Are Vestigial Eyes Evidence of Evolution?

Author Tim Barnett Published on 03/12/2016

Evolutionists love to point to vestigial structures in the biological realm as evidence for evolution. The argument goes like this: Some organisms contain structures that were once functional in their evolutionary past but have now become useless (or almost useless). In The Greatest Show on Earth, Richard Dawkins writes, “Vestigial eyes are evidence of evolution. Given that a cave salamander lives in perpetual darkness so has no use for eyes, why would a divine creator nevertheless furnish it with dummy eyes, clearly related to eyes, but non-functional?”

What can we say in response? First, Dawkins asks a loaded question. That is, built into his question is a false assumption. He assumes that God must have created the cave salamander with non-functional eyes to begin with. But that isn’t the creationist’s position at all.

Vestigial structures are entirely consistent with a Creator. These could be structures that were initially designed, but then lost their function through adaptation to a particular environment. Everyone agrees that genuine vestigial structures started out functional and then became non-functional. So, at most, this seems to be evidence for devolution; it’s the degrading of a structure or organ, which was already present. What evolutionists need to show is how the organism got the fully functional structure in the first place.

Maybe some of you have driven an older car in which the air-conditioning didn’t work anymore. The fact that something in the car has become non-functional doesn’t mean the car was never designed in the first place. In fact, it would be foolish to ask, why would an engineer furnish a car with a dummy air-conditioning unit that is non-functional? Of course, this falsely assumes that an engineer actually put a non-functional air-conditioning unit in the car to begin with. Furthermore, the fact that an air-conditioning unit no longer functions does not mean it wasn’t originally intelligently designed.

Both the evolutionist and creationist can explain vestigial eyes. In fact, they explain vestigial eyes in the same way. However, what the evolutionist needs to explain is how the eyes originated in the first place. The loss of a useful organ does not explain its origin.

So merely pointing to a vestigial structure isn’t good enough. The advocate of macroevolution needs to provide evidence for the production of new functional structures, not merely evidence of their destruction. Therefore, in a trivial sense, yes, vestigial eyes are evidence for evolution. Cave salamanders changed. They had functional eyes, and now they don’t. But you are never going to explain the origin of new functional structures, organs, and body plans by providing evidence of a mechanism that breaks them.