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Apologetics Press :: Sensible Science

15 Answers to John Rennie and Scientific American’s Nonsense—Argument #14
by Bert Thompson, Ph.D. and Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

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14. [Creationists suggest that]living things have fantastically intricate features—at the anatomical, cellular, and molecular levels—that could not function if they were any less complex or sophisticated. The only prudent conclusion is that they are the products of intelligent design, not evolution.

Mr. Rennie concluded:

Generations of creationists have tried to counter Darwin by citing the example of the eye as a structure that could not have evolved. The eye’s ability to provide vision depends on the perfect arrangement of its parts, these critics say. Natural selection could thus never favor the transitional forms needed during the eye’s evolution—what good is half an eye? Anticipating this criticism, Darwin suggested that even “incomplete” eyes might confer benefits (such as helping creatures orient toward light) and thereby survive for further evolutionary refinement. Biology has vindicated Darwin: researchers have identified primitive eyes and light-sensing organs throughout the animal kingdom and have even tracked the evolutionary history of eyes through comparative genetics. (It now appears that in various families of organisms, eyes have evolved independently.)

Today’s intelligent-design advocates are more sophisticated than their predecessors, but their arguments and goals are not fundamentally different. They criticize evolution by trying to demonstrate that it could not account for life as we know it and then insist that the only tenable alternative is that life was designed by an unidentified intelligence (2002, 287[1]:83, parenthetical comments in orig.).

This argument is leveled at the modern-day Intelligent Design movement. In an attempt to defuse this “bomb” on the doorstep of the evolutionary camp, Mr. Rennie attempted to undermine the origin and design of the eye by suggesting that “incomplete” eyes might confer benefit. However, R.L. Gregory noted:

The problem of how eyes have developed has presented a major challenge to the Darwinian theory of evolution by Natural Selection. We can make many entirely useless experimental models when designing a new instrument, but this was impossible for Natural Selection, for each step must confer some advantage upon its owner, to be selected and transmitted through the generations. But what use is a half-made lens? What use is a lens giving an image, if there is no nervous system to interpret the information? How could a visual nervous system come about before there was an eye to give it information? In evolution there can be no master plan, no looking ahead to form structures which, though useless now, will come to have importance when other structures are sufficiently developed. And yet the human eye and brain have come about through slow painful trial and error (1972, p. 25).

As long ago as 1949, Sir Arthur Keith of Great Britain acknowledged the problem of any attempt to explain the complexity of the eye.

What are we to say, then, about such a complicated and efficient instrument as the human eye? If it had been made of wood, brass, and glass, it would have been said to have been planned for a purpose, but because it has been “evolved,” is made up of living tissues, and came into existence without a preliminary “blueprint,” it is not purposive. Are not my critics, by the use of a verbal quibble, seeking a sophist’s escape from a real difficulty? Would it not be more honest to say that the finer purposive adaptations we see in plants and animals remain as yet, unexplained? The eye has been evolved; that much is quite certain; the living vital forces which have molded it are probably still at work, but as yet we have not isolated them. I could as easily believe the theory of the Trinity as one which maintains that living, developing protoplasm, by mere throws of chance, brought the human eye into existence (p. 238, emp. added).

Did you catch the statement that the eye “came into existence without a preliminary blueprint,” and “has been evolved; that much is quite certain”? In other words, assume what you are supposed to set out to prove, and then go on from there. In philosophy, that sleight-of-hand trick is known as the fallacy of “begging the question.” And evolutionists should know better, shouldn’t they Mr. Rennie?

Rennie suggested that “researchers have identified primitive eyes and light-sensing organs throughout the animal kingdom and have even tracked the evolutionary history of eyes through comparative genetics. It now appears that in various families of organisms, eyes have evolved independently.” But there are two things wrong with such an assessment. First, as Sarfati has pointed out:

This overlooks the incredible complexity of even the simplest light-sensitive spot. Second, it’s fallacious to argue that 51% vision would necessarily have a strong enough selective advantage over 50% to overcome the effects of genetic drift’s tendency to eliminate even beneficial mutations.

Second, as Sarfati went on to note:

Rennie contradicts himself here. If the evolutionary history of eyes has been tracked though comparative genetics how is it that eyes have supposedly evolved independently? Actually, evolutionists recognize that eyes must have arisen independently at least 30 times because there is no evolutionary pattern to explain the origin of eyes from a common ancestor. What this really means is that since eyes cannot be related by common ancestor, then since they are here, and only materialistic explanations are allowed, hey presto, there’s proof that they evolved independently! (2002a).

Evolutionist Frank Salisbury admitted: “Even something as complex as the eye has appeared several times; for example, in the squid, the vertebrates, and the arthropods. It’s bad enough accounting for the origin of such things once, but the thought of producing them several times according to the modern synthetic theory makes my head swim” (1971, p. 338, emp. added). So now we are to believe that this magical development of the eye occurred not just once, but several times in different organisms.

Additionally Mr. Rennie neglected a major problem with his theory regarding the origin of the eye. According to evolutionists, the eye has evolved to the pinnacle at which we now find it. Yet, the trilobite, an index fossil that evolutionists claim is 450 million years old, possessed an even more complex eye (with a dual lens system) than anything seen in nature today. And even the evolutionists know this to be true. Writing in Science News, Lisa Shawver wrote that trilobites possessed “the most sophisticated eye lenses ever produced by nature” (1974, 105:72, emp. added). Indeed they did! Trilobites possessed a lens system known in ophthalmology as an “optical doublet.” But in order to make such a lens system function properly, it is necessary to have what is known as a “refracting interface” between the two lenses. And that is exactly what the trilobites—which evolutionists believe is one of the first living things on the Earth, and which is an index fossil for the Cambrian period)—do indeed possess! The acknowledged worldwide expert on the trilobites, Riccardo Levi-Setti of the University of Chicago, literally “wrote the book” on these creatures. In his volume, Trilobites, he said:

In fact, this optical doublet is a device so typically associated with human invention that its discovery in trilobites comes as something of a shock. The realization that trilobites developed and used such devices half a billion years ago makes the shock even greater. And a final discovery—that the refracting interface between the two lens elements in a trilobite’s eye was designed in accordance with optical constructions worked out by Descartes and Huygens in the mid-seventeenth century—borders on sheer science fiction…. The design of the trilobite’s eye lens could well qualify for a patent disclosure (1993, pp. 57,58, emp. added).

Niles Eldredge, paleontologist of the American Museum of Natural History (and a scientist who devoted a portion of his doctoral dissertation to the trilobite’s eye), remarked:

These lenses—technically termed aspherical, aplanatic lenses—optimize both light collecting and image formation better than any lens ever conceived. We can be justifiably amazed that these trilobites, very early in the history of life on Earth, hit upon the best possible lens design that optical physics has ever been able to formulate (as quoted in Ellis, 2001, p. 49, emp. added).

“Justifiably amazed?” What an understatement! Darwin once said that it made him turn “cold” to think of something as complex as an eye evolving. With that in mind, Ian Taylor observed: “If Darwin turned cold at the thought of the human eye at the end of the evolutionary cycle, what, one wonders, would he have thought of the trilobite eye near the beginning?” (1984, p. 169, emp. added).

Yes, one does “wonder,” doesn’t one, Mr. Rennie?

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