VESTIGIAL ORGANS

 

          Charles Darwin sought by every means possible to establish the theory of evolution. He supported two arguments that were supposed to prove evolution-­nascent organs and vestigial organs. The term, "nascent organs," means organs that are in the process of developing. If we evolved from the lower animals, somewhere along the line there would have to be some organs that were being formed. There would have to be an ear or an eye or a nose that was only partially functional. Those organs would have to start somewhere for them to fully develop. Those organs being born were called "nascent organs." No such organ has been discovered, but they would have had to exist for evolution to take place.

 

          If evolution has occurred, there would also have to be some organs that were no longer useful. Evolutionists call these "vestigial organs." In an excellent article, "Evolution Is Religion-not Science," published in the journal, Reason and Revelation (volume 27, number 11, November 2007), Dr. Michael G. Houts has a section on "Vestigial Organs." Dr. Houts defines the expression, "vestigial organs," as follows: It is a "structure that is remnant of an organism's evolutionary past and has no function." The term is derived from the Latin word vestigium which literally means footprint. Dr. Houts further says: "The idea of vestigial structures was further promoted in 1895 by German anatomist Robert Weidersheim who claimed to have identified 186 vestigial structures in the human body." Weidersheim did not believe the vestigial organs could be explained by special creation. They could only be explained by evolution (p. 85).

 

          Before I examine with you the idea of vestigial organs, I must read to you what the apostle Paul wrote concerning the human body. Paul compares the body of Christ to the human body. The body of Christ is one body but has many members. The same is true of the human body. Paul affirmed concerning the human body: "But now has God set the members every one of them in the body, as it has pleased him.... For God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked" (1 Cor. 12:18,24). The English Standard Version translates verse 24: "God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked."

 

          I must also read this well known passage from the Psalms. King David confesses to God: "Thou hast possessed my reins (or mind or heart): thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knows right well. My substance was not hidden from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" (Psa. 139:13-16). This inspired passage and Darwin's theory of evolution are incompatible. It simply is not possible to harmonize them.

 

          Is it possible that secular humanists and other unbelievers choose to believe in nascent organs and vestigial organs to avoid having to believe in special creation? They would have to sacrifice their commitment to unbelief if they were to admit that God created man in his own image. Incidentally, many scientists and philosophers are being forced to admit that the human body seems to be made for our world. This is called the "anthropic principle." Is it accidental that the world is arranged just for human existence? If our world were just slightly different, human life would be impossible.

 

          Now let us think about some of the structures in the human body that have been identified as "vestigial organs." I can remember, and so can many of you in my audience, when physicians freely removed perfectly healthy appendixes. Did those physicians believe the Darwinian foolishness that the appendix is left over from our animal ancestry? I do not know, but I am convinced that no modern physician would be so foolish as to argue that the appendix is unnecessary and can be removed with no serious thought. We know it can become infected and must be removed. But no informed scientist would call it a "vestigial structure."

 

          Dr. Houts provides some insight into the functions of the appendix. "Recent advances in biology ... have identified numerous functions of the vermiform appendix, especially in early childhood. For example, researchers quoted in New Scientist note the following: 'Although it used to be believed that the appendix had no function and was an evolutionary relic, this is no longer thought to be true. Its greatest importance is the immunological function it provides in the developing embryo, but it continues to function even in the adult’’’.... The same article notes that during fetal development, endocrine (that is, hormone-producing) cells appear in the appendix. "These cells produce peptide hormones that control various biological mechanisms" (pp. 85-86).

 

          In a book with the title, Evolution Handbook (Altamont, TN: Evolution Facts, Inc., 2001), Vance Farrell has provided an enormous amount of information on the theory of evolution. Farrell has one section devoted to the topic, "Vestiges and Recapitulation." The argument based on vestigial organs was one of the so-called "proofs" of evolution that was presented at the famous Scopes Trial. Farrell quotes Horatio Hackett Newman, a zoologist, as stating on the witness stand: "There are, according to Robert Wiedersheim, no less than 180 vestigial structures in the human body, sufficient to make a man a veritable walking museum of antiquities" (p. 718). I know I am safe in saying: In our day, there is not a medical doctor or any other knowledgeable scientist on earth who would agree with Newman's idea. Am I accusing Newman of being dishonest? No, but I am saying he was ignorant of the functions of many organs in the human body. If he were alive today, he would be embarrassed with his unfounded, unreasonable and unscientific observation.

