Molecules That Produce Colour: Pigments
In previous chapters,
we mentioned that because of the different atomic properties of
the pigmentary molecules, objects reflect light rays differently;
hence, different shades of colour are produced. Have another look
around you. The different colours in your range of vision indicate
the existence of a similar number of pigments, because the colour
of everything we see in our surroundings depends on the pigments
present in the composition of that matter. The green colour of plants,
the colour of skin, the colours of animals, in short all colours
stem from the structural characteristics of the pigments contained
in those objects or living things.
What Is Pigment?
Pigments, existing both in our eyes and in the outer surface of
objects, are special molecules that bring about colour. A certain
energy is needed for pigment molecules to be activated. Certainly,
just as in all other stages in the formation of colour, there is
again perfect harmony between pigments and light. "The invisible
light" reaching the earth has been specially designed for the
"pigment" molecules, which are known as colour molecules,
in living things.
Moreover, human eyes also have a structure compatible
to this purpose. The reason why the cone cells that lie in the retina
of our eye perceive three main colours - red, green, and blue -
is because of the special pigment molecules they contain. The most
crucial task these pigments perform so that we see a coloured world
is convert the energy of "colour" in light into nerve
impulses. This means that everything we know as colour is an end-result
of these pigments transmitting the wavelength of light reaching
to them to the brain as nerve impulses.1
||The reason for colour diversity
in the leaves of flowers is the reaction to light of pigment
molecules present in their structure.
The energy levels of visible light correspond to some of the energy
levels needed for activating pigment molecules that are found in
the skins of living beings, or in the scales, feathers, or furs
covering their skins, and thus their colours are formed.
As seen, pigments, which are present both in the vision
centres and in the bodies of living beings, are in perfect harmony
with other bodily systems. Absence of a particular kind of pigment
molecule or its presence in an amount less than required in the
vision centre of a living being causes it to be unable to distinguish
colours in its environment.
The question is: how do these special molecules develop
in the skins of living beings? We can give an answer to this question
by asking some further questions. Have living beings come to possess
these colours by acknowledging the properties of a special light
spectrum reaching the earth and choosing special pigment molecules
accordingly? Certainly the possibility of the occurrence of such
a coincidence is zero. These specific molecules have been placed
in the skin of living beings by conscious design. It is obvious
that neither could living beings carry out such a process, nor could
random coincidence bring about such a formation. The harmony in
question is one, which could only come about because of One Who
Wills creating it, One Who keeps everything under control. Allah
has created each living being with very sophisticated characteristics
peculiar to it. Everything, animate or inanimate, has pigments suitable
to it. Pigments absorb light selectively according to their molecular
structure. Every pigment does not react to light in the same way.
For this reason, it cannot set off the same chemical reaction and
form the same colour.
We can give chlorophyll, the pigment molecule that
causes plants to look green, as an example. These pigments absorb
certain wavelengths coming from the sun and reflect light having
the wavelength that corresponds to green colour. Chlorophylls, the
pigment molecules in plants, reflect the photons that look green
due to their wavelengths. At the same time, the energy they receive
from sunlight enables the plants to produce carbohydrates, one of
the prime food sources of all living beings.2Different
pigment molecules reflect particular colours at certain wavelengths
according to their own molecular properties and hence cause different
There are many kinds of pigments in nature. A few examples
are sufficient to show that pigment molecules have been specially
designed for life.
Examples of Pigment Types Protective
Colour Source: Melanin
The eyes of living beings are quite sensitive to light and are easily
affected adversely. Still, we can safely look towards the sun and
see our surroundings, thanks to the support systems specially created
by Allah. One of these support systems is a group of pigment molecules
present in the eye.
|The pigment chlorophyll existing in plants
is dominant over other pigments. Therefore, plants look green.
The light rays coming from the sun activate
the pigments in the objects and therefore colours form. We may
compare pigment molecules to sieves whose se- lectivity depends
on the size of their pores. Just as in a sieve, the wavelengths
which pigments select according to their struc- tures - that
means colours - vary.
As is well known, the colours of living
beings' eyes vary. What give an eye its colours are, again, pigments.
Melanin is one of these pigmentary substances present in the eye
that gives the eye its colour. The same pigment also gives your
skin and hair their colours. However, melanin provides more than
colour. Researchers believe that melanin, which exists in the eye,
offers both protection against the deleterious effects of sunrays,
and vision enhancement. The substance melanin, nature's solution
to the problem of hazardous light rays, absorbs higher energy light
more strongly than lower energy light. So, it absorbs ultraviolet
more strongly than blue, and blue more strongly than green.3
In this way, melanin provides protection
to the lens of the eye against ultraviolet. It provides near optimum
protection to the retina by filtering different colours in proportion
to their ability to damage the tissue of the retina - thereby reducing
the risks of macular degeneration. People with more eye-melanin
have less occurrence of macular degeneration; people with less eye-melanin
have greater occurrence of macular degeneration. About 15% of our
original supply of melanin is lost from the eye by the age of forty
and about 25% is lost by the age of fifty. The role melanin plays
in eye protection is critical: ophthalmologists report that melanin
in the eye reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration.4
As understood, each one of the functions of the substance
melanin demonstrates to us the special design of this substance.
|Blood contains colourful pigments
carrying oxygen in the body. These colours vary among living
beings. For instance, while the colour of the blood of cuttlefish
is light blue or colourless, the blood pigments of other animals
and human beings are red. The redness of the hen's crest and
the redness of most shrimps are caused by blood pigments.
The answer to the question of how such a perfect substance has come
about is that it is impossible for such a multifunctional substance
with such a perfect structure to have come into being by coincidence.
Allah has created the substance melanin, like all other things in
the universe, in a special way as to serve a beneficial purpose
The Source of Lively Colours
Carotenoids (and lipochromes) are pigmentary molecules, which are
synthesised by plants and which reflect the colours yellow, red
and orange. Animals can obtain these pigments only by feeding on
|The sources of the lively colours present
in the beaks of toucans are also pigmentary molecules.
Poisonous sponges, crinoidea, toxic
sea-cucumbers and some molluscs are either partly or completely
yellow, red or orange in colour as a result of carotenoids, which
are also present in the yellow parts of butterflies' wings and in
the beaks of birds. In certain insects, these are emitted by special
glands, which are yellow or red in colour. Curiously, these compounds
are usually pale green or even colourless and only take on a bright
yellow colour in the blood of poisonous insects. The carotenoids
are not only useful as warning coloration; in some insects they
are themselves transformed into poisonous compounds, in which case
they serve a twofold purpose of being both a weapon and a signal.5By
means of this very special system that Allah has created, many living
beings continue to thrive.
Thus far, we have briefly examined only a few types
of pigment existing in nature. The conclusion we have reached in
light of this review is the presence of the perfect design that
reveals itself in pigments, in the atoms forming these pigments
and in all the resulting colours. Allah, the ultimate Owner of this
exceptional design, Lord of the worlds, introduces Himself to us
by the unique artistry in the colours He creates in nature.
Have they not travelled about the earth and
do they not have hearts to understand with or ears to hear with?
It is not their eyes which are blind but the hearts in their breasts
which are blind. (Surat al-Hajj:
1.Franklyn Branley, Color, From
Rainbows to Lasers, Thomas Y. Crowell Comp., New York, p.23-28
2.Temel Britannica Ansiklopedisi, Vol 7, p. 16
5. Marco Ferrari, Colors for Survival, Barnes and Noble Books, New
York, 1992, p.110