I get creationist email: an optometrist extols the perfection of the eye (with Egnor lagniappe)

I woke up to find the email below in my inbox. I’ve eliminated identifying information except for the person’s profession and faith, which seem relevant. The writer purports to “believe in evolution”, but it seems he/she really doesn’t.

Hi Jerry,

I really enjoyed your book on evolution.  I am an [age redacted] Optometrist (raised Jewish) and have believed in evolution as long as I can remember. Your book help [sic] me better understand the process in an enjoyable manner.

I have been looking into human eyes for over 40 years.  It’s virtually impossible for me to look into a human eye and not see the tremendous amount of thought and design that is involved in creating this amazing organ. Its [sic] very difficult for me to believe this is just “nature”, and I’m not even quite sure what that word means.

It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that a creator and evolution can coexist.

I would think you may have entertained the idea that a creator actually created the process of evolution. It’s seems quite brilliant to have life evolve as it’s [sic] surrounding environment evolved. I’ve thought about how I might create a world if I was able.  I don’t think I would have come up with idea of evolution, but it seems like a “pretty good” way to do it.

I think you may make some assumptions about a creator that may or not be true:

  1. That a creator had complete control of his creation.
  2. That a creator may not possibly make mistakes
  3. That a creator may have purposely wanted to create “goofy” life forms, death, diseases, or natural disasters.

It’s very difficult to believe “nature” alone has created this amazing universe. I believe you made a great case for evolution in your book, but don’t believe we have the science to support the possibility that a creator and evolution cannot coexist in this world.

Best regards,
[Name redacted]   

So we have what appears to be a theistic evolutionist, and I’ve clearly failed in my mission. So, by the way, did Darwin and Dawkins, who have explained how a “well designed” eye could have arisen by natural selection.

Of course the eye isn’t perfectly well designed, as the optic nerve creates a “blind spot”, the photoreceptors face the wrong way, and light has to pass through other cells before it gets to the photoreceptors. This can be explained by how the eye evolved, but certainly doesn’t point to an optimal design by some Numinous Craftsman. For more on the imperfections of the eye, go here. I suppose if I were an omnipotent God, I’d have just created the world I wanted de novo rather than making (or impelling the evolution of) millions of species that weren’t quite right and had to go extinct.  Thus the writer has the theological problem of explaining why god used evolution to bring life and different species into being. Note, too, that the concept of God as Cosmic Trickster, and even as malevolent, is required to explain evolution for this optometrist.

I wrote an email back to the optometrist, to wit:

Hello,

Thanks for writing. I will try to respond to your claim.

If you assume all that about a creator, then his work is indistinguishable from that of evolution itself. In that case, it’s more parsimonious to assume naturalistic evolution unless you have independent evidence, not just for a creator—since models show that pure naturalistic evolution can create the appearance of near perfection—but for a creator that is both a trickster and a prankster—and one that is not omnipotent. This is not the sort of god in which most people believe.

You have no evidence for any of this, and, given that (unless you’re religious for reasons other than any evidence for God), the hypothesis of naturalistic evolution is the best one we have .

I am going to remove the identifying information from your post and then put the anonymous parts of your email on my website, so you can see how my readers answer you, too. It will be on www.whyevolutionistrue.com today.

cordially,
Jerry Coyne

I’ll write this person back with the link, so he/she can read what you said, and invite him to comment—reasonably. I don’t want a long back-and-forth argument, so if this person starts commenting I may cut off any discussion at some point. I don’t allow creationists to go on forever.

By the way, the theoretical paper showing that, starting with a light-sensitive eyespot, a camera eye can evolve purely naturalistically—and pretty quickly—is the 1994 paper of Nilsson and Pelger, which you can access free here. Richard Dawkins wrote a nice gloss on it in Nature called “The eye in a twinkling” (access also free).

Anyway, feel free to respond to this optometrist in the comments, but please be civil!

***********

Speaking of creationists, over at the Intelligent Design website Evolution News, Michael Egnor, who apparently spends his time poring over this site obessively, repeats the accusation of hypocrisy that Adam Laats leveled at me (see my response here). Egnor’s beef is that I favor free speech, but not the teaching of Intelligent Design in the classroom, so I’m a hypocrite. But what he fails to realize is that LAATS IS WITH ME ON BOTH POINTS. As I pointed out in my post, Laats actually agrees that public speech should be free (with the usual legal restrictions), and that creationism shouldn’t be taught in the classroom. Laats apparently just didn’t like the way I regarded my Chicago faculty colleagues who opposed “hate speech”. So Egnor got it all wrong.

Further, he still hews to the line that Intelligent Design isn’t a religious theory:

Hedin did not “teach creationism” though he did point out to students some readings about intelligent design, which is not a religious but a scientific idea.

Unfortunately for Dr. Egnor, the judge in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in 2005 definitively ruled that Intelligent Design was simply disguised religion, and that set a precedent in the U.S. that has barred ID from the classroom. Finally, Egnor repeats his claim that by telling my students the historical fact that Darwin’s materialistic explanation of evolution dispelled the creation stories of his milieu, I am apparently “teaching atheism.”

Poor dude. ID has made no headway in public and gained no scientific acceptance. Remember when they told us that scientific evidence for ID was “right around the corner” and it would be widely accepted within five years? That last bit was in the Wedge Document published twenty years ago. Having failed to get the popular and scientific acceptance that Egnor and his buddies promised, IDers are reduced to lashing out at evolutionists like me. But that does nothing to make ID acceptable: it’s just displacement behavior. In a way, I feel sorry for sad sacks like Egnor, embittered and reduced to attacking evolutionists instead of producing science supporting their creationist ID theory.

Egnor will be reading this, of course, so here’s a message for him:  “Hi, Michael! Where is that scientific evidence you promised?”

197 Comments

  1. Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    For years in my human anatomy lectures, I have always pointed out how foolishly “designed” the mammalian eye is compared with snakes or cephalopods. Optometry is a very lucrative profession attempting to fix many of these problems for millions of people.

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      It’s a little surprising that someone whose profession is diagnosing and fixing problems with eyes would claim that they’re so well-designed.

      Even if the creationist tries to argue that what she means is they’re functional enough to cast doubt on natural processes and imply a designer, she’s still facing the problem that if you’re going to posit magic, then everything should be perfect. What reason could there possibly be for a magical god to let flaws remain in his creations?

      Same problem with theodicy. If magic exists, then there is a way for everything to be perfect. Free will and logical impossibilities? Doesn’t matter. It’s magic!

      • mikeyc
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:28 am | Permalink

        “It’s a little surprising that someone whose profession is diagnosing and fixing problems with eyes would claim that they’re so well-designed. ”

        That would be odd, but I don’t think that’s the argument the optometrist is making. (S)He’s trying to invoke a trickster God or One Who Makes Mistakes. Dr PCC(e) rightly pointed out that that is an unnecessary complication as we already have an explanation for the suboptimal eye so there is no need to call in a boogie-man to cover any incredulity.

      • dabertini
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:56 am | Permalink

        Yes, so I would go looking elsewhere for an optometrist.

      • Posted February 9, 2018 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        What reason could there possibly be for a magical god to let flaws remain in his creations?

        Clearly, god is a “jobs creator.”

  2. mikeyc
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    ID never was more than “creationism in a cheap tuxedo”.

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      sheep tuxedo

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        Thanks to you two, my mind is infested with an image of a tuxedo made of feathers. A cheep tuxedo, even.

        • nicky
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          Was thinking of the wolf.

  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    This is the most reasonable, sensible, thoughtful, honest, etc. creationist writing I’ve ever read.

    I think it’s just because, as she says, has been looking into eyes (human eyes) for 40+ years, and there’s that feeling when someone moves the kitchen table over 1/4” it stands out like crazy – tunnel vision – they haven’t spent as much time studying any other product of natural selection.

