Thursday, January 13, 2011 5:40 AM

Looking at the Eye

Thursday, January 13, 2011 5:40 AM
Thursday, January 13, 2011 5:40 AM

The human eye is perhaps the best-known example of a complex system that couldn’t just pop up overnight. With the eye we are not merely dealing with complexity, but with hundreds of separate parts that must work together in unison with incredible precision.

Those who study the inner workings of the eye say it operates much like a television camera, but is far more sophisticated. In fact it is more sophisticated than any machine imaginable.

Darwin once stated, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Dr. Michael Behe, associate professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, says in his book Darwin’s Black Box, “OK, Charles, take a look at these!” And goes on to cite a handful of examples of what he calls irreducible complexity.

By irreducible complexity, Behe means a single system of interrelated parts, where the absence or failure of any part causes the entire system to non-perform or abort. In an airplane, it could be a missing wing, rudder, or a defective integral part of the hydraulic system. In the eye, it could be a defective or missing cornea, retina, pupil, optic nerve, etc. All must work in concert for the eye to see.

So how did each of these separate parts evolve together over time? Could the eye have served any purpose without being complete? We are not merely talking about a half-developed eye, but the eye at all its various stages of development throughout hundreds of millions of years (according to Darwin). Darwin himself stated that his theory (that all life is a product of natural processes alone) stands or falls on its ability to explain how an incomplete organ like the eye can benefit a species.

But, again, it is not simply complexity; it is irreducible complexity. Going back to Behe, everything must be in place for the system to work. Missing just one component, the whole system is worthless. Behe remarks,

The point of irreducible complexity is…that the eye we’re considering right now needs all of its parts to function. The challenge to Darwinian evolution is to get to the eye by means of numerous, successive slight modifications. You can’t do it. Besides, you’re using your intelligence as you try. Remember, the audacious claim of Darwinian evolution is that it can put together complex systems with no intelligence at all.

Did Darwin really believe the eye evolved bit by bit over time?  Although his theory attempts to explain how it could have happened, many believe Darwin himself was unconvinced. Years after he had written his world-changing theory Darwin admitted to a friend, “The eye to this day gives me a cold shudder.” Hmm…(

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