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.
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:
- The little semi-lunar membrane at the corner of the eye.
- The pineal gland in the brain.
- Ear muscles.
- Wisdom teeth (molars).
- The thymus gland in the neck.
- Nipples in the male.
- The appendix.
- The tail-bone (coccyx).
Let’s take these one by one and look at what modern medical science knows about them.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.