Appendix Isn't Useless

on August 29, 2009

PhysOrg: “Evolution of the Appendix: A Biological ‘Remnant’ No More“Creationists will have a field day with this one,” writes one blogger on the news. Bingo.

Those scientists have used evolution-based approaches to show that the appendix isn’t a vestigial by-product of evolution.

Actually, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, even if simply because scientists have known about the appendix’s function for some time now. Creationists—whose research was not clouded by evolutionary presuppositions—had an easier time documenting the appendix’s importance, such as in a paper from 1988. News to Note reported on determinations of the appendix’s function as well, in October 2007 and June 2008. (We touched on the topic two weeks ago when reporting on discoveries of the spleen’s functions.)

The latest news is of further research by some of the same scientists who had previously cast light on the appendix’s function. In a twist, those scientists have used evolution-based approaches to show that the appendix isn’t a vestigial by-product of evolution.

Specifically, the scientists examined existing beliefs about evolutionary relationships to determine that the appendix “has been around for at least 80 million years, much longer than we would estimate if Darwin’s ideas about the appendix were correct.” Those are the words of the study’s senior author William Parker, an assistant professor of surgical sciences at Duke University.

Charles Darwin first suggested that the appendix was an evolutionary dead-end that lingered, unused, in humans. Yet as Parker explained, “We find that more than seventy percent of all primate and rodent groups contain species with an appendix”—contrary to Darwin’s idea that only a few creatures had appendices.

Furthermore, according to the new study, the appendix has evolved “at least twice”—separately in Australian marsupials, rodents, and some primates (and humans). This again counters Darwin’s idea of the appendix as a useless dead-end. And as we’ve pointed out before, such “convergent evolution”—similar organs and anatomical features in otherwise isolated biological groups—makes much more sense as evidence of a common designer.

“Darwin simply didn’t have access to the information we have,” Parker said, adding, “Maybe it’s time to correct the textbooks. Many biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a ‘vestigial organ.’” To that, we can heartily agree. For decades scientists have started understanding the functions of the appendix, functions that should immediately put to rest “vestigial” claims. And while both creationists and evolutionists maintain their explanations for the origin of organs, each biological function discovered adds to the design evolutionists must explain and subtracts from the shrinking list of “vestigial evidence” evolutionists like to tout.

(As for the blogger mentioned above, he defends Darwin on his appendix mistake, writing, “[S]omehow, his theory that animals evolved from common ancestors is stronger and more confirmed than ever,” then he refers to us as “the same brain trust that advocates the laughable idea that all animals—including dinosaurs—were created by their god 6,000 years ago.” So much for substantive discussion.)


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Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ effectively. We focus on providing answers to questions about the Bible—particularly the book of Genesis—regarding key issues such as creation, evolution, science, and the age of the earth.