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Creation  Volume 10Issue 2 Cover

Creation 10(2):22–24
March 1988

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Body By Design
by Alan L Gillen

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Universe by Design
by Danny Faulkner

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God the Master Designer


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The Image of God


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How Evolution Hurts Science


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Evolution's Achilles' Heels
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Charles Darwin's Religious Views
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Evolution's Fatal Fruit
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Editor’s note: As Creation magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this. For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles and Further Reading below.

Vestigial organs

An idea destructive to medical science and our health

Editor’s note: Since this 1998 article was written, research has uncovered more functions for such things as the appendix. We recommend that readers also check articles under Vestigial organs Q&A.

By Robert H. Franks

vestigial-1
In view of the history of the subject, it would seem wise not to claim any organs as vestigial.

Certain organs of man, as well as of various animals, have long been described as useless ‘leftovers’ (vestiges) of structures which were useful in a former evolutionary stage. However, this evidence is no longer offered with the confidence it once was.

Practically all the so-called ‘vestigial’ organs, especially those in man, have been proved in recent years to have definite uses. They are not vestigial at all.

At one time, evolutionists claimed there were more than 100 such vestigial organs in man. But few are claimed now. Some of these are essential to everyday existence. So what are these so-called ‘vestigial’ organs? Some regarded as vestigial are:

  1. The little semi-lunar membrane at the corner of the eye.
  2. The pineal gland in the brain.
  3. Ear muscles.
  4. Wisdom teeth (molars).
  5. Tonsils.
  6. The thymus gland in the neck.
  7. Nipples in the male.
  8. The appendix.
  9. The tail-bone (coccyx).

Let’s take these one by one and look at what modern medical science knows about them.


Semi-lunar membrane

The plica semilunaris is a little fold of tissue at the inner corner of the eye. Some evolutionists feel that it is a remnant of the third eyelid of a lower form, such as the third eyelid in birds and reptiles. But in man this tissue has several essential functions. If you did not have the tissue for support at that location, the eyeball would sink. This would cause double vision. The tissue not only supports the eyeball, but the tearduct as well. Without this tissue, tears would drain over the cheeks causing a cosmetic problem.

This area also serves to collect foreign matter. When you wake up in the morning, you will often find some white material in the inner corner of your eye. It collects in this fold, the semilunar fold of the eye. It is not true that this fold has no purpose. It was designed. And it does not represent the cleverly designed third eyelid of the bird which prevents the bird’s eyes from drying out during flight.

Pineal gland

The pineal is a small gland situated on the mid-brain. This little organ, the size of a peanut, is said by evolutionists to be derived from the third eye of primitive reptiles. The organ is covered by the skull, so it is certainly no eye. But it does help regulate our biological clocks. This makes it an essential organ. It secretes a specific hormone,melatonin, which influences the activity of a number of glands probably by a direct action on brain centres.

When the interplay of various factors governing the pineal is finally understood, man may be able to adjust his biological rhythm and become nocturnal like an owl for a period of time, or for long-distance international travel.

Frog pineal cells may be similar to the cone cells of the retina and even be photo-receptors, or so-called ‘third eyes’. But pineal cells in man are certainly not eyes. To postulate that the human pineal is therefore a vestige serving no biologic purpose is erroneous. The vestige theory for the pineal is rapidly being refuted.

Ear muscles

Ear muscles are muscles of facial expression. Facial expression in the human being far exceeds that in any other vertebrate. By no means are facial muscles vestigial. Evolutionary reasoning argues that rabbits have large ears and well-developed ear muscles.

Since humans have smaller ear muscles, these must be vestigial. Does this mean that any human who can wiggle his ears is primitive? Ear muscles allow the ears to be moved to gather sound, and thus are a worthwhile mechanism. It is possible that this was more efficient in our (human) ancestors, and that degenerate mutations have caused a partial loss. But this is certainly no demonstration of upward evolution!

Wisdom teeth

Wisdom teeth are often mentioned as vestigial organs. It is true that when they do not erupt, and then become impacted, they cause problems. Infection and pain can ensue. But ingrown toenails also become impacted and cause infection and pain. And toenails certainly are not vestigial! Molars are grinders and necessary for chewing certain foods. It is no more fair to say that molars are non-essential than it is to say that incisors are non-essential.

Tonsils

Tonsils are glands in the throat which function as part of the lymphatic system. They are part of the defence mechanism of the body to resist bacteria and other disease organisms. The evolutionary argument is that since they can be removed with impunity, they must be useless. Actually, if a person were unfortunate enough to be born without tonsils or any other lymphatic tissue, he would be in bad shape. In the case of the tonsils I try not to remove them before the child is two years old. By then, I don’t worry about removing diseased, infected lymphatic glands because the body has many lymphatic glands. The Creator has built in a fail-safe mechanism so that removal of the tonsils does not render a person incapable of resisting disease. Thousands of lymphatic glands remain.

