Darwin’s eye

I wouldn’t usually have a note which is longer than the poem! However, I think it is important to know what Darwin actually said about this. Creationists in their propaganda often select the first part of this quote to back up their anti-science views. Please read the poem before reading the note.



human eye


Darwin’s Eye


grass   fly   worm

ubiquitous life

here   now     this is it

Darwin’s eye told us how


that miraculous lens

letting in light






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 been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. Yet reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a perfect and complex eye to one very imperfect and simple, each grade being useful to its possessor, can be shown to exist; if further, the eye does vary ever so slightly, and the variations be inherited, which is certainly the case; and if any variation or modification in the organ be ever useful to an animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered real. How a nerve comes to be sensitive to light, hardly concerns us more than how life itself first originated; but I may remark that several facts make me suspect that any sensitive nerve may be rendered sensitive to light, and likewise to those coarser vibrations of the air which produce sound.

Charles Darwin

2 thoughts on “Darwin’s eye

  1. I once attended a lecture on this very topic by a scientist-philosopher (and for the life of me, I can’t remember his name) who thought irreducibility was an important problem for scientists. I don’t remember many of the details, but I do remember being impressed by his explanation of the problem and his fair-mindedness. He took it as a serious scientific question that needed to be addressed scientifically, regardless of what Creationists did with it.


  2. Hi – I’m not sure I know what is meant by irreducibility in this context, but I gather that there is no special case in the evolution of the eye. One misunderstanding non-scientific people have about evolution is that it is random! Of course it isnt; it operates via natural selection. That is; conditions in the environment favour or disfavour traits which are necessary for survival. And random mutations at the genetic level are either favourable or not favourable to the organism. I’m not a scientist so please correct me if I’m wrong!


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