Appendix shrieks ‘Creation’ (at least 18 times!)
Published: 2 April 2013 (GMT+10)
subsequently revised to appear in Creation 38(2):12–14
In the context of the creation/evolution controversy, what does the word ‘appendix’ mean to you? Perhaps you remember having been taught the idea, first mooted by Charles Darwin, that the appendix is evidence of our evolutionary past, a ‘vestigial organ’ that we no longer need?
How times have changed. Even using evolutionary assumptions, the appendix cannot be a degenerate evolutionary structure. Furthermore, various lines of evidence have pointed increasingly to the appendix playing an important role in the immunological control of organisms in the gut. A functional organ, therefore—working in tandem with the many other functional organs in the body, all of which is consistent with having been creatively designed by the biblical Master Designer (Psalm 139:14, Romans 1:20).
And thanks to a recent paper published in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol by evolutionary biologist Heather Smith and immunologist William Parker and colleagues,1 the challenge that the appendix presents to the evolutionary paradigm just got a whole lot harder. That’s because the appendix now joins a long list of other features in living things (e.g. the capacity for powered flight) that evolutionists say arose independently not just once (a big enough stretch to credulity on its own) but multiple times.
“Appendix evolved more than 30 times” ran the headline in ScienceNOW,2 which opened its report of the announcement with this paragraph:
“The appendix may not be useless after all. The worm-shaped structure found near the junction of the small and large intestines evolved 32 times among mammals, according to a new study. The finding adds weight to the idea that the appendix helps protect our beneficial gut bacteria when a serious infection strikes.”2
The article went on to explain that in Darwin’s day, the appendix had only been identified in humans “and other great apes”, but during the past decade or so “careful anatomical study of other mammals has revealed that species as diverse as beavers, koalas, and porcupines also have a structure jutting off of their guts in exactly the same place as our appendix—in other words, the feature is much more common among mammals than once thought.”
In this latest research, the team compiled information on the diets of 361 living mammals, including 50 species now listed as having an appendix, and plotted the data on a presumed ‘mammalian evolutionary tree’. As ScienceNow put it, “They found that the 50 species are scattered so widely across the tree that the structure must have evolved independently at least 32 times, and perhaps as many as 38 times.”2
As many as 38 times! Now there’s a big ‘ask’. It certainly impressed some. Here’s the reaction of evolutionary biologist Randolphe Nesse, who was not involved with the study:
“The conclusion that the appendix has appeared 32 times is amazing. I do find their argument for the positive correlation of appendix and cecum sizes to be a convincing refutation of Darwin’s hypothesis.”
However, there was at least one dissenting voice. “I agree with the general assertion that the appendix evolved numerous times in mammals, but I think the exact count is still up for debate,” cautioned Olaf Bininda-Emonds, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. “There is some uncertainty over whether all 50 species considered to have an appendix really do possess one. When just the clear-cut cases are included, the appendix evolved 18 times.”
‘Only’ 18 times? Even granting that the Darwinian mechanism could have achieved the evolution of a structure such as the intestine with an appendix in the first place, to have the same organ evolving in the same way independently one additional time stretches the bounds of credulity.
‘Darwinism is dead—but hail Darwinism anyway!’
Evidently aware of the damage that their findings, and the increasing acknowledgement that the human appendix is not ‘vestigial’ but functional, due to the credibility of Darwin’s words in his Origin of Species, the researchers go out of their way to be generous in their regard for him, even as they dismantle his ideas:
“It thus seems apparent that, had Darwin had access to more data regarding the occurrence of the cecal appendix in mammals, he would not have considered the evolutionary scenario for the appendix described in his seminal work. With this in mind, it seems that the time is ripe to formulate a new hypothesis about the origin of the cecal appendix.”
Hmmm … a new hypothesis? Too bad about the old one!
Telling it like it is
In conclusion, it’s appropriate to consider the ‘unvarnished truth’ of the opening background statement from the researchers in the summary of their paper:
“Although the cecal appendix has been widely viewed as a vestige with no known function or a remnant of a formerly utilized digestive organ, the evolutionary history of this anatomical structure is currently unresolved.”1
Yes indeed—notwithstanding the subsequent inference of the researchers that they’ve made some progress towards addressing this (e.g. that their work shows the appendix evolved multiple times independently), we would go further and say that the so-called ‘evolutionary history’ of the appendix will never be ‘resolved’. That’s because human beings and the creatures that possess an appendix did not ‘evolve’ that anatomical structure, but were created with it, from the very first. Right in line with what the Bible says.
- Smith, H., Parker, W., Kotzé, S., and Laurin, M., Multiple independent appearances of the cecal appendix in mammalian evolution and an investigation of related ecological and anatomical factors, Comptes Rendus Palevol (2013), doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2012.12.001; http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1631068312001960/1-s2.0-S1631068312001960-main.pdf?_tid=de14f410-9421-11e2-a79b-00000aacb35d&acdnat=1364088575_fa4baf8a4a7b7380fc85b9029a7137ee. Return to text.
- Barras, C., Appendix evolved more than 30 times, ScienceNOW, http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/02/appendix-evolved-more-than-30-ti.html?rss=1; 12 February 2013. Return to text.