Thymus

Another member of the lymphatic system of the body is the thymus in the neck (not to be confused with the thyroid). It is very prominent in children. In earlier days, perhaps partly due to the influence of evolutionary thinking, the thymus was treated with X-ray in some children with respiratory distress. Sadly, some of these children later in life became leukemic, so we no longer irradiate the thymus in children with respiratory distress.

Since the thymus shrinks, we might conclude that it is not necessary. But that is not the case. A group of physicians reported in 1968 the case of a baby boy born without a thymus. The physicians were able to trace the child’s diarrhoea and continual running nose to lack of the thymus. The month-old boy did not thrive. When his immune mechanism was challenged, he could not respond, because the thymus is involved in the body’s ability to resist invading organisms and reject foreign tissue.

After thymus tissue was transplanted into the baby, the diarrhoea and running nose abruptly ceased. The child responded to irritating chemicals and rejected a skin graft, showing a healthy immune response. He began to thrive. This work gives additional support to current concepts of the essential early function of the human thymus gland.

Nipples

I am sure no one regards nipples in the female as non-essential. Now if I tell you that the human breast does not know whether it is male or female except by responding to male or female hormone, perhaps you can understand the complexity of the situation. In the male treated with female hormone because of prostate cancer, the breasts and nipples enlarge in response to the female hormone.

Many evolutionists reason that since male humans do not suckle the young, male breasts are vestigial. Would this mean that we are descended from some (unknown) mammal in which the male suckled the young? More informed evolutionists actually agree with the creationist that this is an example of sexual homology and has nothing to do with vestigial structures.

Appendix

The appendix is another organ of the lymphatic system, like the tonsils and the thymus gland. The human organ also regulates intestinal immunity to repel germs attacking through the unsterile foods digested. Intestinal immunity also causes rejection of foreign allergenic materials. The appendix is able to sample the bowel contents and form antibodies. It is in a very beautiful location to do this. Of course, like the tonsils it sometimes falls prey to infection and requires removal. Again, God has built in a fail-safe mechanism so that we can get along without the appendix. There are hundreds of lymphatic glands in the mesentery of the intestine (the mesentery is a fold of abdominal tissue keeping the intestines in place).

The evolutionist compares the rabbit appendix, which is a digestive organ, to the human appendix, then states that since the human appendix does not function like that in the rabbit, then ours is vestigial! That is not good science.

Coccyx

The coccyx is also called the tail-bone. If you were designing the vertebral column, would you have it end in a circle, a square, or a triangle? God chose to end it with a triangular bone called the coccyx. Attached to the coccyx are the pubococcygeal muscles important for child-birth, intercourse and bladder control. Would the evolutionist like to be devoid of this important structure?

Important nerves and blood vessels course nearby. Individuals who injure the tail-bone may develop a painful condition called coccydynia. Removal of the coccyx seems to be a poor operation. I counsel my patients with tail-bone pain to resist removal of the coccyx if ever suggested.

Conclusion

In view of the history of this subject, it would seem wise not to claim any organs at all as vestigial. The ignorance of scientists about the specific functions of such structures does not prove they have none. It is more than likely that further study will, as in the past, reveal specific functions for the remaining supposedly useless organs.

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Readers’ comments
Guy G., United States, 14 December 2014

As a practicing dentist of 34 years, I'll take issue with the statement of molars being "grinders" I studied under Robert Lee DDS, a creationist who studied occlusion (how the teeth fit and chew) from a design standpoint. God designed us as vertical chewers. 3d molars are valuable from a standpoint that they are the most efficient teeth in the mouth because of their location closest to the TMJ--think of the physics of a nutcracker. The only reason we extract them is because genetic entropy has caused us to often not have enough physical room for them--and this is a good reason to remove them. But humans were designed to chew vertically, more like cats. Horizontal, grind-like chewing is actually pathological, and it causes excessive wear.

Paula S., United States, 14 December 2014

The standard evolutionist response this argument (which I must have heard a dozen times, including from university professors) is to say that the functions of these organs have merely changed from what they used to be, and that 'vestigial' has never meant 'useless'. This to me is a rather amazing example of ad hoc speculation from people who supposedly have such reverence for science, not to mention blatant dishonesty as there are plenty of examples to be found in which the word 'vestigial' was clearly used to describe a 'useless' organ. The vestigial organ conundrum also serves as an answer to those who claim that evolution has predictive power. Evolution certainly didn't predict usefulness for these organs, and has therefore been detrimental to medical science. No wonder many evolutionists must resort to ridicule and derision, when their arguments rest on continuously shifting sands!

