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In humans the Appendix is a vestigial organ. Does it serve no apparent purpose in all the vertebrates that have one?
Smith et al. (2009) provide a survey of the morphology of the cecal appendix. One current hypothesis is that the appendix provides "safe harbor" for symbiotic gut bacteria. Among mammals, there is a vast array of cecal appendices:
A comparative anatomical approach reveals three apparent morphotypes of the cecal appendix, as well as appendix-like structures in some species that lack a true cecal appendix. Cladistic analyses indicate that the appendix has evolved independently at least twice (at least once in diprotodont marsupials and at least once in Euarchontoglires), shows a highly significant (P < 0.0001) phylogenetic signal in its distribution, and has been maintained in mammalian evolution for 80 million years or longer.
Aside from humans, it is largely rodents and most notably rabbits that have an appendix. Therefore, using rabbits as my example:
In rabbits, the appendix is thought to have a key role in the development of the immune system. Specifically it has been shown experimentally that when neonatal rabbits are given an appendectomy levels of Immunoglobulin A and G (IgA/IgG) fall dramatically. Both these polypeptides are prominent antibodies - IgA plays a key role in mucosal immunity whilst IgGs in humoral immunity. These effects were localised to the small intestine of the rabbits, however were statistically significant. 1
In infants, the rabbit appendix resembles the chicken bursa and sheep ileal Peyer's patch (both performing similar functions as described above).2
This has led to some ongoing research as to whether the human appendix has a similar properties in having function in infants 3:
If the human appendix functions as a primary lymphoid organ, it may occur during the first few months of age when the GC T-cell density is low.
1Neonatal appendectomy impairs mucosal immunity in rabbits. Cell Immunol. 1997 Nov 25;182(1):29-37
2The appendix functions as a mammalian bursal equivalent in the developing rabbit. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1994;355:249-53.
3A morphological and immunohistological study of the human and rabbit appendix for comparison with the avian bursa. Dev Comp Immunol. 2000 Dec;24(8):797-814.
The appendix was thought to be vestigial in humans until recently. Now it appears that, like rabbits, it is a safe harbour for symbiotic bacteria in the intestines.
Source: Bollinger, Barbas, Bush, et al. J Theor Biol. 2007 Dec 21;249(4):826-31. Epub 2007 Sep 7.
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Appendix, formally vermiform appendix, in anatomy, a vestigial hollow tube that is closed at one end and is attached at the other end to the cecum, a pouchlike beginning of the large intestine into which the small intestine empties its contents. It is not clear whether the appendix serves any useful purpose in humans. Suspected functions include housing and cultivating beneficial gut flora that can repopulate the digestive system following an illness that wipes out normal populations of these flora providing a site for the production of endocrine cells in the fetus that produce molecules important in regulating homeostasis and serving a possible role in immune function during the first three decades of life by exposing leukocytes (white blood cells) to antigens in the gastrointestinal tract, thereby stimulating antibody production that may help modulate immune reactions in the gut. While the specific functions of the human appendix remain unclear, there is general agreement among scientists that the appendix is gradually disappearing from the human species over evolutionary time. Blockage of the appendix can lead to appendicitis, a painful and potentially dangerous inflammation.
The appendix is usually 8 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inches) long and less than 1.3 cm (0.5 inch) wide. The cavity of the appendix is much narrower where it joins the cecum than it is at its closed end. The appendix has muscular walls that are ordinarily capable of expelling into the cecum the mucous secretions of the appendiceal walls or any of the intestinal contents that have worked their way into the structure. If anything blocks the opening of the appendix or prevents it from expelling its contents into the cecum, appendicitis may occur. The most common obstruction in the opening is a fecalith, a hardened piece of fecal matter. Swelling of the lining of the appendiceal walls themselves can also block the opening. When the appendix is prevented from emptying itself, a series of events occurs. Fluids and its own mucous secretions collect in the appendix, leading to edema, swelling, and the distention of the organ. As the distention increases, the blood vessels of the appendix become closed off, which causes the necrosis (death) of appendiceal tissue. Meanwhile, the bacteria normally found in this part of the intestine begin to propagate in the closed-off pocket, worsening the inflammation. The appendix, weakened by necrosis and subject to increasing pressure from within by the distention, may burst, spilling its contents into the abdominal cavity and infecting the membranes that line the cavity and cover the abdominal organs (see peritonitis). Fortunately, peritonitis is usually prevented by the protective mechanisms of the body. The omentum, a sheet of fatty tissue, often wraps itself around the inflamed appendix, and an exudate that normally develops in the areas of inflammation behaves like glue and seals off the appendix from the surrounding peritoneal cavity.
A person experiencing an attack of appendicitis may feel pain all over the abdomen, only in the upper abdomen, or about the navel. This pain is usually not very severe. After one to six hours or more the pain may become localized to the right lower abdomen. Nausea and vomiting may develop sometime after the onset of the pain. Fever is usually present but is seldom high in the early phases of the attack. The patient’s leukocytes (white blood cells) are usually increased from a normal count of 5,000–10,000 in an adult to an abnormal count of 12,000–20,000 this phenomenon can be caused by many other acute inflammatory conditions that occur in the abdomen.
In a person with a normally sited appendix, the pain of appendicitis is situated at a point between the navel and the front edge of the right hipbone. But many people have the appendix lying in an abnormal position and may feel the pain of an appendicitis attack in a different or misleading location, which makes their symptoms difficult to distinguish from the abdominal pain caused by a variety of other diseases. Careful diagnostic examination by a physician can usually determine if acute appendicitis is indeed causing a patient’s abdominal pain. Ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scanning may also be useful in the diagnosis of appendicitis.
The basic treatment of appendicitis is the surgical removal of the appendix in a minor operation called an appendectomy. The operation itself requires little more than a half hour under anesthesia and produces relatively little postoperative discomfort. If a diagnosis of acute appendicitis cannot immediately be made with reasonable certainty, it is common to wait and observe the patient’s symptoms for a period from 10 to 24 hours so that a definitive diagnosis can be made. This wait does slightly increase the risk that the appendix will rupture and peritonitis set in, so the patient is kept under careful medical surveillance at this time.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.
Vestigial Structure Examples
Vestigial Structures in Fruit Flies
The common laboratory organism Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly) was one of the first to have its small genome mapped. During the mapping of the genome, scientists found many genes that if inactivated would cause vestigial mutations in the fruit flies. Hundreds of mutations were found that could produce vestigial structures. The wings, eyes, feet, and many organs could become vestigial through the deactivation of different genes. Using these flies as a model, scientist were able to accurately and clearly show how vestigial structures can arise through simple sexual reproduction, and how these vestigial structures could become frequent in a population.
Before the days of fossil records, x-rays, and DNA analysis, it was long assumed that snakes gave rise to lizards, not the other way around. When scientist started really observing the anatomy of snakes, they began to realize that many snakes still have vestigial structures where a lizard’s limbs would have been. Other vestigial structures in snakes, such a vestigial lung, were also evidence that snakes evolved from an ancestor that used two lungs and walked with 4 limbs. This, coupled with a fossil record that showed a decline in limb size leading to snakes and mounting DNA evidence revealed that the opposite was true: snakes came from lizards and not the other way around.
Loss of limbs is also seen in whales. The ancestors of whales were organisms somewhat like hippos, which slowly moved into the water. In the water, limbs create drag and making swimming less efficient. Slowly, the front limbs were changed to fins, and the back limbs were lost entirely. However, the skeleton of a whale will reveal a set of bones, not attached to the main skeleton, where the hind-limbs used to be. The bones do not leave the body and seem to only provide minor support to the muscles. These vestigial structures are a clue that like snakes, whales came from a 4-legged ancestor.
Vestigial Structures in Humans
Humans have a wide range of traits that are considered vestigial structures. One of the most obvious is the tailbone, or coccyx. The coccyx is a small series of fused vertebrae that exist at the base of the pelvis. In our ancestors, it probably formed a large prehensile tail, capable of grabbing branches. As we evolved into bipeds, less time was spent in the trees and more time spent walking and sitting on the ground. As seen in the transition from monkeys to great apes, the loss of a tail represents a less arboreal, or tree-based lifestyle.
If you’ve ever had your wisdom teeth removed, you know that vestigial structures can be more than useless. In the case of wisdom teeth, the human skull has been shrinking as we evolve. Part of the reason is that our diet has become much softer and easier to chew because we cook or otherwise process our food. While our jaw has become smaller, the last tooth in the jaw has not been lost. In most people, this tooth will cause pain as it comes in and may deform the other teeth in the jaw.
Have you ever gotten goose-bumps when you get cold? When this happens, small vestigial muscles at the base of your hair follicles pull the hair so it stands upward. In our ancestors, this created a much fluffier and thicker coat, which could hold more air. An animal’s coat functions by trapping air and heating it up. Humans have lost the coat but retained the muscles that make hairs stand up. The pathways that cause the hair to stand up can also be considered vestigial. While they do help us know we’re cold, they certainly don’t help warm us up.
