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The alleged poor design of the eye – JL Wile

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A recent post by a “scientist who is a Christian” highlights the Muller cells in the human eye, often identified as an instance of poor design. What is meant by “poor design” is no design, of course, but rather the accidental meanderings of evolution. In reality:

To understand what he is saying, look at the illustration above. When light hits the surface of the eye’s retina, it has to travel through layers of cells that essentially connect the retina to the rest of the nervous system. Only then can it reach the light-sensitive cells, called rods and cones, and be converted into a signal that can be sent to the brain. This, of course, seems backwards to most evolutionists. According to them, if the retina were designed intelligently, the rods and cones would be at the retinal surface so they are the first thing the light hits. That way, the connecting neurons could be placed behind the rods and cones so they don’t interfere with the light in any way.

Like most arguments inspired by evolution, the more we learned about the human retina, the less reasonable this argument became. Back in 2007, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA showed that light doesn’t have to travel through the connecting neurons to reach the rods and cones. Instead, as shown in the illustration above (which appeared on the cover of the journal), there are special cells, called Müller cells, that collect the light and guide it to the rods and cones.

Three years later (in 2010), an analysis published in Physical Review Letters concluded:

The retina is revealed as an optimal structure designed for improving the sharpness of images.

The authors of the analysis showed that the position of the rods and cones n the retina combined with the way the Müller cells guide the light to them make them much less sensitive to light that is scattered within the eye itself. More.

He also writes,

I blogged about this previously, pointing out that it is precisely what creationists predicted and quite opposite what evolutionists maintained. I am bringing it up now because further research has confirmed the creationist prediction in an even more stunning way!

Are there similar instances of true predictions of creationists or intelligent design advocates? They’d make for interesting reading.

Note: “Optimal” does not mean “perfect” because perfection is not possible in a finite, mortal world. It means the best organization of the materials available in a given ecology.

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21 Replies to “The alleged poor design of the eye – JL Wile

  1. 1
    Dr JDD says:

    Yes, but what about the recurrent laryngeal nerve?

    What about the GULO gene??

    What about junk DNA???

    And so the story goes, man in his arrogance thinks he is God and knows best. Time and time again, we learn we were wrong, we learn nature is more complex and amazing than we thought, yet we still think we are smarter than it.

  2. 2
    PaV says:

    The recurrent phenomena of evolutionists having to back-track from the argument of poor design is nothing more than the equivalent of religionists having to back-track from attributing to God the power to span the “gaps” we see in biology.

    The claim is made that as religionists continue to utilize God’s ‘powers’ to explain natural phenomena, then, as science disproves them, this gives religion a “black-eye.”

    Funny, it was Newton who said that the stable orbits of the planets in our solar system could have only come about through Divine Providence. With LaPlace’s famous statement that he “had no need of that hypothesis,” LaPlace threw into disrepute Newton’s thesis of the necessity of God, and so gave rise to the notion of the “God of the gaps.” But this then means that Newton has a “black-eye.” Is this, then, supposed to be a way of ridiculing people of faith as scientific light-weights? If so, then Newton is our patron saint.

    But, what about when this happens to the evolutionists? What are we to make of the countless instances when they invoke the notion of “bad design” to discredit the idea that a Provident God could be behind biological reality? Shouldn’t this make them “scientific light-weights” when they turn out to be wrong?

    I say it does. And the funny thing here is that this happens so often. How many times has science “proven” that what we thought only God could do can now be explained via mathematics and physical laws? I’ve mentioned Newton and LaPlace. I invite our evolutionist friends to point out other examples. I, frankly, don’t think there’s many instance of this.

    In the meantime, if the charge of “God-of-the gaps” thinking can be hurled against IDers and anyone who attributes supernatural powers as the cause of certain natural phenomena, then it’s only fair that we hurl an equivalent charge against them: I call it the “God-of-the-goofs” thinking. And, boy, does this happen all the time.

    Lastly, at Wikipedia you can find out that LaPlace did not mean that he was not in need of the ‘hypothesis’ of ‘God,’ but that he didn’t need to ‘hypothesize’ that God needed to make adjustments to the orbits from time to time. IOW, Newton made a kind of “bad design” argument, and was later proven to be wrong.

    This wasn’t a “God-of-the-gaps” argument gone wrong; it was a “God-of-the-goofs” argument gone wrong.

    History does repeat itself, doesn’t it?