    I think it’s Iinevitable, given the tale, to conclude the object – the eye – was produced by a person. William Paley, I think it was, and I think Dawkins even acknowledges the illusion ?? Not sure, apologies if not…

    Very good, I applaud this dialogue.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      Designed more than produced…

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      What’s so sensible about it given that the person has a. read my book and b. read about the eye, which I believe is in my book?

      It doesn’t seem sensible to me at all, especially because there’s no independent evidence for a creator AND the eye is not optimally “designed.”

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        I knew I’d get in trouble with “sensible” or the rest of it

        Sensible – maybe a poor word choice, however, best *creationist* email that *I* have read …. this isn’t saying much, you see..

        Is there a word for non-lunatic? Non-nuts?

        • Frank Bath
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:16 am | Permalink

          Sane?

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

            No!

            Nuts or looney tunes isn’t really serious, but sane is.

            …. hmmmm

            Down-to-Earth?

            … I think someone else got it already – sincere. I think it was sincere.

            • nicky
              Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

              Maybe sincere, but definitely nuts.
              I’ve been looking into eyes for a few decades too, and know it’s imperfections (there are more than Jerry mentioned, but the ones he mentioned should suffice). A creator creating imperfections just for the sake of it? Unparsimonious and somehow, how shall we call it, nuts?

        • Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

          I would say capable of acknowledging some of the primacy of naturalistic explanations while not being willing to quite let go of religion.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

            while not being willing to quite let go of religion.

            Remaining just a little bit pregnant^H^H^H^H^H^H I mean religious.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        … and perhaps dispelling illusion- breaking the spell, as Dennett says – for these problems – isn’t going to take a book – it’s going to take, a library….

        or, we’re gonna need a bigger library…

        Im having too much fun, I apologize.

      • Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        Unfortunately this debate has advanced since WEIT. The IDers can now produce papers that show various advantages to the arrangement of the retina: the nerve fibers help diffuse light etc, and there are certain metabolic constraints which the arrangement alleviates. This allows them to claim yet again that the eye was designed. I think their arguments still fail but the counter-argument now needs to be based on very detailed info along with subtle reasoning- subtle enough that anyone choosing so will find it easy to misunderstand and ignore.

        • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

          Can you cite these papers, please?

          • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

            You could find them easily on the DI website. The Ider whose taken this up is either Wells or Nelson.
            I’ll look for them a bit later and post if you don’t get a chance

          • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

            Follow this link to a article by Wells and refs therein

            http://www.salvomag.com/new/articles/salvo43/optimal-optics.php

            • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

              I thought you were referring to scientific papers, but it appears you mean opinion pieces.

              Salvo is Christian publication, not a scientific one. From their “About” page; “It also seeks to promote the Christian worldview.”.

              I’ll skip that. I should have been more careful and phrased my original question; “if these are scientific papers, cite them please?”

              • Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

                There are scientific papers referenced in his opinion piece. I’ve never bothered to look them up to find out if he’s misrepresenting them.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted February 7, 2018 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

            mikeyc

            The ID argument is that the glial cells that the photons have to wade through before hitting the photoreceptors have a selective [colour dependent] focussing function. They have picked this up from some Israeli researchers who say:

            “…the retina of the eye has been optimised so that the sizes and densities of glial cells match the colours to which the eye is sensitive (which is in itself an optimisation process suited to our needs). This optimisation is such that colour vision during the day is enhanced, while night-time vision suffers very little. The effect also works best when the pupils are contracted at high illumination, further adding to the clarity of our colour vision.

            The source I found for this gives the references you’re asking for. The full article & refs IS HERE

            I have no idea if the Israeli argument makes sense – I think one would need to go back in our lineage to our marine ancestors to see if it makes sense in that environment. Fishes are back-to-front too for example.

        • Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          Counter-argument: The cephalopod eye.

          /@

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

          This allows them to claim yet again that the eye was designed.

          If the human eye was designed, then how much less design, by the same god, went into the cephalopod eye (h/t : @Ant), the compound insect eye (inspired by @Ant’s nickname), the schizochroal compound trilobite eye with it’s optically biaxial focussing element (if there’s a *real* optician about, I’ll let them explain the significance of that – optics only occupied 20% of one year of my degree ; h/t to Prof Fortey, the “man with the thousand trilobite stare”), the simple eye pit ocelli of the Platyhelminthes (up to 6 per specimen) … and thirty-odd other designs.
          All of these different designs are, if you suck at the comforting nipple of religion, designs from the design house of God And Nothing Else, so obviously they’re either all optimal, or all substandard.

          • Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

            “@Ant’s nickname”

            My actual name (short form). [Just click Ⓧ to close any pop-up.)

            /@

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

              Actually, there was an “Anthony” in my school under-16 class, who also went under “Ant”. But we didn’t even have a word for “@” then. As the only (I think) person in the year who actually tried to learn to type, to some degree, I at least knew that the symbol existed, and may have been the only one who did.

              • Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

                The “@” is approximately how I sign my initials.

                /@

        • loren russell
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

          Hard to imagine that diffusing the light leads to greater acuity.. Better line is that it’s like the Tree of the Fruit of Knowing Good And Evil, etc — The lord for his own purposes wants us to be fuzzy-eyed as well as fuzzy-minded..

  4. GBJames
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    sub

  5. Scott
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I can’t read this post without my glasses.

    • Michael Day
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Exactly. And I’ve noticed recently that I really need to evolve longer arms.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        I’m sure Lamark can stretch a point for you. Humerusly increasing your radial extension.

    • mikeyc
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Well to be fair, the optometrist wasn’t arguing that God should have made us with perfect eyesight. He is trying to reconcile the obvious sub-optimal design of our eyes and a creator so he imagine one who makes mistakes.

      • GBJames
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        Why would one worship a god who makes such bone-headed mistakes?

        Any senior male contemplating the design of the prostate gland must surely realize how stupid these mistakes are.

        Women have their own examples.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      To hell with perfect; would that the Good Lord had given me the eyesight of Ted Williams. It’s said that his eye was so good umpires wouldn’t call a strike unless Teddy Ballgame swung at a pitch.

  6. steve oberski
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    The irony of pot Engnor calling kettle Dr. Coyne black while posting his irrational screeds from a site that does not allow comments.

  7. Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Obviously our eye evolved, but I often wonder why myopia is common in humans, even at a young age. Seems like a gene that should have been weeded out.

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      If we did not read or use screens or live over 50!

    • mikeyc
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Well one hand waving explanation (which happens likely to be true) is that we didn’t need perfect eyesight to survive and reproduce. Our species strategy for survival focused on other traits. In any event, many forms of life can see but only a few can see with great acuity.

      • busterggi
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        “we didn’t need perfect eyesight to survive and reproduce. ”

        True but that’s why beer goggles were invented.

        • mikeyc
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

          I rest my case.

          🙂

      • Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        “we didn’t need perfect eyesight to survive and reproduce.”

        Well, that is obviously true since we are here and many of us are myopic.

        The point is, *some* humans are myopic while others, perhaps the majority, are not, and myopia appears to be genetic. Absent glasses, the myopic people would seem to be at a significant disadvantage to those who are not. For example, for hunting, finding food, detecting dangers, detecting facial cues in others, etc.

        Your argument is about why acuity is not greater for a whole species, which is a cost and benefit thing.

        • mikeyc
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

          I didn’t mean to suggest that good eyesight wasn’t helpful, but it’s clear that eyesight is not one of those traits subject to purifying selection.

          So how do we account for it? If it were a trait that arose late in life, we’re done. It would persist because it appears after reproductive age. But that isn’t true – though some eye traits and pathologies arise later in life, most forms of myopia (for example) occur at a young age.

          So how do we explain its persistence if we think acute eye sight is so critical for our species survival? The answer is obvious; it wasn’t. The alleles persist because the poor eyesight disadvantage was outweighed by other traits. One doesn’t need to be a hunter to survive in a tribe.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

            In case it isn’t here ( I’m always hasty)

            Dawkins – blind watchmaker, I believe:

            What good is half an eye?

