Eye Origins Part 1

The Stories from Evolutionism.

Many people still believe that the eye could have had a natural origin. This belief has been around well before science was able to determine if it was true or not.  For over 150 years now some people have accepted the idea that a natural origin for the features in life is possible.  But over the last 50 years a growing number of scientists have been abandoning this idea as not compatible with what we know about biology.

In many of the examinations of eye evolution the story often begins by trying to follow Darwin’s idea about how the eye could evolve.  But Darwin’s ideas were developed based on his 19th century understanding.  Darwin didn’t understand the full process he was espousing.  Yet, to this date the main approach to examining evolution is to imagine the path rather than looking at the current capabilities and limits of chemical and biological processes.  This approach is exemplified on the Wikipedia page on the evolution of the eye, which attempts to summarize many of the ideas about eye evolution.  Since the Wikipedia page is a fairly typical summary of the evolutionary approach to eye evolution much of what we will look at in this part is from that page.

Here is what Darwin imagined about eye evolution:

To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable contrivances… could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree… Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist… and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real. -Darwin (Wikipedia) -emphasis added

Here, the tests are laid out for us; numerous gradations, usefulness to its possessor and mere existence. Notice that the validations have nothing to do with the true raw material of evolution, variation. Darwin couldn’t appeal to that part of the process.  This resulted in the mistaken idea that natural selection is central to the problem with eye evolution.

The reasoning goes like this, if something survives to reproduce then it must have been selected. If it existed, it must have survived, at least for a period. If selection is counted as the engine of evolution, then everything that exists evolved.  The probability of natural selection selecting something useful is always favorable, especially when it supposedly happened millions of years ago. Using natural selection as evidence is therefore a circular argument, which is why it rings true. And because of the belief that each feature (observed or unobserved) is the product of evolution the task then becomes to figure out the path that evolution took rather than looking at how the properties and processes of biology could produce the features.  This allows the real difficulties with eye evolution to be bypassed.

When you believe that a feature being useful to its possessor is evidence for evolution, then any feature that is useful will be seen as resulting from evolution.  But usefulness is actually the hallmark of intelligent design; in nature it is just a fluke. 

Still, in the 21st century, the 19th century test, the existence of “stages” or steps is considered evidence that evolution happened.  The absurdities that result from this approach are usually ignored. For all evolutionary stories, the focus is almost always on a single aspect of a feature, such as the size or shape of a bone. For the eye it’s the size and curvature of the retina.  They start the story by showing an organism with light sensitivity, then a flat eyespot, then another with a slightly curved retina, then another with a deeper curve, then a cup, then a deeper cup.  They overlook explanations about the visual systems that would need to develop to make the degrees of curvature useful.  Those complex and coordinated features and systems magically appear in the stories of the stages of eye evolution.

THE STAGES OF EYE EVOLUTION

One of the consistent problems with their evidences for eye evolution is that they are unable to connect them to other organisms with different stages.  There is no single path that demonstrates all the stages, most organisms that are said to exhibit a stage have no predecessor with more primitive stages of the eye and no descendant with more advanced stages.  The use of the term stages is therefore deceptive, because it can’t really be a stage if you can’t trace it directly to another supposed stage.

Supposedly there are 1829 steps of retina curvature from a flat eye spot to the camera eye. The Wikipedia page on eye evolution lists four. It presents a few different organisms under the heading “The Stages of Eye Evolution”. They present organisms with different types of eyes, but none of the organism’s trace through any of the presumed stages.  At best they show slight variation of a few different eye types.    People think they are looking at evidence for evolution, when in reality they haven’t seen any evidence at all.

The story of the stages begins with the Euglena and its light sensitive spot or “eyespot”. 

The euglena’s eyespot, called a stigma, is located at its anterior end. It is a small splotch of red pigment which shades a collection of light sensitive crystals. Together with the leading flagellum, the eyespot allows the organism to move in response to light, often toward the light to assist in photosynthesis…” (Wikipedia) -emphasis added

The Euglena fits the 19th century proofs that its eyespot can be shown to exist and that it is useful.  But, while the Euglena fulfils the example of a light sensitive organism it’s not an example of an organism with a light sensitive organ that would lead to an eye, nor is it an example of a stage.  It’s also starting the story past the starting point, having all of the components and supporting systems already in place.  There is no hint of the numerous gradations that must have created the eyespot.  All they really do is show you the Euglena and tell you how it uses its eyespot. It doesn’t demonstrate evolution; it assumes evolution in order to present it as a possible step in a path.

The idea is that if light sensitivity could evolve in the Euglena then light sensitivity can evolve.   In the above passage they haven’t shown you anything that relates to the process of evolution.  The Euglena isn’t an ancestor to any organisms that developed eyes.  It’s been a single celled organism since it first appeared.  It’s not even a step along the evolutionary path towards eyes, it’s not evidence that provable biological processes are the cause for the eye spot.  You may think you saw evidence for evolution in the above passage, but you need to assume evolution to accept the story as evolutionary.

The planarian is presented as an example of the cup eye stage.

The planarian has “cup” eyespots that can slightly distinguish light direction. These complex optical systems started out as the multicellular eyepatch gradually depressed into a cup, which first granted the ability to discriminate brightness in directions, then in finer and finer directions as the pit deepened. –Wikipedia (emphasis added)

One big problem is that the planarian doesn’t have any known ancestor with a simple light sensitive spot.  So, is it really an example of eye evolution or do you have to take it by faith?  The rest of the paragraph is just a story. The planarian doesn’t demonstrate a stage in eye evolution moving from an eyespot to a cup eye.  There is no evidence of numerous gradations, but it does fit the other criteria Darwin proposed, if it exists and its useful it must have evolved.