 

          Charles Darwin believed that wisdom teeth were vestigial organs. Robert Weidersheim, a German follower of Darwin, originally listed 80 vestigial organs, such as, "valves in the veins, the pineal gland, the thymus, bones in third, fourth and fifth toes, (lachrymal) tear glands, and certain female organs" (p. 719). Did you know that high school textbooks as recent as the 1960s listed over 200 useless structures in the human body? That list included the thyroid and pituitary glands. Vance Farrell comments: "Today ALL organs formerly classed as vestigial are known to have a function during the life of the organism" (p. 719).

 

          I never heard a physician in my youth classify the tonsils as vestigial organs, but I am sure some of them believed it. Many doctors freely removed the tonsils from people who were having throat trouble. Incidentally, that includes your speaker. From the earliest time I can remember, I had serious throat problems. My doctor in Nashville insisted that I have my tonsils removed. When I was a college freshman, I followed his advice. Since the fall of 1943, I have had almost no throat trouble. But were all tonsils removed for good reasons or because the doctors believed they were unnecessary?

 

          The Designer of our bodies placed the tonsils at the beginning of the alimentary canal to help to prevent infection. Vance Farrell quotes Science News (March 20, 1971) as saying: "Both the tonsils and the appendix are now believed to guard us against Hodgkin's disease" (pp. 720-721). In the late 1980s, Wendell Bird, an Atlanta attorney, published two of the very best books on evolution. The books are entitled The Origin of Species Revisited: The Theories of Evolution and of Abrupt Appearance, volumes 1 and 2 (New York: Philosophical Library, 1987, 1988, 1989). These two books have over a thousand pages and 5,000 footnotes. I believe the books are still available in paperback.

 

          Bird quotes S. R. Scadding, a zoologist of Guelph University in Ontario, Canada, as arguing: "I would suggest that the entire argument that vestigial organs provide evidence for evolution is invalid on two grounds, one practical, the other more theoretical. The practical problem is that of unambiguously identifying vestigial organs, i.e., those that have no function. The analysis of Weidersheim's list of vestigial organs points out the difficulties. As our knowledge has increased the list of vestigial structures has decreased. Weidersheim could list about one hundred in humans; recent authors usually list four or five. Even the current short list of vestigial structures in humans is questionable.... Similarly, for other 'vestigial organs' there is reasonable ground for supposing that they are functional albeit in a minor way... The other major objection to citing vestigial organs as evidence of evolution is a more theoretical one based on the nature of the argument. The 'vestigial organ' argument uses as a premise the assertion that the organ in question has no function. There is no way, however, in which this assertion can be arrived at scientifically.... Since it is not possible to unambiguously identify useless structures, and since the structure of the argument used is not scientifically valid, I conclude that 'vestigial organs' provide no special evidence for the theory of evolution" (volume 1, pp. 197-198).

 

          Evolutionists have also insisted that the coccygeal vertebra (better known as the coccyx) was a vestigial organ. The coccyx is located at the lower end of the vertebra. It has the appearance of a tail at certain stages of development. Evolutionists have argued that the coccyx is left over from the time when we lived in the trees and used the tail for climbing and balancing. Scientists now know how essential the coccyx is to healthy human beings. Without the coccyx, our pelvic organs would collapse. If we did not have a coccyx, we could not walk or sit upright. Darwin did not know that, but modem scientists do. Evolutionists will have to find some other way to try to prove their theory. They cannot sustain the theory by appealing to so-called "vestigial organs."

 

          Webster's Medical Desk Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Inc., Publishers, 1986) provides the following information on the thymus gland. It is a "glandular structure of largely lymphoid tissue that functions in cell-mediated immunity by being the site where T cells develop, that is present in the young of vertebrates typically in the upper anterior chest or at the base of the neck, that arises from epithelium of one or more embryonic branchial clefts, that tend to disappear or become rudimentary in the adult" (p. 717). To summarize this definition in very simple terms: without the thymus gland, the T cells that protect your body from infection could not develop properly (Farrell, p. 721). Vance Farrell quotes these words from The Reader's Digest (November 1966): "For at least 2000 years, doctors have puzzled over the function of the thymus gland. Modem physicians came to regard it, like the appendix, as a useless vestigial organ, which had lost its original purpose, if indeed it ever had one. In the last few years, however ... men have proved that, far from being useless, the thymus is really the master gland that regulates the intricate immune system which protects us from infectious diseases. Recent experiments have led researchers to believe that the appendix, tonsils and adenoids may also figure in the antibody responses" (p. 721).

