the cornea, a protective outer epithelial layer which is also transparent, and all of this with no blood supply, only nutrient diffusion from the air, inside the eye, and from the perimeter of the cornea. If any of these functions fail, the cornea would become opaque and visual function would be lost.

Summary:

The eye shows incredible evidence of design and function which could not have arisen spontaneously through mechanisms of random mutations and natural selection. The Skeptic’s claims that the eye is imperfect and thus could not have been designed and created by God are refuted.

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Concepts of Non-Evolution

Concepts of Non-Evolution

There are a number of observations that can be made and processes observed in nature today that point directly against the theory of evolution being at work. Here the “theory of evolution” refers to the “contemporary evolutionary theory”, “modern evolutionary synthesis” or “Neo-Darwinism”, where:

Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organization, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins. Charles Darwin was the first to formulate a scientific argument for the theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

In this theory, random mutations in DNA lead to new traits in the organism which may provide an survival advantage to that organism in its environment, which increases the chance that the new trait would be passed on to its offspring. With progressive change over time, the organism eventually differs so much from the original organism that the two cannot interbreed, and a new species is formed.

While superficial analysis and observation may make evolutionary theory appealing as an explanation for the diversity of life seen today, more careful analysis leads to these concepts falling apart. Evolutionary theory scarcely accounts for even the most minimal of the myriad of differences seen between different organisms today. Below are listed concepts of “non-evolution”. These are observable processes in nature which exclude the possibility of evolution as an explanation for life today.

 1. Natural Selection is a Barrier to Evolutionary Change

Any change in the DNA of an organism by mutation will almost always have a destructive or at best a neutral effect on the organism. In these cases, no selective advantage will be attained, and the mutation will not have an increased chance of being passed down to its progeny. If there happens to be a mutation may be beneficial to the organism’s survival (which is exceedingly rare), it is likely that this change will be an evolutionary dead end and not lead to progressively complex or more advanced structures in the organism. A handful of beneficial mutations have been noted in research (such as the ability of bacteria to metabolize nylon). However, for a complex structure or metabolic pathway to form, evolutionary theory and natural selection require that there be incremental steps leading up to this development. Almost by definition, these incremental steps will be unable to confer any meaningful survival advantage to the organism until the new trait is in its mature form. For example, any mutation leading to legs forming on fish would clearly provide only a survival disadvantage until the fish was able to run onto shore and escape its prey. Natural selection strongly discourages and eliminates transitional changes in organisms.

2. Non-resolvable Pathways

One argument against evolution is referred to as “irreducible complexity”. This is an argument used by proponents of intelligent design that certain biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler, or “less complete” predecessors, through natural selection acting upon a series of advantageous naturally occurring, chance mutations. The bacteria flagellum is often cited as an example of an irreducibly complex machine on a microscopic level, where all of the components of the flagellum must is assembled in working fashion in order for it to be functional.

Here, however, I would like to refer to the term “Non-resolvable Pathways”. This concept is similar to irreducible complexity, except that it is more process driven. This concept states that there is no conceivable pathway or process where DNA mutations and natural selection could lead to the formation of a new biological feature even given ideal environmental circumstances for development. Basically, this states that you cannot get from point A to point B using any biological or chemical process, even in the lab. For example, it is not possible to chemically create DNA except enzymatically in the lab from previously existing DNA. There have been some advancements in artificial gene synthesis in the lab creating short strands of DNA de novo, but this is a far cry from anything that could conceivably occur de novo in nature.

On a larger level, one can try to piece together the steps that would be required on an evolutionary level to develop a complex structure such as the human eye or vestibular system of the ear. If you look a less advanced organisms you can imagine what steps might be involved in eye evolution, for example, to go from a photosensitive spot on an organism, to an invaginated cup, to a ball the shape of an eye. However, it becomes mind boggling when you include other required structures for eye function, such as transparent membranes, neural networks to process information, lens structures with both transparency and flexibility for focusing, secretion of internal clear fluid that both nourishes structures and provides shape to the eye, meshworks that precisely drain fluid away to maintain an acceptable pressure, muscles to control pupillary size and focusing, etc. Each of these components would require separate yet simultaneous evolution, separate yet simultaneous significant survival advantages, and separate yet simultaneous lack of interference with the eye and with other structures of the organism that would reduce survival advantage. The pathway is non-resolvable.