The change in shape, presumably by adding cells and curvature to the light sensitive spot is not nearly as problematic as the unexplained and unexamined magical appearance of the ability to distinguish light direction and the behavioral responses that connect with the ability to discriminate direction.  These abilities are “granted” in the paragraph above as a benefit of the curvature of the retina, which presumably resulted from evolution.  But assuming something evolved isn’t evidence for evolution.

We need to keep in mind that fine tuning is something that is possible due to variation in an existing system, but fine tuning depends not only on the shape of the cup, but also the ability of the organism to interpret the light direction in a way that is useful.  How likely is it that changes to the brain and nervous system would coincide with changes to the shape of the retina?  It is not unusual to see things like this taken for granted in stories about evolution.  It’s because the story is based on the path, not on the scientific processes of biology.

The next supposed stage in eye evolution is the pit eye.

Pit eyes, which had arisen by the Cambrian period, were seen in ancient snails… and are found in some snails and other invertebrates living today, such as planaria. Planaria can slightly differentiate the direction and intensity of light because of their cup-shaped, heavily pigmented retina cells, which shield the light-sensitive cells from exposure in all directions except for the single opening for the light. However, this proto-eye is still much more useful for detecting the absence or presence of light than its direction; this gradually changes as the eye’s pit deepens and the number of photoreceptive cells grows, allowing for increasingly precise visual information. –Wikipedia (emphasis added)

The Planarian is given as an example of a cup eye and a pit eye.  This is because a pit eye and a cup eye are just a degree of curvature, there is really no way to draw a distinct line between a cup and a pit eye, which is why the planarian is mentioned for both.  Variations in the eyes of a single species is not evidence of eye evolution. Also, snail eyes cannot be traced to the planarian cup eye, so they are presenting two unrelated organisms, not stages.

The main difference between the two “stages” is the increase of visual information. But the processing of that information isn’t even part of eye development.  Any increase in visual information is not just an ability of the eye.  Mutations that increase the depth of the cup shape wouldn’t trigger any corresponding mutations to nervous system or brain development.  Meaning the depth of the cup is irrelevant unless the limitations of the nervous system or brain are also addressed.  That is, increased visual precision can’t happen unless the brain can handle the increase.   But since snails and planaria can handle the visual information that their eyes provide, it fulfils the 19th century test that if it exists, it evolved.

While snails also have some variation of eyes, they do not have descendants with either possible following stage, the pinhole eye or camera eye, nor can they be traced back to an organism with an eyespot.  There is no reason for natural selection to favor a deepening of the cup without numerous coordinated mutations in the eye, brain and nervous system.  But in the story these things are taken for granted.

So once again, people may think they saw evidence for eye evolution, but all they have is a story where very difficult features are added without examination.

Another possible “stage” is a pinhole eye.

During the Cambrian explosion, the development of the eye accelerated rapidly, with radical improvements in image-processing and detection of light direction.
The primitive nautilus eye functions similarly to a pinhole camera.
The “pinhole camera” eye was developed as the pit deepened into a cup, then a chamber. By reducing the size of the opening, the organism achieved true imaging, allowing for fine directional sensing and even some shape-sensing. Eyes of this nature are currently found in the nautilus. –Wikipedia (emphasis added)

The nautilus is not a descendant of snails or of the planarian or of the Euglena, nor does it have any presumed ancestry that traces to any other supposed stages of eye development mentioned in the passage.  It also does not have any descendants with a camera eye. So, it’s not really evidence of eye evolution, it’s not a stage.  When evolutionists trace back all these lineages, they all come to imaginary “unknown” ancestors that supposedly possessed whatever features their story lacks. 

 “Radical improvements in image processing” are mentioned with the usual evolutionary credulity.  It follows the same weak and circular evolutionary reasoning.  If it exists and is useful it must have evolved. Does anyone wonder how many of those numerous gradations add up to a radical improvement in another system? Slight successive changes shouldn’t be considered radical, but that’s the problem.  How did numerous random errors in the genetic code create these supposed extreme advances in image processing?  How could nature be so lucky to stumble upon coordinated changes that inadvertently worked with the new shape of the retina?  How could errors to the genetic code add these improvements so rapidly?  All these very difficult tasks that nature would have had to perform are just taken for granted.

The evidence that they present is a story about the path, the process is assumed to be evolutionary.  This makes science questions, like “how could mutation create something,” irrelevant.  These examples also show how evolutionary beliefs hinder science. Could they present the stories as fact if they were honest about so many important questions? 

This is also why it seems like there is so much evidence for evolution.  Every time they find another organism, a story is told about the path.  This allows things that are showstoppers to be overlooked. They look at small changes like the length of a bone or the number of cells in a retina. But the radical changes that would need to coordinate with the small changes are taken for granted.  New responses and abilities appear like magic based solely on the shape of the eye.  They call these features “developments” or “achievements” or “changes” which subliminally affirm evolution, but all they really show us are different types of eyes.

THE PROBLEM OF MULTIPLE ORIGINS

Then there is the problem of how many times nature worked its miracles.  In spite of what they may say to the contrary multiple origins is a problem, because it multiplies unlikely events.  For most features in life even a single origin defies the odds, but multiple origins, which are found in all organisms, compound the problem exponentially.    