            It’s orders of magnitude better than no eye.

            To wit – starfish light sensing organ.

            ^^^^going off the top of my head

          • Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

            Thank you, Dr. Pangloss.

            • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

              If you’re trying to insult me, you can’t.

              • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

                I wasn’t trying to insult you, it is about the content of your comment. Obviously the gene for myopia did not get selected out because the myopic walk among us. The question is why given the seeming disadvantage. To say that it could not have been that disadvantageous after all is true but not very informative.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

          There is *some* evidence that myopia is less common among people who are outdoors a lot & thus use their eyes to see to infinity more. Being MyopicUgg-the-useless-spear-chucker may mean you can spend more time at camp drying meat & dallying with the ‘wives’!

          • Posted February 7, 2018 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

            Interesting. But wouldn’t that make myopia environmental rather than genetic?

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted February 7, 2018 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

              How about both?

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        is that we didn’t need perfect eyesight to survive and reproduce.

        Perfection implies a variation of zero in the perfect system under consideration. Variation is the raw material of evolution – passed through the filter of natural selection. Natural selection will reduce the variation in a system until it has less effect on the final measure (total offspring surviving to bred themselves) than other systems of the organism. Then the “visibility” of the visual system (in this example) to natural selection will decrease compared to rest of the organism’s systems.
        There’s probably a mathematical formulation to that, but I can’t put name to equation. But “meh”. For an example – when birds or insects were starting to fly, their wing structures were probably evolving faster, and more intensely selected than their senses of smell.
        To make a Dawkinsian leap into the extended phenotype, as apes were evolving into humans, their social and/ or language phenotypes were probably under more intense selection than their hairiness and fingerprints.

    • Jacques Hausser
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      I have recently seen a documentary on myopy in Asia, where it is really epidemic (up to 80 % ofr school children). And it seems that the remedy is to spend at least two hours a day outside, in the sun, the reason being linked to the influence of blue light on the secretion of melatonin. It was on Arte tv (in french, but the original version was certainly in english – I didn’t find it) and you can get it on youtube here.

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      There is a theory (and sadly it is not mine 🙂 ) that Jews and Chinese have such a high incidence of myopia, because they have a long tradition of literacy, stretching millennia.
      A myopic hunter is unlikely to be successful, and hence unlikely to father many children, as the ladies would rather go for a successful hunter.
      In societies were writing was important, myopics would do well (be an attractive proposition), as scribes or so. Even presbyopia would not be a problem for them.

  8. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    I’ve been obliged to wear glasses for nearly 60 years. You can work out why this might be so ‘because of evolutionary processes’ but as an example of a tremendous amount of thought and design – it sucks.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      I’ve picked metal splinters out of the surface of my glasses on enough separate occasions that I love – absolutely LOVE – the design of eyes that requires me to use spectacles. I would never – under any circumstances – use one of those “stare into laser with remaining eye” spectacle replacement services. And I actually enjoy making their sales humanoids wince when they try shoving their pamphlets into my hand in shopping centres.
      What’s that sound I hear in the background? The Extended Phenotype March?

  9. Jake Sevins
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I think there are sincere well-meaning people who feel that “there must be something more” than the simple (and beautiful) theory of evolution behind all that we see. It *is* counterintuitive that you could put a few chemicals next to a star, wait a few billion years, and get this stunning array of life, the Internet, Mozart, and Raphael. It *does* seem miraculous and I get the resistance to the idea that such a simple explanation is possible.

    I think it’s laudable that you, Jerry, take the time to write books, maintain a blog, and civilly respond to people. Often prominent scientists are too busy or have too much important work to take the time. So thank you.

    • RPGNo1
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      Well said. I concur.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        “sincere well-meaning”

        THATS a better way to put it, than my “sensible”.

  10. busterggi
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    ” It’s virtually impossible for me to look into a human eye and not see the tremendous amount of thought and design that is involved in creating this amazing organ. ”

    Yet somehow my eyes have never worked properly, I’ve worn glasses so long that I can’t remember not needing them, I needed surgery on my eyes when I was eight and I’m developing cataracts and other problems now that I’m in my ’60’s.

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      As the saying goes, ‘even Homer nods’! Clearly your ‘designer’ was distracted! 😉

  11. Randall Schenck
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I will defer the finer details of the eye evolution to the biologists in the room but do not think I will be making any appointments with this doctor. Michael Egnor should click on the Dover case and watch the 2 hour documentary that NOVA did on this. Intelligent design has been exposed for the fraud that it is.

    • Jake Sevins
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      I wouldn’t avoid a doctor because she/he is a creationist. Jerry has written on this at length (cf. “Faith vs. Fact”), people are very good at compartmentalizing their beliefs. In the daily practice of eye care, I doubt this doctor’s decisions turn on any creationist dogmas.

      • GBJames
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        I would. I prefer doctors who can think clearly and aren’t simply behaving as technicians.

        • GBJames
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:54 am | Permalink

          (Not to disrespect technicians, many of whom apply the scientific method in their work.)

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

        And so you should see this doctor or any doctor you want. I think there are other choices when a person says – It is very difficult to believe “nature” alone has created this amazing universe. Certainly I cannot tell if a doctor (creationist) is going to be any worse but I know this….
        Many religious judges place their religion above the law and the religion greatly affects their findings. Prove to me that it does not affect a doctor’s judgement?

        • Jose
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

          I bet it does. I went once with my then couple to a gynaecologist looking for advice on the use of IUD or any other contra conceptive. He, very subtly discouraged us from usig it. Not that he convinced us, but we didn’t felt understood and supported. My guess is he was catholic, which wouldn’t be uncommon for doctors of certain age and position like the one.

          And it must. Sure we all know how faith and religion work, and this man and many others, in conscience, are acting for the greater good, sure faith trumps Hippocratic Oath; Hell, I am sure many of them think the are acting between the limits of said oath.

          On the whole, if they are practising and not disbarred, they have done nothing horribly wrong, but if I could know and chose, I would always chose a non religious doctor.

    • colnago80
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

      Egnor is a neurosurgeon who practices on Long Island, New York. I would agree, I wouldn’t allow him to come within 50 feet of me with a scalpel in his hand.

  12. Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    You haven’t failed, Professeur, some stock is defective at the outset.

  13. Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Look at octopus eyes – so much more ‘perfect’.

    What does ‘perfect’ actually mean anyway? It is a ridiculous concept that no one ever defines.

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      It’s not that ridiculous. In the case of some adaptations, like mimicry, we can see what the target phenotype is, and thus judge what is “optimal” (which is how I construe “perfect”).

      • GBJames
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        But how do you differentiate “optimal” from “good enough”? I would think that “optimal” would have to be “indistinguishable from”.

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Re octopus eyes: it was long thought they were colour blind since having only one type of cone. However, it appears that octopuses see colours by using chromatic aberration (an interface breaks light differently for different wavelengths), and hence have probably a much richer colour vision than we have, with our only three (blue, green and yellow absorption maxima) pigments.

      • Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        I read about that. Very cool. It was a mystery why animals like octopus and cuttlefish, who do a lot of signaling with their color changing skin, would have only one kind of photo receptor. Life finds a way.

        • nicky
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

          Yes, I found that really exhilarating.
          Indeed it made no sense, so much colouring signals and still colour blind. Note, it could have been, since Natural Selection is blind 🙂 ,but for some reason or other I find deep satisfaction in the cephalopods having good, possibly great, colour vision after all, and by a very different mechanism. Stunning and exhilarating.

  14. Mark Cagnetta
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Did the “Creator” also give me myopia and cataracts? Duh!

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      But your cataracts are so PERFECT!

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Not to mention glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

      Anyone for trachoma?

  15. docbill1351
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    It cracks me up that the IDiots have been bleating about “teaching ID” for decades, yet there is nothing to teach! No textbook on “intelligent design” creationism, no syllabus, no content, no nothing.

