Re: Origins of vision

I’m doing another repost, this time taking from an article I did about the origins of vision. Note that the quote coloring is reversed from how it normally appears.

Vision likely originated as simple eyespots in simple organisms. It also is traced back to jellyfish and their own simplistic eyespots, which are actually still present in some manner today. That is, jellyfish have areas of photoreceptor cells which don’t allow vision as we know it (they don’t even have brains), but they do allow a sensation of particular wavelengths of light to be perceived. These wavelengths often indicate depth (and maybe predators), which in turn may indicate food source (pelagic jellyfish don’t tend to get to plump).

Recent research has discovered the genetic pathway involved in light sensitivity in a close relative of the jellyfish.

“We determined which genetic ‘gateway,’ or ion channel, in the hydra is involved in light sensitivity,” said senior author Todd H. Oakley, assistant professor in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. “This is the same gateway that is used in human vision.”

This allows for a prediction using evolution: all organisms alive today which share a common ancestry with hydras will share this same genetic gateway. Organisms like flies, as the article points out, do not share this ancestry with vertebrates and as such do not share this genetic gateway. If they did share it, then wow. Creationists could actually trot out their improbability arguments.

“This work picks up on earlier studies of the hydra in my lab, and continues to challenge the misunderstanding that evolution represents a ladder-like march of progress, with humans at the pinnacle,” said Oakley. “Instead, it illustrates how all organisms — humans included — are a complex mix of ancient and new characteristics.”

(End different quote coloring.)

I looked this post up because I recently ran across a creationist who actually trotted out that old “the eye is irreducibly complex” bull and I was searching for some other links. But what’s interesting is what a different creationist was saying in the comment section:

You premised your claim of cnidarian relationship to vertebrates and humans on a gene they share in common. You said specifically, “This allows for a prediction using evolution: all organisms alive today which share a common ancestry with hydras will share this same genetic gateway.” I pointed out that certain beetles share certain genes with vertebrates and humans that other insects do not – and by your logic, that would mean these beetles share an ancestry with humans other insects do not.

As I pointed out at the time (and as the creationist failed to even come close to grasping), my claim was not based upon the sharing of individual genes, but rather on the sharing of complex genetic pathways. It is these pathways that ultimately allow for such a prediction. The creationist then confused the discussion on pathways with the article focus of a gateway. (I pointed out his error to him, but to no avail.) It is these pathways, by and large, which first get us to the point of where we can say that hydra and humans share a common ancestry in terms of vision. From that point we can look at the particular gateway in question and make the prediction I originally made. (One caveat: organisms which have lost their ability to see may not share the gateway.)