Developing an optical system that can discriminate the direction of light to within a few degrees is apparently much more difficult, and only six of the thirty-something phyla…possess such a system. –Wikipedia

It’s important to note that they don’t know or attempt to examine how difficult the problem is.  They assume that it must be difficult for nature based on how many phyla have the system.  “It’s there, so it must have evolved, but it didn’t evolve very many times so it must be hard for nature to do.”  Also, the conclusion is not based on what a scientific analysis of what mutation can do to an existing genetic code. They merely state what the optical system does and how many phyla possess it.  The assumptions are not science, they are wishful thinking.  The fact is that all the stages that evolutionists present appear suddenly in the Cambrian, and none have a traceable ancestry to a known organism with the preceding or next presumed steps in eye evolution.

The interesting thing is that the ill-informed story of eye evolution that stems from these ideas has changed little since the 19th century.  Even now, in the 21st century, for many, it starts with many kinds of eyes appearing suddenly in many different organisms all within a short span of time. 

“…complex, image-forming eyes evolved some 50 to 100 times – using many of the same proteins and genetic toolkits in their construction.”  –Wikipedia

Eyes evolving 50 to 100 times does cause consternation among some believers in evolution.  But it’s even more disturbing if you consider the oddity that it was not only eyes, but shells, exoskeletons, jaws, fins, legs, claws and a whole host of other things that evolved at the same time. But that’s not all, many of the unique features that arose in this period also are believed to have had multiple origins.  On top of all this, many of the new systems and structures, including eyes, never had an evolutionary origin again!   

How did blind undirected nature do it?  Are you satisfied with the simplistic belief that “natural selection did it,” such as suggested in the quote from Darwin? Evolutionists recognize the problem, but they insist it’s a problem with the path. They believe that it’s just the need for better lines to be drawn on the diagrams. 

The path they construct also causes them to believe that eyespots evolved independently between 40 and 65 times.  Why the disparity in the number of possible origins? There are two reasons, one is that they can’t trace at least 50 lineages with any confidence for organisms with image forming eyes and at least 15 that have simple eyespots. The second reason is the credulity factor, lineages are compiled based on likelihood and the smallest believed amount of change. The story that sounds the least incredible usually determines the evolutionary path that is most acceptable to believe. This is also why there is disagreement about the details.

Some understand that the odds are against multiple origins, so they suggest that the eye evolved once, then diversified into all of the different eyes that appear in the Cambrian.  They do this not understanding that a single origin also defies the odds.

Certain components of the eye, such as the visual pigments, appear to have a common ancestry: that is, they evolved once, before the animals radiated. –Wikipedia (emphasis added)

Whether one considers the eye to have evolved once or multiple times depends somewhat on the definition of an eye. Much of the genetic machinery employed in eye development is common to all eyed organisms, which may suggest that their ancestor utilized some form of light-sensitive machinery – even if it lacked a dedicated optical organ. However, even photoreceptor cells may have evolved more than once from molecularly similar chemoreceptors, and photosensitive cells probably existed long before the Cambrian explosion. –Wikipedia (emphasis added)

Notice the equivocation, it depends on how you define an “eye”.  Also notice that they don’t actually offer a definition of an eye but imply that an eye can be defined as “some form” of light sensitive machinery.   When it becomes difficult to define something it means you either don’t understand it or your trying to avoid a particular conclusion.  Can you call the unconstructed components of an eye, an eye?  Can an eye just be the genetic machinery that contributes to light sensitivity? Or is an eye part of a visual system?  But in fact, we know that genetic machinery is really not an eye.  They need the definition of the eye to be ambiguous so they can avoid dealing directly with the glaring absurdity of multiple origins.

The organism in the above passage, the one that developed the genetic machinery is imaginary, they don’t know of any such organism. This is why there is such a large amount of uncertainty in their story, “somewhat”, “may suggest”, “may have”, “probably”.  It’s not unusual to see this, these uncertainty words are components in all evolutionary stories.  This approach is a way to sidestep the real issue. Evolutionists “know” that eyes evolved because they believe the path, but the process and real time science tells them differently.  They try to lead you on by making suggestions about what might have happened, while letting you assume that it really could and did happen.

By suggesting one origin they postulate that some of the needed components and machinery was present in a single ancestor. Many people see the suggestion alone as proof. But what was the ancestor that had the necessary molecular machinery that eventually diversified into everything that ever evolved an eye?  It’s a huge leap of faith to imagine the molecular machinery assembling through a series of undirected mutations in a single organism.

Shared traits common to all light-sensitive organs include the family of photo-receptive proteins called opsins. All seven sub-families of opsin were already present in the last common ancestor of animals. In addition, the genetic toolkit for positioning eyes is common to all animals: the PAX6 gene controls where the eye develops in organisms ranging from mice to humans to fruit flies. These high-level genes are, by implication, much older than many of the structures that they are today seen to control; they must originally have served a different purpose, before being co-opted for a new role in eye development. –Wikipedia (emphasis added)

Notice that this doesn’t appeal to the biological processes. It’s about the path, but not the start of the path. In their story, opsins were already present, PAX6 was already around, the high-level genes were already there.  They aren’t arguing from the process, but the path. They claim that these things “must have” been around in a common ancestor, serving “some other purpose”. But what was the common ancestor, what was the other purpose. Could the first purpose and ancestor be built by the process of mutation, could mutation build the proteins and master control genes like PAX6, which only controls eye placement?  What about the genes that control the rest of eye structure and function?  By assuming the common ancestor aren’t they defeating the whole purpose of their story?  That is, they are assuming what they are attempting to prove.