Just as Darwin did many years ago, today&rsquos scientists study living species to learn about evolution. They compare the anatomy, embryos, and DNA of modern organisms to understand how they evolved.
Comparative anatomy is the study of the similarities and differences in the structures of different species. Similar body parts may be homologies or analogies. Both provide evidence for evolution.
Homologous structures are structures that are similar in related organisms because they were inherited from a common ancestor. These structures may or may not have the same function in the descendants. Figure below shows the hands of several different mammals. They all have the same basic pattern of bones. They inherited this pattern from a common ancestor. However, their forelimbs now have different functions.
The forelimbs of all mammals have the same basic bone structure.
Analogous structures are structures that are similar in unrelated organisms. The structures are similar because they evolved to do the same job, not because they were inherited from a common ancestor. For example, the wings of bats and birds, shown in Figure below, look similar on the outside. They also have the same function. However, wings evolved independently in the two groups of animals. This is apparent when you compare the pattern of bones inside the wings.
Wings of bats and birds serve the same function. Look closely at the bones inside the wings. The differences show they developed from different ancestors.
Comparative embryology is the study of the similarities and differences in the embryos of different species. Similarities in embryos are evidence of common ancestry. All vertebrate embryos, for example, have gill slits and tails. Most vertebrates, except for fish, lose their gill slits by adulthood. Some of them also lose their tail. In humans, the tail is reduced to the tail bone. Thus, similarities organisms share as embryos may be gone by adulthood. This is why it is valuable to compare organisms in the embryonic stage. Seehttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/04/2/pdf/l_042_03.pdf for additional information and a comparative diagram of human, monkey, pig, chicken and salamander embryos.
Structures like the human tail bone and whale pelvis are called vestigial structures. Evolution has reduced their size because the structures are no longer used. The human appendix is another example of a vestigial structure. It is a tiny remnant of a once-larger organ. In a distant ancestor, it was needed to digest food. It serves no purpose in humans today. Why do you think structures that are no longer used shrink in size? Why might a full-sized, unused structure reduce an organism&rsquos fitness?
Darwin could compare only the anatomy and embryos of living things. Today, scientists can compare their DNA. Similar DNA sequences are the strongest evidence for evolution from a common ancestor. More similarities in the DNA sequence is evidence for a closer evolutionary relationship. Look at the cladogram in the Figure below. It shows how humans and apes are related based on their DNA sequences.
Cladogram of Humans and Apes. This cladogram is based on DNA comparisons. It shows how humans are related to apes by descent from common ancestors.
What Are Vestigial Structures?
Some organisms possess structures with no apparent function which appear to be residual parts from a past ancestor. For example, some snakes have pelvic bones despite having no legs because they descended from reptiles that did have legs. Another example of a structure with no function is the human vermiform appendix. These unused structures without function are called vestigial structures. Other examples of vestigial structures are wings (which may have other functions) on flightless birds like the ostrich, leaves on some cacti, traces of pelvic bones in whales, and the sightless eyes of cave animals.
Figure (PageIndex<1>): Vestigial appendix: In humans the vermiform appendix is a vestigial structure it has lost much of its ancestral function.
There are also several reflexes and behaviors that are considered to be vestigial. The formation of goose bumps in humans under stress is a vestigial reflex its function in human ancestors was to raise the body&rsquos hair, making the ancestor appear larger and scaring off predators. The arrector pili muscle, which is a band of smooth muscle that connects the hair follicle to connective tissue, contracts and creates the goose bumps on skin.
Vestigial structures and their purposes
Q: Biology textbooks say there are vestigial structures like…(a) human tail bones, (b) whale pelvis, (c) snake hind legs, (d) the appendix, and (e) gill slits on embryos. Are these really evolutionary leftovers?
A: Not all textbooks cite the same vestigial structures, but let’s take a look at all of them together, and then analyze each one separately. Notice the following:
- All the examples given are examples of animals losing something, not gaining something. How could losing something help an organism evolve or be proof that they were evolving?
- All are really minor compared to what would be needed to change any kind of animal into any other kind of animal. Are these small changes good enough evidence of evolution of these animals? Is there other evidence?
- All the examples given are used for a function today and are not “vestigial” as the book says.
Many biologists have discarded this view…Researchers have now shown that structures which were dismissed as inconsequential have an important role to play. 1
Is the appendix a vestigial structure in all vertebrates? - Biology
Borrowing a line from the Bard of Avon is easy getting the evolutionary establishment to admit that they were wrong is not. Imagine everyone&rsquos surprise when researcher and immunologist, William Parker at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. said, &ldquoMaybe it's time to correct the textbooks&rdquo and &ldquoMany biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a vestigial organ.&rdquo That&rsquos the information published today provided by Live Science on the AOL Health News website.
The Johnny-come-lately admission of yet another so-called vestigial organ being taken off the no-longer-functioning organs and assorted body parts list &ndash being lost to that oft-touted natural selection, the nearly omnipotent driving force behind &ldquoall things evolution&rdquo &ndash is not a surprise to Bible believing people or Intelligent Design enthusiasts. This list of no-longer-vestigial organs is continuing to grow.
The definition of a vestigial organ, according to my 2004 edition of Prentice Hall&rsquos Biology textbook, states &ldquoThe vestigial organs are organs that serve no useful function in the organism&rdquo (Miller and Levine 2004). These evolutionary educators continue to promote the myth of vestigial organs with the examples of three species of skinks, claiming some species have only remnants or vestiges of legs while others have fully functional legs. This of course begs the question, why do any modern skinks still have legs? This question is not even raised by our fair-minded educators (Miller and Levine 2004).
I looked for a list of these vestigial organs in the several biology textbooks I have in my office and found one that claimed, &ldquoIn the human body there are more than 100 vestigial structures including the coccyx, or &lsquotailbone&rsquo, the appendix, the wisdom teeth, and the muscles that move the nose and ears.&rdquo They further claimed &ldquoThe human coccyx is an evolutionary remnant of an ancestral, reptilian tail, and the appendix is the remnant of a large digestive sac.&rdquo I will not deal with the statement that &ldquoboth whales and pythons have vestigial hind legs embedded in the flesh of the body wall&rdquo and &ldquoApparently, whales and snakes evolved from four-legged ancestors&rdquo (Schraer and Stoltze 1999).
While I was not impressed with the undocumented mention of &ldquomore than 100 vestigial structures,&rdquo I was curious about the examples this textbook used. I endeavored to seek the truth concerning these alleged vestigial structures, beginning with the coccyx. According to the evolutionary faithful, the human tailbone or coccyx is supposed to be a vestige of our common ape-like ancestors.
The Human Coccyx (Tailbone)
What happens when a scientist does not take to the indoctrination of Darwinian Evolution? Enter Dr. David Menton. Dr. Menton has a Ph.D. in cell biology from Brown University. He has a long and illustrious career as medical school professor earning the Silver Award for Basic Research from the American Academy of Dermatology. He was awarded the 'Distinguished Service Teaching Award' from Washington University School of Medicine in 1991, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997. Dr. Menton was named &lsquoTeacher of the Year&rsquo at Washington University School of Medicine in 1979 and was elected &lsquoProfessor of the Year&rsquo by that same institution.
Dr. Menton has been a thorn in the flesh of those who try to brainwash and indoctrinate others into believing that Darwinian evolution is a fact of science. Why would a medical school professor become a thorn in the flesh of the evolutionary faithful? The reason is really very simple: because he boldly and unashamedly gives his students, and anyone else who is willing to listen, information that the evolutionary establishment will not disclose.
Dr. Menton responded to a clinical case report that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled, &ldquoEvolution and the Human Tail&rdquo by Dr. Fred Ledley. In his article, Dr. Ledley strongly implied that this growth (called a caudal appendage) was essentially a &lsquohuman tail&rsquo, though he admitted that it had virtually none of the distinctive biological characteristics of a tail! (Menton 1994)
Dr. Menton corrected the erroneous statements of Darwinian scientists that the human tailbone was a vestigial structure and noted that &ldquoall true tails have bones in them that are a posterior extension of the vertebral column. Also, all true tails have muscles associated with their vertebrae which permit some movement of the tail&rdquo (Menton 1994). Rather than leaving the reader with the impression that the coccyx has no real function in human beings, Dr. Menton points out &ldquothat most modern biology textbooks give the erroneous impression that the human coccyx has no real function other than to remind us of the &lsquoinescapable fact&rsquo of evolution. In fact, the coccyx has some very important functions. Several muscles converge from the ring-like arrangement of the pelvic (hip) bones to anchor on the coccyx, forming a bowl-shaped muscular floor of the pelvis called the pelvic diaphragm. The incurved coccyx with its attached pelvic diaphragm keeps the many organs in our abdominal cavity from literally falling through between our legs. Some of the pelvic diaphragm muscles are also important in controlling the elimination of waste from our body through the rectum&rdquo (Menton 1994).
