Useless horse body parts? No way!
Fast-running animals such as horses and camels are very energy-efficient. This is due to elastic tendons that stretch and recoil, enabling the animals to ‘bounce’ along the ground like a pogo stick. These long (60 cm, two ft) tendons spanning several joints are 93% efficient at returning the energy stored in their stretching.
They are connected to very short muscle fibres (less than 6 mm, ¼ inch). The muscles were assumed to be useless remnants of evolution. But recent research1 has shown that these muscles help to damp the strong vibrations generated every time a foot hits the ground. This is essential, because the vibrations would otherwise cause fatigue damage in these tendons, which must be thin enough to stretch effectively.
The muscle and tendon combination is an optimal biomechanical system. If the tendons themselves had to be dampers as well, they would be less effective as springs. Also, the 7% of energy that’s not returned as motion is dissipated as heat, so less-springy tendons would release more heat. With the huge amounts of energy involved in a galloping horse, this extra heat would damage the tendons.
Well-known expert in biomechanics, Dr R. McNeill Alexander, commented that this research ‘makes us wonder whether other vestiges (such as the human appendix) are as useless as they seem.’2
This is a good lesson—it’s impossible to prove that an organ has no function; we may not yet have discovered it. Many evolutionists fail to realize this logical point. This is especially so with muscles, because, as (creationist) anatomy professor Dr David Menton points out, a muscle that is not used will atrophy (waste away), so its very existence proves that it is used for something.3
Alexander is also right to question whether the appendix is vestigial. But he’s a bit behind the times, because the reasons for it being functional (as Scientific American recently admitted4) have long been known, and creationists have pointed this out for years.5,6 We have also noted that the allegedly vestigial splint bones in the horse leg (left) have important functions, e.g. strength, muscle attachments, and forming a protective groove for a vital ligament.7
Finally, it’s important to remember that even a genuine vestigial organ would prove only a loss of genetic information, which the Fall would explain. Particles-to-people evolution requires nascent organs, i.e. a developing organ, the result of populations of organisms gaining new information. Such has, to date, never been observed.
References and notes
- Wilson, A.M. et al., Horses damp the spring in their step, Nature 414(6866):895–899, 20/27 December 2001. Return to text.
- Alexander, R.McN., Damper for bad vibrations, [Comment on Ref. 1], Nature 414(6866):855–857, 20/27 December 2001. Return to text.
- Menton, D., The plantaris and the question of vestigial muscles in man, CEN Tech. J. 14(2):50–53, 2000. Return to text.
- Roberts, N., Does the appendix serve a purpose in any animal? Scientific American 285(5):84, November 2001. Return to text.
- Ham, K. and Wieland, C., Your appendix: it’s there for a reason, Creation 20(1):41–43, 1997. Return to text.
- Glover, W., The Human Vermiform Appendix: a General Surgeon’s Reflections, CEN Tech. J. 3:31–38, 1988. Return to text.
- Sarfati, J., The non-evolution of the horse, Creation 21(3):28–31, 1999. Return to text.