Appealing to the path is acceptable because it allows them to bypass the problems of the appearance of the components.  They think that the suggestion of a single origin is enough, but the problem is still there.  Underlying the need to have a single path is a secret recognition that the chances are just too small for even a single origin. Which is why they start out with the proteins, master control genes and structures already there. Yet, even if a portion of the molecular machinery was available in a single organism, they still have to account for eyes evolving 50 to 100 times from the materials in that organism. They still have 50 to 100 unrelated lineages that somehow built eyes from those components, while at the same time mutations were adding a massive number of unique features and designs in other parts of many organisms further stretching the level of credulity.  So, the single origin idea really falls flat on its face.

INVOKING SUPER-NATURAL ORIGINS

Another mistake Evolutionists make is personifying nature. That is, giving nature the powers of thought, intelligent action, forethought and goals.  The terms “toolkit” and “co-opt” are just that type of mistake. Nature doesn’t know it has anything at its disposal, i.e. a tool kit, nor would it co-opt (the deliberate action of using the toolkit) something from another system.  When you assign intelligence to nature you are assigning it something that is above nature, i.e. super-natural. They may say, “these are just metaphors”, but there is never an attempt to explain any reality behind the metaphor.

If nature really had a toolkit, what would it look like?  It would not be a targeted selection. 

So, what do the evolutionists envision when they think “toolkit.”  They think of the genes already incorporated into whatever they are trying to explain.  In the case of the eye its PAX6, opsins and other proteins necessary to build a visual system. They imagine nature having a selection of already working code for the job because it’s what they would select if they were the selector.  So, in essence they are projecting their own choices onto nature. This is evidence that they see the need for intelligent action.

This arises from knowing deep down that the right combination of proteins and regulatory genes arising and being expressed in the right sequence in the same cell by chance is extremely unlikely.  So, by having a toolkit and co-opting the necessary genetic code, nothing new has to be invented, therefore nothing needs to be explained. 

We see a good example of this in the passage below about lenses. They claim that “Lenses…developed to improve the amount of light that reached the retina”.  In other words, “lenses evolved with the purpose of improving the amount of light reaching the retina.”  If we don’t pay attention, statements like this make sense, because one of the results of a proper lens is in fact more light reaching the retina. But nature doesn’t have any goals; mutations would not have directed lens formation in order to improve anything.  Evolution is often said to have a reason for creating a feature or the benefits of a feature. They see this as a justification for saying something evolved.  But this approach hides what would be fairly obvious were it not for devotion to materialism and methodological naturalism.  That is that intelligence develops things with the intent to improve them. 

So, when they attribute goals to nature, they are in fact demonstrating evidence that intelligence was needed.  But since this causes cognitive dissonance in their world view, they simply attribute intelligent actions to nature.   They need nature to have a toolkit.

THE ADVENT OF THE LENS

Lenses evolved independently in a number of lineages. Simple ‘pit-eyes’ probably developed lenses to improve the amount of light that reached the retina; the focal length of an early lobopod with lens-containing simple eyes focused the image behind the retina, so while no part of the image could be brought into focus, the intensity of light allowed the organism to see in deeper (and therefore darker) waters. A subsequent increase of the lens’s refractive index probably resulted in an in-focus image being formed. –Wikipedia

When they tell us that lenses “evolved” multiple times, it means they counted the number of organisms that don’t match a presumed ancestor, not that there was any examination into how a series of mutations could do it over and over again.  How many paths are there from nothing to a lens? It’s clear by their language that they don’t know; “pit eyes probably developed…,” an “increase of the lens’s refractive index probably resulted…”  Since these things are necessary for eye evolution the uncertainty is believed to be certainty.

Now, they present to us a new organism from another lineage, the lobopod, that has an eye with a lens. This is given as an example of an eye with a lens. It exists, therefore it evolved.  The idea is that since the image isn’t focused then it must have been a step from an unfocused lens to a focused lens. But they start this stage with the lens and end with the lens.  This completely bypasses all the other presumed steps in this lineage.   

They continue the storytelling,

The development of the lens in camera-type eyes probably followed a different trajectory. The transparent cells over a pinhole eye’s aperture split into two layers, with liquid in between. The liquid originally served as a circulatory fluid for oxygen, nutrients, wastes, and immune functions, allowing greater total thickness and higher mechanical protection. In addition, multiple interfaces between solids and liquids increase optical power, allowing wider viewing angles and greater imaging resolution. Again, the division of layers may have originated with the shedding of skin; intracellular fluid may infill naturally depending on layer depth.
ote that this optical layout has not been found, nor is it expected to be found. Fossilization rarely preserves soft tissues –Wikipedia

A more important note is that the first sentence, once again, tells you it’s only a probable path, but the rest of the first paragraph talks about it as if it were a fact.  Then, they admit it isn’t fact, they tell us that what they are claiming has never been found, meaning this is pure speculation, i.e. evolutionary storytelling.  Although they use the word “probably”, they don’t mean they have examined any odds of something like what they describe occurring.

Note how they excuse the lack of the type of evidence they accept. When admitting that the layout has not been found they demonstrate that they believe if they did find it, it would be proof that it evolved. “If it exists then it evolved.” And their failure to address how the process could cause these changes is proof that they don’t recognize their thinking is flawed.  There are no organisms that have this layout, yet each organism that developed a camera eye would have had to have gone through a similar stage.  Even without evidence they believe it evolved.  They also ignore the more difficult thing to explain, the greater image resolution, which is dependent on brain development.

