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«Vestigial Organs Over many years of presenting evidence for creation and against evolution the subject of vestigial organs commonly comes up. These ...»

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Vestigial Organs

Over many years of presenting evidence for creation and against evolution the subject of vestigial

organs commonly comes up. These are organs or structures that appear not to have any function and

are claimed by evolutionists to be leftover remnants from an evolutionary ancestor. Because they

appear to be useless they are not only presented as evidence for evolution, but as evidence against

creation, because no intelligent creator would make useless organs.

The idea that humans and animals carry around a lot of remnants of organs we don’t need, but had a function in evolutionary ancestors, goes back to Charles Darwin, who called them “rudiments” and “rudimentary organs”. In fact, the word “vestigial” is now defined in terms of evolution. The Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines the word vestigial as: “(of an organ or part of the body) degenerate, rudimentary, or atrophied, having lost its function in the course of evolution.” This article looks at some of the common examples brought up at Creation Research meetings or written up in the mainstream pro-evolution literature.

Human Vestiges and Rudiments In 1893, a German anatomist named Robert Wiedersheim drew up a list of 86 human organs he considered to be "vestiges", i.e. organs that are "wholly or in part functionless" and have "lost their original physiological significance". (Wiedersheim, R. 1893 The Structure of Man: An Index to His Past History, Second Edition. Translated by H. and M. Bernard. London: Macmillan and Co. 1895) The organs listed by Wiedersheim have since been found to have functions, some essential to life, e.g.

the pituitary gland. Nevertheless, the concept of vestigial organs and functions is held very strongly, and some of the organs named by Wiedersheim, Darwin and others are still presented as evidence of evolution. For example: in 2008 New Scientist magazine published an article entitled “Vestigial Organs: Remnants of evolution” which concludes: “Whether we are talking about useless vestiges or anatomical structures that have taken on a new lease of life, however, it is hard to ignore the evidence that human beings are walking records of their evolutionary past.” (New Scientist, 17 May 2008, pp42-45.) This article was accompanied by a list of “Five things humans no longer need.” They were

three well known ones: the tail bone, goose bumps and wisdom teeth; and two rather obscure ones:

the vomeronasal organ and Darwin’s point. It is interesting they did not include the appendix, because it is commonly believed to be the classic human vestigial organ. Let’s consider human vestigial organs in more detail.

Appendix The appendix is a small blind-ended tubular structure attached to the large intestine close to where it joins the small intestine. It has no digestive function and is commonly assumed to a vestigial organ left behind from a plant-eating an

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Page 1 of 8 © Copyright Creation Research, 2011 Babies are not born with these microbes. Babies develop in a germ-free environment in their mother’s womb so during infancy and childhood the immune system has to learn which microbes can live on the body surfaces and which cannot. Even the good microbes need to be kept in their place and your immune system helps keep them there throughout your life. This means the appendix had a function in the original very good world, and still has this same function. It also means that it does most of its work in the early years of life, and losing it later in life does not affect the overall immune function. There is also plenty of other immune tissue around the intestines to compensate for the loss.

Now that the world is no longer very good, the appendix is prone to disease, because our bodies are not as efficient at keeping microbes in their place.

This makes it no different to any other organ that gets diseased and therefore needs to be removed in order to save someone’s life. The fallen nature of the world has also given the appendix another function. When the large bowel becomes inflamed and its population of good bacteria is lost due to outpouring fluid that is part of the inflammatory response to injury and infection, the appendix acts as a “safe house” for good bacteria, which can then repopulate the large bowel when the inflammation is over. For more information on this function see article in Science Daily, 8 Oct 2007.

In summary: the appendix is a fully functional, but poorly understood organ, with nothing vestigial about it. The message that the appendix is not useless is gradually getting out to the scientific and medical communities, but the appendix still rates highly in the layperson’s list of vestigial organs.

Tailbone (Coccyx) The coccyx is a small triangular bone made of between 3 and 5 segments fused together at the lower end of the vertebral column. It is commonly claimed to be the remnant of a tail left over from distant monkey-like ancestors. In support of this belief are claims that it has been surgically removed with little or no adverse effects, and New Scientist claimed there were “more than 100 medical reports of babies born with tails.” The non-vestigial nature of the coccyx was personally experienced by one of the editors of this article has had the very painful and debilitating experience of tearing the ligaments from the coccyx and wrote: “when that happens - if you were standing (or sitting) – that's where you stayed, as the muscles that helped you sit or stand all gained their ability to move by their attachment to the tail bone, so to call it vestigial and without function – what a painfully false statement.” Bones must never be considered by themselves. There are part of the supportive framework that holds the body together and protects its organs. The coccyx is part of a system of bones and ligaments that act as muscle attachment for the pelvic floor muscles and is only surgically removed if it has been badly damaged and can no longer function as part of the system. The pelvic floor muscles and ligaments help with maintaining upright stance and walking, and support the internal organs of pelvic cavity. The muscles and ligaments need stable anchorage points like the coccyx to carry out their function.

The fact that the coccyx is made of several segments fused together is no indication it used to be a mobile tail. The segmented structure allows it to grow during foetal development and childhood.

We would like to know where New Scientist found “more than 100 medical reports of babies born with tails.” There are documented cases of infants born with “caudal appendages” which are a birth defects caused by an overgrowth of skin and fibrous-fatty tissue near the base of the spine. These are sometimes associated with more serious developmental defects of the spine, or may be part of a tumour called a sacrococcygeal teratoma. Either way they are not functional, or even partially functional, tails with vertebral bones and attached muscles like an animal tail.