 

3. Encoded Information Bearing No Resemblance to the Final Product

There are examples in living organisms of complex information systems being present on a molecular, or genetic, level which are encoded in a fashion that bears no resemblance to the final products that are being coded for. While we can decipher these codes retrospectively, just as we can decipher ancient hieroglyphics to derive meaning, it is impossible for such codes to have spontaneously arisen without input from an intelligent designer (God). This is in contrast to the formation of crystals, gem stones, stalactites, snowflakes, etc. In these cases, the simple chemical properties of the elements that make up the crystals themselves define how the crystals will form and appear. There are no forces directing this formation, except for random external forces of temperature, pressure, erosion, etc.

The genetic code is the most commonly recognized, in which different combinations of 3 base pair sequences in DNA code for the formation of specific amino acids, which then combine to form proteins. These combinations bear no resemblance to the final protein being coded for, and require extensive pre-existing cellular machinery to complete the process as well. Some researchers have attempted to explain how such a code may have arisen (such as from outer space), but these ideas are readily refuted.

Another example of complex information being encoded in DNA includes the process of embryology, where an organism develops from one cell into a complex multicellular plant or animal. While the steps of embryology can be observed and studied, how this takes place on a molecular genetic level is largely unknown.

4. Function in Excess of Survival Advantage

Given the tremendous amount of mutation and natural selection required for an organism to acquire a new trait, the new trait, and all of the steps leading up to the trait, must be extremely meaningful to the survival of the organism, and not in any way hamper its survival. Thus, it would follow that natural selection will only go so far as to the shaping of new organisms, depending on what the environmental demands on survival are. For example, if there was no land, would there be any survival advantage for an organism having feet to walk? If there was no light, would there be any reason for eyes to evolve?

The rod type of photoreceptor of the human eye is capable of perceiving a single photon of light, which would be perceived as the dimmest visible star on a clear night. Is there any evolutionary, natural selection reason that the human eye should have this ability? What forces or natural selection would have driven the sensitivity of this photoreceptor to its maximum possible? Similarly, humans have good color vision, but cats and dogs have survived well with relatively poor color vision. What evolutionary force drove this exceptional color vision in humans, mating rituals and being able to distinguish poisonous from non-poisonous berries? Doubtful. Function exceeds any conceivable survival advantage.

The “ancient” and primitive trilobite has been documented in the fossil record to have complex eyes, with even the “earliest” trilobites having complex compound eyes. If the trilobite was one of the first complex organisms that evolved, when did the eyes evolve? Furthermore, why would complex eyes have developed in a organism that spends its life deep on the ocean floor? Again, function exceeds survival advantage.

There are many features of organisms that have no bearing on survival. Since natural selection is a survival driven function, why would these features have evolved and persisted? For example, is there really any survival advantage for butterflies and tropical fish to possess such a wide pallet of colors and shapes? Are these colors really helping in their survival? Function exceeds survival advantage. This is in direct opposition to and disputes the basic concepts of natural selection and evolution.

5. Lack of Transitional Features in Today’s Organisms

There is a wide diversity of life, from single cell bacteria to complex multicellular plants and animals. One can observe the similarities and differences between organisms and categorize them, and can even speculate that one organism may have arisen (evolved) from another organism. Or perhaps there may have been an “less advanced” shared ancestor between different lines of organisms. This “transitional” ancestor may have some features of the new lines of organisms and some features of older parent ancestors, and maybe these could be found as fossils.