    Casey “the Attack Gerbil” Luskin, formerly of the Disco Tute, took a stab at putting together some “teaching material” but it was only a mish-mash of anti-evolution, creationism material, old chestnuts and long-abandoned arguments compiled into a childish workbook and co-authored by a couple of homeschool pamphlet writers. Actually, the best part of the text is the disclaimer that warns about presenting this unconstitutional material in public schools, but rather it’s appropriate in a homeschool or church environment! All science, all the time.

    So, really, the entire “intelligent design” creationism movement has devolved into religious faux-persecution and non-existant censorship.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      So, really, the entire “intelligent design” creationism movement has devolved into religious faux-persecution and non-existant censorship.

      Devolved? You mean it wasn’t like that from day one, minute one, second zero?

      • docbill1351
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

        I wrestled with that word. Perhaps, “once again revealed itself to be” would have been a wordy better choice!

        Truly, they are no fun any more. Dembski is gone, trying to earn an actual living. Behe has to be pushing retirement by now, although being unproductive is no indicator. Wells never really had a wad to shoot for ID but spent his time Darwin bashing. Stevie Meyers seems to be out of gas on the Cambrian Nixplosion. And the cute Gerb quit to attend Bible college or something. The only people holding the fort, er, dingy second story walk-up over a gym, are Annie Green Screen and a bunch of bloggers. Hashtag SAD!

        • phil
          Posted February 8, 2018 at 12:44 am | Permalink

          Surely not! What went wrong? They even had a lab just like the labs you see in stock photos.

  16. Michieux
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Yeah, the eyes are examples of “perfect design”.

    Until recently I was functionally blind in my right eye, and rapidly becoming so in my left eye.

    Two operations to have cataracts removed have restored my sight.

    It’s a “miracle”!

    • phil
      Posted February 8, 2018 at 12:45 am | Permalink

      I have His gourd!

      • Richard
        Posted February 8, 2018 at 5:22 am | Permalink

        Heretic! I have His sandal, the only True Relic!

  17. Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    It’s not so much that eyes prove the existence of a creator…its more that the existence of optometrists prove that a perfect desginer did not make eyes.

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      But to be fair, the optometrist is not claiming a Perfect Designer. Only a “designer”. Of some sort.

      And very conveniently ‘its’ efforts are always said to be just outside of our limits to detect their work. Since they seem willing to admit that the history of life is acceptably explained by mostly naturalistic processes, then of course the designer worked earlier; twiddling some cosmic knobs to start life. If our optometris was around two centuries ago, naturally he would have claimed the designer did a lot more, but of course conveniently outside of what was known. The same optometrist, two centuries ago, would have claimed that the designer not only began life but also has continued to breathe a ‘vital force’ of life into every living being and directed their course of change if there was any change. Further, this designer would have continually pushed the planets through their revolutions around the sun.

      But now the designer must be a lesser being whose work is relegated to be behind the background of the background, because we have naturalistic explanations for most things.

      The incredible … shrinking… designer.

      • Posted February 8, 2018 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Oh? So we are positing an under-achieving god? In that case, sure, why not? But then we can scrap the whole “Its all so utterly beautiful and perfectly aligned that only a deity can explain it” and go for the “at the microscopic level it looks like a bunch of kludges and botches that some third rate godling stuck together for a D grade science project”. See if Templeton will give you a grant for that one…

  18. glen1davidson
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Avian eyes are easily better than mammalan eyes. The pecten oculi appears to be a better solution to the problem of blood vessels in front of the retina, and some birds have several foveae.

    So the Designer couldn’t have simply looked at bird eyes and decided to give humans–the supposed end goal of creation–avian eyes? Thinking across taxonomic lines is impossible for the greatest intelligence ever, the designer of life?

    Cue the crickets.

    Glen Davidson

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      Not ‘several’, just two in each eye: one facing forward and one facing to the side. And yes, bird’s eyes are better in several other ways:
      – Tetrachromatic (four colour receptors), and with coloured oil droplets to refine colour vision even more (they share this with most reptiles). Btw. the champs there are mantis-shrimps with more than a dozen colour receptors.
      – Birds generally have big eyes, often giving a resolution 4 to 5 times greater than our human eyes.
      – They have a bony ring with accompanying muscles, allowing for (in some species) accommodation in the range of 80 diopters in a fraction of a second (a 49 year old human has a bout 3 diopters, and it decreases with age, hence the need for reading glasses).
      I’d say that for a mammal we do pretty well in daylight, but compared to birds and reptiles we are half blind indeed.

    • loren russell
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

      The Creator, in fact, got acute color vision pretty good before the first tetrapods waddled out of the swamp. Kept improving it thorugh the archosaur clade. But send his Chosen clade into nocturnal, snuffling, small, short-lived therian mammals. Then sent the Asteroid [or was it Satan, when the lord was napping, or maybe the both of them on a bet], so throwing away all the good daylight, color, distance vision and then starting over with the primates, adding in not quite the right opsins, to produce a bodged design with no warranty past the therian original..

  19. Barry Lyons
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I wish “I get creationist email” were a weekly feature. I love these letters and responses!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      I bet His CeilingCatness doesn’t!

  20. BobTerrace
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Subscribe

  21. Andrea Silver
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    Isn’t it possible that an eye evolved exactly as it was intended by God. Oh, that’s right, you don’t believe in God. I don’t understand why He has tricked you, I really don’t.

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      Since you seem to believe in God, could you please give us the evidence that God exists, as well as (if you belong to a particular faith) why your faith is right and the claims of others (say, Muslims or Hindus) are wrong. Before you’re considered for further posting, please furnish this evidence, which shouldn’t be just the Bible or “I was taught that God exists.”

      • dabertini
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        You’ve lost the reader when you ask for evidence. They haven’t got an inkling of the meaning of that term.

        • Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:15 am | Permalink

          The evidence is in the Bible, you silly person.

          • dabertini
            Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

            You mean the Hobbit.

            • Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

              You silly hobbit.

              /@

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

                He’s not a silly Hobbit. He’s survived to the present day, and learned to either type or dictate into a computer. That’s a lot better than any of the fossilised hobbits did.

              • Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

                And what about the elfin kind? All their fancy art and weoponry. Lot of good that did them!

    • glen1davidson
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Just one of God’s many mysteries.

      Like why he seems so made up.

      Glen Davidson

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I do believe you’ve “begged the question,” as God and Aristotle originally intended that term to be used.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        Is that the origin of question begging?

        I think Ive finally got it:

        “Why did God make me?” Begs the question, right?

      • glen1davidson
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        I think she restated the optometrist’s argument more simply in order to show how it’s ridiculous.

        Glen Davidson

      • Posted February 7, 2018 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

        God wants us to beg. Give us our daily bread.

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      A good question, why would he (or she?) trick us by delivering such a shoddy job in designing human -or vertebrate in general- eyes? (Not to mention human smell).
      If he were one of my students proposing such a project, I’d send him right back to the drawing table.

  22. David Harper
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I can’t help thinking (as someone who has worn glasses since age 7) that the most telling riposte to this person is that if so much thought and design went into creating the human eye, then s/he wouldn’t have been able to make a living for 40 years as an optometrist. His/her deity is a pretty piss-poor engineer.

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      No, that is Providence, how else could an optometrist have made a living? He provides for optometrists, isn’t that brilliant?
      “Tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes possibles!”

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        We have a panoply of Panglosses?

  23. Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    The world is full of amazing features; eyes, wings, pitcher plants, so many sources of wonder. In my own spiritual development, I reached a point where I acknowledged that maybe a god is behind this all or maybe not, but if it is, this god isn’t something I need to believe in. I am amazed at the world, and that’s enough.

    (Sometimes I imagine that after I die I am astounded to actually meet God. I say, “You sure fooled me!” and he chuckles. We both chuckle.)

    • David Harper
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Would you also ask your creator deity why he created Onchocerca volvulus, the parasitic worm which causes river blindness in Africa, where it burrows into the eyes of its host?

