Design of the eye

Arthur V. Chadwick (
Thu, 08 Apr 1999 17:46:56 -0700

No, don't faint. I am not back....yet! :-) Art saw this post of mine on
another list and invited me to post it via him to the Reflector.

I must say I miss the old `bar-room brawl' at odd times! And I mean *odd*
times! :-) I would like to hear from you, so if you respond to this article,
I would appreciate a cc. to me at



Re: Vertebrate eye `bug' turns out to be a feature!?
From: Stephen E. Jones <>
Date: 7 April 1999 (originally)

It is a commonplace in Darwinist anti-design polemics that the vertebrate
eye is badly designed, being allegedly `wired backwards' with optic nerve
ganglions getting in the way of incoming light to the retina. For example,
Dawkins writes:

"Any engineer would naturally assume that the photocells would point
towards the light, with their wires leading backwards towards the brain. He
would laugh at any suggestion that the photocells might point away from
the light, with their wires departing on the side nearest the light. Yet
this is
exactly what happens in all vertebrate retinas. Each photocell is, in effect,
wired in backwards, with its wire sticking out on the side nearest the light.
The wire has to travel over the surface of the retina, to a point where it
dives through a hole in the retina (the so-called 'blind spot') to join the
optic nerve. This means that the light, instead of being granted an
unrestricted passage to the photocells, has to pass through a forest of
connecting wires, presumably suffering at least some attenuation and
distortion (actually probably not much but, still, it is the principle of the
thing that would offend any tidy-minded engineer!)." (Dawkins R., "The
Blind Watchmaker," 1991, reprint, p93).

In fact leading Darwinist theoretician George C. Williams says that the
vertebrate eye is "stupidly designed" ("Natural Selection: Domains, Levels,
and Challenges," 1992, pp72-73), because of this inversion, and
anthropologist Jared Diamond claims that "A camera designer who
committed such a blunder would be fired immediately." ("Voyage of the
Overloaded Ark," Discover, June 1985, pp82-92).

This "God-wouldn't-do-it-that-way" argument has been answered
satisfactorily by design theorists, for example see George Ayoub's "On the
Design of the Vertebrate Retina," Origins & Design 17:1, Winter 1996, at:

(click on Figure 2 for a nice diagram of these ganglions), and Paul Nelson's
"Jettison the Arguments, or the Rule?: The Place of Darwinian Theological
Themata in Evolutionary Reasoning," at:

But here is a BBC Sci-Tech article that cites a recent Harvard study which
found that those self-same ganglions are part of an early-warning system
that enables the human eye to detect and "calculate the future position of a
moving object" and then to "fire off an alert message to the brain
thousandths of a second before the object actually arrives in that place":

This enables "tennis players and cricketers..[to]... routinely react to balls
travelling at up to 100mph, when technically their brains should not be able
to register them before they are gone."

So it seems that this alleged `bug' is actually a feature! If this holds
up, then
not only has the human eye the normal visual circuitry, but it even has
additional pre-processing circuitry, the like of which has only become
possible in human computer technology in the mid-20th century! As
Denton points out, it is only as our technology develops that we can begin
to appreciate the incredible ingenuity of the advanced technology in the
living world:

"But it is not just the complexity of living systems which is so profoundly
challenging, there is also the incredible ingenuity that is so often
manifest in
their design. Ingenuity in biological design is particularly striking when
it is
manifest in solutions to problems analogous to those met in our own
technology. Without the existence of the camera and the telescope, much
of the ingenuity in the design of the eye would not have been perceived.
Although the anatomical components of the eye were well known by
scientists in the fifteenth century, the ingenuity of its design was not
appreciated until the seventeenth century when the basic optics of image
formation were first clearly expressed by Kepler and later by Descartes.
However, it was only in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as the
construction of optical instruments became more complicated, utilizing a
movable iris, a focusing device, and corrections for spherical and chromatic
aberration, all features which have their analogue in the eye, that the
ingenuity of the optical system could at last be appreciated fully by Darwin
and his contemporaries." (Denton M.J., "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis,"
1985, p332).

If the human eye indeed has additional pre-processing visual circuitry then
it is even better designed than design theorists had imagined. And the
Darwinist problem of explaining away the ingenious design of the eye has
just become even *more* "absurd in the highest degree":

"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting
the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light,
and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have
been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the
highest degree." (Darwin C., "The Origin of Species," 6th Edition, 1928,
reprint, p167).


Saturday, March 27,
1999 Published at 16:49 GMT


Everybody can see the future - official

Tiny cells in the eye "predict" the future

Seeing the future is not limited to clairvoyants and fortune-tellers - we
>can all do it, according to scientists at Harvard University. Researchers
have been looking at the human ability to respond to an object that is
travelling literally too fast for the eye to have time to transmit its
image to
the >brain.

Tennis players and cricketers, for example, routinely react to balls
travelling at up to 100mph, when technically their brains should not be able
to register them before they are gone.

Now, Professor Markus Meister and his colleagues at the Harvard
University Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology have discovered
that our eyes contain cells called ganglions that can calculate the future
position of a moving object.

In-built advantage

The ganglions then fire off an alert message to the brain thousandths of a
second before the object actually arrives in that place.

The finding revolutionises many previous models of the eye, which
assumed that it acted simply as a camera - capturing the image presented
directly in front of it.

It also suggests that top athletes may have the ability to see fractionally
further into the future than the average individual, giving them an in-built

The discovery was made using an instrument developed by the Meister Lab
that uses microelectrodes to record the action of about 100 ganglion cells
in the retina of the human eye.

The project aims to decipher the entire "neuronal circuit" of the retina and
the optic nerve, which contains about one million fibres.

Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \
Warwick 6024 ->*_,--\_/ Phone +61 8 9448 7439
Perth, West Australia v "Test everything." (1Thess 5:21)

"It turns out that the physical constants have just the values required to
ensure that the Universe contains stars with planets capable of supporting
intelligent life...The simplest interpretation is that the Universe was
designed by a creator who intended that intelligent life should evolve. This
interpretation lies outside science." (Smith J.M. & Szathmary E., "On the
likelihood of habitable worlds," Nature, Vol. 384, 14 November 1996, p107)