This is Part 2 of a 5 part series covering the booklet Some Fishy Stories by Garner Ted Armstrong. You can find Part 1, which includes some introductory material, here.
“Come one, come all, and behold one of the wonders of the world–a four-eyed fish! Hurr-ay, hurr-ay, hurr-ay!”
Well, almost. Just like at carnivals and circuses, the reality doesn’t necessarily live up to the hype. Garner Ted invites us to “think about another of the most amazing creatures on earth…this little fish literally has four eyes!”
Ohhh, so close, and thanks for playing–actually, the fish only has two eyes…
Oh, sure, Google it and everyone calls it “the little four-eyed fish”, because functionally, it does have four eyes–its two eyes are halved between the upper half that sees well in air, while the bottom half sees well in water. Really, it is an amazing creature. I’m not sure whether it is not more amazing for having only two eyes that are halved rather than actually having four separate eyes.
It might be nit-picky, but this is an important and basic fact that is already wrong from the very beginning–and he is telling us to really closely study the photo of it! It is not an auspicious opening.
In questioning how such an amazing structure as the anableps eye could have evolved, it doesn’t take long for him to go all “paper tiger, silken dragon” on us. “How could these surface-dwelling fish ever survive long enough to develop their eyes if they needed their eyes to survive? What happened when the first anableps got its four eyes? Man, they must have gone crazy trying to deal with all the new visual information–completely laying on the bottom of the water spastic!”
Well, when you put it that way, it sounds crazy and stupid to believe that the anableps eye could have evolved–which is rather his point. He allowed his bias to blind him to any other type of fish than the anableps; nope, there are no other surface dwelling fish in the world, for since none have the wonderful, perfect eyes of the anableps (or the archer fish), none of them could ever survive. Hmmm, I wonder what all these aquarium enthusiasts are talking about, then?
To answer the (calculated) ridiculousness of “what did their little fishy brains do with the extra vision from their extra eyes?”, there is a story. This story is about an experiment on the nature of vision; subjects were equipped with special glasses that would turn their vision up-side down; after a few days, their brains re-wired and they could go through life normally, for all appeared as it “should”. When the glasses were removed, it again took several days for the brain to reorient. The point is that even if “two extra eyes” came into being suddenly, there is a good chance that even a fish brain could cope with it. But, of course, that isn’t how it works; evolution works very slowly and the development of the extra visual field would not outpace the fish’s ability to process the information. GTA speaks of the anableps’ eye as a sort of “bifocals” and I like the analogy in this case–how can we ever walk around with a set of bifocals on? How can our brains cope with what is, in essence, an additional and differential set of visual information??
Breaking Snell’s Window
There is a window in the water that is made of light…who knew that mathematics could be so poetic?
The problem the archer fish faces is that of refraction, and that is where Snell’s Window lies–refraction compresses the 180° of the above-water world into 97.2° (in freshwater). Other surface dwelling fish face the same problem as the archer. Thus, any fish that could, let’s say, break Snell’s Window, by getting a peek at the unrefracted light on the other side of the water, would have an evolutionary advantage.
Yeah, sounds nice, but how does that happen? It is difficult to know exactly how it happened, but an analogy might help. Let’s look at the archer fish again–there was interesting information about its eyes in an article I referenced earlier that may have been easy to gloss over. You’ll notice that the archer fish eyes have three distinct areas on their retina; these areas have different concentrations of rods and cones for seeing different wavelengths of light. The shorter wavelengths come from the top of the water and thus hit the bottom of the retina, and the longer wavelengths come from the bottom, on account of refraction and floating particulates. Anableps have the same set-up, only in a more exaggerated (or more evolved) manner.
The more time you spend near the surface in shallow water, the more selective pressure there could be for specialized vision. What starts out as a mutation that allows you to see longer wavelength light (coming from below you–in the water) in one area of your eye, and shorter wavelength light (from the sky) in the opposite area has the potential to turn into an asymmetrical eye. Examples of this can be found in two related species of rockskipper who have their eyes halved vertically, as their mode of life has them approach the surface of the water from the vertical instead of the horizontal of the anableps.
Rise of the Mutants
But again, how can random mutation ever make a transformation from eyes with differentiated light-wavelength sensitivity to halved air/water eyes? Why don’t we ask the bacteria, E. coli? Jerry Coyne, in his book Why Evolution is True, describes an amazing experiment. This experiment involved deleting a gene from a batch of E. coli–a gene necessary in breaking down the sugar lactose into useable bits of food. The E. coli were then put in an environment where lactose was the only available food. Predictably, they didn’t grow…until the mutants were born! An enzyme that, in normal E. coli, cannot break down lactose, became mutated in such a way that it could, even if only very poorly. “Eventually, yet another adaptive mutation occurred: one that increased the amount of the new enzyme so that even more lactose could be used. Finally, a third mutation at a different gene allowed the bacteria to take up lactose from the environment more easily.” Thus, three genetic mutations occurred that formed a complex biochemical pathway–and the mutations were directly related to the environmental conditions of the bacteria.
Clearly, given enough time, genetic mutations relevant to the life of the organism (that can be acted upon by natural selection) can arise! That said, such mutation is not guaranteed–just ask all the extinct species.
The Infinitely Inferior Explanatory Power of Creationism
Garner Ted ends his section on the anableps by restating his utter ignorance of the concept of natural selection, of the world around him, and even of his prize example of Creation, by saying, “Either anableps began seeing out of all four eyes the instant he began swimming along the surface–or he didn’t survive!”
Again, there are numerous surface dwelling fish species with normal eyes. Additionally, there are two species of rockskippers (amphibious fish) with four eyes; presumably, God created them, too. However, if God created all the “four eyed” fish specially so that they fit the ecological niches he chose to put them in, why didn’t he give those special eyes to all the species of rockskippers? Were they all playing hookie when God was handing out the extra eyes? And how is it that the six-eyed spookfish, which lives between 300 and 3,000 feet below the surface, got even more extra eyes? If he created the spookfish specially with extra eyes to help it see in the dark, why not make many, if not all deep-dwellers with multiple eyes? Why did God only make four species of animal with “multiple” eyes? Where’s the consistency of design one would expect from an intelligent designer?
GTA wants us to “study and think”, but just like the Armstrong mantra of “study both sides of the issue”, he would do well to take his own advice.