      And what about Plasmodium falciparum, the malaria parasite, which kills around 3000 children in sub-Saharan Africa every day according to UNICEF figures? Your creator deity is responsible for that nasty piece of work too.

      He also created the smallpox virus, which killed hundreds of millions of people in the 20th century until humans, using science, eradicated it from the face of the Earth.

      There are plenty of other diseases, including childhood cancers, that you have to add to the account of your creator deity. If he were human, he would be put on trial for crimes against humanity for every one of these monstrous acts.

      You see, you can’t just give a creator deity credit for kittens and rainbows and flowers. You have to add all of the diseases on the other side of the balance sheet.

      • busterggi
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        Silly rabbit, that’s what the devil is for.

      • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

        I don’t expect to meet a creator deity because I don’t think there is one. But no, I wouldn’t ask about the things we consider evil. The suffering experienced by baby humans and other animals makes it pretty clear that if there is a god, it is amoral (by human standards, which are the only standards we can really have).

      • nicky
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Monty Python: ‘All things dull and ugly’

        All things dull and ugly,
        All creatures short and squat,
        All things rude and nasty,
        The Lord God made the lot.

        Each little snake that poisons,
        Each little wasp that stings,
        He made their brutish venom.
        He made their horrid wings.

        All things sick and cancerous,
        All evil great and small,
        All things foul and dangerous,
        The Lord God made them all.

        Each nasty little hornet,
        Each beastly little squid,
        Who made the spikey urchin?
        Who made the sharks? He did!

        All things scabbed and ulcerous,
        All pox both great and small,
        Putrid, foul and gangrenous,
        The Lord God made them all.

        Amen

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        I see your litany of nastinesses and raise you the Ichneumonidae. The whole Chaplaincy of them.
        How many votes does it take to get “Chaplaincy” accepted as the plural noun for parasitic wasps?

        • Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

          That’s perfect. You got my vote.

        • Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

          I like the Ichneumonidae. I don’t like chaplains.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted February 9, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

            Perfectly respectable positions, both.
            Hey, how does this idea work – gene-engineering an Ichneumon to live on Chaplains?
            For that, I’d make and even eat popcorn!

      • phil
        Posted February 8, 2018 at 1:09 am | Permalink

        Yeah, god made smallpox (and rinderpest) and mankind wiped it (them) out.

        Humans have clumsily made many species extinct, for no good reason, but one of our most stunning achievements has been removing smallpox, from the wild at least. It seems polio might be next.

        I find that remarkable mostly because it required the cooperation and combined efforts of quite diverse groups of people, from politicians, scientists, medical technicians, etc, etc. Moreover, it was mostly a disease of poor third world countries in the end, but enough rich people got together to eliminate it. And without god’s help.

        If we can do that to something like disease pathogens maybe we can makes gods extinct too.

    • Jose
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I want your time tunel to then 70’s.

  24. glen1davidson
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that a creator and evolution can coexist.

    Why would they? What’s the evidence for it, most importantly?

    Evolution can do a lot, but if a creator were mucking around with evolution, why wouldn’t this creator keep making up for the constraints of evolution? Why not move better productions from one separate evolutionary line to another, like any intelligent human would do?

    I think you may make some assumptions about a creator that may or not be true:

    That a creator had complete control of his creation.
    That a creator may not possibly make mistakes
    That a creator may have purposely wanted to create “goofy” life forms, death, diseases, or natural disasters.

    Why don’t we know whether or not these are true? Because the creator is just made up?

    We do know the answers to those questions with respect to evolution, because we can have a theory and can observe the processes. Apparently we don’t know what the “creator” might have done, and yet we’re supposed to conclude that a creator has acted without knowing what it might have done. Basically, the creationist/IDist wants us to think the eye must have been designed in some way because it’s so exquisite and beyond our intelligence to make from scratch, and yet we’re not supposed to look at the mistakes and lost opportunities and ask why superior intelligence didn’t act like superior intelligence.

    When “positive evidence” counts and “negative evidence doesn’t,” we know that we’re not dealing with someone who’s interested in the facts.

    Glen Davidson

  25. Kev
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    In Europe it seems quite common to be a theistic evolutionist. The Catholic Church “assimilated” the idea of Evolution quite early on and in some cases with a certain enthusiasm (Teilhard de Chardin for example). Belief in Adam and Eve is still dogma (Council of Trent then as reiterated in 1950), but evolution can still seen as possibly how God chose to create man. Adam and Eve are fundamental to the idea of Original Sin, so they can hardly be discarded as metaphor however. The Vatican learned a hard, if belated, lesson from Galileo on the perils of contradicting Science, and I am sure it does not want to repeat the experience.

    There is not the same tension between science and religion as in the US. Evangelical Fundamentalism makes it difficult to reach compromise and Evolution is seen as incompatible with, and therefore a threat to, the faith and, by extension, atheistic (if not Communist by association).

    Religion in the US is a more overtly political issue than in it is currently in Europe (where it has been a more polarised issue in the past of course). Atheists in Europe can be elected as head of state for example.

    ” I believe you made a great case for evolution in your book, but don’t believe we have the science to support the possibility that a creator and evolution cannot coexist in this world.”

    That seems fair enough. Science can have little to say about the creator since it is limited to the physical world. I feel personally that Evolutionary Theory and Science in general do not encourage the theistic point of view, but there again, how could they since they are, by definition, constrained to naturalism and its physical arguments.

    I also feel strongly that religious thinking MUST respect the confines between religion and science, a boundary line which recently has become part of the political battle for minds.

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Just interview a European Christian, on avarage they will answer more or less as follows:
      Q: Are you a Christian?
      A: Yes
      Q: Do you believe Jesus Christ actually existed?
      A: Well, probably he did, yes.
      Q: Do you believe he was born from a virgin?
      A: That is not really essential, isn’t it? No, not really, that would be a bit steep. ne?
      Q: Do you think that by dying on the cross He absolved all our sins?
      A: Well, not really, would be a bit easy, now wouldn’t it? Maybe some of our sins.
      Q: Do you believe in the Holy Trinity?
      A: Nah, not really, wasn’t that a Catholic idea? These Catholics believe their pope.
      Catholic A: Well, they say so, but they say so much.(when pressed) well yes, but I do not really know what it means.
      Q: Do you really think that the walls of Jericho fell due to sound from horns?
      A: No, probably not. But ultra- and infra- sound can do amazing things. They removed my dad’s cataracts/kidney stones with ultrasound.
      Q: Do you believe in Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden?
      A: No, of course not, that is just a symbolic story.
      Q: Do you believe in The Flood and Noah’s Ark?
      A: Let us not go into that, I know you are going to argue, and you will win the argument, let’s rather have a drink.

      And thus we go off, offering to Bacchus.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        Q: Do you believe in The Flood and Noah’s Ark?
        A: Let us not go into that, I know you are going to argue, and you will win the argument, let’s rather have a drink.

        A2 : Are you taking the Utnapishtim?

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Where IS the boundary between science and religion? Religion makes truth claims. Science investigates truth claims. Nor is “natural” and “supernatural” useful. If something interacts with the natural world, it can be investigated. If it doesn’t, how is it different from nonexistence?

      • Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        *Nor is “natural” and “supernatural” a useful boundary.

        • Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          Sastra makes a nice distinction, that the supernatural boils down to ”mind without matter”, whereas in nature only matter (comprising fermions) gives rise to mind.

          /@

          • Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

            But that still doesn’t stop science from investigating them.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

        Truth claims are a thing :

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_claim

        … I thought it was just a grand sounding term.

        I love how everything is s truth claim – it really settles things, it brings things down to earth.

        1+1? Truth claim.
        Burning bush? Truth claim.
        Natural selection? Truth claim.
        String theory?… ummm … not sure… about this one.

        • Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          Strings and loops are both truth claims. I now rather favour loops as the simpler model.

