John Harshman thinks Nilsson Pilger’s fairytale on eye evolution is science?

In an early post John, who wants to be called doctor, urged readers to take a look at a little paper by Dan Nilsson and Suzanne Pilger. He says it is a good conceptual example of how natural selection acting on variation can gradually create a new feature.

Gee, that must be quite a paper.  He says it can’t be beat!  So what does their paper actually show?  The paper is called , “A Pessimistic Estimate of the Time Required for an Eye to Evolve.” Well, that does sound interesting!

A light sensitive patch will gradually turn into a focus lensed eye in 100,000 years.  But of course they are using a pessimistic estimate, probably would happen even faster!  Wow.

In fact the paper is written in such a way as to make many people falsely believe that Nilsson and Pilger had come up with a computer model to show the steps of eye evolution, from “random” mutations.  Now that is something.

But because they didn’t ACTUALLY make any computer model (who has time) the task was made much easier for Nilsson and Pilger.  Just take an eye, unfold all the pieces, and put them back together, one step at a time.  POOF!  (Yes Patrick, that is a poof!).  But let’s make it even easier, because well, time, and let’s start with light sensitive cells.  Then just poof in a depression where the light sensitive cells are.  Next poof in another, deeper impression.  That sure does help focus the light doesn’t it?  Let’s keep that mutation!

From there we can just keep poofing away.  Fill the cavity with fluid.  Poof in a lens.  Make the lens better.  Poof in some rods and cones.  All at random mind you. Make them better…Keep those mutations (don’t let them mutate themselves, because they won’t help building an eye at all!)  Rudyard Kipling would be so proud.

This fable has already been passed down to generations. Take a look, these brilliant scientist doctors say, an eye is not so hard after all.  If only Darwin had known Nilsson and Pilger he never would have had reason to doubt himself.  Its as easy as POOF!

Of course John is apparently intimidated to engage with people who actually challenge him .  So what do you think?

 

167 thoughts on “John Harshman thinks Nilsson Pilger’s fairytale on eye evolution is science?

  1. Eyes in the back of my head would sure be useful. And John putting me on ignore? I sure wish I’d seen that coming!

  2. Mung,

    I guess John is just not used to his students making him answers hard questions in Chicago. Or perhaps even easy ones.

  3. Mung: No, it’s about what make one story about how the eye evolved better or worse than another story about how the eye evolved. Nilsson and Pelger left out a lot of important details in their story. They make it sound like evolution travels in a straight line, when there’s no reason to think so.

    Did all eyes start out as a light-sensitive spot, or only some? How do they know?

    The eye actually started out as a fuzzy patch of hair, that organisms could use to velcro messages looking for dates on. Through exaptation it was then turned into a sort of whoopie cushion handshake buzzer that was used a lot right around the pre-cambrian.

    The jokes got old though, so through exaptation once again it was changed into the modern eye. I made a little handcrank movie* to show it all more clearly, and it has all the math**.

    *The handcrank movie part is only a concept right now, I could actually make it, but I don’t think its necessary to show the point.

    **I used very conservative math.

  4. Nilsson and Pelger:

    The first and most crucial task is to work out an evolutionary sequence which would be continuously driven by selection.

    And the reasons to believe this was the actual path are? Or does that simply not matter?

    Because I think that even John Harshman could come up with alternative scenarios for the evolution of the eye in which the sequence was continuously driven by selection.

    Is anyone here willing to proclaim the the Nilsson-Pelger sequence is the only possible evolutionary sequence which would be continuously driven by selection?

    No. Not even Nilsson-Pelger make that claim.

    But they do claim they found one such sequence. Out of how many, do they say? They claim the sequence they selected “would be continuously driven by selection:” How do they know this?

    Why are evolutionists so gullible?

  5. the whole attempt to figure out how eyes came to be is just sillly guessing.
    A product of evolutionist mumble jumble.
    its just over for these old time speculations.
    Saying step by step changes can create eyes is asking for the impossible.
    eyes are part of a creation based on profound blueprints.
    Yes eyes, tuatara, can appear in the back of our head but its only a minor case of using the existing blueprint.
    In fact all eyes are the same concept.
    I understand there is only three or so basic types.
    If evolutionism was true then since our mutual fish days eyes should be as diverse as can be imagined.
    Not off the same rack.
    In fact evos should be saying our eyes are “living fossils” from fish days to justify the common type of eyes we have with cows etc.

  6. phoodoo: I would reply to you John, but you seem to be a little on the shy side, when it comes to being challenged.

    Perhaps he will put you on Ignore too!

  7. Nilsson and Pelger:

    We let the evolutionary sequence start with a patch of light-sensitive cells, which is backed and surrounded by dark pigment, and we expose this structure to selection favouring spatial resolution. We assume that the patch is circular, and that selection dos not alter the total width of the structure. The latter assumption is necessary to isolate the design changes from general alteration of the size of the organ.

    Well, gee. That explains everything! What design changes are they talking about, John?

  8. Crudding Uracus. John read this paper and claimed it was profound? Because when I read it I wonder how such nonsense ever managed to get published.

  9. Nilsson and Pelger:

    Initially, deepening of the pit is by far the most efficient strategy, but when the pit depth equals the width, aperture constriction becomes more efficient than continued deepening of the pit. We would thus expect selection to first favour depression and invagination of the light-sensitive patch, and then gradually change to favour constriction of the aperture.

    Some how, some way, evolution always manages to discover the most efficient strategy.

  10. Robert Byers: the whole attempt to figure out how eyes came to be is just sillly guessing.

    Yes, why guess when you’ve had the answers to such questions for over 2000 years!

    Remind me the actual way eyes came about Robert? Was it Poof or POOF?

  11. Mung: Nilsson and Pelger:

    Initially, deepening of the pit is by far the most efficient strategy, but when the pit depth equals the width, aperture constriction becomes more efficient than continued deepening of the pit. We would thus expect selection to first favour depression and invagination of the light-sensitive patch, and then gradually change to favour constriction of the aperture.

    Some how, some way, evolution always manages to discover the most efficient strategy.

    Your response to the thing you quote doesn’t seem to make much sense.

    Are you denying that aperture constriction will be more selectively beneficial than further invagination of the pit?

    Mung: Nilsson and Pelger:

    We let the evolutionary sequence start with a patch of light-sensitive cells, which is backed and surrounded by dark pigment, and we expose this structure to selection favouring spatial resolution. We assume that the patch is circular, and that selection dos not alter the total width of the structure. The latter assumption is necessary to isolate the design changes from general alteration of the size of the organ.

    Well, gee. That explains everything! What design changes are they talking about, John?

    Why are you asking a person you already know has you on ignore? Isn’t that rather dumb?

    By the way, who claims this “explains everything”?

    How hard is it to fathom that they are making some simplifying assumptions to make modeling the time of eye evolution a problem that is at least possible to address intellectually, not because this is somehow intended to actually make evolution faster or easier as you would obviously really like to believe (and you are working overtime to emphasize).

    It is interesting to me, as someone who have offered criticisms of this paper myself, that the ones you guys bring up seem to be rather inane. When I brought it up to John, he introduced me to a concept I had never heard about before and which, now that I understand it, I see how completely alters the picture. I think I was falling victim to a common misunderstanding of genetics.

    I had viewed the problem with this sort of idea that the individual aspects of eyes each owe to either single particular genes, or particular mutations, rather than them being the resulting effect of multiple interacting genetic loci existing in the population at different frequencies.

    For example, regarding the indentation and invagination of the tissue below and surrounding the light sensitive spot, I imagined the evolution of this as being due to a process of accumulating mutations, each of which would cause an increase. This is sort of like imagining there’s a gene for the socket that holds your eye, and if this gene was removed, no eye-socket would emerge during embryonic development.

    Rather more realistically, such morphological structures are due to interactions of entire networks of genes, that already exist and affect many other aspects of organismal physiology. As such, most of these genes very likely preexisted in the organisms that would actually evolve eyes, and existed in a spectrum of possible alleles in a large population such that the evolution of the eye was more a product of natural selection shuffling and recombining already existing genes in a mating population, rather than each aspect of eye evolution having to arrive de novo and one at a time.

    Also notice that they’re not claiming to have explained everything about, for example, human eyes. The movable eyeball and associated muscles, connecting nerve tissue and so on. This is not addressed. But it also isn’t claimed to be addressed.
    This paper is only about the “camera” aspect of eye evolution, as in the structural aspects that make it possible to form an image. An answer to the question: How did there come to be an indentation and invagination that would later go on to evolve aperture constriction and how long did this take to form? The paper does not purport to “explain everything”.

    In retrospect I now understand that what the paper actually does address, it does so quite well.

  12. Mung,

    I believe it was this paper that first made me realize how full of crap the whole theory of evolution is. I saw people who were supposedly the tops in the field of evolution science, people like Eugenie Scott, and Dawkins, and Kenneth Miller and all these evolution websites (and Wikipedia) referencing this paper as if it actually had shown scientifically how the eye developed using evolution (I read Paul Krugman talking about it in the New York Times, for crying out loud!).

    There are thousands of so called skeptics who still talk about this work today, they talk about how the computer model has finally shown just how easy eye evolution really is. They talk about it as if this is some kind of factual claims. When I began looking at this further, I said, these guys are out of their minds. This isn’t science. This whole evolution consortium online is completely full of shit. I thought no one who is actually in academia could ever take this seriously, could they? And yet people like John Harshman do.

    And this was when I fully realized, there are no experts on evolution, there is no strong evidence for evolution, there is no science that goes along with this theory; instead there is an entire body of people whose livelihoods depends on defending this position, and they don’t care in the slightest how full of crap this entire shell game is. And the media just follows along (like Paul Krugman) because they just assume, well, someone must be checking the facts, right? I mean these evolution stories are everywhere, how could they be wrong.

    But no one is.

  13. Rumraket,

    Oh, the genes already existed! Why didn’t you say so?

    So the genes for making a cornea existed in the population way before yes ever existed. And the genes for light controlling aperture pupils, of course they were already there, but they just were used much before the eye indentation stumbled out.

    So its much much easier than Mung and I assumed. Once you got a light spot, just throw in a vitreous humor (the genes are already there!). Rods, cones, color detection, these are waiting to be used, what’s the problem??

    Wow, you are some skeptic huh Rumraket? You believe in Darwinian evolution and you just described intelligent design. Amazing you are.

  14. Mung: But they do claim they found one such sequence. Out of how many, do they say? They claim the sequence they selected “would be continuously driven by selection:” How do they know this?

    Uhh because the physical basis of image formation, sharpness, and resolution, is due to rather fundamental aspects of geometry.

    In so far as a sharper image is favored over a blurrier one, where these geometric aspects are due to genetically-influenced morphology, selection can and will work on it. (you’re welcome to test this yourself by navigating traffic with blurry vision, or walking into the Lion’s cage in the zoo an hour before feeding time and try to consistently dodge 400 lbs flying cats with that blurry vision too).

    How do we know this? Because the more often you fail to accurately judge distance to a predator or it’s direction of movement, the more likely it is you end up as something’s dinner.

    You’re basically disputing or questioning things so basic only a fucking lunatic would do it. There might be interesting questions to probe regarding eye evolution (and to be sure of course there is), there might even be flaws with the paper, but whether a sharper image is selectively favorable isn’t among them.

    Gentlemen, you’re making fools of yourselves.

  15. Rumraket: You’re basically disputing or questioning things so basic only a fucking lunatic would do it.

    My mental image of Mung is of a small child in an oversized lab coat playing dress up as a scientist.

  16. OMagain: My mental image of Mung is of a small child in an oversized lab coat playing dress up as a scientist.

    In the laboratory of the mind.

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