Flat Trilobite Morocco
Trilobites have played an interesting role in the debate about evolution. In 1853 the American Congress approved building the trans-continental railway. British millionaire, James Smithson, had recently donated half a million dollars to found an American Scientific institute. The first task of this Smithsonian Institute was to investigate the geology of proposed railway line sites which was carried out over the next 4 years by a young man called James Dwight Dana. As a result Dana published the first credible work on American geology. Initially a follower of the catastrophist geologist Cuvier, Dana wrote “Give the trilobites of antiquity a tongue to speak, and they will correct many a false dogma in the theological systems”. Dana became known for his strong stand against anyone, politicians and preachers included, who tried to oppose his geology/theology based on the rocks.
As a result of insisting that rocks were the history book which must be used to rectify theology, Dana became a quick convert to Darwinian evolution and the first prominent scientist in the USA to proclaim evolution was directed by God. Within his Yale University, this soon became the dominant philosophy. Other famous American scientists, including the founder of oceanography, Matthew Fontain Maury, proclaimed the Bible was the final authority on questions of science and soon began to oppose Dana, as have the ‘Trilobites of antiquity’ under modern microscopes. Their vote for creation is ‘the eyes have it’.
The eye of the Trilobite was a cup lined with light sensitive cells, and covered with a chitin lined lens of clear calcium carbonate (optical calcite). Some trilobites had simple eyes (only a single lens) but the majority had compound eyes consisting of many single lenses combined into a multi-lens unit whose number varied from 14 to 15,000. The lens had a circular pattern of concentric ridging, similar to a Fresnal lens, at the chitin/calcite interface. Augustin Jean Fresnal (1788 - 1827) is famous for his lighthouse lenses, which he invented by proving the volume of a solid lens could be greatly reduced by shaping it in concentric segments. The two part Trilobite eye, with ridges of chitin on crystals of calcium carbonate, was a two element Fresnal type lens, well suited to scan dimly lit ocean floors. From the first to the last of the Trilobites, the design of their eye cup remained the same and showed no sign of evolving at all. But it does show the same evidence of creative intelligent design which Fresnal worked so hard to achieve. This ought not to surprise us since the New Testament is emphatic that “all things were created by Jesus Christ” (John 1:3).