The Creation Explanation
|Beliefs and Interpretations of Evidence|
Vestigial, Rudimentary, and Atavistic Structures21
Vestigial organs are structures now supposedly useless or unnecessary which were functional in imagined evolutionary ancestors. In the last century the German anatomist, Wiedersheim, claimed there were 180 such structures in the human body. Since that time, all but a handful of these structures have been proved to be functional. The classic example is the human appendix which allegedly has degenerated from an important organ in our hypothetical plant-eating ancestors to become a non-functional relic in modern humans. In recent years, however, it has been concluded that the appendix, rich in lymphoid tissue, serves to guard the body against infections, particularly in early years, being in this respect comparable to the tonsils and adenoids.
An example of rudimentary organs would be the rudimentary mammary glands is the human male. Charles Darwin made much of this supposed difficulty for believers in creation. One theory proposes that the males among our ancestors were able to nurse their young, but the notion is difficult to defend, for absolutely no supporting evidence exists. In the light of modern knowledge of genetics and embryonic development, the correct explanation is quite obvious and irrefutable. Although the male possesses in his chromosomal complement the genes for the female anatomical structures, the development of the male individual is controlled by the "X" sex chromosome to produce the normal male characters which include the non-functional rudimentary mammary glands. There is no difficulty whatever here for the creation viewpoint. Charles Darwin, having only the extremely limited knowledge of human genetics available in his time, thought he had in male rudimentary mammary glands a truly hard nut for believers in creation to crack. His argument has no merit today although it is still advanced by a few evolutionists who should know better.
Atavistic structures are supposed freak throwbacks to anatomical features possessed by hypothetical evolutionary ancestors. Occasionally a human baby is born with a tail-like appendage and this is said to be evidence that our ancestors had tails. Actually, such rare congenital deformities are usually a type of fatty tumor having no relationship to the tail of a monkey. Furthermore, the human coccyx or tail bone provide essential anchorage points for important muscles. Sadly, superficial knowledge has led to erroneous interpretation and even misrepresentation of the facts.
The most thorough treatment of alleged vestigial organs by Christian professional scientists is the 1990 book by Bergman and Howe, Vestigial Organs Are Fully Functional.22 They consider a large number of such organs, including in humans the coccyx, tonsils and adenoids, vermiform appendix, thymus, the plica semilunaris in the eye, eyebrows and eyelashes, ear muscles, "Darwin's point on the ear, the embryonic yolk sac, the design of the pharynx, goose pimples, body hair, muscle and bone variations, and wisdom teeth. All of these, once dogmatically classified as vestigial, have now been shown to have important, even essential functions in the human body. Supposed vestigial organs in other species which Bergman and Howe discuss are claws or spurs on some snakes, hip bones and leg bones in whales, teeth in fetal whales, and splint bones in horses. These, too, are shown to have important functions. Blindness in cave fish likewise is discussed at length. The authors conclude that the argument from "vestigial organs" fails to provide proof for evolution. They observe that, nevertheless, this traditional evidence of the secularist opponents of the God of creation will continue to be used, for it is grounded in an a priori philosophical preference for a closed materialistic universe. In saying this we should not forget that we Christians also approach this issue with a faith commitment to the God the Creator and to the integrity of His Word, the Bible.
21. Bergman, Jerry, and George Howe, "Vestigial Organs" Are Fully Functional (Creation Research Society Books, Terre Haute, IN 47803).
22. Darlington, Philip J., Zoogeography, the Geographical Distribution of Animals (John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1957); Klotz, John W., ibid.(ref. 19), pp. 205-215; Boardman, William W., Jr., et al., Science and Creation (Creation-Science Research Center, San Diego, 1973), pp. 81-93.