          /@

  26. Claudia Baker
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Well then, I have a bone to pick with the ‘creator’, since I have had scleral buckling surgery in both eyes, followed by cataract surgery, both eyes.

    The “intelligent designer” is surely the scientist(s) who developed this type of fix for retinal tearing, without which, I would be blind right now.

    Science: 1
    ID: 0

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

      Retinal tears and detachment? That is a racial thing. You must be white. The Lord obviously did not like whites when designing retinas.

  27. Posted February 7, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I’m sure someone has already commented with this but:

    It’s very difficult to believe “nature” alone has created [the human eye].

    I would suggest to my Optometrist that she/he look into:

    1. The vestigial eyes of the blind cave tetra (evolved independently in multiple caves). Why would your creator design vestigial eyes?

    2. The Octopus eye. Why did your creator independently design another (besides the tetrapod eye) seemingly “perfect” camera eye in molluscs that is actually “wired correctly” — with the nerves serving the light-sensing cells in the retina entering them from behind instead of from the front (image receiving) side?

    3. The backwards wiring of the human eye’s nerves noted in 2, above. Who would design an eye that way, when they had an off-the-shelf design wired the “right” way in the mollusc eye?

    4. The nautilus “pin-hole camera” eye. Why would your designer give the nautilus, which lives in the same environment as the octopus and gets its living in similar ways, such a primitive eye, when they had an off-the-shelf design already in the same animal family (molluscs)?

    Our eyes have only about 1/10th the resolving power of the eyes of birds or prey. Why? Why not design humans with the best possible camera eyes? Wouldn’t that be a better design?

    There exists essentially every intermediate type of eye from simple light-receptive patches (e.g. href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parietal_eye”>the third eye of a tuatara<a) through “perefct” camera eyes like ours and those of molluscs. Look around on the internet and you’ll find this information.

    Have a look at this paper:

    https://web.stanford.edu/group/fernaldlab/pubs/2000%20Fernald%20Evolution%20of%20eyes.pdf

    Learn more. Then you won’t have trouble accepting that evolution by natural selection is the correct explanation for the human eye (and the other eyes).

    If you accept evolution as acting to modify animals, why do you not see how it can explain all of life’s diverse forms?

    • Kev
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      I think the Optometrist is not having much trouble accepting evolution: he is suggesting that science cannot discount that a creator was responsible.

      The “vestigial eyes of the blind cave tetra ” would make sense in any case in theistic evolution, since all the ancestral forms had to be viable, that is at some point in history they needed to see. Why a designer would wish to follow that pathway is another question.

      As the optometrist said, we should not assume that a hypothetical creator is perfect, that he has complete control or cannot make mistakes or learn by trial and error.

      As I understand the Optometrist is not a believer in any particular religious faith, and is not proposing the a creator similar to any specific model, namely one with undefined attributes, not necessarily omnipotent and omniscient, but capable of designing some kind of creation. Defects in creation or illogical design would indicate the limits of the creators ability.

      This idea is not recent. The Zoroastrians of 3000 years ago proposed that because the world is imperfect, it could not have been created by a perfect being, so they believed it was created by Ahura Mazda who was not omnipotent and who was involved in cosmic conflict with another (more malicious) deity, the result of which being a synthesis of good and evil in an imperfect world.
      I can imagine that they could have assimilated the idea of Evolution with little difficulty, complete with all its apparent idiosyncrasies of design, which would in fact have confirmed their beliefs concerning imperfection.

      • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        I don’t disagree, particularly; but his bottom line is:

        It’s very difficult to believe “nature” alone has created this amazing universe. I believe you made a great case for evolution in your book, but don’t believe we have the science to support the possibility that a creator and evolution cannot coexist in this world.

        Part 1 of that is Dawkins’ “Argument from Personal Incredulity” and it indicates a lack of knowledge more than anything else. (If your standard of proof starts with, “I can’t imagine”, then you are saying something about yourself, not something about the universe.)

        Part 2: Russell’s teapot. You can’t disprove a super-clever magic being is messing with things such that you can’t discern it.

        Well, yeah, but why would one want to posit such a thing?

        As for a deistic god, that’s not a useful concept either. It’s not distinguishable from “no god”.

        There are some hard problems out there. I’ll provisionally accept the judgement of our top physicists that no creator is required for the existence of the universe.

        Likewise with the original of life. This is a problem I think we’ll eventually solve. We’ll eventually kick off some self-replicating entities with heredity. Though we may well never know the actual history here on earth.

        I’m happy to point her/him to the track record of science vs. the track record of those who posit a magical entity as the cause of anything we see around us. What would lead her/him to think that the eye (or anything else) would break this pattern?

        • Kev
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

          “There are some hard problems out there. I’ll provisionally accept the judgement of our top physicists that no creator is required for the existence of the universe.”

          Even if there was a creator, our best scientists wouldn’t be able to prove it anyway, firstly because they are only observing physical phenomena of the observable universe and secondly because the creator probably wouldn’t leave observable/material proof any way.

          “standard of proof”: there is no standard of proof, because religious opinions don’t require proof.

          Where I am happy not believing one way or the other, I presume that our Optometrist is unsatisfied with the secular materialist view and is tending towards the idea of an unidentified creator, other scientific observations remaining unaffected.

          Not believing in a creator is tenable without proof.
          Believing in a creator or believing that a creator does not exist are both unprovable.

          • Posted February 7, 2018 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

            Even if there was a creator, our best scientists wouldn’t be able to prove it anyway, firstly because they are only observing physical phenomena of the observable universe and secondly because the creator probably wouldn’t leave observable/material proof any way.

            How do you know?

            If there were a creator, it’s likely that there would be evidence for his/her/zir/its existence, because of the δ between what is and what would be expected by purely naturalistic processes. One such δ would be an energy discrepancy as a creator would be putting work into a closed system.

            /@

          • Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

            Why would there be no physical evidence left behind? If other cosmological models provide better, more accurate predictions without a god, what would make the god postulate more preferable?

  28. Christine Janis
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Why, for creationists, is it always the *human* eye (heart, etc.)? Do they really not realize that we share these apparently unique/designed just for us, etc., organs with at least other mammals, if not all other vertebrates (most of whom have much better color vision than we do, for a start).

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      True. If they want to real marvel, they should consider the octopus eye.

  29. Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    It’s still surprising to me that MD’s with all their education can believe in intelligent design. Did they ever take a rigorous biology course in their travels? Of course, Dan Dennett points out an example of intelligent design: The dairy cow from the Orex. But it’s not the design creationists assert.

  30. Rob
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Seems some of the arguments from the optometrist are of the “Well, I think, that maybe, well it could be, perhaps, just guessing, speculating, because I really don’t know, and haven’t tested this. So, my wild guess is just as valid as any other theory. Oh, and my wild guess is just as valid as a theory developed with ample evidence.”

    • nicky
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t that Asimov? The mistaken notion about democracy “..that my ignorance is as valid as your knowledge”?

  31. chris
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I think part of the optometrist’s problem is that they are looking at the finished product. Eyes unlike cameras aren’t built, they form during development like every other body part. If you look at how they develop from a molecular genetic POV, it’s easier to see how complex structures can form without any intelligent intervention.

    • Peter N
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      “…and by some strange coincidence my beliefs reflect the culture in which I was raised, and there is no social cost to maintaining them.”

  32. Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    You might want to point out that our original design for our eyes was that we could only see in duotone, not full color (like old time sepia-tinted photographs). But a weak mutation in one of the color photo receptors gave us a set of three from which we could manufacture full color. Unlike TV sets we don’t have three primary color receptors, we have two and another very slightly different from one of the two that is different enough to make for full color reception through the retinas, but only with more extensive processing in the visual cortex.

    If this is a matter of design, it is very bad design. Especially when you have people saying that rainbows were signs from their god. With our original eye design, a rainbow would have been a muddy smear in the sky, barely visible.

