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Evolution: Vestigial Organs

There are many areas of research that falsify specific theories on human evolution and support a creation model. Three major areas of discussion are the functionality of ‘vestigial’ organs once thought to be useless which would provide direct evidence of human evolutionary ancestors, the biochemical functions present in the human body that could only have been devised by an Intelligent Designer, and the human fossil record which shows no evolutionary progression of the Homo sapien species.

Much has been said of the human body containing numerous anatomical evidences regarding the evolution of its ancestors. Evolution theory claims that the very fact that organs exist in the human body, which serve no useful function, strongly supports that evolution of the human race has undoubtedly occurred, from the primordial organic soup to the australopithecines through to modern humans alive today. Yet, through modern science in biology, anatomy and biochemistry, useful functions of these ‘vestigial’ organs have been discovered. The term “vestigial organ” is only employed if that organ has no function. If the organ has any function (no matter how insignificant or non-vital it may be), it does not merit the vestigial classification (Bergman & Howe, 1990). In light of high school and university textbooks which continue to purport that vestigial organs still exist, 

“…the evidence supports Howitt who wrote: Wiedersheim… listed 180 [vestigial organs] in the human body. But with the increase of knowledge it has been found that every one of them has an important function. There are, indeed, no vestigial remains in nature” (Bergman & Howe, 1990: 84).

To cite just a few examples of these so-called vestigial organs, which are now known to have useful functions to the human body, the human coccyx, vermiform appendix and human body hair will be discussed briefly.

Selection of identified “vestigial” organs

The human coccyx is located at the end of the vertebral column and is composed of three to five bones, which are fused together. It was once thought to be the remnants of Mankind’s distant evolutionary past, during which his early primate ancestor possessed a tail. However, the belief in its uselessness has been removed by modern scientific discoveries, as there are many coccygeal functions that serve useful purposes for the human body. Jerry Bergman, Ph.D., and George Howe, Ph.D. when citing Allford in 1978, include that,

“The posterior surfaces [of the coccyx] serve as attachments for the gluteus maximus muscle and the sphincter and externus muscles. The gluteus maximus muscle is essential for defecation and labor during childbirth. The sphincter ani externus muscle is needed to keep the anal canal and orifice closed. The interior surfaces of the coccygeal vertebrae also serve as important attachments for muscles that aid in the containment of feces within the rectum… [as well as control of] defecation, and the expulsion of the fetus during labor. For these important reasons, the coccyx can never be classified as a rudimentary or vestigial rudiment of our ancestors” (Bergman & Howe, 1990: 32).

There are many supporting systems available in the human body to which the coccyx contributes. If it is ever removed surgically, one may continue to live fairly comfortably; however, when problems occur with the coccyx, doctors recommend other methods of treatment before suggesting surgical removal as it is a last-ditch attempt for a medical solution. Bergman and Howe put it succinctly, as to why the coccyx has been termed a vestigial organ, when they cite Reno who said, “The coccyx… is merely the terminal portion of the backbone. After all, it [the backbone] does have to have an end!” (Bergman & Howe, 1990: 34).

The cecum in the human body is located on the right side of the lower end of the large intestine. Just above the cecum, the small intestine enters the large intestine. The vermiform appendix connects to the cecum as a small worm-shaped tube (Rhoades & Pflanzer, 1996: 699). The appendix is probably the most well known and often-cited vestigial organ in literature today, even though ‘vestigial’ is not a correct adjective to describe it. The mere fact that its function is, perhaps, unknown does not warrant the conclusion that there is no function for it. This organ is usually removed when it becomes infected, but “it is foolish to claim that an organ is vestigial just because it can be removed from a large sample of people with no apparent ill effects” (Bergman & Howe, 1990: 40-41).

To support the claim that the appendix is vestigial, one would expect to find a decrease in the relative size of the appendix as the evolutionary ladder progresses from the lower species (i.e. rodents) to the more complex species (i.e. humans). However, the appendix is found in many branches of the evolutionary tree and missing in others. For example, humans and four anthropoid apes each have an appendix, but monkeys do not. This result would suggest that monkeys have evolved to a higher state of existence since evolution has acted to remove the appendix from the monkey anatomy. Clearly, that is not the case. There exists a mixture of both omnivorous and carnivorous animals in which the appendix is absent or present (Bergman and Howe). This result indicates that the appendix serves differing functions depending on the species. In some herbivores, the cecum and appendix are larger than in carnivores. It has been suggested that distant ancestors to the human race once possessed the ability to digest cellulose from vegetables, but according to the evolutionary theory and natural selection, “it is not clear…how a highly functional cecum which equipped an ancestral organism to house cellulose-digesting organisms would gradually decrease and all but vanish” (Bergman & Howe, 1990: 43).