But this is only one of the allegedly &ldquo100&rsquos&rdquo of vestigial structures we are being told offer evidence of Darwinian evolution. What of the other three or four mentioned in our biology textbooks? We would not want our wisdom teeth, or those allegedly useless muscles that aid us in moving our ears and noses, to escape the scrutiny of simple logic. Or would we?
Muscles in our Ears and Noses
Would it surprise anyone that Darwin himself wrote on this very subject in his book The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex? Darwin questioned other experts in the field of anatomy to gain their insights into the reason that men, and several of their alleged ape-like ancestors, had lost the ability to move their ears in ways similar to other mammals. He attributes this to the ability that apes and men have to move their heads in a horizontal plane (emphasis added) allowing them to catch sounds from all directions (Darwin 1890). Why no questions about the ears of a Macaque monkey, and some other monkeys, that have far more developed ear muscles? These muscles enable them to focus towards sounds without using their much touted horizontal planes? Like a great deal of the evolutionary rhetoric, things are just stated in support of the theory and most other non-supportive information is simply excluded.
That takes us to the other example from our 1999 biology text book: our wisdom teeth. Jonathan Safarti has earned a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Chemistry (with condensed matter and nuclear physics papers substituted) and a Ph.D. in Spectroscopy (Physical Chemistry) from Victoria University at Wellington. Dr. Safarti addresses this subject in his book entitled By Design: Evidence for Nature&rsquos Intelligent Designer &ndash the God of the Bible.
In the publication, Dr. Safarti explains that &ldquowisdom teeth&rdquo is a popular term for our third molars, which often don&rsquot develop properly. Instead, they can be impacted against their adjoining teeth, or partially erupt so the gum doesn&rsquot form a bacterially-tight seal (leaving the tooth vulnerable to infection), or erupt crookedly and then cut the cheek frequently. Thus they are often removed (Safarti 2008).
Dr. Safarti reminds the reader that modern dentistry has identified the problem with wisdom teeth as being primarily linked to the diet in modern cultures. In non-technological cultures, impacted wisdom teeth are extremely rare as their tougher diet exercises their jaw muscles properly during chewing, thus helping the jaw to develop properly. The grittier diet also results in tooth wear, and the normal compensation for this loss of tooth surfaces is mesial migration (tooth movement towards the front of the mouth) making more room for the back molars. The modern diet fails both to provide the same jaw exercise, so the jaw doesn&rsquot develop to full size, and to provide tooth wear that would enable them to avoid crowding (Bergman 1998).
When I sought to gain a broader perspective about these vestigial organs, I discovered at one time as many as 180 vestigial organs were claimed to exist (Wiedersheim 1895). Dr. Jerry Bergman offers some insight concerning the original 180 specimens. Dr. Bergman has two earned PhD&rsquos. One in human biology, from Columbia Pacific University 1992 and one in measurement and evaluation, minor in psychology, Wayne State University 1976. He has a M.A. in Social Psychology from Bowling Green State University and another M.Ed. from Wayne State University. In his paper entitled &ldquoDo Vestigial Organs Exist in Humans,&rdquo Dr. Bergman claims that the original list published in 1890 had shrunk down to 0 by 1999 (Bergman 2000).
The Wings of Flightless Birds #10
Much to my surprise, on the very same web publication that announced the possible removal of the appendix from the vestigial structure/organ list, AOL&rsquos Live Science, I came across Brandon Miller&rsquos Top Ten Useless Limbs (and other Vestigial Organs) list (Miller 2009). Miller begins his countdown with the &lsquowings of flightless birds.&rsquo What Mr. Miller fails to include in his support of Darwinian Theory is the fact that there are other explanations concerning these apparently useless structures.
There is more than one explanation for wings that do not produce flight. Even if the wings of these flightless birds are indeed &lsquouseless&rsquo for purposes of flight, and even if they were derived from birds that once could fly, this does not falsify the creationist&rsquos model. Loss of feathers is relatively easy by natural processes, whereas acquisition of new complex characters, requiring specific DNA information, is impossible. Loss of wings most probably occurred in a beetle species that colonized a windy island. Again, this is a loss of genetic information, so it is not evidence for microbe-to-man evolution, which requires masses of new genetic information (Wieland 1997).
Secondly, the wings of these flightless birds have a function. Some possible functions, depending on the species of flightless bird, are: balance while running, cooling in hot weather, protection of the rib-cage in falls, mating rituals, scaring predators (emus will run at perceived enemies of their chicks, mouth open and wings flapping), sheltering of chicks, etc. If wings are useless, why are the muscles functional, allowing these birds to move their wings (Safarti 2008)?
It might be helpful if those who espouse Darwinian evolution to be a fact of science honestly gave us all the information, pro and con, and then allowed open discussion and academic debate to rule the day. It seems that asking the evolutionary faithful to allow all the evidence to be heard is no longer an option. Rather than talking about different ways to interpret the data, the evolutionary establishment refuses to even allow any alternate or conflicting opinions to be heard.
Hind Leg Bones in Whales #9
The ninth in Miller&rsquos countdown is &lsquohind leg bones in whales&rsquo. Mr. Miller begins his review of this alleged vestigial structure with the &lsquojust so&rsquo story of vertebrate evolution. He describes the story of how fish might have become the first land lovers by developing hips and legs and walking out of the water. Then, for no particular reason I can understand, Mr. Miller tells us that this evidently fickle process of evolution caused these one time &lsquorefugees from the ocean&rsquo to go back into the water. By this process, we are told aquatic mammals allegedly came into existence. Then &ldquodespite their apparent uselessness, evolution left traces of hind legs behind, and these vestigial limbs can be seen in the modern whale&rdquo (Miller 2009).
While the proponents of Darwinian evolution hold up the fossil evidence for whale evolution as one of the best examples of Darwin&rsquos theory in the fossil record, the reality is far different from the hype. It is good to keep in mind that most paleontologists believe that a single-celled organism evolved from inorganic matter and continued to evolve into virtually every living organism that lives today, ever has lived in the past, or ever will in the future live on planet Earth. There is real debate, even among the evolutionary faithful, concerning whale evolution.
Dr. Carl Werner is a medical physician and the author of Evolution: The Grand Experiment. In this book, Dr. Werner interviews many of the leaders in the field of paleontology seeking real answers to the questions concerning evolution. In the chapter devoted to the fossil record of whales, Dr. Werner personally interviews several leaders in the field of whale evolution and discovers that the alleged ancestry of whales is not as unanimous as the evolutionary faithful might want us to think. There are some glaring problems with the evolution of whales, not the least of which is the fact that all whales are carnivores. Even the large filter-feeding baleen whales eat small crustacean animals called krill. Evolution scientists have chosen meat-eating land mammals such as the cat-like Sinonyx or the hyena-like Pachyaena, as the land animal precursor of whales, because of the similarities of the meat-eating teeth when compared to teeth of the oldest fossil whales (Werner 2007).
Even though a comparison of teeth is often used to trace evolutionary ancestry, in recent times DNA has been used to search for links in the phylogenetic history of living organisms. This was the case in Tokyo when researchers at the Tokyo Institute found evidence that hippopotamus DNA is the closest match to the DNA of whales when compared to all other mammal groups (Werner 2007).
But what of those alleged remnants of hips in whales? Dr. Jonathan Safarti echoes the opinions of his fellow creationists, Bergman and Howe, when he explains that many evolutionists support whale evolution by alleging that there are vestigial hind legs buried in their flesh. However, these so-called &lsquoremnants&rsquo are not useless at all, but help strengthen the reproductive organs &mdash the bones are different in males and females. So they are best explained by creation, not evolution (Safarti 1999).
There continues to be a myth that some whales have been discovered with hind legs complete with thigh and knee muscles. Dr. Carl Wieland spent much time and effort tracking down this evolutionary &lsquourban legend&rsquo. In his article entitled &ldquoThe Strange Tale of the Leg on the Whale,&rdquo Dr. Wieland traced the origin of this myth to a book by Dr. R. Baker in which Dr. Baker writes:
&lsquoAnd every once in a while a modern whale is hauled in with a hind leg, complete with thigh and knee muscles, sticking out of its side. These atavistic hind legs are nothing less than throwbacks to a totally pre-whale stage of their existence, some fifty million years ago.&rsquo (Baker 1986)
In an effort to document Dr. Baker&rsquos source, Dr. Carl Wieland arranged for a colleague to contact Dr. Baker and track down the source for the statement concerning the whale-leg appendage. Dr. Baker indicated that the source for this was Everhard Johannes Slijper (1907&ndash1968). Slijper was professor of general zoology at Amsterdam University, Netherlands and he was the world&rsquos leading authority on whales. In chapter 2 of his classic work is entitled Evolution and External Appearance, he talks about a bone in whales that he calls the &lsquopelvic bone&rsquo, which is some 30 centimeters (12 inches) long, &ldquobut unlike the pelvis of normal mammals, it is not attached to the vertebral column.&rdquo This bone serves as an anchorage for the male reproductive organs. Slijper goes on to say that sometimes &ldquoanother small bone may be attached to it.&rdquo Being an evolutionist, he naturally interprets this smaller piece of bone as a throw-back to the femur, or thigh bone, of the whale&rsquos evolutionary ancestor. However, he states that in these occasional cases, the bone in question is generally 2.5 cm (just over an inch) in length, and that it is sometimes &lsquofused&rsquo with the pelvic bone (Wieland 1998).