Lenses, molecular machinery, eyespots, and dozens of different types of eyes. One origin or many origins. Debates about which story is true. Conflicting lines of evidence. Missing evidence.  Probabilities without statistical analysis.  No matter what the story, believers will tell you that eye evolution is an established fact and proof of evolution.  They all believe that someone out there has done the science to prove the process, but they never refer to it.  The reality is you must believe in evolution first before any of the evidence is evidence at all.   

ALREADY THERE

As we’ve seen in some of the above passages many critical components and features magically appear in the evolutionary stories.  We’ve also seen that the lineages with different types of eyes don’t actually connect to one another.  One of the techniques used to avoid dealing with analyzing how mutation could create a feature is to simply start with major components already in existence.   “They exist, therefore they evolved.”

…a wide range of studies that traced back 700 million years, to when the first light-sensitive chemicals known as opsins began to appear in simple, single-celled organisms. While primordial organisms already had some signaling pathways, opsins enabled them to sense light for the first time. -redorbit (emphasis added)

They aren’t sure of what they are claiming, they don’t know that any components have a common ancestry, the opsins just show up, or “appear,” the signaling pathways are already there.  They are not really tracing any origins.  Why are single celled organisms important to eye evolution? Opsins are found in single celled organisms, but the signaling pathways for eyes are in multicellular organisms. The passage makes it sound like there is a path from one to the other, but there are no primordial single celled organisms that can be traced to multicellular organisms with optical signaling pathways.  The importance is to find opsins before eyes, it fits the path.  They believe that if it was already there that the origins of opsins and the signaling pathways have been explained. No analysis needed.

The other problem is that there are no existing opsins from that supposed time period to study, no fossil DNA and no fossil photoreceptor cells.  The studies that supposedly “traced back” over a half billion years that show you photos of photoreceptors or that list the macro molecules you find in them or that look at the DNA sequences are looking at modern living organisms.  These modern creatures are supposed descendants of the organisms they claim to trace. The problem with this approach is that it relies heavily on assumption and speculation.

One assumption is that the modern-day relatives of the organisms they study didn’t change for a half billion years. They use the term “evolutionarily conserved” for this, it just means nothing evolved, but keeps it within the context of evolution.  That way you may not realize you’ve seen nothing.  If they don’t detect a difference in the molecules, structures or genetics, then they conclude that evolution didn’t do anything for a half billion years. But if they do see a difference, then the conclusion must be evolution did it.  Oddly, even if they trace back a half billion years, opsins never developed again, which means their trail also ends a half billion years ago. So, it’s no wonder they claim to trace it there.

The lines they trace from one organism to another reflect their evolutionary assumptions.  So whatever picture they come up with is only a very complex reflection of what they already believe.  It may look like they are presenting evidence for evolution, but you have to believe in evolution for any of it to be evidence. It’s nothing more than a very detailed circular argument.

Opsins belong to a family of proteins called G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). They’re also known as serpentine proteins, for the way they snake in and out of cell membranes. Serpentine proteins relay many different kinds of signals in the cells of eukaryotes. Yeast cells use them to detect odorlike molecules called pheromones released by other yeast cells. Early in the evolution of animals, a serpentine protein mutated so that it picks up a new kind of signal: light. -Carl Zimmer (empasis added)

The declaration of a G-protein mutating to form an opsin may seem like the solution to solving the origin of opsins. The assumption is that mutating an existing gene to gain a new function must be easy.  For intelligence it would be, but did they ascertain that nature could do it?  As evidence for evolution it rests on that assumption, meaning it’s not really evidence. It also bypasses a major development, that being the origin and function of the G-Protein itself.  It’s true that G-proteins relay many different signals.  They are a critical component in many senses including sight and smell, but also in cell regulation and identification. So, activation by a photon would not be the first or last lucky mutation for G-proteins. 

There are other problems with mutations creating the photo-receptive part of the opsin. First is that, it only seems to have happened a half billion years ago, so it’s not a likely mutation. Second is that a mutation that caused a G-protein to be activated by light is likely to destroy the function it was already performing.  Thirdly, the mutation of the G-protein to be able to react to light doesn’t account for the rest of the components in the process. There is also the question of how so many G-proteins mutated within such a short period to gain so many functions?  The truth is that the mutations that supposedly created opsins are necessary for the story of eye evolution.  In the story, G-proteins are already there. They exist, therefore they evolved.

Does gene duplication solve the problems, or does it just get you focused on the wrong thing?

At some point, the original opsin gene was duplicated. The two kinds of opsins may have carried out different tasks. One may have been sensitive to a certain wavelength of light, for example, while the other tracked the cycle of night and day. When cnidarians and bilaterians diverged, perhaps 620 million years ago, they each inherited both kinds of opsins. In each lineage, the opsins were further duplicated and evolved into new forms. And thus, from a single opsin early in the history of animals, a diversity of light-sensing molecules has evolved. -Carl Zimmer (emphasis added)

The reason why they come up with this timeline is not because they have found an origin for opsins or even for the various forms of opsins.  They believe it happened at “some point” because they find c-opsins and r-opsins in both groups. Based on the assumption that opsins evolved, the task is to believe the most believable story.  It seems more believable for opsins to have mutated from a G-protein before the groups split. It’s a logical conclusion because the belief demands the conclusion. The possible dates are attached based on the path they believe evolution was taking, not on the capabilities of the process to move them along that path.

They also don’t know what types of tasks the opsins performed, so they speculate based on what opsins do now or what they believe opsins did in extinct organisms. In real life the tasks of opsins are not based on the opsins themselves, but are only one requirement in the systems they reside in.  That is, a mutation to an opsin is useless until it has a system designed to utilize the opsin and perform a function such as circadian rhythms.

