May 2, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

More Optical Design in Eye Retina Than Seen Before

For decades, evolutionists have used the vertebrate retina as an example of poor design (dysteleology).  They have mocked how any designer could have been so unintelligent as to get the wiring backwards – with the photoreceptors behind a jumble of light-scattering cells.  Creationists have countered that despite the arrangement, it works well.1  Now, they may have a new debating advantage.  German scientists believe they have found a sophisticated network of high-performance optical fibers that funnels light into the photoreceptors without any loss.
    The Register (UK) summarized the finding by German scientists at Leipzig University.  They found a layer of cells that act like a second lens inside the eye, channeling the light right through the opaque layer and putting it right where it is needed.  Their words almost glow:

They have demonstrated that light is collected and funnelled through long cells called M�ller cells.  These work almost exactly like a fibre optic plate: a “zero-length window” that optical engineers can use to transmit an image without using a lens….
    “Everyone thinks lasers are perfectly parallel, but this is not so,” [Andreas] Reichenbach continues.  “They do diverge.  The M�ller cells behave as a lens, and collect all the light without any loss, just like an optical plate.”
    But normal optical plates have simple bundles of optical fibres that collect and transmit the light.  The researchers have discovered that the vertebrate eye has gone one step further and created a funnel shaped cell that allows more light to be collected at the surface of the eye….
    “Nature is so clever,” Reichenbach says.  “This means there is enough room in the eye for all the neurons and synapses and so on, but still the M�ller cells can capture and transmit as much light as possible.

Optical engineers might learn a lesson from this design, the article ends.
    Even the AAAS news site Science Now was impressed.  In a picture story underScience Shots called “Optical Solution,” (May 2), the caption said,

For an organ that delivers such crystal-clear images, the eye is curiously designed.  Its light-sensing rods and cones lie hidden behind a blanket of nerve cells that carry visual information to the brain.  So what prevents those neurons from obscuring our vision?  The answer may be surprisingly high-tech.  The entire retina is held together by a network of elongated M�ller cells, and these act like optic fibers, funneling light straight through the neural veil to the rods and cones, according to a study published online the week of 30 April in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Not a bad trick for a camera designed 500 million years ago.

Though a creationist may flinch at that last sentence, no one can fail to notice the D word design – and the absence of evolution language in both articles.  Does this indicate a backpedaling of arguments about bad design in the eye?  It appears the design was more clever all along than anyone imagined.
Update 05/07/2007: The paper in PNAS2 appeared on May 7.  The 10 German authors describe in exquisite detail the optical properties of the Muller cells, and how they measured them.  They said that each cone cell (color photodetector) has one Muller cell guiding the light to it, while several rods (black and white photodetectors) can use one optical fiber.  The entire front surface of the retina is effectively covered by the cone-shaped entrances of the optical fibers, which guide the light directly to the photoreceptors, bypassing the other cells which would otherwise scatter the light.  Each Muller cell has a variable index of refraction tuned to the light to maintain the optimum wave-guiding properties and reduce loss by reflection.  The authors say in the final discussion, “the increasing refractive index together with their funnel shape at nearly constant lightguiding capability… make them ingeniously designed light collectors.”  There is no mention of evolution in the paper.


1For example rebuttals, see creationist articles on CSI by Peter Gurney and Carl Wieland, and ID responses on ARN by George Ayoub and Michael Denton.  See also CEH entries from 05/09/2002 (“Best of all possible optics?”), 05/27/2003 and 05/22/2003.  Consider also the sharpness of the eagle eye, or the eyes of a diving cormorant, 05/24/2004.
2Franze et al., “M�ller cells are living optical fibers in the vertebrate retina,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 10.1073/pnas.0611180104, published online before print May 7, 2007.

The dysteleology argument against the vertebrate retina is now dead.  If you ever hear it raised again, point the evolutionist to this paper.  Who could have imagined that advanced waveguide technology was built into the vertebrate eye?  The scientists used guinea pig eyes in their research.  Are we supposed to believe that guinea pigs and even smaller vertebrates are the leading optical designers in the world?  Come on.  No more do we need to hear the mocking of Darwinists like Jared Diamond (see non-sequitur in the Baloney Detector).  Darwinism is out for the count on this old argument.  The vertebrate eye is superbly designed all the way down.
    Creationists don’t need judges to decide in favor of their position.  They just ask for better observations of the facts that are there for the seeing.  Read this, you mockers.

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