The attempt to further track down the alleged whale with a &ldquohind leg, complete with thigh and knee muscles, sticking out of its side,&rdquo brought Dr. Wieland to write: &ldquothe closest thing to the claim which launched our pursuit of this whole trail is where Slijper states, &lsquoThus, at Ayukawa Whaling Station (Japan), a Sperm Whale was brought in 1956, with a 5-inch tibia projecting into a 5½-inch &ldquobump,&rdquo and a Russian factory ship in the Bering Sea had a similar experience in 1959.&rsquo No photo is provided.&rdquo
Ignoring &ndash for the moment &ndash the purely anecdotal nature of the evidence, what is it that is being claimed? Sperm whales are massive &mdash up to about 19m (62 feet) long. A 14 cm (5.5 inch) &lsquobump&rsquo on its side would look like an almost unnoticeable pimple. Inside the bump is a piece of bone, some 12.5 cm (5 inches) &lsquolong&rsquo. There is no evidence given of anything which could reasonably be called a &lsquoleg&rsquo. Slijper calls the bone inside the &lsquobump&rsquo a &lsquotibia&rsquo. But we have already seen that it doesn&rsquot take much for evolutionary believers to label abnormal pieces of bone in ways to fit their naturalistic religion (Wieland 1998).
So the search for photographic evidence of an atavistic leg, dangling uselessly from the underbelly of a whale, ends in failure. The reason such myths find a home in Darwinian theory, is due to the fact that &lsquojust so&rsquo stories rarely provide any substantive evidence. Whether it the atavistic leg in whales or the prehensile tails in neonates, looks can indeed be deceiving, especially if the entire theory is based upon a faulty premise.
Erector Pili and Body Hair #8
Erector Pili are smooth muscle fibers that are responsible for giving human skin a bumpy appearance normally referred to as goose bumps. The evolutionary establishment sees all evidence through the lens of Darwinian spectacles. The conclusions they reach are affected by their chosen paradigm of naturalism. Therefore, they see absolutely no reason for humans to have goose bumps. While the small size of these miniature muscles make them likely targets for evolutionists, Dr. Menton reminds us that the size of these structures should not be any indication of their usefulness to the organism. As is the case with all allegedly vestigial organs, not understanding their current function does not mean that they have no function, e.g. the now non-vestigial tonsils and appendix.
We are reminded by Dr. Menton, while virtually all of the larger muscles of the body have obvious (as well as some not so obvious) mechanical functions, smaller muscles are not necessarily useless. For example, two of the smallest muscles in the body, the stapedius and the tensor tympani, serve to dampen the movements of the auditory ossicles and the tympanic membrane (respectively) preventing loud sounds from overloading these delicate structures of the middle ear. In general, most small, short muscles of the body produce fine adjustments in the movement of larger muscles (Menton 2000).
With an almost perfunctory statement alluding to the eyebrow being the only worthy statement of function for body hair, the proponent of the &lsquoTop Ten Vestigial Organs&rsquo goes on to say that, aside from the possible aesthetic qualities influencing sexual attraction, &ldquoall the rest of the hair, though, is essentially useless&rdquo (Miller 2009).
Here is where the obvious influence of Darwinian thought starts to resemble anti-science. It may very well be a problem on both sides of the debate, that is, coloring our interpretation of the data through our individual worldview rather than looking at all the evidence independent of bias. However, Creationists and Intelligent Design theorists are willing to look at all the possibilities without automatically excluding any of them. We see how the concept of &lsquomolecules to men&rsquo evolutionary thinking, and their unswerving allegiance to naturalism, clouds the minds of the evolutionary faithful and colors all of their conclusions. They will inevitably assume that man shares a common ancestor with other primates. Primates are usually very hairy therefore, man must have lost his hair, because he no longer needed it. This is why goose bumps are seen as a rudimentary vestige of our furry relatives, puffing themselves up to appear larger to predators or generating warmth in particularly cold circumstances.
It may be too easy to play devil&rsquos advocate with this subject, but just for a minute indulge me. First of all, is human hair really degenerating fur, lost to eons of clothing and improvements in central heating? Can eyebrows, and the ability to grow the hair on our heads longer than other body hair really be traced back to the sexual mores of our alleged furry forefathers, as those 'wise of all' scientists &ndash the proponents of evolutionary psychology &ndash tell us? Is it really as cut and dried as fur and hair being the same thing?
Let&rsquos look at the similarities and the differences between hair and fur. First of all, hair and fur have the same chemical composition. They are both made of keratin and when speaking of non-humans, the term &ldquofur&rdquo is used to describe the coat of fur-bearing animals. The real difference between fur and hair is found in the core of the hair follicle. In the case of animals, the hair follicle allows for more insulation to coat the hair shaft. Human hair lacks this ability and therefore, it does not provide the same insulation and weather proofing that animal fur provides.
Another area of difference is in the growth patterns of fur versus hair. In humans, the hairs grow distinctively from one another without the typical, closely woven appearance of fur. Animal hair will fall out at a predetermined length, while some human hair, e.g. head hair, facial hair in men, etc., can be grown to considerable length. Animal hair seems to have double the composition of human hair and therefore, animal hair is much thicker than human hair.
Because evolutionary biology assumes common ancestry between animals and humans, these biologists automatically assume that similarities indicate common ancestry. This is why Creationists and Intelligent Design theorists cry foul when only one possible explanation is presented. Bible believing people see similarities in design as evidence of the ultimate Intelligent Designer, God. Man did not lose body hair as he made an evolutionary leap across time. Man was created with the God-given ability to be fruitful and multiply. He was not some Geico Neanderthal moving up the evolutionary ladder to modern man. The forever-missing link aside, man has reamined virtually unchanged since he was created in the Garden of Eden.
Some men are hairier than others. I remember the professional wrestler, &lsquoGeorge the Animal Steele&rsquo, whose body hair was so thick he would have to shave it. It left him with what looked like a fur collar of body hair around his considerably thick neck. 'The Animal' walked with a stooped posture, a hairless head and a thick mat of natural fur-like hair on his exposed arms and torso. Wrestling broadcasters often speculated that The Animal was indeed "the missing link." The fly in this proverbial ointment, as is usually the case, was the truth. George the Animal Steele was not the Neanderthal throwback his promoters presented to his Worldwide Wrestling Federation (WWF) fans. George was a teacher with both a bachelors and a master&rsquos degree from Central Michigan University. George honed his skills in wrestling while serving as both a teacher and the amateur wrestling coach at Madison High School in Madison Heights, Michigan. In reality, George was nothing like his WWF persona. George was just an educator-turned-professional-wrestler who turned his extraordinary fur-like body hair into a successful show-biz shtick. In reality, George was not really a throwback to some long-lost evolutionary ancestor, any more than our human hair is the remnant of any long-lost evolutionary ape-like forefathers.
The Human Tailbone or Coccyx #7 (See previous)
The Blind Fish Astyanax Mexicanus #6
The next in the line of the top ten vestigial organs is not really what it is being promoted to be. Like the 'bait and switch' tactic of the evolutionary faithful, adaptability is being promoted as evidence of the &lsquomolecules to men&rsquo grand theory of evolution. Adaptability is not evidence of inorganic molecules forming themselves into organic molecules by natural selection and beneficial mutation. Adaptability is not evidence of a living single-celled microorganism that &ndash contrary to all biogenetic law &ndash is going to be able to produce new information allowing it to morph itself into every living creature that has ever lived, or will ever live, on planet Earth. This ability to transform one form of life into another is often referred to as &ldquomacro-evolution.&rdquo It is descriptive of the large and complex changes being postulated by Darwin&rsquos theory.
Smaller changes can be produced by an incremental accumulation of genetic changes due to a loss of genetic information, or loss can occur due to atrophy. These are the types of changes that produce blind fish or blind salamanders, etc., and do not require new information to be generated. The &lsquouse it or lose it&rsquo type of changes we observe are often referred to as &ldquomicro-evolution.&rdquo These are the horizontal changes within a species, e.g. the variety of species within canis familiaris from the Chihuahua to the Great Dane. These changes within the dog species are due to the incredible variety contained in the DNA that is, information already contained therein and not newly created through natural selection and beneficial mutation. The ability to breed in and out certain genetic traits is far more indicative of special creation and Intelligent Design theory than Darwinian evolution. These changes are real, but not sufficient in nature to produce the vertical changes postulated by Darwinian Theory.
As noted previously, the fact that a fish, or other creature, may suffer the loss of ability in part, or the whole, of an organ or organ system is called atrophy, not evolution. The fact that muscles left unused will shrink with time and become virtually useless is not evidence of macro-evolution at all. It is even less supportive of adaptation, or micro-evolution. The loss of function is not necessarily traced back to loss of genetic information and, as modern genetics has clearly established, no major changes can be achieved without new genetic information being generated.
