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Lenses Beyond Compare

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

Many young men have experienced it at one time or another—the fear and excitement of walking into a jewelry store and picking out an engagement ring. Somewhere amidst all that nervous excitement, the jeweler hands the prospective buyer a loupe. A loupe—commonly used for grading diamonds—normally has a double or triple lens system (i.e., two or three lenses joined together to make a single compound lens). Jewelers’ loupes are achromatic (i.e., they are corrected so that all lenses focus at the same place) and aplanatic (corrected so that there is no distortion of the images). Aplanatic lenses consist of two lens elements—flat on one side and convex on the other (plano-convex)—so that the curved surfaces face each other with an air space in between. As such, aplanatic lenses provide a flatter field of view and less distortion. International agreement has declared that a loupe-clean diamond is one that will not show any carbon inclusions using a ten-power loupe. While humans have a single refractive lens, the trilobite’s aplanatic lenses employ a dual lens system, thereby providing much less distortion, and allowing even the smallest flaw to be observed.


Trilobite Illustration
Illustration by Thomas A. Tarpley

Enter the trilobites—hard-shelled, segmented creatures possessing an exoskeleton. They somewhat resembled horseshoe crabs, and often are heralded as the first arthropods—a phylum consisting of hard-shelled creatures with multiple body segments and jointed legs. The smallest known trilobite species is just under a millimeter long, while the largest include species from 30 to 70 cm in length (roughly a foot to two feet long!), and new species are being unearthed and described almost every year.

Trilobites are believed to be extinct, having once flourished in the oceans. According to evolutionary theory, they evolved at the beginning of the Paleozoic Era (over 500 million years ago), and became extinct during the late Permian period (248 million years ago)—long before dinosaurs or men are alleged to have lived on the Earth. In fact, the Cambrian Period is known as “The Age of Trilobites,” and these fascinating creatures have become known as “index fossils.” Evolutionists use the widely distributed index fossils to assist in dating other fossils found in the same sedimentary layer. For example, if you found a fossil (from an unknown era) near a trilobite, evolutionists suggest you could assume that the two species existed around the same time.

Since trilobites are considered to have been one of the first creatures to have evolved, it would make sense (from an evolutionary perspective) to suggest that they possessed fairly primitive features. Yet the eye of the trilobite is anything but primitive! Paleontologist Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History commented:

These lenses—technically termed aspherical, aplanatic lenses—optimize both light collecting and image formation better than any lens ever conceived. We can be justifiably amazed that these trilobites, very early in the history of life on Earth, hit upon the best possible lens design that optical physics has ever been able to formulate (as quoted in Ellis, 2001, p. 49, emp. added).
Trilobite Eyes
Illustration by Thomas A. Tarpley

Riccardo Levi-Setti, one of the world’s most renowned trilobite experts, remarked: “In fact, this optical doublet is a device so typically associated with human invention that its discovery in trilobites comes as something of a shock.... The design of the trilobite’s eye lens could well qualify for a patent disclosure” (1993, p. 54,57, emp. added). Evolutionist David Raup admitted: “The trilobites used an optimal design which would require a well-trained and imaginative optical engineer to develop today” (1979, 50:24). Science writer Lisa Shawyer concluded: “Trilobites had “the most sophisticated eye lenses ever produced by nature.” Ian Taylor asked: “If Darwin turned cold at the thought of the human eye at the end of the evolutionary cycle, what, one wonders, would he have thought of the trilobite eye near the beginning?” (1992, p. 169, emp. added). What indeed?


Ellis, Richard (2001), Aquagenesis (New York: Viking).

Levi-Setti, Riccardo (1993), Trilobites (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).

Raup, David (1979), “Conflicts Between Darwin and Paleontology,” Bulletin, Field Museum of Natural History, January.

Shawyer, Lisa J. (1974), “Trilobite Eyes: An Impressive Feat of Early Evolution,” Science News, 105:72, February 2.

Taylor, Ian (1992), In the Minds of Men: Darwin and the New World Order (Minneapolis, MN: TFE Publishing).

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