The “Evolution” of the Camera

For the last eight years or so, I have been a hobby photographer. My first “real” camera was a Canon Rebel SLR camera that relied upon film to capture images. Shortly after graduating from college in 2004, I invested in a Canon Rebel Digital SLR camera and have, since then, upgraded two more times to more advanced Digital SLR cameras.

The advancement in camera technology, even in the last couple years, is amazing.

But one thing has still remained when it comes to photography – from Joseph Nicephore Niepce’s first photographic image in 1827 to the very latest digital technology: photography is all about capturing light and being able to find the proper balance in capturing that light.

This also happens to be the greatest point of frustration for any photographer. Over the last two centuries, a way has not yet been created to find the perfect balance between the light areas in a scene and the dark areas. So if you take a picture that has a dark foreground and a light sky, for example, either you will have to expose to get the foreground light enough, which will “blow out” the sky, or you will have to expose to get the sky dark enough, which will completely darken the foreground.

Over the last few years, cameras have begun to utilize “High Dynamic Range” (HDR) technology. This gets closer to being able to find the perfect balance between light skies and dark foregrounds – as well as other light and dark contrasts – but there is still a ways to go.

In short, over the last 200 years (or even longer, since the groundwork was being laid for modern-day photography as far back as the sixth century), engineers have not been able to design a way for the camera to capture an image the way the eye does. While the eye is amazingly able to perfectly balance all shades of the spectrum, the camera is still light years behind.

And this is what I find to be most amazing: cameras have been designed and engineered by some of the most intelligent technological designers for a couple centuries, and yet it still falls infinitely short of the advanced capabilities of the eye. Yet – and here’s the kicker – many would have us believe that the eye’s incredible advanced capabilities are purely the result of an unguided evolutionary process due to change over time.

This problem confronted Charles Darwin when he was formulating his views for The Origins of Species. He realized that the eye was one of the proverbial “flies” in the ointment that potentially undermined his theory of evolution. “To suppose that the eye,” he wrote, “could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest possible degree” (The Origin of Species, p. 217).

He thought he found a way to explain it away, however, by appealing to small scale change over millions of years of time. Pointing to alleged “lineal ancestors” that have less developed vision, Darwin sought to establish a line of successive organisms that could demonstrate that, given enough time, one could arrive at the advanced capabilities of the human eye.

Even still, with such a paradigm in place, Darwin admitted, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down” (p. 219). Darwin recognized the limitations of his own theory. But almost as quickly as he provided the out, he brushed it aside, pithily saying, “But I can find out no such case.”

The problem Darwin had – and the problem all scientists have – is that he was not blessed with the advanced technologies that succeeding generations have (or will have – thus demonstrating the need for humility in the scientific community). In Darwin’s case, nothing was known about the cell in his day; and thus, the biological ceiling in his day was on an anatomical level. In speaking of the eye, this led Darwin to admit “how a nerve becomes sensitive to light hardly concerns us more than how life itself originated” (Ibid., p. 217). Darwin simply didn’t concern himself with this level of science because in his day it was a “black box,” with no possibility of being known.

Such is not the case today, however, and this has been Darwin’s undoing. As technology has advanced and more has been discovered about the biology on a molecular level, scientists are discovering “complex organs” that do exist. In fact, they are beginning to call these these structures “irreducibly complex.” In other words, one cannot simply turn back the clock and expect to see the evolution of a molecular structure where it has fewer parts of the structure; because, to remove any of the structural components totally obliterates the whole structure’s abilities and usefulness. It is irreducibly complex.

Such is the case with the eye, and many other organisms, on a molecular level. This has led Michael Behe, in his seminal work, Darwin’s Black Box, to write, “Now that the black box of vision has been opened, it is no longer enough for an evolutionary explanation of that power to consider only the anatomical structures of whole eyes, as Darwin did in the nineteenth century (and as popularizers of evolution continue to do today). Each of the anatomical steps and structures that Darwin thought were so simple actually involves staggeringly complicated biochemical processes that cannot be papered over with rhetoric. . . . Anatomy is, quite simply, irrelevant to the question of whether evolution could take place on the molecular level” (p. 22).

We know this to be true on a practical level. When we look at the amazing and advanced capabilities of our digital cameras, we know they didn’t just happen to evolve by unguided processes. And, even more so, when we look through our eyes – far more advanced than our digital counterparts – we testify to the fact that we have been fearfully and wonderfully crafted, designed, and created by a benevolent Creator.

(Update: after writing this post, I realized that it may be seen as condoning a theistic evolutionary model. That was not my intention at all. It was simply criticizing the evolutionary model as a whole. I firmly believe in a literal, recent, six-day creation as set forth by a plain reading of Genesis – which the original author definitely intended. But that will have to be another post for another day.)