Another incredible truth concerning our blind fish is that scientists have been able to reverse their blindness, so the loss of sight was not even permanent. That raises another question. Can some of these losses, e.g. flightless birds and insects, be reversed? The answer, according to 2003 report in the Washington Post, is a resounding &ldquoyes&rdquo (Gugliotta 2003). The article went on to say how surprised these researchers were to discover that insects commonly known as &lsquowalking sticks,&rsquo had evolved from winged to wingless and back again to winged. If is all sounds a bit confusing, don&rsquot be alarmed. Darwinian Theory often sounds ridiculous when the &lsquojust so&rsquo stories get told.
Wisdom Teeth in Humans #5 (See previous)
The Sexual Organs of Dandelions #4
Here is another example of the skewed thinking that permeates all evolutionary writing. The bait and switch tactic is used here again to imply that not using a particular organ, or ability, is change that is supportive of macroevolution. This &lsquouse it or lose it&rsquo scenario sounds a lot like Lamarckism, a debunked theory named for the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744&ndash1829) who postulated that certain traits in an organism (occurring during the life time of that organism) could be passed on to their offspring. Charles Darwin entertained this Lamarckian concept as a possible adjunct to natural selection (Desmond & Moore 1991).
The dandelion has the proper organs, e.g. the stamen and pistil, for sexual reproduction, but opts for asexual reproduction. This is seen as supportive of Darwin&rsquos Theory even though, by Darwinian standards, sexual reproduction is considered superior for the proliferation of the species over asexual reproduction (Fisher 1975).
Dandelions are being held up as the &lsquoposter boy&rsquo for asexual reproduction and evidence of vestigial structures. However, the fact remains that other organisms have this ability using both methods to reproduce, e.g. several species of algae, many protists and fungi, flora, and aphids along with some species of amphibians and reptiles, the hammerhead shark (Eilperin 2007) and the blacktip shark (Chapman et al. 2008).
So does the loss of an ability to reproduce sexually support Darwin&rsquos Theory? When talking about dandelions, it is important to remember that although they evidently choose to reproduce asexually, the stamen and the anther of the dandelion remain intact and fully functional. Dandelions self-pollinate, they do not clone or bud, thereby offering an advantage that mere cloning or budding does not. Given the fact that most evolutionary biologists believe asexual reproduction preceded sexual reproduction, the loss of the ability to reproduce sexually is really evidence of devolution, not evolution (Miller and Levine 2004).
We have also been told that the beautiful flower of the dandelion is a vestigial structure, since the dandelion is no longer reproducing sexually. This is an interesting but flawed argument, because the flowers of the dandelion are not superfluous at all, when one considers the symbiotic relationships that undeniably exist in God's creation. Dandelion leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy in the local health food store. They're higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc by using a tasty, free vegetable that grows on virtually every lawn. The root contains the sugar inulin, plus many medicinal substances. Dandelion root is one of the safest and most popular herbal remedies. The specific name, Taraxacum officinale, implies that it's used medicinally. The decoction is a traditional tonic that is supposed to strengthen the entire body, especially the liver and gallbladder, where it promotes the flow of bile, reduces inflammation of the bile duct, and helps get rid of gall stones. It is good for chronic hepatitis, reduces liver swelling and jaundice, and helps indigestion caused by insufficient bile. Don't use it with irritable stomach or bowel, or if you have an acute inflammation (Morrow 1994).
Fake Sex in Virgin Whiptail Lizards (Vestigial Behavior) #3
Coming in as number 3, is a species of lizard designated genus Cnemidophorus. The females of this particular species do not need the males, because they reproduce by parthenogenesis. Parthenogenesis is a form of reproduction in which an unfertilized egg develops into a new individual. Despite the fact that it is unnecessary and futile to attempt copulation with each other, the lizards still like to try, and occasionally one of the females will start to act like a male by attempting to copulate with another female. Evolutionists say these lizards evolved from a sexual species and the behavior to copulate like a male &ndash to engage in fake sex &ndash is a vestigial behavior that is, a behavior present in a species, but expressed in an imperfect form, which in this case is useless (Miller 2009).
The Whiptails are not the only parthenogenic organisms on the planet. This form of asexual reproduction is also found in some fishes, several varieties of insects, and a few species of frogs and lizards. The largest lizard known to exhibit this form of reproduction is the female Komodo dragon. Unlike the whiptails, Komodo dragons continue to be able to reproduce sexually. Unlike their smaller cousins &ndash the Whiptails &ndash who always produce female offspring, Komodo dragons that reproduce asexually only produce males.
Unlike our evolutionary counterparts, we do not see everything through the lens of Darwinian spectacles. Evolution assumes in the case of the Whiptail lizard, that the ability to reproduce asexually via parthenogenesis is the result of evolutionary change. This is an assumption that is not consistent throughout Darwinian Theory.
The standard view is that the oldest life forms are cyanobacteria that have a photosynthetic capability, survive and thrive in anaerobic conditions, and allegedly arose in the aquatic primordial soup of primitive Earth approximately 3.5 billion years ago. I like to call this &ldquothe original &lsquojust so&rsquo story of evolution. Cyanobacteria belong to a relatively new category of organisms called Archaea (Jarrell et al. 1999) and are commonly referred to as blue-green algae.
Under normal circumstances, blue-green algae reproduce asexually, thrive without oxygen, and can endure extreme temperatures in aquatic environments. These are some of the reasons they are considered the most primitive form of bacteria on the planet. Included in this category are the thermophiles that thrive in conditions considered primordial by today&rsquos standards. The dirty little secret is that microorganisms &ndash including some species of blue-green algae &ndash reproduce both sexually and asexually, but when it comes to evolutionary theory, the details don&rsquot seem to matter that much.
The writer of our top ten focuses on the fact that female Whiptails still occasionally act like males attempting a sexual union with other females. Creationists would theorize that Whiptails were created to reproduce both ways and eventually, through natural selection, they completely switched over to asexual reproduction. That does not mean that instinctual behaviors intended to allow these creatures to &ldquobe fruitful and multiply&rdquo would completely disappear, hence the occasional female acting like a male and attempting sexual reproduction with another female. So, yes, in this case we do seem to have a &ldquovestigial&rdquo behavior if we define &ldquovestige&rdquo purely to mean a &ldquoleftover&rdquo or trace evidence of something that once existed, but it is certainly not a leftover of any evolutionary process. Rather, it is a behavior that signifies a useful trait that once existed in a more fully-endowed population, and has been lost forever in the degenerated form of the whiptail that survives today.
Intelligent Design theorists would say much the same, noting that both forms of reproduction are intended to propagate the species in question. Although it is considered more beneficial for the health of a species to reproduce sexually, e.g. twice the genetic information, less inbreeding, etc., some creatures have not benefited as much from sexual reproduction. For example, parthenogenesis is forced on some species of wasps when they become infected with bacteria, as in the genus Wolbachia (Nair 2007).
With all the details of the evolution of microorganisms aside, the trace memories of sexual reproduction among a now (but not always) asexually reproducing species of lizard, hardly confirm this practice as evidence of upward change, e.g. Darwinian evolution.
Male Breast Tissue and Nipples #2
Here our top ten list becomes almost comical. Our writer states that both men and women have nipples, because in early stages of fetal development an unborn child is effectively sexless. It is true of all neonates that nipples are present in both males and females, and it is only in a later stage of fetal development that the more overt signs of sex differentiation are evident in the fetus. All mammals, male and female, have mammary glands. Our top ten list compiler notes, if male nipples are truly vestigial they may perform a small role in sexual stimulation and a small number of men have been able to lactate. However, he claims they are not fully functional and, because cancer can grow in male or female breast tissue, the tissue can be dangerous (Miller 2009).
The initial statement concerns the pathway that decides the sexual identity of a fetus. The author of the top ten list seems willfully ignorant when he implies that the sex of a child is determined solely by hormonal secretions. Not one mention of the genetic factors involved in sex determination is offered or even alluded to. The fact that some male breast tissue has been known to lactate indicates that these anatomical features still function as originally designed. Sexual stimulation, for some reason, is not really a sufficient function according to our evolutionary friends.
Dr. Jonathan Safarti asks: what is the evolutionist&rsquos explanation for male nipples? Did males evolve (or devolve) from females? Or did ancestral males suckle the young? No evolutionist would propose either of these options. He concludes that male nipples are neither evidence for evolution nor evidence against creation (Safarti 2008).
Remembering that both men and women are made in God&rsquos image, should give us some insight into why some features are common to both the genders. However, we must remember that evolution leaves no room for an Intelligent Designer, much less an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God.