    • Christine Janis
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Not the original design of the *vertebrate* eye — mammals lost opsins (and associated genes) — our color vision is worse than that of a fish —- we still far from see in “full color” (although some women have another mutation and are tetrachromatic, mimicking other vertebrates, but probably not as good.)

      • Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        When I was in Gradual school a fellow student could, almost without fail, identify if a solution contained DNA or not. She could see a little way into the UV spectra and DNA absorbs UV light. We even tested her, making up solutions that contained varying amounts of DNA and, if the concentration was high enough, we couldn’t fool her. I wonder if she was tetrachromatic?

        • Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

          A gradual school? They taught you a little at a time? 😁

          Had she had cataracts? The normal retina can “see” UV, its just filtered out by the cornea. In WW2, people who had had cataract operations were used as observers to spot the UV signalling used German spies and their support U-Booten.

          /@

          • nicky
            Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

            Ant, the way you say it that makes no sense, I’m sorry. If the corneas would filter out most of the UV (they do), cataract surgery could not possibly make a difference. Lenses are behind the cornea.
            However, I do know that ‘colour-blind’ men (yes almost all are men, X-linked) were used to see camouflaged targets more easily.
            There is also the notion that the allies spread the idea that carrots improved night vision, in order to hide their use of radar. Note, lack of vitamin A (carotene being a precursor) indeed leads to ‘night-blindness’, so it was kinda clever. It is not really known if the Germans actually bought into it.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          “Gradual school”

          Whoever wrote that story is a genius.

          • ThyroidPlanet
            Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

            Whomever

            I know my memes.

          • Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

            I stole it from John Irving – “World According to Garp”. I’ve stolen “undertoad”, too.

            • ThyroidPlanet
              Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

              Right

              I saw the movie and the book on the shelf.

        • nicky
          Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

          That is really stunning, we do have blue receptors, but theur absorption of wavelengths would not normally extend much into UV.

  33. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    There seem to be multiple forms of theistic evolution, some of which hold that God “front-loaded” the process (Ken Miller) to others that hold there is some mysterious internal teleological guidance to evolution (Teilhard de Chardin).
    They are both speculation based on the presupposition that the very grandness of the design suggests a deity. But while theism may supply an explanation satisfying to some, it is not in any way a necessary explanation.

    As for the evidence right around the corner for creationism, I believe this image may bear on the issue.

  34. Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    If you grant the optometrist their trickster god, I still don’t see how anyone could be “amazed”. Such a god is either laughably inept or disgustingly cruel.

    Evolution is not a “pretty good” way of creating a web of life if you are an intelligent creator. The inefficiency of the process is staggering. 99% of species that have at one point lived on the planet are extinct. That’s amazingly wasteful.

    And if the creator “purposely wanted to create…deaths, diseases, or natural disasters,” then why would you be impressed by that? Those 99% of species now extinct didn’t die calmly in their sleep. They were torn apart, bled to death, starved to death, eaten alive, killed as children,…. A creator that designs such a system is disgusting, not amazing.

    I can’t help but think that people who believe as this optometrist seems to have never actually witnessed real suffering, human or otherwise. It’s easy to comfort yourself with platitudes like “death is but a way to renew life” when you never have to face what death is really like for nearly all living things (humans included).

    • busterggi
      Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

      ” 99% of species that have at one point lived on the planet are extinct. ”

      Extinction used to be something that Christians denied could happen, less than two centuries ago in fact. Now that we haven’t found living T. rexes or uintatheriums they’se embraced extinction and call it ‘proof’ of the biblical flood. Believers can learn but they can’tbe made to learn correctly.

      • nicky
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, I guess Anomalocaris, the acanthodians and the placoderms drowned during the Flood.

  35. John J. Fitzgerald
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Instead of considering the design of the eye for evidence of a creator/designer, perhaps we should follow Voltaire and consider the nose and how perfectly it is designed to accommodate our eye glasses that enable us to correct our vision problems. The nose is a perfect resting place for our eye glasses. Not to mention our ears for holding them in place! Onward! John J. Fitzgerald

  36. Mark R.
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I would recommend to this optometrist Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works. He lucidly explains many aspects of the human eye’s “design”, including its evolution.

  37. Roger
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that a creator and evolution can coexist.

    Not unreasonable at all since a creator can do any darn thing you want it to do. Sorry but this is not news to anyone if you thought it was.

  38. ploubere
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    The aspect of evolution that makes it hard for most to grasp is the enormous numbers involved. There have to be myriad variations in myriad generations for a few to come out ahead and gradually out-reproduce all the others over tens or hundreds of millions of years.
    It’s a numbers game.

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

      That’s why the Nilsson and Pelger paper is useful. It makes conservative assumptions and yet shows that a camera eye can evolve from a light-sensitive eyespot in abut 86,000 generations–a mere blink of the (camera) eye.

  39. Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    The views of theistic evolution has many problems, and one of them is that a theistic evolutionist can twist, bend, expand, and contract their theism to fit any opening and avoid any problem.
    Bring up imperfection of design. Well, god makes mistakes or is letting evolution do most of the work.
    But swallows are incredibly efficient flying machines that can fly for days and even sleep on the wing. So maybe had a hand in perfecting the design of these birds.

    The origin of life is a mystery. So that looks like something that god did at the start.
    But the universal core of lifes’ biochemistry is a pretty good match, at multiple points, to the chemistry of alkaline hydrothermal vents. So we are once again back to a god that set the gears in motion, and allowed naturalistic processes to take their course.

    I would bet that this person would instantly have a tidy theory, part theistic and part naturalistic, that twists and morphs to conveniently explain every little detail about life, the universe, and everything. But he fails to realize that that is absolutely the worst kind of scientific theory one can have since it is designed to be disprovable. So it is no longer a scientific theory, but is instead a closer kin to one’s own personal religion.

  40. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me that a creator and evolution can coexist.

    But if you are going to multiply the ‘movers’ why stop at just one creator? In some ways teams of competing creators struggling to beat the others would be a more likely explanation for all the ‘designed bits’ that don’t work well together that we can see in the natural world.

  41. loren russell
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    An optometrist ought to be the last to claim that the human eye is “perfect”, unless the definition of perfection is “enough things going wrong to keep optometrists in business”.

    And there’s never much point in refuting claims like this, when the bottom line is the Bible.

    This illustration of the ‘evolution’ of a camera starting from a copper penny is a nicely offbeat illustration of step-by-step acquisition ‘vision’ while remaining functional through the process.. Look up “How a biologist builds a digital camera” on the website The Scope of Science. [Sorry, I don’t ever remember how to embed URL here.]

  42. Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Your eyes a deceiving your brain. Not uncommon but needs correcting. Take off the supernatural bifocals and put on the natural selection.
    Focus on the natural and less on the super, try, and this is hard, not to let awe and wonder spray smudge your sense of reason.
    Try using WEIT (FvF) for check ups when A & W symptoms become aggressive and god like, as deceptive re-collaborating of natural phenomena is it’s default position.
    Better lenses and glasses, that is science and reason and a little help, to most this means courage and will (maybe not in your case) will correct this inverted vision.

  43. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I have been looking into human eyes for over 40 years.

    Always the lack of variety. Is there such a thing as a veterinary opthalmologist? Who has to deal with the 40-odd different structures of eyes through the animal kingdom? All of them.

  44. Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    A problem I have with theistic evolution, besides there being no evidence for the theistic part, is that evolution is such a wasteful and painful process. The only reason I might want to believe in God is a desire to believe there exists a moral force for good in the universe. A God who is complicit in a process that populated the world we know today at the expense of the agonizing deaths of trillions of sentient creatures can hardly be a moral force for good. Unless evolution was His only option, in which case He is redundant.

  45. glen1davidson
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Unfortunately for Dr. Egnor, the judge in the case of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District in 2005 definitively ruled that Intelligent Design was simply disguised religion, and that set a precedent in the U.S. that has barred ID from the classroom.

