The eyeball as testimony to evolution?

Our son is researching whether the eyeball is an example of evolutionary development, preparing for a class debate. Another student will be defending the (well documented on the AiG website!!) position that it demonstrates design. Any good websites or articles that can help us flesh out the evolutionary position? We’ve already found several great things online, but I would love to strengthen his position.

1 Like

I would suggest looking at Richard Dawkins’ book Climbing Mount Improbable for ideas, though I would not recommend referencing the actual book in the debate. LOL In Chapter 5 he goes step by step through the evolution of the eye. Of course He has an ultimate agenda which we don’t agree with. But he is a good biologist for all of that.


If I remember, Your Inner Fish had some stuff about eyes too.
I found this video about the evolution of color vision.

Here is a Science Daily report on a 2004 study that might give you some interesting leads of what to google.


As I recall, it was Alfred Russell, Lord Wallace who told Darwin that was just his lack of imagination. Which Russell had too much of in other regards, as Jung to Freud later. But he was right in this regard. Apparently if sight did not exist in higher animals (and some lower animals have sight without any brains at all) because photoreceptor proteins (impossibly) hadn’t evolved in billions of years, when they did in a higher animal, complex eyes would emerge within mere hundreds of thousands of years due to the few mutations necessary.

Who’s we? . . .

Quite frankly, I would start here (or a similar list):

Nearly all creationist arguments are based on one logical fallacy or the other, such as “Since no one can prove the eye evolved, it had to be designed”.

The best evidence for evolution is the fact that there are different eyes in different lineages. This is what we would expect from evolution, but not special creation or design. Why would species with a backbone have a retina that faces backwards while the octopus and squid have a retina that faces forward? Evolution explains why we observe traits that fit onto a tree of relatedness which is something creationism and design can not do.

If you want examples of 130+ year old arguments for the evolution of the eye, you will want to check out section II of this essay:


This has been amazing! Thank you all so much for giving us so many great directions to explore and things to chew on.

It’s important to challenge the equation of “design” with “not evolved”. “Created using an evolutionary process” might be a good way to raise that issue.

Many large organic molecules have some response to various wavelengths of light. So it’s not too surprising that some molecules would be usable as light sensors.

But the particular glaring weakness of the eye argument [generally assume puns are intended] is that the complexity is obviously not irreducible. Merely being able to detect light versus dark is useful - an organism can then respond by moving or growing in an appropriate way. For example, more light is probably warmer and is necessary to anything photosynthesizing, and it tells you when it’s day versus night, even giving a clue about the season if you can tell how long it’s day versus night. But light also makes you visible to predators or prey. Euglena is a classic example of very simple light detection. A simple patch of light-sensitive cells gives more sensitivity to the direction of the light, and thus is a bit better for detecting a moving shadow, which might mean danger. Many animals have such simple eyespots, such as some free-living flatworms, a wide assortment of clams and snails, etc. Making the eyespot more deeply cupped enhances the direction detection. Adding more detector cells and more brainpower to process the data gives more information and more ability to use it. The ultimate in a cupped eyespot is a pinhole eye, which makes an image without a lens, as in the chambered nautilus. Adding a lens improves the picture, but it doesn’t take a perfect lens to be useful - if my nose is almost touching the screen, I can read this without my glasses, for example.

Each step in the process has a potential advantage, so there is no difficulty in natural selection favoring it. There are also the peculiarities in eye formation and the fact that cephalopods have very different patterns of eye formation than vertebrates, showing independent convergence on a well-developed lensed eye. Eyes with lenses are also found in a wide assortment of other animals.

Roughly early 1990’s, Scientific American had a good article on the evolution of red versus green detection in primates.


It’s not even a group of cells since Euglena is a single celled organism. Even one celled organisms with no nervous system can make use of organelles that sense light.


I appreciate this list. It is very helpful. Thanks.

the eye is a classical example for the quirks of evolution and shows its limitation in giving us an “inferior eye” to the octopus with the retina “backwards”. gives a very elegant explanation of the advantages of that design that the religiophobes amongst the evolutionists declare as inept design unaware if their conclusion that they postulate evolution to come up with crap solutions. But then their inability to recognise the flaw in their argument could actually prove that thy are right :slight_smile:
An octopus eye obviously goes well with an octopus brain, so perhaps eye dysphoria comes from the mismatch between their brain and their eye. Considering that we now put it into law to support peoples desires to possess the bodyparts they wish for, as God or the predetermined chemistry obviously got it wrong, we should give them the eye that is a match for their brain function.

