One of those is Richard Dawkins, lecturer in animal behavior at Oxford University. Dawkins, an atheist, wrote a book titled, The Blind Watchmaker (W.W. Norton, 1986), in which he criticized the way the eye in vertebrates (including man) is “wired.” He asserts that the photocells in the eyes of vertebrates are “wired backwards,” a circumstance, he allows, which is laughable and offensive to “any tidy-minded engineer” (p. 93). He confesses that he doesn’t “know the exact explanation for this strange state of affairs.” He just knows it doesn’t reflect intelligent design.
We observe that it is quite unwise to criticize the features of the human body. We really are just on the threshold of understanding how this amazing “machine” works. Many a critic of this biological masterpiece has ended up with a red face.
Denton’s New Study
Dr. Michael Denton is the Senior Research Fellow in Human Molecular Genetics at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. He has specialized in the genetics of human retinal disease. Though he is not a “creationist,” he has, nevertheless, been vocal in his criticism of the theory of evolution (Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, 1984, and Nature’s Destiny, 1998).
Dr. Denton recently authored an essay titled, “The Inverted Retina: Maladaptation or Pre-adaptation?,” which was published in the Winter 1999 edition of the journal, Origins & Design (pp. 14-17). There, this respected scientist takes on Richard Dawkins – head-to-head. In a detailed discussion concerning the “wiring” of the vertebrate retina, Denton argues that:
“. . . [C]onsideration of the very high energy demands of the photoreceptor cells in the vertebrate retina suggests that rather than being a challenge to teleology [the concept of design] the curious inverted design of the vertebrate retina may in fact represent a unique solution to the problem of providing the highly active photoreceptor cells of higher vertebrates with copious quantities of oxygen and nutrients.”
Denton introduces several lines of argument to buttress his case, and then says:
Taken together, the evidence strongly supports the notion that the inverted retina and its major consequence (the positioning of the photoreceptors in the other section of the retina where they are in intimate contact with the choriocapillaris) is a specific adaptation designed to deliver abundant quantities of oxygen to the photoreceptor cells commensurate with their high energy demands – especially in metabolically active groups such as birds and mammals. Rather than being a case of maladaptation, the inverted retina is probably an essential element in the overall design of the vertebrate visual system.
Dr. Denton continues: “The more deeply the design of the vertebrate retina is considered the more it appears that virtually every feature is necessary and that in redesigning from first principles an eye capable of the highest possible resolution (within the constraints imposed by the wavelength of light) and of the highest possible sensitivity (capable of detecting an individual photon of light) we would end up recreating the vertebrate eye – complete with an inverted retina and a choriocapillaris separated from the photoreceptor layer by a supportive epithelium layer and so forth.”
Finally, Denton concludes:
“It would seem that rather than being one of the classic evidences’ for undirected evolution and for maladaptation [as alleged by Dawkins], the inversion of the retina is in fact highly problematic in terms of undirected models of evolution. . . It is evidence for design and foresight in nature rather than evidence of chance.”
For more information on this topic see their book: The Human Body: Accident or Design?