Page 2 of 8 © Copyright Creation Research, 2011 Wisdom Teeth These are third molars – large grinding teeth located at the back of the jaw and are the last of the teeth to emerge from the jaw. According to Robert Corruccini of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, problems caused by wisdom teeth not being able to emerge properly because of lack of space in the jaw have increased over the past four centuries as our diet has become softer and more processed. He commented to New Scientist “Not only are impacted wisdom teeth becoming more common, perhaps as many as 35 percent of people have no wisdom teeth at all, suggesting that we may be on an evolutionary trajectory to losing them altogether.” Lack of growth in the jaw and losing teeth may be changes in the human body but they are not evolution. Corruccini’s suggestion about our diet change is closer to the real cause of change that is occurring here. Even if the lack of teeth and the small jaws turn out to be partly caused by genetic mutations, the changes are degeneration, not evolution. Loss or decreased growth of structures is the opposite of evolution.

Goosebumps Goosebumps are the result of hairs which normal lie at an oblique angle to the skin being pulled up by a small muscle called erector pili muscle, which is attached to the base of the hair follicle. This is considered by evolutionists to be a left over from our animal ancestors who raised their thick body hair to keep warm and to appear larger when threatened by another animal. According to this theory human body hair has become vestigial and no longer has any function. Some people consider human body hair to be vestigial.

Human hair and the erector pili muscles are not useless.

Even where it does not have an obvious protective function such as eyebrows or on the top on the head, body hair contributes to our sense of touch. Hair follicles have nerve endings wound around their bases. Whenever a hair is moved the nerve ending is stimulated. The erecter pili muscles anchor the hair follicles in the skin and their contractions help expel secretions from the oil glands that are also part of the hair follicle. The oil is essential in keeping the skin and hair from drying out. Normally these contractions go unnoticed. We only notice them when our autonomic nervous system, which controls them, reacts strongly to stress.

When subject to strong stresses, such as fear or cold, autonomic nervous system reflexes tend to overreact and the hairs stand on end. The fact that we are subject to strong stresses is a reminder that we no longer live in the “very good” world God originally created, but the degenerate world that followed the Fall of Man and God’s judgement on the whole creation, including human bodies.

Vomernasal Organ The vomeranasal organ (VNO) is a sensory organ in animals that detects pheromones – chemical signals that can be smelled by other animals, used in mating and social behaviour. Humans have an apparently similar organ in the nose but it is considered evolutionary remnant because the genes that code for its cell surface receptors are inactive. Neuroscientist Michael Meredith of Florida State University commented to New Scientist: "If you look at the anatomy of the structure, you don't see any cells that look like the sensory cells in other mammalian VNOs” and “You don't see any nerve fibres connecting the organ to the brain."

This evidence simply indicates the organ is non-functional, but that is no evidence it was inherited from a non-human ancestor. It may have had a function in previous generations of human beings. In Page 3 of 8 © Copyright Creation Research, 2011 spite of some creationist claims, there are genuine vestigial organs and this is one of them. However, diminished and defunct organs are not evidence for evolution. In fact, they are good evidence for the Biblical history of the world that tells us the world started out perfect, but has been going downhill ever since the first human beings rebelled against their Creator and the Creator judged them.

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Arm Swinging The rhythmic movement of the arms whilst walking has been considered a vestigial evolutionary leftover from ancestors that walked on all fours. However recent research has shown it has a fully human function. Researchers from the University of Michigan, USA and Delft University of Technology, Netherlands have carried out a study to see the effects of arm swinging on how much energy is used when walking. In a series of experiments human volunteers walked in the natural manner with arms swinging opposite arm to leg, and then in unnatural ways with arms held still by the sides or arms swinging with the same side leg. They found the normal arm swinging saved energy and helped counteract the twisting of the body that occurs as weight shifts from one leg to the other.

Steven Collins, a biomechanical engineer at Delft University of Technology, explained that the experiments “showed that normal arm swinging made walking much easier. Holding the arms at one's sides increased the effort of walking – measured by metabolic rate – by 12 per cent, which is quite a lot of walking, about the same as walking 20 per cent faster or carrying a 10 kg backpack." In their report in the Proceedings of the Royal Society, the researchers wrote: "Although arm swinging is relatively easy to achieve, its effect on energy use during gait is significant. Rather than a facultative relic of the locomotion needs of our quadrupedal ancestors, arm swinging is an integral part of the energy economy of human gait." Steven Collins commented: "This puts to rest the theory that arm swinging is a vestigial relic from our quadrupedal ancestors." Reference: Royal Society This discovery is a good example of how the theory of evolution is a hindrance to science. The research described above occurred in spite of evolutionary theory, not because of it. If you don’t know why something happens the proper scientific approach is to do more research and find out, not write it off as a useless vestige. The results of these experiments confirm the belief that human beings are designed to walk upright, which means that belief in creation is a much better basis for science.

Page 4 of 8 © Copyright Creation Research, 2011 Non-Human Vestiges Although most people are more familiar with human examples of vestigial organs. Other vestigial structures claimed by evolutionists include wings of flightless birds, pelvic bones in whales, eyes in blind cave fish, wingless insects, leg remnants in snakes and superfluous pollen in dandelions. Let’s consider these in more detail.

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Wingless Insects Over the years Creation Research has been asked if wingless beetles and earwigs are examples of genuine vestigial organs, and therefore evidence for evolution.

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