It might be worthwhile to look at the arguments for poor design.
or to watch the NDGT video.
were this apparently highly intelligent scientist revered by many of the religiophobes complains about the proximity of what he refers to as the “entertainment complex in the middle of a sewage system.” He is obviously not evolved sufficiently to recognise that he confuses the reproductive organs with an “entertainment complex”. To those who evolved sufficiently to recognise that what one could legitimately call the “entertainment centre” in humans is the thing between their ears, otherwise referred to as “brain”. Now if one finds ones entertainment centre in close proximity to ones waste disposal system one should consider pulling ones head out of there :slight_smile:
at 4:11 he makes another scientific blunder in his religiophobia in not realising that he has a separate hole for eating and breathing. May be he still stuffs food up his nose, but to demand that land animals would give up the perfectly designed system of recirculating the constantly flowing mucus washing out their lungs to be disinfects in the stomach acid and then recovering the water and the mucus and running around like a snotty nose child instead might be a better reflection of his mental state.

Now all that might still not be an argument about the concept of evolution and for a class debate ne should focus on the common misunderstanding of the process to be random and unguided. The process is highly guided by what is called survival fitness. The skill is to realise that this is not to be the strongest, killing or outcompeting one another, but the ability to support life in its diversity. In a nutshell, survival fitness is the ability to love thy neighbour like thy own, e.g. to follow the word of God. He is just a clever process designer :slight_smile:

from the moniker a new word for the day… “malacology” the study of mollusks - slugs, snails, octopi, and some shellfish (like oysters and clams but not shrimp and crabs which are arthopods)

Why? I would go even one step further to equate “designed” with “not alive.”

…as would be the basic understanding of the fundamental difference between creating dead things and creating living things. Because the latter grow, learn, and evolve they participate in their own creation. So I like to remind people that the watchmaker intelligent designer notion of God doesn’t come from the Bible but from Deists. The Bible instead portrays God primarily as a shepherd.

1 Like

The big piece of evidence for evolution is not the advantages of one type of retina, but rather the distribution of retinas among species. Everything with a backbone has a backwards facing retina. Why? Why do invertebrates have a forward facing retina while vertebrates have a backwards facing retina? Why couldn’t a creator mix and match retinas and backbones?

The evidence for evolution is the observation that characteristics fall into a nested hierarchy with retinas being yet another great example.


the question would be “why wouldn’t a creator” do that unless you believe in an incapable God or that he is non-existing.

I don’t believe in any deities, but that is beside the point. We can still approach this question from some agreed upon premises.

If we are talking about an all powerful and all knowing deity who has unlimited time and resources then it would be just as easy to come up with billions of different designs than it would be to share designs between created kinds. The only reason humans reuse designs is because we don’t have the knowledge, time, or resources to start from scratch for every design project. A deity wouldn’t have these limitations.

Even if this all powerful deity did decide to reuse designs, why a nested hierarchy? When humans reuse designs we don’t limit ourselves to a nested hierarchy. Automobiles, buildings, power tools, paintings, and all other human designs don’t follow a nested hierarchy, so why would created kinds? For example, a deity could create a species with mammary glands, three middle ear bones, feathers, and flow-through lungs. That would be reusing design elements from mammals and birds, and it would also be a clear and obvious violation of a nested hierarchy. There is absolutely no reason why we would expect to see a nested hierarchy if created kinds were created separately. There is no functional or design reason why separately created kinds would require a nested hierarchy. Even humans regularly and easily violate a nested hierarchy when they design genomes and organisms, such as fluorescent mice that carry an exact copy of a jellyfish gene.

So why would an all powerful deity need to reuse a single design, and if he had to, why would those reused designs be limited to a nested hierarchy for no discernable reason?


you do believe in the absence of a deity because you believe you would do a better job of creation. That is a fact derived from your statement and a clear sign that you believe to have eaten from the tree of good and evil, declaring creation not good.

If an all knowing God created, there was no need for him to do otherwise. Now if I were an all powerful and all knowing God that came up with a process called evolution that runs to come up with a human based on my word, why would I need to plug and play bits between species? One could think your concept of God is stuck at the level were a little yoda like garden gnome sits by the river bed making mudpie humans or building a lego land like universe.
Considered that an all powerful all knowing God can happily allow the process to run as he already knows the outcome and knows it to deliver? You clearly must think evolution is not good enough for you and the fact that it did not do a better job is proof for the absence of a clever designer. You think a better system would have come up with the egg laying wooly milk pig instead. Perhaps you also worry why evolution has placed your entertainment complex in the middle of a sewage system instead of that people make it their entertainment centre.

To those who declare themselves the outcome of an unreasonable process it is clearly unreasonable to expect them to be capable of reasoning :slight_smile:.

Peace be upon you and best wishes for 2021 and beyond

Faith beats reason every time.

Malacology is indeed the study of mollusks; conchology focuses on shells and tends currently to refer more to shell collecting than to biological research (though there is overlap as well as historical variation in use of the terms). Malakos, meaning soft, is generally used in a negative sense in the New Testament.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.