The appendix, in fact, has been found to perform many useful functions in the human body. The rich blood supply in the appendix was one major clue as to its importance (Bergman & Howe, 1990: 43). The appendix helps to fight infections after the body undergoes radiation therapy. “After irradiation, the body’s ability to manufacture antibodies is impaired to the extent that infections can sometimes run rampant…When it is undamaged, it [the appendix] can help restore antibody production in the spleen” (Bergman & Howe, 1990:43). Also, Bergman and Howe added that Klotz and Williams (1970)

“commented… that the appendix is rich in lymphoid tissue and proposed that it probably helps protect the human body against infection, especially during the early years of life. Because the appendix is in fact relatively large and conspicuous during embryological development, it is likely to be very important during this stage of life” (Bergman & Howe, 1990:44).

The appendix has been investigated to show that it does in fact offer valuable functionality to the human body. When an individual experiences appendicitis, the majority of times, he/she is past the childbearing years and hence the reproductive rate is not much affected. Therefore, the speed at which the appendix is selected out naturally is drastically slowed, if it is certainly useless. For evolutionary theory to be supported by the gradual loss of the appendix, evidence would need to be present which demonstrates that animals that currently do not have an appendix, did in the distant past and this evidence cannot be found (Bergman & Howe, 1990: 46).

One doesn’t have to be a Creationist to admit “vestigial” organs have value.

National Geographic – Vestigial Organs Not So Useless After All, Studies Find

A human organ of more practical interest is that of body hair. Human hair provides important functionality over the whole body. Human hair is concentrated on top of the head, under the arms and in the genital area. Elsewhere, hair is evenly, yet finely dispersed to cover all surfaces of the human skin except those of the soles of the feet and palms of the hands. This hair was believed to have been vestigial—that the distant ancestors were once completely covered in hair/fur, which served as a protective coating from the cold and harsh elements of the competitive environment. However, this interpretation need not be the case. Bergman and Howe write “the intensification of touch perception… occurs whenever a hair is moved or bent… This is a functional advantage of human hair over the hair on many other mammals… the cluster of nerve fibers at the base of each human hair enables it to serve as a nerve amplifier or nerve extender” (Bergman & Howe, 1990: 65). In cold temperatures, this same hair helps to conserve body heat. Where there is a high concentration of body heat (i.e. 40% lost from the head), there is “coincidentally” a high concentration of hair (i.e. thick hair on the head). “These fine hairs extend the boundary layer (a layer of still air next to any surface…) and reduce the air flow over the skin somewhat” (Bergman & Howe, 1990:65). In contrast to this effect, human hairs serve to cool the body in warmer temperatures. “But man’s small hairs are of even more benefit for body cooling than body heating. Their function here is to hold the body’s perspiration in an even layer, so that it will not just drip off. (The armpits have thick hair because that’s the area of heaviest perspiration.)” (Bergman & Howe, 1990:65-66). Human hair, once thought to be useless, serves many functions to protect the body against extreme temperatures and to protect or enhance the sensory organs such as touch, sight (eyelashes, eyebrows), smell (nostril hairs), and hearing (hair in the ear canal).

These three examples are only a small percentage of the so-called human vestigial organs, of which there were listed 180. The reader is encouraged to research the remaining ‘vestigial’ organs for further insight into the complete functionality and precisely designed human body, as believed by scientists supporting the creation theory model. An organ without an explained function does not prove that the organ is useless, only that a function has not been found. An organ performing any function, be it beneficial to the body or apparently useless, cannot be classified as vestigial and cannot, therefore, be displayed as satisfactory evidence supporting the neo-Darwinian evolutionary model.

Bergman, Jerry; Howe, George. Vestigial Organs are Fully Functional. Kansas City, MO: Creation Research Society Books, 1990.

Rhoades, Rodney; Pflanzer, Richard. Human Physiology 3rd ed. Toronto, ON: Saunders College Publishing, 1996.


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