The Human Appendix # 1
There it was! The number one allegedly vestigial organ in our top ten list: the human appendix. Yet this was the organ that is being demoted off the list of so-called vestigial organs and appeared in the Live Science.com article that suggested it was not really vestigial at all (Choi 2009). As we noted in the opening paragraph of this article, Live Science reported:
&ldquoMaybe it's time to correct the textbooks,&rdquo said researcher William Parker, an immunologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. &ldquoMany biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a 'vestigial organ.&rdquo
Our top ten promoter opines, in plant-eating vertebrates, the appendix is much larger and its main function is to help digest a largely herbivorous diet. The human appendix is a small pouch attached to the large intestine where it joins the small intestine and does not directly assist digestion. Biologists believe it is a vestigial organ, left behind from a plant-eating ancestor. Then Mr. Miller states in a monumental example of bogus reasoning, in 2000 there were nearly 300,000 appendectomies performed in the United States, and 371 deaths from appendicitis. Any secondary function that the appendix might perform certainly is not missed in those who had it removed before it might have ruptured.
Aside from the attempt to prove an organ vestigial, because it might become infected and result in death, not all the scientists agree with this view. As we noted earlier, Dr. David Menton has a Ph.D. in cell biology from Brown University. Dr. Menton has had a long and distinguished career teaching medical students anatomy and physiology. Dr. Menton provides the following information on the allegedly vestigial organ called the appendix.
The appendix, like the once "vestigial" tonsils and adenoids, is a lymphoid organ (part of the body's immune system) which makes antibodies against infections in the digestive system. Believing it to be a useless evolutionary &ldquoleft over,&rdquo many surgeons once removed even the healthy appendix whenever they were in the abdominal cavity. Today, removal of a healthy appendix under most circumstances would be considered medical malpractice (Menton 1994).
So, the list of vestigial organs continues to shrink. The more we discover about our great God and Savior, Messiah Jesus, the more we stand in awe of His creative abilities. The more true science looks at the universe, the more evidence piles up in support of special creation. Today we are seeing the cracks in the foundation supporting Darwinian Evolution. One by one the pillars are giving way to true science and the warning of the Apostle Paul to his son in the faith, Timothy, becomes all the more timely:
O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith. Grace be with thee. Amen. I Tim. 6:19-20 KJV
Steven Rowitt, Th.M., Ph.D.
Chief Technical Advisor
Creation Studies Institute
Bergman, Jerry (1998). Are wisdom teeth (third molars) vestiges of human evolution? J. Creation 12(3):297-304.
Bergman, Jerry (2000). Do any vestigial organs exist in humans? Answers in Genesis. Technical Journal 14(2):95-98.
Chapman, D. D., B. Firchau, and M. S. Shivji (2008). Parthenogenesis in a large-bodied requiem shark, the blacktip Carcharhinus limbatus. Journal of Fish Biology 73(6): 1473. See report in Science Daily: "Virgin birth" By shark confirmed: Second case ever. Retrieved September 1, 2009 at the New World Encyclopedia. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Asexual reproduction.
Choi, Charles (2009). Appendix may be useful organ after all. Live Science. Originally Accessed September 1, 2009 at http://news.aol.com/health/article/researchers-say-
Darwin, Charles (1890). The Descent of Man and Selection in Sex. 2nd Edition. London: John Murray, Ablemarle Street. 1890. p. 32.
Desmond, A. , Moore, J. (1991). Darwin Penguin Books p.617 "Darwin was loathe to let go of the notion that a well-used and strengthened organ could be inherited."
Eilperin, J. 2007. Female sharks can reproduce alone, researchers find. Washington Post May 23, 2007, p. A02. Retrieved September 1, 2008.
Fisher, Ronald A. The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1930. Quoted by Michelle J. Solensky in the Evolution of Sexual Reproduction
Accessed September 1, 2009 at http://www.biologyreference.com/Se-T/Sexual-Reproduction-Evolution-of.html.
Gugliottam, Guy (2003). Use it or lose it, evolutionary theory in dispute. The Washington Post. January 17, 2003. First accessed at http://www.theage.com.au/articles /2003
/01/16/1042520723454.html on September 12, 2009.
Jarrell, Ken F., Bayley, Douglas P., Correia, Jason D., Thomas, and Nikhil A. (1999).
Recent excitement about the Archaea.(Archaebacteria). Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan., Publisher. BioScience, July 1, 1999. First accessed on September 15, 2009
at http://www. encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-55294941.html.
Menton, David (1994). The human tail and other tales of evolution. Originally published in St. Louis MetroVoice, January 1994, Vol. 4, No. 1. Originally accessed at
http://www.gennet.org/facts/metro07.html on August 25, 2009.
Menton, David (1994). Ibid. This version accessed September 8, 2009 at http://www.jesus-is-lord.com/evoltail.txt.
Menton, David (2000). The plantaris and the question of vestigial muscles. Answering the critics. CEN Technical Journal 14(2) 2000.
Miller, Brandon (2009). Top Ten Useless Limbs (and other Vestigial Organs). Live Science. at http://www.livescience.com/animals/top10_vestigial_organs.html on August 25, 2009.
Miller, Brandon (2009). Ibid. Whale evolution.
Miller, Brandon (2009). Ibid. Erector Pili and body hair.
Miller, Brandon (2009). Ibid. Fake sex in virgin Whiptail lizards.
Miller, Brandon (2009). Ibid. Male breast tissue and nipples.
Miller, Kenneth, R., Levine, Joseph (2004). Biology. Glossary, Pearson Education, Inc. publishing as Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ. p.1104.
Miller, Kenneth, R., Levine, Joseph (2004). Ibid. Similarities in embryology. p. 385.
Miller, Kenneth, R., Levine, Joseph (2004). Ibid. Evolution of protists. p. 498.
Morrow, William (1994). Identifying and Harvesting Edible Plants in Wild (and Not-So-Wild) Places. Harper Collins Publishers, New York.
Nair, Jayakumaran A. (2007). Principles of Biotechnology. Cell growth and development. Laxmi Publications, LTD., Publisher. New Delhi, India. p. 351
Safarti, Jonathan (2008). By Design: Evidence for Nature’s Intelligent Designer – the God of the Bible. Creation Book Publishers. Powder Springs, GA. p 204.
Safarti, Jonathan (2008). Ibid. Flightless birds. Ibid. p. 205-206.
Safarti, Jonathan (2008). Ibid. Flightless birds. Ibid. p. 206.
Safarti, Jonathan (2008). Ibid. Why do males have nipples? p. 206.
Safarti, Jonathan (1999). Refuting Evolution. Whale evolution. Master Books. Brisbane,
Australia. p 77. Footnote - J, Bergman and G. Howe. “Vestigial Organs” are Fully Functional, Creation Science Society Monograph No. 14.
Schraer, William D., Stoltze, Herbert J. (1999). Biology. Evidence of evolution. Prentice Hall Pub. Upper Saddle River, NJ. p. 583.
Werner, Carl (2007). Evolution: The Grand Experiment. The fossil record of whales. New Leaf Press. Green Forest, AR. p. 134.
Werner, Carl (2007). Ibid. Originally retrieved from Science News on Line on September 29, 2006 at http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_ml1200/is_19_156/ai_57828404. On page 3 of the on-line article, Dr. Monastersky quotes Dr. Norhiro Okada, a Biologist and Professor at the Tokyo Institute of Technology: “I am one hundred percent confident with the conclusion that most the most closely related species to whales, among extant mammals, is the hippo.”
Wiedersheim, R (1985). The Structure of Man: An Index to His Past History. 2nd Edition. Translated by H. and M. Bernard. London: Macmillan and Co. 1985. Originally
Wiedersheim postulated 86 vestigial structures in 1983 but expanded it to no less than 180 vestiges in later publications.
Wieland, Carl (1997). Beetle bloopers: even a defect can be an advantage sometimes. Creation 19(3):30.
Wieland, Carl (1998). The strange tale of the leg on the whale. Creation Ministries International
Rupturing a Myth: The Human Appendix Is Not Vestigial
The functions of most claimed vestigial (useless) organs have been empirically documented decades ago, many over a century ago. Nonetheless, the claim that some organs are vestigial is still being made by many evolutionists. The human vermiform appendix is probably the best known example of a supposedly functionless or even allegedly useless organ. A humorous claim made by some is that its main function is to help the surgeon purchase a new Mercedes! This vestigial organ argument was first discussed in some detail by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species in a chapter section titled Rudimentary Organs. The term rudimentary means that these organs are atrophied relics of what they once were in our supposed animal ancestors. Darwin spent several paragraphs defending his idea that they are not only atrophied, but useless. His list of vestigial organs included examples from both plants and animals.
One of the earliest to tout the appendix as proof of evolution was Germany’s most eminent evolutionist, Ernst Haeckel, who declared that rudimentary organs, including specifically the “vermiform appendage,” are “the most obvious proof of the Theory of Descent, and secondarily, … they most forcibly refute the customary theological” explanation (i.e., creation). He added, “the existence of rudimentary organs admits of no other explanation” including the “ancient fable of the all-wise plan accordingly to which the ‘Creator’s hand has ordained all things with wisdom and understanding.’” The creation “fable,” Haeckel assures us, has now been “completely disproved.” Soon the atheistic evolution of Haeckel spread to theists. Henry Drummond was one of the first theistic evolutionists to have claimed that the human appendix was a vestigial organ.