Well, it is well-known that virtually none of these transitional organisms have been found in the fossil record, and alleged transitional forms (archaeopteryx and Pakicetus, for example) have been refuted as transitional forms. However, if evolution is still taking place today, shouldn’t we see transitional forms now? Shouldn’t we see new multicellular organisms arising from single cell bacteria and protozoa that had not been documented before? Has evolution stopped?

The truth is that we should see much more diversity in plant and animal life today with many combinations of shared features across evolutionary lines, if evolution is really happening. For example, there are many things that must happen for a purely aquatic animal such as a fish to evolve into a land dwelling animal – leg formation, breathing air, skin rather than scales, eyes not drying out, skeleton and muscles to support body weight, loss of gills, digesting new foods, mating issues, etc. Since it would be astronomically improbable for all of these features to have evolved simultaneously, we should see different lines of organisms in different stages of development of these features, and with variations in the features. For example, virtually all vertebrate organisms have four limbs. Why not some with six limbs? Was four limbs such a tremendous advantage that every descendant organism evolved with four limbs? Why not some lines of land organisms retaining gills? Why do all birds have beaks and characteristic feet? Why not some with teeth and paws?

Different lines of plants and animals fall very neatly into what is referred to a Biblical “kinds”. We do not see the expected huge combination of overlapping evolving features and transitional forms because that is not process that is taking place today or in the past.

6. Lack of Evolutionary Change where it would be Expected

In the scheme of things, life is extremely fragile. The survival of most organisms on earth requires a very narrow temperature range, protection from solar radiation, a constant supply of water, specific atmospheric requirements, and very specific foods and minerals. Clearly, not all of these factors are always ideal. Why hasn’t life evolved to adapt to these variations in environment, for example:

  • It would be extremely advantageous for animals to see into the infrared spectrum, as this would greatly improve survival changes from predators at night (it would greatly improve the predator’s abilities as well). This should have evolved as a universal trait in any animal involved in a predator / prey situation.
  • It would be extremely advantageous for animals to have retained photosynthesis, or to have “evolved” this separately, as an alternative food source.
  • It would be extremely advantageous for all land animals to have evolved enhanced kidney function such as that found in kangaroo rats, which allow them to excrete waste material with much less water usage.
  • It would have been extremely advantageous from a survival standpoint for mammals not to require such as tight range of internal body temperature to survive. Since many bacteria that cause infectious diseases are killed with elevated body temperature, animals being able to tolerate greatly elevated body temperatures should have evolved as well.
  • Since speed, agility, and climbing ability confer such a large survival advantage, it would seem that all animals would have attained these abilities or be extinct.
  • Since damage to existing DNA may be a major cause for aging and death, why have not better cellular mechanisms for DNA protection and repair evolved?

These are just a few examples of evolution and natural selection that didn’t happen. If these are the driving forces leading to the diversity and survival of life today, why didn’t evolution take place in these cases?

Summary of Non-Evolution

The points discussed above discuss not only why evolution is not happening, but also what we would expect to see if it really were happening. No one was present when the first plant and animal came into being, but we can observe what is happening today, and it is obvious that evolution is not taking place. Organisms do have variations in traits and characteristics within that kind of organism, and natural selection does lead to some organisms surviving while others do not. But it is still that kind of organism. A bacteria is still a bacteria in spite of different antibiotics, and a fruit fly is still a fruit fly no matter what demands you place on it. Variation within a kind of organism is not evolution.

From above, we find that:

  • natural selection is actually a barrier to significant change on a evolutionary scale.
  • it is simply impossible for many of the features that present in organism today to have spontaneously arisen. Thus, there are non-resolvable pathways of development.
  • encoded information present in DNA must have been created by an intelligent designer and could not have arisen spontaneously.
  • function in excess of need disputes natural selection and evolution.
  • there is a lack of transitional forms today that should be present if evolution was taking place.
  • there is a glaring lack of certain features that have never evolved.

Again, these are observable processes in nature which exclude the possibility of evolution as an explanation for life today.

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