 

          Some evolutionists also believed that the pineal gland was a holdover from our animal ancestry. This small gland is a cone-shaped structure located in the brain. It secretes critically needed hormones, including, for example, melatonin which inhibits secretion of luteinizing hormone" (Farrell, p. 721). Some evolutionists have also argued that the thyroid gland is a vestigial organ. I know from experience just how vital the thyroid is to our well-being. Several years ago, my family doctor said I was experiencing peripheral neuropathy. My fingers and toes were very sensitive. I had trouble sleeping because just touching the bed sheet made my toes ache. The problem was hypothyroidism, that is, my thyroid gland was not producing enough thyroxin. I now take synthroid-synthetic thyroxin.

 

          Physicians for many years learned that men and women can continue to live even after they had had their thyroid gland removed. They decided on that basis that the thyroid gland was another useless organ. They now know if the thyroid gland produces too much thyroxin, hyperactivity will result. If the thyroid gland produces too little, there will be under-activity in some body organs. If the organ is deficient at birth, a deformity called cretinism will result. The dictionary defines "cretinism" as follows: It is a "congenital abnormal condition marked by stunting and mental deficiency and caused by severe thyroid deficiency" (p. 151).

 

         There is not a physician on earth who has enough sense to practice medicine that would call the thyroid gland "a vestigial organ." The early evolutionists did not know enough about the human body to understand the functions of the thyroid gland. If they had read their Bibles, they would have known that God did not make any mistakes when he created man. The apostle Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians, "God has tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part that lacked" (1 Cor. 12:24). It is arrogance on the part of scientists and of philosophers to claim to know what they do not. They should learn from their blunders.

 

          Scientists at one time had not discovered the functions of the pituitary gland. They argued that it was a vestigial organ. The New Illustrated Medical and Health Encyclopedia (New York: H. S. Stuttman Co., Inc., Publishers, 1970), edited by the late Dr. Morris Fishbein, calls the pituitary gland "the most important gland of the endocrine system." According to the encyclopedia, the endocrine system regulates many important functions of the body. "These include growth, sexual development, defenses against emergencies and disease, and many metabolic processes." "When the pituitary is removed, the adrenal glands degenerate. Degeneration of the adrenals also causes Addison's disease.... Other pituitary substances are associated with the secretion of milk and the activity of the thyroid gland' (volume 14, pp. 1840-1841).

 

          There are other so-called "useless" or "vestigial organs" that were supposed to be remnants of our animal ancestry, such as, human hair, wisdom teeth, ear muscles and certain female organs. The more scientists learned about the human body, the fewer so-called "useless" organs were identified. Scientists should be a little less arrogant in such matters. They should wait until all the evidence is in before they act like deity. I am reminded of Dr. Geoffrey Simmons' great book, What Darwin Didn't Know: A Doctor Dissects the Theory of Evolution (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, Publishers, 2004). The simple truth is: There were many ideas Darwin could not know because certain discoveries had not been made. Had he known about the complexities of the cell, for example, might he have come to a different conclusion regarding man's origin? DNA and other intricacies of the human body have convinced Dr. Antony Flew, one of England's most aggressive atheists, that God exists. Might they have done the same for Charles Darwin and for other evolutionists?

 

          I wonder if any of the evolutionists who believe there are useless organs in their bodies would be willing to have those organs removed. If someone were to suggest that the evolutionists have those organs removed, do you not believe they would be singing a different tune?

 

          When arguments for evolution have been refuted, do evolutionists ever consider repudiating this godless theory? Dr. Simmons at one time was an atheist, but became convinced that the theory could not be scientifically sustained. He has embraced the Bible's teaching on the origin of man. His book is one of the most inspiring books on that topic I have read in many years. As Dr. Simmons makes abundantly clear, it is not possible for any evolutionary theory to explain the marvels of the human body. I shall quote again the words of King David: We are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psa. 139:14).

 

          Is it possible that some evolutionists have decided on some basis other than science to believe and to promote the theory of evolution? Could they be angry with God? Paul told the Roman Christians: "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (Rom. 1:21-22). Later in that same chapter, the apostle provides an explanation why some men reject God. "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient" (Rom. 1:28). We cannot embrace evolution and Christianity.