    Well, not a legal precedent, except for (I believe) the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

    However, it was meant to be, and probably is, a kind of informal precedent for the whole US, because it appears to have dealt with the issue quite well. If another district has to deal with ID sometime in the future it seems quite likely that any decision would be made with the Kitzmiller verdict as an intellectual precedent.

    But legally it’s a precedent for only a rather small part of the US.

    Glen Davidson

    • Posted February 7, 2018 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      Yes, that’s what I meant. No school has dared to teach ID openly because, as Dover did, it’ll face a million dollars in legal fees (including the fees of the plaintiffs). Dover put a dead stop to ID cases in the US.

  46. eric
    Posted February 7, 2018 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    Egnor’s beef is that I favor free speech, but not the teaching of Intelligent Design in the classroom, so I’m a hypocrite.

    …which begs the question: are they truly ignorant of the public/private speech difference, or aware of it and manipulatively using the argument anyway?

  47. J. Quinton
    Posted February 9, 2018 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I’ve been a software engineer for about 10 years now, in two different companies. I’ve looked over a lot of code that was poorly designed and had to build on top of it some quick corrections, which will probably be reviewed by any successors and modified even more.

    My point is, that a lot of the software we use on a daily basis was initially written 30 or 40 years ago, and because we don’t have the time or resources to do otherwise, a lot of code is a kluge built on the scaffolding of previous code if any significant changes need to be made. Minor systemic bugs in code are just papered over with new code because the old code still works and very rarely, with crucial legacy systems (like banking/finance) can we tear the whole thing down and start from scratch to design it better.

    What I’m trying to say is that code “evolves”, but intelligently. Now, if our letter writer (or any theistic evolutionists) was making this same analogy, that our biological systems had guided evolution by a severely limited intelligence (like ours) and that’s why a lot of biological systems are poorly designed kluges on top of preexisting systems that may have had a different functionality in the past, then they might be on to something.

    But that’s not what they say. They say that something like our eyes are so well designed (?!?) there must be a perfect intelligence that is behind it. These people really have no idea what they’re talking about. Saying the eye is well designed so therefore god is like saying the moon is a triangle so therefore god. The reasoning is wrong at just about every step; probably because they start from their conclusion (god exists) and work backwards.

    • GBJames
      Posted February 9, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      code “evolves”, but intelligently

      As someone gazing in the direction of retiring from decades in the software industry, I take your point. But I have to say I’m not so sure about the “intelligent” part here.

      • J. Quinton
        Posted February 9, 2018 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        Touche!

  48. Zetopan
    Posted February 10, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Michael Egnor has been so spectacularly wrong that his name has spawned a new word/meme: “Egnorance”.

    https://pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/03/egnorance-combo-arrogance.html

    Another example of the complete intellectual vacuousness of ID is the “Wedge Document”, which they had so proudly posted on their website. That is until they finally realized that scientifically literate readers (obviously not their intended audience) could trivially and *very publically* pick it apart. Then their magic document went into deep hiding, but not before the NCSE ands others had captured snapshots of the damning web pages.
    https://ncse.com/creationism/general/wedge-document
    https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Wedge_Strategy
    etc.

  49. Optometrist
    Posted February 12, 2018 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I’m the optometrist who emailed Dr. Coyne I appreciate his time and responses as I’m sure he is a very busy man. I did not ask for the post, but did not object.
    As some have noted, I did not say the human eye was perfect. It does have flaws, particularly those annoying little (sometimes big) floaters that I’m sure many of you see in your vision. Perhaps I should “Thank God” for the job because of those imperfections.
    I said I see thought and design in the human eye (I’m not an expert on other animals), not perfection.
    I am not easily able to detail or certainly scientifically explain as many would demand. It’s just the way I “see it” after studying and observing the human visual system for many years.
    I’m not sure why some would expect humans to have the best visual system as other animals certainly have very different visual demands.
    I do agree with the mechanics of evolution as Dr. Coyne outlined in his book. I’m just not so sure of the actual forces behind those mechanics. We all have our own beliefs, and hopefully can respect each others.

    • Jose
      Posted February 13, 2018 at 5:22 am | Permalink

      ¡Oh my! Where to begin?

      First on the form and fashion you express yourself.You did not ask for the post nor did you object. So what? It seems to me a way of subtly having a go at Dr. Coyne for putting you in this spot, that is impolite, and you need to be called on it. Well, either you are ok with this, or not. Overall you seem to employ a confusing humility, to just suggest things, not confronting but leaving it there, as a way of protecting these ideas you present. Guess what, doesn’t work. If you don’t talk clearly, it equals to no reasoning. Only with that I would dismiss you, but let’s go on.

      The former may seem like a gratuitous attack, but it helps pun in perspective the content of what you say. Because you are not the first to try what you are trying. You clearly believe in Gog, with capital g. And by that I mean the biblical god, Yahveh. You said maybe you should “thank God”, when you clearly are affirming it without conditional.

      You admit you don’t posit a “perfect god”, which you already stated on your mail, yet you ignore all the problems for your “reasoning” that implies already pointed out by many in the comments.

      You see “thought and design” in the human eye. Where? What is your evidence for saying that? You’ve already been explained how the “design” of the eye, if there is any, points to a clumsy, very clumsy designer, a trickster or a prankster.

      If you are unable, easily or not, to explains yourself scientifically, you are saying you are not able to present evidence for your views, so what are you doing trying to say to a scientist like Coyne? Many of us are not scientists and cannot formulate a scientific theory, but once it’s done by someone who can, we are able to understand it and reason about it, it’s not really that difficult.

      I don’t think nobody here expects humans to have the best visual system, actually the arguments are on the contrary. What is implied is that, given a designer, it would be expected to have a better (not necessaries the best) designed visual system.

      And finally no, you don’t agree with Dr Coyne on the mechanics of evolution, because as explained by him these mechanics exclude with great certainty the existence of a designer. Why you suddenly decide to use the obscure concept of “forces” instead that of designer merits comment, but I’ts enough for me now.

      • Jose
        Posted February 13, 2018 at 5:24 am | Permalink

        Sorry, *put on perspective.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted February 13, 2018 at 6:21 am | Permalink

      Dear Optometrist – it is great that you write to the readers here. I pick some comments to offer thoughts on:

      “I do agree with the mechanics of evolution as Dr. Coyne outlined in his book.”

      It sounds like you mean natural selection – that’s the mechanism, as I understand it.

      “I’m just not so sure of the actual forces behind those mechanics.”

      An equation might help :

      Force = mass X acceleration

      Acceleration is due to gravity here on Earth… but perhaps you don’t technically mean force, but in big nebulous sense. I drop this for now (no coffee yet).

      “We all have our own beliefs, and hopefully can respect each others.”

      I could understand everything until this part. There are clear reasons why an individual could arrive at the questions – I argued before, it was due to focusing (hard to avoid optical puns here ) on the human eye, but nothing else.

      If I am bonkers, I want to hear it – I need to hear it. I owe it to others to challenge me. People who challenge you are your friends. People who respect beliefs for absolutely any or no reason?…

      As I’m sure everyone has heard and can recommend the usual characters on this subject, I can’t help but recommend Kurt Andersen’s 2017 book Fantasyland, especially if you are in the United States, to illustrate the merits of the idea of respecting beliefs.

      Cheers, gotta go!

    • Posted February 13, 2018 at 6:47 am | Permalink

      “We all have our own beliefs, and hopefully can respect each others.”

      Well, yes we do. But … well, it depends what you mean by “respect”.

      Do you mean, “accept one’s freedom to hold” a belief? Well, yes, as long as that belief doesn’t inform action that harms others or impinges on their freedoms.

      Do you mean, “be uncritical of” a belief? Then no, I refuse to be uncritical of others’ beliefs that are counterfactual or simply conjectural.

      /@

    • GBJames
      Posted February 13, 2018 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      “We all have our own beliefs, and hopefully can respect each others.”

      Optometrist, I believe that pigs live in trees. In what way do you respect that belief?


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