While gene duplication (two identical sequences) is certainly plausible, the new tasks it performs could not be a result of duplication alone.  Two of the same opsins would not automatically generate a new task.  Any new task has to be the result of more lucky errors in the genetic code. But the magical appearance of new functions or “tasks” is always part of evolution stories.

Asserting diversification of function without any analysis of how mutation could produce it isn’t science.  Sensitivity to a certain wavelength of light is useless unless that sensitivity produces a positive reaction.  Regulation of circadian rhythms involves more than just having and opsin that picks up the right kind of light.   The suggestion above is that a variation of the opsin alone can create circadian rhythm regulation.  Generally, opsin molecules are all fairly similar, it’s the photo-receptor cells or other signal pathways in an organism that are connected to larger systems that create the diversity of function. 

Imagine an opsin that can detect green light. It needs a system that will cause reactions based on that signal.  Changing the opsin to detect red light would mean the green light would no longer create a signal, but a red light would activate the green light reactions.  What if you duplicated the green light opsin? It might increase the signal strength so that less light activates the associated response; it might also overwhelm the system, or it might do nothing. What if both red and green types were active? Then red or green light would cause green light reactions?  Only when a red light reaction was added would a red light signal have its own associated reaction.  It’s far easier to imagine a duplication, which at best would enable an organism to detect more light, than to explain how any of the new functions or related parts of the system were created by genetic errors.

The fact is that they don’t really know that there was a duplication or when it happened. The timeline and story demand it. That is, it exists, therefore it evolved.  For variations of the opsins to occur without disrupting any existing function the gene would first have to be duplicated then mutate, not the other way around. So, the order of the story is determined by the necessity to make the story sound plausible, but it’s also another strike against the likelihood of it being correct.

It turns out that crystallins also evolved from recruited genes. All vertebrates, for example, have crystallins in their lenses known as α-crystallins. They started out not as light-focusing molecules, however, but as a kind of first aid for cells. When cells get hot, their proteins lose their shape. They use so-called heat-shock proteins to cradle overheated proteins so that they can still carry out their jobs. Scientists have found that α-crystallins not only serve to focus light in the eye, but also act as heat-shock proteins in other parts of the body. This evidence indicates that in an early vertebrate, a mutation caused α-crystallins to be produced on the surface of their eyes. It turned out to have the right optical properties for bending light. Later mutations fine-tuned α-crystallins, making them better at their new job. -Carl Zimmer (emphasis added)

Evolutionary stories are basically thought experiments. They are validated by the number of minds that imagine the same thing and are able to resist any temptation to ask questions that might ruin the experiment.. The story above doesn’t tell you how the process of successive genetic errors could create a crystallin molecule in the first place.  It starts with α-crystallins already there.  A lucky mutation just happens to cause crystallins to be expressed on the surface of the eye, and more lucky mutations gave the new crystallins the right optical properties.  The new job, the very complex system crystallins are built into, including the brain’s response to the inevitable change in image, are taken for granted.  Then there is the idea that a focused lens is a realistic possibility when there are many thousands of unfocused variations.  And also, the idea that crystals forming on the surface of the eye would create a focused image with “just the right optical properties” rather than scattering the light.   But for evolutionists, it must have just turned out that way and this line of reasoning satisfies them.  What a leap.

A crystallin changing into a crystallin is where the focus is placed because it’s easier to believe, but the many major changes are overlooked.  If you focus on the crystallin you think your seeing evidence for evolution, but you are missing out on the science that is hidden by their beliefs.  They present a small change in an existing molecule, but ignore the changes that would need to happen to the lens formation and brain response.  The retina may capture the focused light, but the brain is what focuses the signal and sends out the impulses that create the reaction.

DO FLAWS EQUATE TO NATURAL ORIGINS?

Evolutionists also try to justify evolutionary ideas by pointing out supposed flaws in the designs of living things.  The idea is that evolution would make mistakes. This understanding is because they observe evolution resulting from genetic errors in real-time science.  But the idea that flaws are evidence for system creating evolution is really nothing more than a distraction from the real issue.

The fact is that most scientists and engineers who understand the systems and features in the living world, including the eye, are envious of those systems and features.  Life, more often than not, exhibits optimal performance, precision and economy.   And when evolution does happen, it invariably causes loss to those systems.

The interesting thing is that, on one hand they look at supposed shortcomings in complex systems as evidence nature did it, because they know that nature would make mistakes and it would be highly unlikely to create an optimally designed system.  On the other hand, they believe that at the molecular level, the point where the mistakes are made, errors in the genetic code slowly compile to create precision systems.  Their beliefs are not only contradictory but are the exact opposite of what we observe.

We are going to briefly touch on what seems to evolutionists to be icing on the evolutionary cake.  It’s the argument from bad design, the Wikipedia page heading is “Evolutionary baggage.”    Bad design, evolutionary baggage or scars is part of the typical approach to giving evolution seeming credibility.  The argument from sub-standard design has two fairly typical outcomes. One is that supposed bad designs are often good designs that scientists just didn’t understand, like the eye, and two the bad design turns out to be the result of degradation from a previously optimized system.

