[If you don't read the entire rather long post, please read the last 2 paragraphs]
A prime reason evolutionists don't often debate these simplistic claims is that it's been done before, for hundreds of years, and anti-evolutionists keep re-using the same tired arguments, ignoring advances in science. Scientists really like to argue, but not about things that have been resolved for hundreds of years, over and over again, in increasing detail.
Comfort's simplistic, tired arguments are no exception. I'll focus on his section on eye evolution. The arguments boil down to:
- It looks soooo complex. It had to be designed.
- Comfort can't imagine how "random" processes could drive evolution.
- There are a bunch of parts working together, and each couldn't originate without the other.
#2 Natural selection is not a random process, e.g. Blind Watchmaker.
#3 There is no evidence that "separate" parts of the visual system cannot work separately, and in fact it is known that parts DO function separately. As one of many possible examples, the cnidarian polyp Hydra magnipappillata uses photosensitivity without eyes or brain (ref).
Below, I will paste Comfort's text, and a few comments on his text.
Or, consider the human eye. Man has never developed aYes, eyes are pretty complicated - that is one reason they are fun to study and understand from a scientific perspective.
camera lens anywhere near the inconceivable intricacy of the
human eye. The human eye is an amazing interrelated system of
about forty individual subsystems, including the retina, pupil,
iris, cornea, lens, and optic nerve. It has more to it than just
the 137 million light-sensitive special cells that send messages
to the unbelievably complex brain. About 130 million of these
cells look like tiny rods, and they handle the black and white
vision. The other seven million are cone shaped and allow us
to see in color. The retina cells receive light impressions, which
are then translated into electric pulses and sent directly to the
brain through the optic nerve.
A special section of the brain called the visual cortex
interprets the pulses as color, contrast, depth, etc., which then
allows us to see “pictures” of our world. Incredibly, the eye,
optic nerve, and visual cortex are totally separate and distinct
subsystems. Yet together they capture, deliver, and interpret
up to 1.5 million pulse messages per millisecond! Think
about that for a moment. It would take dozens of computers
programmed perfectly and operating together flawlessly to
even get close to performing this task.
The eye is an example of what is referred to as “irreducible
There is no evidence that eyes or any other biological structure are 'irreducibly complex'. Here is a paper describing processes that have led to the evolutionary origins of "phototransduction", the cascade of protein signaling events that results in animals' ability to detect light.
It would be absolutely impossible for random
It would indeed be difficult for purely random processes to evolve complex systems, but natural selection is not a random process.
...operating through gradual mechanisms of genetic
mutation and natural selection, to be able to create forty
separate subsystems when they provide no advantage to the
whole until the very last state of development.
how the lens, the retina, the optic nerve, and all the other parts
in vertebrates that play a role in seeing not only appeared
from nothing, but evolved into interrelated and working parts.
This sounds like an argument against divine design, which claims that eye parts came from dust. In fact evolutionary biology teaches us that proteins of the lens came from other proteins.
Evolutionist Robert Jastrow acknowledges that highly trained
scientists could not have improved upon “blind chance”:
To paraphrase Orgel - evolution is cleverer than you are; that doesn't mean that goddidit. Again, natural selection is not "blind chance".
The eye appears to have been designed; no designer
of telescopes could have done better. How could
this marvelous instrument have evolved by chance,
through a succession of random events? Many people
in Darwin’s day agreed with theologian William
Pauley, who commented, “There cannot be a design
without a designer.”
William Paley, not Pauley. Yes it is truely amazing that evolution produced eyes, and other complex things like livers or brains. Nevertheless, it is a well established scientific fact that evolution did produce these traits.
And this marvelous design occurs not just in humans, but
in all the different creatures: horses, ants, dogs, whales, lions,
flies, ducks, fish, etc. Think about what the theory of evolution
claims: the eyes, in working pairs, of all these creatures slowly
developed over millions of years. Each of them was blind until
all the parts miraculously came together and interrelated with
the others, because all parts are needed for the eye to function.