Ideas on the Evolution of the Appendix
Evolutionists have entertained several hypotheses regarding the continuing existence of the appendix in the human body. One idea claims it is a leftover from a leaf-eating ancestor. Another is that it is an evolutionary remnant of the cecum (one end of the large intestine where the appendix is located). Another idea is it was once used by now-extinct human evolutionary predecessors to help digest certain food types. Darwin taught that all rudimentary organs, “far from presenting a strange difficulty, as they assuredly do for the ordinary doctrine of creation, might even have been anticipated, and can be accounted for, by the laws of inheritance” via evolution.
One of the most detailed early discussions of the appendix is in the book The Structure of Man: An Index to His Past History by Robert Wiedersheim. He used the term ‘vermiform process’ instead of appendix, noting considerable variation exists in this organ, and furthermore, he claimed it becomes corrupted with age. Wiedersheim did not label it vestigial, or claim it had no function. Instead, he did not mention a function.
Darwin’s doctrine about rudimentary organs soon spread, eventually becoming conventional wisdom in leading textbooks, such as Huntington’s The Anatomy of the Human Peritoneum.  His doctrine is also widely found in popular publications, even in the Encyclopedia Britannica, which claimed that humans have over 100 vestigial organs including the appendix. The same claim is repeated in Britannica online.
As far back as 1934, Clark correctly recognized that the rich blood supply in the appendix would prove it to be functional. As late as 2012, one popular science website wrote about the appendix that the
human body has a few unneeded parts. We no longer rely on these organs or structures for any serious function, or they have atrophied or degenerated to the point that they don’t serve the function they used to.
Claims Debunked a Century Ago Still Haunt Scientific and Popular Literature
Although experimental evidence of the appendix’s function dates back to the middle 1950s, an article in Live Science by Charles Q. Choi (2021) does not appear to be aware of that fact. Choi admits that this “organ may not be a useless artifact of evolution after all” and notices that the myth of the vestigial appendix is still around after almost 90 years, but only now is being called problematic. Choi begins by implying that it is useless, stating it is a “small pouch attached to your large intestine, at the junction of the small intestine, [that] no longer aids in digestion, and none of the 1 in 20 people who have one removed seems to miss it.”
Of course, many very useful organs can be removed without problems, including tonsils, adenoids, the vomeranasal organ, the spleen, and wisdom teeth. Some people are born with only one kidney and sometimes do not discover that fact until later in life. Less than 1 in 100,000 people are born without an appendix, and appendicitis affects only about 1 in 20 people. This appendicitis level may be due to improved sanitation in our industrialized society, leaving our immune systems with insufficient exposure needed to fine-tune the immune system, opening it up to malfunctions.
The human appendix shown in more detail. From Gray’s Anatomy (public domain)
More Revelations Appear about Its Importance
Choi admits that “the human appendix might be useful, serving as an important storehouse for beneficial bacteria, which can’t wait for a case of diarrhea so they can rush to the gut and save you.”
In another article, Choi wrote that the appendix “served as a vital safehouse where good bacteria could lie in wait until they were needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty case of diarrhea. Past studies had also found the appendix can help make, direct and train white blood cells.”
Note: In his book Foresight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose, Dr. Marcos Eberlin expands on this example, arguing that a system that could repopulate the gut with beneficial bacteria after a “power wash” of diarrhea shows a plan and purpose beforehand. Hear him explain this at the ID the Future podcast. —Ed.
Thus Darwin’s claim is proven wrong. Choi halfway admits it. He calls it a speculation, recounting how Darwin thought
the appendix was a vestigial organ from ancestors that ate leaves, potentially helping them digest food. As these ancestors evolved to rely on a fruit-based diet that was easier to digest, Darwin speculated the appendix no longer served a function, much like the small triangular coccyx bone at the base of the human spine, a remnant of tail bones found in our distant ancestors.
Darwin and Haeckel used these supposed vestiges of anatomy in humans and other animals as powerful evidence in support of evolution. Choi now says that if “Darwin knew then what scientists know now about the appendix, he would have never suggested it was a worthless vestige of evolution.”
Additional evidence supports the functional importance of the appendix and, simultaneously, causes problems for evolutionary theory. In 2007, Bollinger et al. wrote that
the appendix has been around in mammalian evolution for at least 80 million years, much longer than expected if the appendix really was a vestige, they reported in 2009 in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. Moreover, they also discovered the appendix evolved independently at least 32 times among mammals, in species as diverse as orangutans, wombats, platypuses, beavers, koalas, porcupines and manatees.
Of note is the “architecture of the human appendix is unique among mammals, and few mammals other than humans [mostly those noted above] have an appendix at all.”
The Appendix: Now Known to be Critical for Health
As noted, one major evidence of its function includes the fact that the appendix serves as a reservoir for useful gut bacteria. The gut microbiota serves to help the body digest food and manufacture certain required supplements. This finding is important because “When diseases flush both good and bad microbes from the gut, good bacteria can emerge from the safe harbor of the appendix to help restore the gut to a healthy state.” Furthermore, “the appendix possesses a high concentration of lymphoid tissue. This tissue generates white blood cells known as lymphocytes that help mount immune system responses to invading germs, suggesting the appendix may help make, direct and train these immune cells.”
Evidence of this immune function included a study that evaluated species lacking an appendix, finding no commonalities in diet, social ability, or where they lived. Conversely, in species with an appendix, they found that it contained a concentration of immune tissue, thus a common function. The researchers concluded that if the appendix suddenly vanished “you’d see a lot more people dying of infectious diseases than they would otherwise … Then, over a long time, over millions of years, … something would slowly evolve that worked the same as an appendix.” Furthermore, if our
appendix disappeared in a modern society after the Industrial Revolution, people would have antibiotics to help them survive … However, without an appendix, people would not have the appendix’s reservoir of helpful bacteria to help them recover from harmful infections. When that happens, we may need to give people fecal transplants.
Fecal transplanting is a new therapy for people suffering from certain gastrointestinal infections. It works like the appendix by repopulating the gut. It involves transplanting the proper mix of good bacteria
from healthy people into the guts of patients with intestinal problems, via a tube or capsule placed down one’s throat or up one’s bottom. The idea is that the transplant will bring healthy bacteria into guts overrun by harmful microbes. Bodies overrun with harmful microbes may become more common as antibiotics get overused and germs evolve resistance against these drugs. Fecal transplants don’t encourage antibiotic resistance.
The evidence that the appendix is not functionless but serves at least five important roles in the body is now overwhelming. As explained in my book Useless Organs, the issue is, “how long will it be before the biology and evolutionary textbooks reflect that fact not only for the appendix but for other vestigial organ claims?” In my experience teaching anatomy at the college level for over 20 years and reviewing dozens of anatomy textbooks, not a single human anatomy textbook made the claim that humans have vestigial organs. This is not true of textbooks in general biology, nor in evolution—most of which still include the vestigial organ claim.
My supposition is that the vestigial organ argument is too useful for Darwinians to give up. They might modify it a bit in light of the growing evidence for function in these organs. Instead of claiming these organs have no function as Darwin did, they might present the idea that they have less function today than they did in our evolutionary ancestors. This accommodation has its own problems. It could be used to claim that humans have vestigial hearing, smell and sight compared to many of our evolutionary ancestors. Where would that line of reasoning stop?
The researchers quoted in the Choi paper concluded relative to the appendix that “a world without an appendix might leave humanity struggling with germs more often. The idea that the appendix is an organ whose time has passed may have itself become a notion whose time is over.” Its time has been over now for many decades, but the vestigial organ claim is still used to defend the Darwinian worldview.
1] Bergman, Jerry, Useless Organs: The Rise and Fall of the Once Major Argument for Evolution, Bartlett Publishing, Tulsa, OK, 2019.
 Chapter 13 in Darwin, Charles, The Origin of Species, John Murray, London, UK, 1859, pp. 450-460.
 Haeckel, Ernst, The Evolution of Man, D. Appleton, New York, NY, 1879, pp. 109-111.
 Drummond, Henry. The Ascent of Man. James Pott, New York. 1903. p. 95.
 Wiedersheim, Robert. The Structure of Man: An Index to His Past History Macmillan, New York, NY, 1895.
 Huntington, George S., The Anatomy of the Human Peritoneum, Lea Brothers, Philadelphia, PA, 1902, p. 237.
 Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 14, 2003, p. 1082.
 Clark, Wilfrid Le Gros, Early Forerunners of Man, Tindall and Cox, Baillière, London, UK, 1934, p. 205.
 Choi, Charles Q., The Appendix: Useful and in Fact Promising. https://www.livescience.com/10571-appendix-fact-promising.html, 24 August 2009.
 See Bollinger, R. Randal et al., Biofilms in the large bowel suggest an apparent function of the human vermiform appendix, Journal of Theoretical Biology 249(4):826-831, 2007, p. 826.