Errol B., Australia, 14 December 2014

Wouldn’t it be reasonable to predict that evolution works by creating new genes, organs & function that enables survival advantage over rival alleles and therefore losing functions would be the opposite, i.e. devolving? Even if there were vestigial organs, wouldn’t that mean the evolutionary train is going in the wrong direction, i.e. loss of function or gene, not a new gain? Jerry Coyne argues that the survival disadvantages outweigh the advantages of the human appendix but as CMI pointed out during recent correspondence, appendicitis is generally a problem in low roughage diets & virtually non-existent in tribal diets. Perhaps anything & everything is a prediction of evolution.

This reminds me of an interview I saw where Craig Venter was suggesting in his book ‘Life at the Speed of Light’, that we might improve the Human race by deleting the ‘junk’ DNA from the human genome. I couldn’t believe my ears but perhaps I miss heard. If Venter did make this claim it might be a good time to publish some predictions of the consequences of such a naive project. I, even as a non-scientist, would predict at least medium to long term disaster in the GM humans. Certainly not X-Men.

V. P., United States, 13 December 2014

One winter, I slipped on the ice and tore my meniscus in my knee. My knee blew up like a water balloon and was extremely painful. I chose not to have this surgically repaired. Instead, I wound an ace bandage around it very tightly and tried to avoid putting too much pressure on it.

It took a few months, but my body's systems kicked in and it healed. Now, I can't recall even which knee it was.

Thank you.

Steven T., United States, 13 December 2014

Charles Darwin argued that vestigial organs (though he used the term "rudimentary") could lose their most important or conspicuous function, while remaining perfectly functional in other respects. Robert Wiedersheim, who compiled the longest list of vestigial structures in humans, even allowed that such a structure could gain new functions, and still count as vestigial (so that, e.g. not only could an ostrich wing be viewed as a vestigial wing -- it might still have various functions, but it clearly does not enable the ostrich to fly -- but even a sea gull's wing could be viewed as a vestigial grasping forelimb). "Vestigial" is not and never properly has been a synonym for "useless."

Vestigiality is an extreme case of "parahomology" -- when structures bear a detailed similarity, beyond any similarity needed for similarity of function, to one another while performing very different functions (e.g. a human arm, a whale flipper, and a bat wing). In the case of vestigial structures, their most obvious function, a function they exhibit in similar species, is absent (even if, as noted, other functions remain). The point is its systematic resemblance in details to structures whose primary function it does not share, even if it shares other functions of those structures.

The semilunar fold has functions -- but it surely is not a nictating membrane. The teeth and hind limb buds that form in embryonic baleen whales and are resorbed may do something -- but they don't bite into food or help the whale walk or swim. The coccyx, for its part, has a detailed similarity to the bones of mammals with tails, which is not necessary for its function and hence is not explicable in terms of common design for common function.

Don Batten responds

This is an example of the historical revisionism that Dr Jerry Bergman discussed in his article Do any vestigial organs exist in humans?

You claim that Darwin had a more flexible view of vestigial organs (rudimentary organs, he called them) to justify your revisionist definition that vestigial does not necessarily mean functionless. However, in Darwin’s Origin pp. 401-2 (PDF of Origin of Species)

He writes, summarizing his argument on "rudimentary" organs:

"I have now given the leading facts with respect to rudimentary organs. In reflecting on them, every one must be struck with astonishment: for the same reasoning power which tells us plainly that most parts and organs are exquisitely adapted for certain purposes, tells us with equal plainness that these rudimentary or atrophied organs, are imperfect and useless. In works on natural history rudimentary organs are generally said to have been created ‘for the sake of symmetry,’ or in order ‘to complete the scheme of nature;’ but this seems to me no explanation, merely a restatement of the fact. Would it be thought sufficient to say that because planets revolve in elliptic courses round the sun, satellites follow the same course round the planets, for the sake of symmetry, and to complete the scheme of nature? An eminent physiologist accounts for the presence of rudimentary organs, by supposing that they serve to excrete matter in excess, or injurious to the system; but can we suppose that the minute papilla, which often represents the pistil in male flowers, and which is formed merely of cellular tissue, can thus act? Can we suppose that the formation of rudimentary teeth which are subsequently absorbed, can be of any service to the rapidly growing embryonic calf by the excretion of precious phosphate of lime?"

