June 28, 2006

Evolution of the eye. Short video where scientist explains how the evolutionary process indeed can produce complex things such as in this case, eyes. View it and then decide if you should turn your brain-thing ON or OFF.
  • Very nice, thank you, and thank you for refraining from the statement that the scientist has our back.
  • Hey scientist!! I got your back!
  • Dawkins says that the eye is not a perfect creation, since the optic nerve goes through the middle and causes a blind spot:
    My second example of an evolutionary progression that didn't happen because of disadvantageous intermediates, even though it might ultimately have turned out better if it had, concerns the retina of our eyes (and all other vertebrates). Like any nerve, the optic nerve is a trunk cable, a bundle of separate 'insulated' wires, in this case about three million of them. Each of the three million wires leads from one cell in the retina to the brain. You can think of them as the wires leading from a bank of three million photocells (actually three million relay stations gathering information from an even larger number of photocells) to the computer that is to process the information in the brain. They are gathered together from all over the retina into a single bundle, which is the optic nerve for that eye. 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!).
  • Of course its not perfect; it just has to work. The eye is FAR from perfect. You only actually have sharp color vision over a very small field; your brain is interpolating the rest. The blind spot also gives rise to detached retinas. Once evolution starts down a path and is somewhat successful, its very hard for it to go back and try something new, you have to traverse a valley of non-selective traits and you'ld be competing against all the organisms that didn't decide to go with you, and kept their marginally functional eye (which is alot better than a non-functional eye). The world is littered with examples of things like this. For example, we were never designed to walk upright, all the sinus problems and earaches can be lain at the feet of the first upright hominid. Allergies as a result of an immune system designed to cope with parasites, etc... Anyway, it all speaks to me as proof of an incompetent designer.
  • And... evolution IS an intelligent process. Its akin to brain storming and keeping the best finds. Some intelligent machines work similarly; evolving problems to solve problems by recombination and mutation (say to design antennas). So when they say we are intelligently designed, they are right, its just not God, unless you want to abstract him all the way to the guy who chose Planck's constant. We got the best design 3 Billion years a naturally intelligent process came up with. Not perfect.
  • Anyway, it all speaks to me as proof of an incompetent designer. Or no designer at all. One of the many arguments for Intelligent Design is the design of the eye being so complex that it must have been created. My general policy is not to argue with people who seem to think that, because something is difficult for them to understand, that it must be the result of something supernatural. "Irreducable complexity" is the mother of red herrings.
  • The eye also evolved twice: cephalopods (octopus and squid) have eyes that are similar to us, but their optic nerves attach in a much more reasonable position at the back of the retina, as the good lord intended: see diagram on this page
  • What about fjords ?! Do you have any idea how much effort when into fjords !?
  • fnord
  • Fjords were carved by glaciers. Easy-doing. The last I heard, the eye evolved about 20 different ways, but that was in a conversation I had with a paleontologist, and I didn't ask to see his references.
  • Nice vid JS, thanks!
  • Easy? EASY??! Pity they're not much in demand these days.
  • Paleontologists or fjords? Paleontologists are valuable to society. Fjords, not so. Me? I drive a Nissan. You can keep your damn Fjords and Shovies.
  • all the sinus problems ... can be lain at the feet of the first upright hominid stupid hominids. gave me a headache.
  • Goes to find a sudafed and the warranty card... what, no in-home service! Crappy useless warranty.
  • I thought it was clear that I don't think there was a designer. I just like telling the fundies, "if your God designed us, he must have been an utterly incompetent jerkface"
  • And then they usually come back with something along the lines of "God designed us to suffer because we (a) deserve it (b) couldn't appreciate not suffering without it (c) its not his fault its ours" Which completely neglects the whole "it just needs to work long enough to make another one" premise which explains things a lot better without all the moralizing "God is omnibenevolent but wants you to suffer" cop-outs.
  • And... evolution IS an intelligent process. Its akin to brain storming and keeping the best finds. Err..., it's more like trying random shit and keeping the "best" finds -- where "best" = what is most successful at propogating genes to future generations and, hence, being "kept". Still, brute force calculations are not a bad way of arriving at decent solutions; they just take a really long time.
  • But evolution is not random. Brain storming, in my understanding, is throwing out lots of random ideas, drawn from a library of concepts, regardless of how good they are, and then filtering them, either based on experience or experimentation. "Well, lets try this... ok, that sucks, how about this?... better, what if we change this?" Evolution has a repertoire of past ideas (genes) from which to select bits and pieces at random, and then test them for fitness. I suppose we could argue about what constitutes intelligence, but I don't see anything magical about it that evolution doesn't have in some sense. Take old ideas (genes), modify them through some semi-random permutation or combine with another gene, apply a fitness test, and repeat until you something that passes. The only difference I can see is that fitness test is exclusively "reproductive success". It stands to reason that the natural world would develop intelligence. I mean, we are here, aren't we?
  • If it was just throw random shit together, with no evolutionary memory to draw on, it wouldn't work at all. The solution space is far too large and the fitness islands too small.
  • all the sinus problems ... can be lain at the feet of the first upright hominid Sinus problems, back ache, flat feet... I've had it with this meshuggana evolution! Back to the trees for me.
  • My favorite bit of Creationist nonsense is the banana argument. I always counter it by asking how they explain the pineapple. It has these sharp pointy things on top that can put an eye out, the skin is hard to get through, and it can kill you if it falls on your head. What, was god taking the day off and Satan's minions broke into the design shop?
  • I've had it with this meshugguna evolution! sloths said this once they followed a hunch and backed up their own family tree so now they're slower than the sticky stuff in January
  • You don't need an answer to creationists for the banana argument. The banana (the yellow seedless sweet one) was designed - by humans. Like wheat and large eared maize and million other crops, it was bred by humans from something else. That said, this is an excellent post, and I'm glad such good stuff is going onto youtube.
  • bah... not there anymore: "This video has been removed due to terms of use violation." ?
  • Hey, Broccoli, it wasn't removed, it just...evolved.