 See Bollinger, R. Randal et al., 2007.
 Bergman, Jerry, Useless Organs: The Rise and Fall of the Once Major Argument for Evolution, Bartlett Publishing, Tulsa, OK, 2019.
Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.
The proposed adaptive function is no silver bullet
First, the good news. Given the facts, the Bollinger hypothesis is plausible. In fact, from my reading of the literature concerning the possible functions of the appendix, their hypothesis, though imperfect, seems by far the most likely for an adaptive hypothesis specifically. All the other currently favored adaptive hypotheses for the function of the appendix are also immunological. But these others are problematic for two big reasons: (1) the evidence for functionality is wholly based on animal models, like rabbits and mice, whose “appendixes” are not homologous with the human appendix, and (2) they propose a function that is evidently also served by the rest of the cecum/colon. In other words, the function proposed is something that the appendix might do, but the function is not specific to the appendix per se. In contrast, this new Bollinger et al. adaptive hypothesis is the best going because, unlike the others, it is based on human physiological data and because it proposes a reasonable function specifically for the appendix as a distinct structure from the rest of the gut.
However, adaptive explanations are not the only possible explanations. Other plausible, non-adaptive explanations for the appendix exist, and there are some significant problems and questions here for any adaptive explanation that purports to explain the continued existence of the human appendix.
For example, without modern medicine, the mortality rate due to appendicitis would be between 3-10%. This is extremely strong selection against having an appendix. If selection is the only thing at play in maintaining the appendix, then, all else equal, the proposed function must have an even greater positive selection pressure to compensate. But it is hard to see how a “protected safe haven” of bacteria could be so beneficial. Presumably, during an infection that clears the bowel of bacteria, some small fraction of bacteria would be left. Is that fraction really so small compared to the amount in the appendix, the interior volume of which has been compared to the size of a matchstick? The proposed function would also be most effective when intestinal illnesses like dysentery or cholera are frequent. Was this the case for Holocene hunter-gatherer societies, which likely wouldn’t have the water-contamination problems characteristic of modern epidemics? Not just humans, but all hominoid apes have a vermiform appendix (that’s gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, chimps, and humans)—and so the proposed function presumably existed during the last 20 million years of ape evolution. Are severe diarrheal illnesses common in apes?
Ultimately, in order to firmly establish empirical evidence for an adaptive function for some structure, evolutionary biologists stipulate that several necessary requirements must be met:
- Phenotypic variability: If there is no variation in a given structure, then selection has nothing to choose from.
- Heritability: There can be strong selection for a trait, but if the trait is not inherited, it won’t increase in frequency in subsequent generations (at least not due to selection).
- Differential fitness (like mortality) based on phenotype: If all the variants of a structure have the same impact on fitness (e.g., none of them help or hinder, relatively, their bearers in reproductive terms), then there is no selection. And finally,
- Non-random change in frequency: It’s possible that the first necessary three requirements are fulfilled, yet the structure still doesn’t evolve in a non-random, selection-driven manner (the classic example is in small populations, where genetic drift dominates and can override selection).
So what is the relevant evidence regarding the appendix?
- How much variation is there in the size of the appendix? Quite a bit. Typically, the human appendix ranges anywhere between 2-7 inches in length, but it is not uncommon to find one under an inch or nearly a foot long. There are many documented, though rare, cases of congenitally absent appendix, where a person is born completely lacking one. So far so good.
- Are variations in the structure of the appendix heritable? Though it is reasonable to think so (typical heritabilities for morphological traits are around 1/2), to my knowledge nobody has ever looked at this specifically.
- Is there differential survival among people who lack an appendix versus those who have one? For example, are people who lack an appendix more likely to die from intestinal illnesses? One way to look at this would be to study whether individuals who’ve had appendectomies recover less often from, say, amoebic dysentery or cholera. Nobody has done this analysis yet, and in fact this would be particularly hard to test. Even if a correlation was found between appendectomy and mortality due to dysentery, this wouldn’t establish that lacking an appendix was the problem. It’s likely that people who are susceptible to appendicitis are generally more susceptible to intestinal problems overall. Ideally we’d want to look at people who had healthy appendixes removed incidentally, which would mostly eliminate possible artifactual correlations between appendicitis and mortality.
- Finally, do we see evolution in appendix size after a selection event? For instance, after an epidemic of cholera, are fewer people in the population born without appendixes, or does the average length/volume of the appendix increase? Nobody knows.
Again, there are other plausible, yet non-adaptive, explanations for the appendix too. The appendix may simply be a detrimental product of historical contingency, similar to other things like crammed wisdom teeth, birth canals narrower than a baby’s head, slipped discs, tail bones, and prostate trouble. Developmental constraints can prevent the complete elimination of a structure—perhaps the mutation that would finally dispose of the appendix is correlated with development of the rest of the gut, and would eliminate the colon too. Perhaps we’re stuck in a local minimum of sorts, unable to get to the global minimum. For example, some researchers have proposed that the appendix would decrease in size, eventually being eliminated, were it not for the fact that small appendixes are more prone to appendicitis (they get blocked and infected easier)—so there is antagonistic negative selection that prevents complete elimination.
All of the above considerations underscore just how difficult it is to establish a true adaptation, how high the evolutionary bar is set for empirical demonstration of function, and how outrageous it is when we see headlines like “Appendix protects good germs” or “Scientist’s [sic] find appendix’s job”.
Theology in Biology Class: Vestigial Structures as Evidence for Evolution
I was recently reading over the Louisiana science standards, adopted this past March. Those standards include the Louisiana Science Education Act. They contain a provision asking students to “Analyze and interpret scientific information that common ancestry and biological evolution are supported by multiple lines of empirical evidence.”
Emphasis is on a conceptual understanding of the role each line of evidence (e.g., similarities in DNA sequences, order of appearance of structure during embryological development, cladograms, homologous and vestigial structures, fossil records) demonstrates as related to common ancestry and biological evolution. [Emphasis added.]
Of course, we have talked about public school evolution instruction issues before at Evolution News, but I would like to highlight the issue of vestigial structures.
Arguments for vestigial organs, as presented by Darwin, are metaphysical in nature. Biologist Jonathan Wells has made this point, summarizing the literature:
In 1981, Canadian biologist Steven Scadding argued that although he had no objection to Darwinism, “vestigial organs provide no evidence for evolutionary theory.” The primary reason is that “it is difficult, if not impossible, to unambiguously identify organs totally lacking in function.” Scadding cited the human appendix as an organ previously thought to be vestigial but now known to have a function. Another Canadian biologist, Bruce Naylor, countered that an organ with some function can still be considered vestigial. Furthermore, Naylor argued, “perfectly designed organisms necessitated the existence of a creator,” but “organisms are often something less than perfectly designed” and thus better explained by evolution. Scadding replied: “The entire argument of Darwin and others regarding vestigial organs hinges on their uselessness and inutility.” Otherwise, the argument from vestigiality is nothing more than an argument from homology, and “Darwin treated these arguments separately recognizing that they were in fact independent.” Scadding also objected that Naylor’s “less than perfectly designed” argument was “based on a theological assumption about the nature of God, i.e. that he would not create useless structures. Whatever the validity of this theological claim, it certainly cannot be defended as a scientific statement, and thus should be given no place in a scientific discussion of evolution.”
Logically, to prove a negative in this case — an absence, or a decrease, or loss of something like function — is fraught with difficulty. Hence the reliance on theological speculation, which is out of place in science.
Yet the Louisiana science standards ask teachers to wade into this metaphysically laden topic. In fact, science standards in North Dakota and Utah also mention vestigial structures. There may be other states that do the same.
Indeed, coverage of this topic, likely to be misleading to students, is probably even more widespread that I know. One of the nation’s most prominent high school biology textbooks, by Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine, talks about vestigiality. It is in a chapter titled “Darwin’s Theory of Evolution”:
Not all homologous structures have important functions. Vestigial structures are inherited from ancestors but have lost much or all of their original function due to different selection pressures acting on the descendant. For example, the hipbones of the bottlenose dolphin, shown on page 467, are vestigial structures. In their ancestors, hipbones played a role in terrestrial locomotion. However, as the dolphin lineage adapted to life at sea, this function was lost. Why do dolphins and the organisms in Figure 16-15 retain structures with little or no function? One possibility is that the presence of the structure does not affect an organism’s fitness, and, therefore, natural selection does not act to eliminate it.
Biology class is not the place for metaphysics, or theology. This is a problem, and it needs to be fixed.
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How the Appendix got its "Vestigial" Status
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It is one thing for scientists to make mistakes, but Darwin's acolytes are slow to correct them when the naturalism narrative is threatened. Indeed, several icons of evolution have been referenced on this site alone that continue unabated. One of these is the claim that the appendix is "vestigial".
You can read the entire article at "Rupturing a Myth: The Human Appendix Is Not Vestigial". In addition, consider reading "Vestigial Organs Going to the Dogs". The video below has a segment that is about six minutes long, and is supposed to start at the 14 minutes, 39 seconds mark: