Opponents and proponents of Evolution have for years debated the conclusions that can be drawn from the complexity of animal and human eyes. Long before Darwin, Leibnitz attacked Descartes and Spinoza, whom he described as “philosophers who imagine that the eye has been created to see”. Henri Atlan, contemporary opponent of Intelligent Design and eloquent defender of the concept of nature’s “self-organization”, demolishes the metaphor – for it is only that – of our being “programmed” or “wired” : “Nature, in reality, does not function with programs; it is moved, which is to say, pushed, by efficient causes, not drawn forward by final causes” (“Le Monde s’est-il Créé Tout Seul ?”, collective work, Ed. Albin Michel, Paris, 2008, p.175; reference to the eye, p.181).
I still have at least one thing in common with St Francis of Assisi : we both like birds. Saw one this morning, a common pigeon, in the guttering of my house, needing to drink but obviously wondering whether it was safe to lower its head, and thereby not be able to keep a watch out for possible predators (including me). I literally looked him in the eye, without budging a limb or a muscle. His eyes, strategically situated on the side of his head – unlike ours, stuck in front, with little lateral vision and zero rear vision – were able to watch out for danger from any direction. Why don’t we have eyes in the back, or better, on the sides of our heads ? (At least our ears are in the right place, to allow us to wear glasses).
Apparently Evolution got just so far, and settled for frontal vision. Frankly (what else ?), I would have preferred a broader view. You never know who or what is behind you, or even over there, on your right or on your left. My bet is that, given enough time over the next – our last … – five billion years which we have left, Evolution will correct our limited vision.
Would that that would include not just increased physical visual acuity, but the ability to see that nature is self-organized and in no way the product of so-called Intelligent Design.