Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Wonders of Evolution

What is the principle of optimization? Natalie Angier of the New York Times explains it this way:

• “Scientists have learned that the fundamental units of vision, the photoreceptor cells that carpet the retinal tissue of the eye and respond to light, are not just good or great or phabulous at their job. They are not merely exceptionally impressive by the standards of biology, with whatever slop and wiggle room the animate category implies. Photoreceptors operate at the outermost boundary allowed by the laws of physics, which means they are as good as they can be, period. Each one is designed to detect and respond to single photons of light — the smallest possible packages in which light comes wrapped.”

According to Angier, visual optimization is only one of many areas where scientists have encountered this perplexing optimization:

• “Scientists have identified and mathematically anatomized an array of cases where optimization has left its fastidious mark, among them the superb efficiency with which bacterial cells will close in on a food source; the precision response in a fruit fly embryo to contouring molecules that help distinguish tail from head; and the way a shark can find its prey by measuring micro-fluxes of electricity in the water a tremulous millionth of a volt strong — which, as Douglas Fields observed in Scientific American, is like detecting an electrical field generated by a standard AA battery “with one pole dipped in the Long Island Sound and the other pole in waters of Jacksonville, Fla.” In each instance, biophysicists have calculated, the system couldn’t get faster, more sensitive or more efficient without first relocating to an alternate universe with alternate physical constants.”

Don’t worry that you can’t get your mind around this stuff. It doesn’t seem that any of the scientists that Angier cites can. Obviously, these findings do not point to the expected messiness of a mindless evolutionary process. In fact, evolutionists have always been ready to capitalize on any findings that might demonstrate the sloppiness of an evolutionary process: “You see, here’s evidence for evolution. Just look at the vestigial organs (useless organs left-over from prior stages in our evolutionary past)!” However, out of a list of over 200 hundred of these “messy” human structures that were supposed to have had a use in prior incarnations, there are now none which can be unequivocally said to be vestigial. (Evolutionists claim that they can still identify a small handful.)

Then you heard about “junk DNA,” our useless sets genetic baggage bequeathed to us by our former relatives! Well, now they don’t look so junky after all. Science has found that they do have a function. However, finding leftovers and junk is just the thing that the blindness and messiness of evolution would expect to find.

More recently, evolutionists have charged that the eye is designed so poorly that no God would ever have designed such an organ. Now the findings of optimization are showing us that the eye isn’t such a bad design after all.

Surely, we should expect a retraction from the evolutionary establishment – a confession that their predictions are missing the target? Well, I haven’t heard of one yet. In fact, it seems that whatever the findings might be, evolution is always ready to take the credit for them. Angier writes:

• “Photoreceptors exemplify the principle of optimization, an idea, gaining ever wider traction among researchers, that certain key features of the natural world have been honed by evolution to the highest possible peaks of performance.”

Heads I win; tails you loose!

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