  3. 3
    PaV says:

    From Wikipedia . . . (which backs up the “God-of-the-goofs” character of Newton’s argument):

    Hahn states: “Nowhere in his writings, either public or private, does Laplace deny God’s existence.”[65] Expressions occur in his private letters that appear inconsistent with atheism.[3] On 17 June 1809, for instance, he wrote to his son, “Je prie Dieu qu’il veille sur tes jours. Aie-Le toujours présent à ta pensée, ainsi que ton pére et ta mére [I pray that God watches over your days. Let Him be always present to your mind, as also your father and your mother].”[57][66] Ian S. Glass, quoting Herschel’s account of the celebrated exchange with Napoleon, writes that Laplace was “evidently a deist like Herschel”.[67]

    In Exposition du système du monde, Laplace quotes Newton’s assertion that “the wondrous disposition of the Sun, the planets and the comets, can only be the work of an all-powerful and intelligent Being”.[68] This, says Laplace, is a “thought in which he [Newton] would be even more confirmed, if he had known what we have shown, namely that the conditions of the arrangement of the planets and their satellites are precisely those which ensure its stability”.[69] By showing that the “remarkable” arrangement of the planets could be entirely explained by the laws of motion, Laplace had eliminated the need for the “supreme intelligence” to intervene, as Newton had “made” it do.[70] Laplace cites with approval Leibniz’s criticism of Newton’s invocation of divine intervention to restore order to the solar system: “This is to have very narrow ideas about the wisdom and the power of God.”[71] He evidently shared Leibniz’s astonishment at Newton’s belief “that God has made his machine so badly that unless he affects it by some extraordinary means, the watch will very soon cease to go”.[72]

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    Note: “Optimal” does not mean “perfect” because perfection is not possible in a finite, mortal world.

    So should we reason that Jesus was not perfect or that Jesus was not mortal?

  5. 5
    Dionisio says:

    Mung

    So should we reason that Jesus was not perfect or that Jesus was not mortal?

    I believe Jesus is eternally perfect, according to the scriptures. He created everything, including you and me.
    However, His mortal human body might have been imperfect, but I don’t recall any biblical passage indicating how it was.
    But after His resurrection, His glorified body, which could trespass walls and teleport itself, may not be evaluated for perfection as per our standards, because we can’t understand its composition, structure or functioning.

  6. 6
    Querius says:

    Mung,

    Note: “Optimal” does not mean “perfect” because perfection is not possible in a finite, mortal world.

    This is actually an excellent observation as any engineer would know. There are always design tradeoffs.

    Even in Genesis, the evaluation attributed to God indicates that the creation was “good,” and the whole of it “very good.” Not perfect.

    Jesus’ body was mortal just like yours or mine. This was convincingly demonstrated in his execution.

    However, no one could fault Jesus for not living perfectly according to Torah, although some people tried. He kept all 613 laws and their intent. Jesus was morally perfect, and submitted himself as God’s perfect sacrifice for your failure and degradation.

    God died so you could be forgiven. Yes, God really died! He rose from the dead so you could be set free from the curse and from judgment!

    Wow!

    -Q

  7. 7
    Dionisio says:

    Querius

    Jesus was morally perfect, and submitted himself as God’s perfect sacrifice for your failure and degradation.

    ‘your and my’

  8. 8
    Dionisio says:

    Querius

    God [Jesus] died so you [and I] could be forgiven

  9. 9
    Querius says:

    Of course. 🙂

    -Q

  10. 10
    Dionisio says:

    Querius

    Yes, God [Jesus] really died!

  11. 11
    Querius says:

    From John 20 (NASB):

    But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

    After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”

    Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

    -Q

  12. 12
    Dionisio says:

    Querius

    He rose from the dead so you [and I] could be set free from the curse and from judgment!

    Amen!

  13. 13
    Dionisio says:

    Queries @ 11

    Yes, also I say ‘my Lord and my God’ and could add ‘my King, my Prophet, my Priest’ too.

    But I believe Jesus was fully human and fully God. I believe only the human mortal Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected on the third day. I believe God has no beginning or end, therefore death is not a concept that applies to the eternal God.

  14. 14
    Dionisio says:

    Querius

    Sorry, I didn’t notice the type-ahead feature rewrote your name incorrectly.

  15. 15
    Dionisio says:

    RE: # 13

    My limited mind can’t comprehend the details of some biblical passages, because they require knowledge and capacity I lack.
    I have to humbly accept this reality.

  16. 16
    Querius says:

    God, through his son, Jesus, had an excruciating human death experience.

    Some of my Christian brothers in India think of Jesus as the only begotten avatar of God.

