xkcd Misconceptions Day 2014: Darwin’s quote on the eye

No Finnish version available.

This is the hundredth post on this weblog. Yay. Too bad I didn’t have anything more grand or celebratory.

I almost forgot, but I’m just barely in time (in my own time zone) for xkcd Misconceptions Day, inspired by this comic:

Here’s the link to the Wikipedia page for you to read at your leisure.

And below, you will find today’s semi-common misconception…

Misconception of the day: That Darwin wrote he couldn’t imagine how the eye could have evolved

This is, unsurprisingly, a seemingly popular “Creationist” meme. They like to quote Charles Darwin as having written that he was baffled by the complexity of the eye and how it could have evolved. The quote, from the origin of species, is:

“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.”

It’s true enough that he wrote this. However, it continues right after this as follows:

“When it was first said that the sun stood still and the world turned round, the common sense of mankind declared the doctrine false; but the old saying of Vox populi, vox Dei, as every philosopher knows, cannot be trusted in science. Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certain the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.”

In other words: Darwin wrote “It seems incredible to think that the eye could have evolved, but a lot of things have seemed incredible before they were proven true, and actually my theory can totally explain this” — and he’s being quoted only for the “It seems incredible to think that the eye could have evolved” part. Way to be honest, guys.

More detail on this: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/ce/3/part8.html

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