Note: “these rudimentary or atrophied organs, are imperfect and useless”. Darwin invented the classical idea of vestigial organs (although he did not use the word 'vestigial'), that they are leftovers of evolution and now useless. Note also that Darwin cites the creationists of the day as arguing from the basis of no known function/functionless organs. They argue either that the organ is needed "for the sake of symmetry" or they try to imagine some yet unknown function. All this shows that Darwin was arguing that these organs were useless leftovers of evolution.

Furthermore, later he discusses a possible change of function, p. 403:

"Any change in function, which can be effected by insensibly small steps, is within the power of natural selection; so that an organ rendered, during changed habits of life, useless or injurious for one purpose, might easily be modified and used for another purpose."

Note: Darwin’s idea that an organ can become useless and then acquire some other function is not the argument from vestigial organs for evolution that Darwin enunciated before this section of the book.

You also offer Wiedersheim as evidence for your revisionism. However, Wiedersheim claimed that there were over 180 rudimentary organs in the human body, of which 86 were vestigial (The Structure of Man: an Index to his Past History; translated by H. and M. Bernard, Macmillan, London, 1895) See: The non-evoluton of the horse. So Wiedersheim distinguished between rudimentary and vestigial, where vestigial meant useless.

Hence, evidence that organs, which on the basis of evolutionary speculation were deemed useless, actually have a function does indeed contradict this false evolutionary notion.

Thus the rest of your argument unravels. I urge readers to check the 'further reading' for other articles, or search creation.com for more information on the organs that Mr Thompson mentions.

The argument from homology (similarity) for evolution is fraught with huge problems for the evolutionist. They even invented the word 'homoplasy' to describe the many similarities that cannot be explained by common ancestry (aka evolution). See Homology made simple.

Take the old classic example of a vestigial organ, the human appendix, which has been used on many a hapless student for the purpose of evolutionary indoctrination. Like other evolutionary arguments, modern scientific discoveries seriously undermine the argument. Moreover, it is not just that the appendix has known functions, but that its pattern of occurrence does not fit any story of common ancestry, so evolutionists even propose that it evolved separately 18 times! See Appendix shrieks creation!

Ryan B., United States, 13 December 2014

Hi CMI, this is a very informing article, however i got a question about the human meniscus, obviously the meniscus has a important funtion, however the meniscus has little to no blood supply to it which prevents it from being healed on its own thus requiring surgery. Perhaps im missing something but why would God design the meniscus to be like that? also can this be argued it a way to be vestigial?

Don Batten responds

"... obviously the meniscus has an important function". Clearly that is so. The ones in the knee spread the load and reduce friction in the joints.

That a torn meniscus tends not to self-repair in an adult has nothing to do with it being vestigial (a relic of human evolution). Someone might claim that it is 'poor design' but in a young, healthy (including not overweight) person who does not abuse their knees by subjecting them to trauma through sport (for example), injuries are quite rare. Arguing that it is 'poor design' would be like arguing that a photographic camera designed for operation in air was poorly designed because it failed when taken underwater.

Cynthia Lauren T., Australia, 12 December 2014

Thank you, Mr. Franks, for your clear and concise and truth-filled information.

When my son ruptured his appendix (at 12 years of age) I was relieved when I heard that it was 'merely a vestigial organ...but, then, with further research, I learned that since our family doctor had me pump him with fluoridated kid's vitamins, that this necessary organ just freaked out from the stress of over-use.

I still pray for him, daily and he's now a healthy 29 years of age. But, here's the glorious testimony of 'how he was saved', when he developed a secondary infection as a result of the rupture. I pray it blesses you.

Within days of the emergency operation, he developed an infection which was the size of a large grapefruit within his abdominal wall.

I was told by the attending physicians that they were going to place 3 little tubes into the infection in the hopes that it would abate. The prognosis was NOT good.

I was a 'young Christian', and as I saw my only child on this earth in this condition, I went to prayer. God led me to 2nd Samuel 16:1. When I read about the 'wine' that Ziba had, I 'knew' it was 'our verse to stand on', yet... I didn't know why. I 'tersely' asked Jesus if He wanted me to go out and get drunk, 'cause that's the way I felt.

He spoke into my heart: "That 'wine' is My Blood, and it will carry you both through this." That was 'enough' for me.

Within 9 to 10 hours, they wheeled him in to 'draw' on his tiny abdomen. The x-ray showed that the same slide '32' from the day before, was now slide '32' which showed NO SIGNS of the huge infection.

Yes. Even though they kept him 3 more days 'just to be certain', you understand. I 'knew' beyond all doubt that God had miraculously healed my son.

I now know there are NO organs which are vestigial.

Don Batten responds

The known functions of the human appendix don't fit with it being stressed from fluoridated vitamin pills, but regardless of what triggered it, it was diseased, and thanks for sharing your experience of your son's healing.

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