    But why would we be surprised if we cannot fully comprehend God? However, just as the neighborhood cats hang out at our house, mooching attention and treats cannot comprehend what we do, they do have a relationship with us based on trust and affection. Ok, and the occasional treats. 🙂

    -Q

  17. 17
    Dionisio says:

    Querius

    Very interesting the ‘avatar’ anecdote. Thank you.

    (1)
    Yesterday I had a long meeting with the director of an international ministry, which is very active in many countries, including India. The guy taught me about international missions and graceful interaction with other cultures. Among the things we talked about, one was the importance of word meaning for accurate textual interpretation in different languages. He noticed my exaggerated attention to words, almost as if I treated any serious conversation as a cross-examination in a legal jury trial in a court 😉
    He speaks English much better than I do, so I told him I use every conversation or written discussion as part of my learning, in order to improve my proficiency in the given language. I take advantage of the opportunity to have a conversation with someone who knows the language better than I do, so I can learn from that occasion, without having to pay for formal lessons 😉
    Kind of a cheap approach to learning 😉
    The same way, I’m using this opportunity to mparticipate in written discussions in this blog, so I can learn to read and interpret different text styles by different persons, and at the same time learn to write and express my thoughts and see how others understand what I write, and all that gratis! 😉

    (2)
    My wife and I have an orange tabby cat we inherited from one of our daughters, after she married and discovered that my son-in-law was allergic to her cat. We are empty-nesters, so the cat became a nice companion to us 🙂

    (3)
    In some places they call Mary ‘the mother of God’ and I tell them my opinion: she was the mother of Jesus, the incarnation of God in human flesh. But not the mother of God, because God is eternal, was never born, hence He has no parents. Christ, being both fully God and fully human, is a challenge to my limited understanding of the ultimate reality. Hence I humbly admit my lack of capacity to understand everything, while declaring my joy for knowing that our Maker does understand everything and He loves us and we believe in His eternal promise.

  18. 18
    Axel says:

    ‘Christ, being both fully God and fully human, is a challenge to my limited understanding of the ultimate reality. Hence I humbly admit my lack of capacity to understand everything, while declaring my joy for knowing that our Maker does understand everything and He loves us and we believe in His eternal promise.’

    … which is why a world which had no experience of Judaeo-Christian, deist, or mere ID adherents would struggle in vain for all eternity to hit upon (because unwilling to see) the definitive primordial paradigm of quantum mechanics. Mysteries R Not Them, to adapt that curiously striking sales slogan. The ‘promissory note’ will not countenance them. Islam would surely have produced more top-level scientists than us.

    ‘In him was Life and The Life is The Light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.’ – John 1-5

    Light and life are inseparable, so the atheists’ quest to understand the origins of either light or life is futile, even in principle.

    Even the idea that science is wholly inapt for explaining life is bound to be alien to their whole world-view. So… they struggle on with farcical forays into fantasies, such as OOL in a warm pond.

  19. 19
    Querius says:

    Well, you’re doing the right thing, Dionisio. Maybe you could add to your activities, some enjoyable reading (the editing on books is usually pretty good).

    Axel, a lot of misunderstanding comes from people who don’t read or haven’t read what’s actually in the Bible. Then there’s the incredible peace and joy we receive that constrasts with a lot of the disappointment and sorrow that we experience in life.

    So… they struggle on with farcical forays into fantasies, such as OOL in a warm pond.

    Yeah, uncritically swallowing a ridiculously improbable camel, but straining at a rationally obvious gnat.

    Thinking about the OOL in a warm pond sounds relaxing. Almost like being in a hot tub. 😉

    -Q

  20. 20
    Dionisio says:

    Querius

    …a lot of misunderstanding comes from people who don’t read or haven’t read what’s actually in the Bible. Then there’s the incredible peace and joy we receive that constrasts with a lot of the disappointment and sorrow that we experience in life.

    Well stated. Thanks.

    In this world sorrow is central, while joy is fake, superficial, temporary, intended to masquerade the pain, to entertain and make time run faster.
    However, if we are in Christ, then joy is central, eternal, while sorrow results mainly from having compassion toward others.
    We hear in this world that life is hard AND then we die. A true Christian could say it differently: this life is hard, BUT then we die.
    After Stephen Hawking said that Heaven is a fairly tale for those who are afraid of darkness, professor John Lennox replied that atheism is a fairy tale for those who are afraid of Light.

  21. 21
    Querius says:

    Well spoken, Dionisio! I liked the Lennox quote.

    In one debate with Dawkins, Lennox did so well, that Dawkins appeared like a naughty schoolboy being corrected by his teacher.

    -Q

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