This article is from
Creation 28(1):56, December 2005

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Not a leg to stand on

By Lael Weinberger

[The following article refers to a picture in Creation magazine which, due to copyright restrictions, we were not permitted to publish on the web. The photo below is of a 5 legged cow.]

What’s that hanging down by the calf’s head?  An extra leg?  Yes, that’s exactly what it is.  A real, genuine, authentic fifth leg. 

Photo by Alon Laudon,Wikipedia.org
A 5 legged cow.

This five-legged calf was born in 1997 on an Iowa farm.  ‘It was really strange when I first saw it,’ owner Tom Furlong said, ‘but it didn’t seem to bother it.’1  In fact, he said, the calf was ‘normal in every way except for the fifth leg’.

Animals with extra legs may be rare, but are certainly not unheard of—from flies to frogs to cows.  Such curiosities result from mutations (mistakes) in the animal’s inherited genes or from defects during development. 

Basically, what hap­pens is that information in the genes is activated twice.  No new information is added; these animals already had the information to make a leg.  A mistake in their genes just made an extra one in the wrong place.  Animals like these are good examples of the limits of mutations and the problems with evolution. 

Nevertheless, enthusiastic evolution promoters have misused examples of animals with extra legs as evidence for how totally new body parts could evolve.2  Their arguments sidetrack the issue from the real question, ‘Was new information created?’ to an irrelevant question, ‘How big was the change?’ 

An extra leg is a big change, but it’s not new information.  And you just can’t get around the issue: it takes new information to change a dinosaur to a bird, or a leg to a wing! 

Also, keep in mind that these extra legs usually don’t help the animal.  Mr Furlong’s calf had its extra leg coming out the back of its neck.  Happily for the calf, the leg didn’t get in the way.1 Many animals find their extra legs a hin­drance.2,3

A five-legged calf may be quite a curiosity, but it has nothing to do with evolution. 

The issues of functionality, and more impor­tantly, of inform­a­tion, are both major problems to evolution.  But they are no problem at all to a biblical view of the world.

Posted on homepage: 5 February 2007

References and notes

  1. Tom Furlong, interview with the  author, 15 December 2004. Return to text
  2. For example, John Rennie in Scientific American, refuted in Sarfati, J., 15 ways to refute materialistic bigotry, <creation.com/sciam#mutations>. Return to text
  3. A five-legged puppy had to have an amputation because his extra leg was in his way, <www.manchesteronline.co.uk/news/s/14/14080_puppy_recovers_after_losing_extra_legs.html>, 13 December 2004. Return to text