Then each creature had its two eyes work in harmony with
the brain to interpret those images. Fortunately, each of these
creatures simultaneously evolved whatever matching parts
each would need: sockets, skin, eyelids, eyelashes, tear ducts,
muscles to blink, etc.
Again, Comfort is arguing more against his own claims that against evolution. Eyes appearing separately in every tetrapod is VERY unlikely, but this is what the creationist fable of eye origins would entail. In fact, evolutionary biology teaches us that all living things share a common ancestry, and that shared features usually evolved once, prior to the common ancestor of creatures sharing a trait. This is backed up by mounds of genetic evidence showing shared use of many genes in most animal eyes, including opsin, Pax-6, and many more.
You’ve probably been led to believe that the first simpleIt is simply false that scientists have found the first simple creatures to have had complex eyes. "The first simple creatures" Comfort seems to be referring to are trilobites. There are highly complex arthropods, far far far removed from the first simple creatures. Trilobites are not even the first animals, not even the first arthropods.
creatures had rudimentary eyes, and that as creatures slowly
evolved their eyes evolved along with them. However, that’s
not what scientists have found. Not only is there no evidence
Robert Jastrow, “Evolution: Selection for perfection,” Science
Digest, December 1981, p. 86.
of this occurring, but some of the most complex eyes have
been discovered in the “simplest” creatures.
Riccardo Levi-Setti, professor emeritus of Physics at the
University of Chicago, writes of the trilobite’s eye:
"This optical doublet is a device so typically
associated with human invention that its discovery in
trilobites comes as something of a shock. The realization
that trilobites developed and used such devices half a
billion years ago makes the shock even greater. And a
final discovery—that the refracting interface between
the two lens elements in a trilobite’s eye was designed
in accordance with optical constructions worked out
by Descartes and Huygens in the mid-seventeenth
century—borders on sheer science fiction...The design
of the trilobite’s eye lens could well qualify for a patent
--Riccardo Levi-Setti, Trilobites (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1993), pp. 57–58.
How could the amazing, seeing eye have come about
purely by blind chance? Based on the evidence, wouldn’t a
reasonable person conclude that the eye is astonishingly
complex and could not have evolved gradually, and that each
creature’s eyes are uniquely designed?
Even Charles Darwin admitted the incredible complexity
of the eye in The Origin of Species:
To suppose that the eye, with all its inimitable
contrivances for adjusting the focus to different
distances, for admitting different amounts of light,
and for the correction of spherical and chromatic
aberration, could have formed by natural selection,
seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."
Even more incredible, though, is that Darwin went on
to say that he believed the eye could nonetheless have been
formed by natural selection. He was right on one point. If a
Designer is left out of the equation, such a thought is absurd
in the highest degree.
Yes, it is still amazing - and still true - that eyes evolved. No natural selection still cannot be equated with blind chance.
At least he included the end of this famous quote, where Darwin writes that anyone with any bit of logical reasoning ability can see that evolution can produce even complicated things.
I didn't spend a lot of time on this because these arguments of Comfort are not worth a lot of my time. They are tired, recycled, un-creative jabs at evolution that have been known to be false for hundreds of years.
In the end, I'll use Comfort's own words to describe what he is doing to evolution. He was writing about Buddhism, but his words apply nicely to his ignorance of evolutionary biology:
Amazingly, the religion of Buddhism [substitute 'Ray Comfort' for 'Buddhism'] denies that God [substitute 'Evolution' for 'God'] even exists. It teaches that life and death are sort of an illusion. That’s like standing at the door of the plane and saying, “I’m not really here, and there’s no such thing as the law of gravity, and no ground that I’m going to hit.” That may temporarily help you deal with your fears, but it doesn’t square with reality.A few word changes lead to:
Amazingly, the religion of Cameron and Comfort denies that evolution even exists. It teaches that two hundred years of hard work by countless scientists across the globe to elucidate the details of evolution are sort of an illusion. That’s like standing at the door of the plane and saying, “I’m not really here, and there’s no such thing as the law of gravity, and no ground that I’m going to hit.” That may temporarily help Comfort and Cameron deal with their fears, but it doesn’t square with reality.