This is one of the arguments given for poor design; 

The eyes of many taxa record their evolutionary history in their contemporary anatomy. The vertebrate eye, for instance, is built “backwards and upside down”, requiring “photons of light to travel through the cornea, lens, aqueous fluid, blood vessels, ganglion cells, amacrine cells, horizontal cells, and bipolar cells before they reach the light-sensitive rods and cones that transduce 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.” While such a construct has some drawbacks, it also allows the outer retina of the vertebrates to sustain higher metabolic activities as compared to the non-inverted design. It also allowed for the evolution of the choroid layer, including the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, which play an important role in protecting the photoreceptive cells from photo-oxidative damage. –Wikipedia. (emphasis added)

You should notice that they don’t discuss any evolutionary history in the passage.  You may think that you saw some history, but they just present the construction of the retina.  Did the retina start out backwards in our lineage or did the photoreceptor cells flip around at some point?

The photoreceptors facing away from the light is a necessary combination with the choroid layer and RPE cells for the high metabolic activity of the retina. They assume that the construction is a record of its evolutionary history and state that assumption as fact.  But then what current feature wouldn’t be a result of its history?  What history does the retina record?  The fact is that there is no history of a natural origin of the retina, it’s all speculation and storytelling.

Once again, it’s about the path, not the process. That is, which direction did evolution take rather than could evolution take a direction.  It’s also another case of “heads I win, tails you lose” evolutionary storytelling.   If they see something that seems sub-optimal, they think nature would be likely to do it, no matter how unlikely the process is. But if they see something that seems to be optimal, they conclude that nature would have selected it and fine-tuned it to its optimal design, no matter how unlikely the individual changes would be.

The real challenge for evolution is explaining how nature stumbled upon the best solution for high quality vision. The backwards retina argument is useless in that regard.  The features needed to make the whole system work are much more complex and involved than the direction of the photoreceptors.  How likely is it that the “fixes” to the backwards design would come about by random genetic errors?  The added metabolic activity, protection from damage, saccade movement, pre and post image processing are necessities for the quality of vision that vertebrates possess.  Where is the history for these?

The reality is that everything that is intelligently designed has a reason, good, bad or mistaken, for the features it has.  Nature on the other hand doesn’t have reasons. The only reason that applies to nature is that if a current feature has useful function there is a reason why it continues to exist. But the reason for its existence does not explain its origin or how nature overcame the absurd odds it would take to create it.

Features in intelligently designed things may or may not have functions, they may or may not work right, but most of the time there is a reason for each feature.  Scientists look at life with the premise that if a feature exists it probably has a reason for being there.  And the fact is that most features in life do have a purpose that we can discern.  But mutation doesn’t have a reason to accidentally create anything new, nor does natural selection.  This has forced some evolutionists to conclude that purpose in life is an illusion.  That view makes sense if you believe that optimal designs can result from accidents.  But it’s not realistic.

SIMILARITY, ANOTHER FAULTY EVOLUTIONARY IDEA.

As we’ve seen, there are quite a few things in organisms that are not evidence for evolution yet are used by evolutionists as evidence. They all have one thing in common, you have to believe in evolution first.

One of the main evidences given for evolution are homologies, or similarities.

Looking at similarities, another idea that comes from at least two centuries ago, does not address the origin of any feature, that is, they don’t address evolutionary change. Looking at similarities does have a legitimate scientific use. We can look at the features of existing organisms to infer the function of similar features on extinct organisms. But when looking at evolution, similarities are presumed to be the remnants from a common ancestor that already had those traits.  They are used to connect the path, but assume the process was evolution.

Biologists have long known that all vertebrates carry the same basic kind of opsin in their eyes, known as a c-opsin. All c-opsins have the same basic molecular shape, whether they’re in the eye of a shark or the eye of a hummingbird. All c-opsins are stored in a stack of disks, each of which grows out of a hair-like extension of the retina called a cilium. In all vertebrates, c-opsins relay their signal from the stack of disks through a pathway of proteins called the phosphodiesterase pathway. All of these homologies suggest that c-opsins were present in the common ancestor of all living vertebrates. -Carl Zimmer

Did you notice the circular reasoning? The passage above lists the similarities, the same basic kind of opsins, the same basic molecular shape, the same type of storage, the same pathway.  The subtle circular argument is that if similarities are the result of common ancestry then similarities suggest common ancestry. Common ancestry is the premise and the conclusion.  While c-opsins may be the same and have the same molecular shape, could nature create them?   While all c-opsins are stored in disks, could nature create the disks that store them?  What about the origin of the hair-like extensions? What about the origin of the path and destination of the signal?  The end result of all these features are the similarities, but evolution is simply assumed.  So, you think you are looking at an evolutionary explanation, but in reality, you are being led in a circle.  And another strange thing is that c-opsins evolved before all living vertebrates, over half a billion years ago, and never again.

Similarities also result from intelligent design, and the only objections to intelligent design are philosophical not scientific.  There is ample scientific support that intelligence can create working designs and manipulate living systems.  A designer is a far more plausible conclusion for the thousands of similarities in the living world that do not trace back to a real common ancestor.

ONE LAST RIDICULOUS EVOLUTIONARY IDEA

Some people believe that embryos retrace their evolutionary history in their development adding evolutionary stages as the embryo grows. This idea is also from the 19th century. An article in Scientific American from July 2013 used this idea to try and make eye evolution sound plausible.

“I proposed that the hagfish eye is not involved in vision but…regulates crucial circadian rhythms, as well as seasonal activities…  Perhaps, then, the ancestral eye of proto-vertebrates… first served as a nonvisual organ and only later evolved the neural processing power and optical motor components needed for spatial vision.

Studies of the embryological development of the eye support this notion.  When the lamprey is at the larval stage, it…like the hagfish, is blind.  At that point…its eye resembles the hagfish eye in being structurally simple and buried below the skin.  When the larva undergoes metamorphosis, its rudimentary eye grows substantially and develops a three-layered retina; a lens, cornea and supporting muscles form.  The organ then erupts at the surface as a camera style vertebrate eye.  Because many aspects of an individual mirror events that occurred during the evolution of its ancestors, we can, with caution, use the developing lamprey eye to inform our reconstruction of how the eye evolved.

During embryological development the mammalian eye, too, exhibits telltale clues to its evolutionary origin. …the circuitry of the mammalian retina starts out rather like that of the hagfish, with photoreceptors connecting directly to the output neurons.  Then… the bipolar cells mature and insert themselves between the photoreceptors and the output neurons. This sequence is exactly the developmental pattern one would expect to see if the vertebrate retina evolved from a two layered circadian organ by adding processing power and imaging components.  It therefore seems entirely plausible that this early, simple stage of development represents a holdover from a period in evolution before the invention of bipolar cell circuitry in the retina and before the invention of the lens, cornea and supporting muscles.” -Trevor Lamb (emphasis added)

The evidence stems from similarities, but in the article and studies many difficult features are taken for granted. In this passage alone we see the addition of circadian rhythm, neural processing components, spatial vision, processing power, bipolar cell circuitry, the lens and cornea.

This is not a story about the processes, it’s, once again, a story about the path.  But the path of an embryo’s development is highly orchestrated and orderly and there is actually no point in embryonic development that is like evolution in its process.  Embryonic development is the outcome of running a set of very complex genetic programs, growing and directing hundreds or thousands of cells, differentiating them, giving them individual identity and placing them with a pre-programed goal of building many specified structures. Evolution, on the other hand, proceeds without a plan. Its error driven; multiple mutations followed by natural selection if the mutations happen to be selectable.  Any resemblance in order is therefore purely superficial.

Using the example above, the bipolar cells would be the result of mutations, where they are inserted would be the result of more mutations, when they were inserted would be the result of even more mutations, how many cells were inserted would be the result of even yet more mutations.  Would we expect embryonic development to reflect this in any way?  Mutations occur randomly, would we expect them to replay in development in the order that they occurred, or to create order by sheer accident?  The problem is that for eye evolution to have occurred, the mutations for adding the next layer couldn’t be selected until after the first layer was already there. That is, if you need part A in order to place part B you need the mutations for part A first.  It constricts the possible path making it much more unlikely for nature to stumble on a solution. But because the path is constricted, it is used to create the illusion that the path is what nature would have chosen. 

A very interesting thing is what is said in the example, “Because many aspects of an individual mirror events that occurred during the evolution of its ancestors, we can… use the developing lamprey eye to inform our reconstruction of how the eye evolved.”  But if they already know how eye evolution occurred, then why do they need to look at lamprey larva to inform them how evolution occurred?  And if they need the lamprey larval development to inform them of how evolution happened, how can they know it mirrors evolutionary events.  Maybe that’s why he stresses caution. He’s right in at least that, you should always use caution with circular reasoning.  The fact is that there is not an ancestral path that passes through any stages that lead to the camera eye in the lineage of the lamprey. This means that the claim about events that occurred in the evolution of its ancestors are based on what they imagine.  Therefore, the mirror is reflecting their imagination.

So now you’ve heard the stories.  Numerous organisms are presented as representatives of the stages, fulfilling Darwin’s proofs, if it can be shown to exist and its useful it evolved. But here are the problems:

  1. None of the organisms presented has any direct lineage to an organism with another stage. They don’t even attempt to show a connection or an organism with a connection.
  2. Nowhere are numerous gradations demonstrated. 
  3. No examination was given as to how any of these features gained the abilities that require other organs and systems to also evolve. 
  4. Necessary components and systems show up using magical words, like “appear”, “arose”, “developed”, “achieved”, “invented” or “radical improvements”
  5. There are the absurdly unlikely multiple origins for all of the features that cannot be escaped. Many of these features also arose all within a short period of time and never happened again.
  6. Nature is often personified, giving it supernatural abilities, or ascribing to nature something that is above the capabilities of nature, i.e. super(above), nature.  This is exemplified by use of terms like “tool-kit”, “co-opted” or “recruit.”  These things result from intelligent action or identification, they are not natural.
  7. Poor design is used to bolster evolutionary claims, but this assumes, against the evidence, that the designs really are sub-standard, and that mutation could create the designs.
  8. Similarities are given as evidences for evolution when, one it’s the differences that are supposedly caused by evolution and two, intelligent design also would create similarities.
  9. Embryonic development is used as evidence for the path, but completely ignores the process. It is used as a reflection of the path, but you have to assume it retraces the unseen path in order for it to be evidence, which is circular reasoning.   

How many people hear these and other evolutionary arguments and think they’ve been shown evidence about how eye evolution happened?  This has only been a look at the typical approach that evolutionists take. It’s been a look at the story, the story about the path.  

In part two I will try to break down the pathway available to nature and ask questions about process and the gradual steps that would need to take place and the usefulness of each step. I will also attempt to show why believing that there is a Creator of the eye and of all life is a far more reasonable conclusion from an examination of biology.

Quote from redorbit.com was from “For Your Eyes Only: Understanding How Sight Evolved” posted on 7/29/13. The page is no longer available. www.redorbit.com/news/science/1112908953/understanding-human-eye-origin-evolution-072913/

Quotes from Carl Zimmer were from a October 9 2009 post from the The New York Academy of Sciences Magazine, titled “How the Eye Evolved” The page is no longer available. http://www.nyas.org/publications/detail.aspx?cid=93b487b2-153a-4630-9fb2-5679a061fff7 aCCESSED ON 4-12-14

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