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By Richard Gunther
When I was at primary school I remember the teacher telling me something
about “vestigial organs”. Of course at that age the teaching was very
simple, and no ‘big words’ were used, but the message was clear: “the
flippers on the penguin used to be wings, but now the penguin cannot fly because
it has EVOLVED”. The whole idea of “vestigial” is loaded with evolutionary
thinking, so it is almost impossible to say the word without implying organic
change within species.
But what evidence is there for vestigial organs being a support for
evolution? As a matter of fact, there is none.
To understand where the idea of vestigial organs comes from we have to go
back at least as far as Darwin. At the time when he was inventing his theory (or
writing down and repeating what other people had already invented), he had no
idea how complex the living cell was, or how intricate the genes and DNA were.
He imagined that cells were comparatively simple things, and very malleable –
that is, they could change to suit their environment with almost infinite
A few years before Darwin started to expound his theories, a man called
Gregor Mendel had already completed some experiments with pea plants. By
carefully breeding them, and noting the basic differences between them, he had
come to the correct conclusion that inherited traits never blend. Putting this
another way, he had found that genes carry specific information which may be
lost, but is never merged in with other genetic information.
This is backed up by modern research. Biologists have found that there
are dominant and recessive genes, such as those for blue eyes (recessive) and
brown eyes (dominant). The recessive genes may be submerged for a few
generations, but they can still reappear. We sometimes call this a
‘throwback’, when an animal suddenly shows characteristics of a former
generation many years in the past. In the human population there are genes for
white skin (less melanin) and brown skin (more melanin) and occasionally
brown-skinned parents have a white-skinned child, or vice versa. The different
gents differentiate, but never blend. They are like electrical switches, which
can be either up, or down, but never in the middle.
So Mendel showed scientifically – through observation, deduction and
experiment - that genetic characteristics could be switched on or off, but
never be intermediary, but despite this discovery Darwin theorised that plants
and animals could merge and mix their characteristics to produce an almost
infinite variety of variations. Darwin needed infinite variation to
support his theory so he chose to ignore the implications of Mendel’s
findings. Today, all these years later, and despite the mountains of evidence to
the contrary, one of the favourite pieces of “evidence for evolution” is
still the so-called “vestigial organ” theory. It turns up in modern biology
textbooks, and it is still taught in State schools as if it is true.
The vestigial organ theory goes like this: organs that are believed to
have once been useful during a previous stage of evolutionary development are
now in the process of being selected out by modification. In other words a
changed habit or environment has rendered an organ redundant, and in disuse it
has shrunk away until only a vestige remains. In chapter 13 of ‘Origins’
Darwin describes what he calls rudimentary, atrophied, or aborted organs.
Among the examples he lists are:
rudimentary pistil of some male flowers
teeth in embryonic birds
teeth in whales
tails, ears and eyes in some animals
wings in flightless insects and birds
oil glands in some pigeons
And later, when Darwin wrote ‘The Descent of Man’ he listed a number
of human organs which he thought were rudimentary, such as the muscles of the
ear, wisdom teeth, the appendix, the coccyx (tail bone), body hair, and the
semilunar fold in the corner of the eye.
Having launched his theory, Darwin left it to others to amplify, which
they did, with great enthusiasm. The German anatomist Robert Wiedersheim was
one. In 1895 he published a ‘masterwork’ titled ‘The Structure of Man’
in which he listed 86 human organs which he claimed were vestigial – no longer
useful. He also listed some organs which he said were retrogressive, meaning in
the process of being atrophied. In his
list he included the pineal gland, the pituitary body, the lachrymal glands, the
coccyx, the appendix, the tonsils, the thymus, the thyroid, certain valves of
the veins, bones in the third, fourth and fifth toes and some reproductive
parts. And because Mr. Weidersheim was seen as a world authority, his book has
been quoted in biology textbooks ever since.
Having ‘set the ball rolling’ more and more so-called vestigial
organs and parts were named. In 1977 Villee’s ‘Biology’ claims that there
are more than 180 vestigial organs, though the book itself only names 6 of them.
Other textbooks are more cautious, mentioning that vestigial organs do exist but
not naming any.
Before we move on to some of the ‘vestigial organs’ we ought to pause
for a moment and consider the subject of inheritance.
How does the offspring of each new generation of plants or animals
inherit the information which builds them into a copy of their parents? By DNA
replication. Darwin, on the other hand, thought that if the environment changed,
the life forms would change to adapt with it, without reaching a point where
further change was impossible. Darwin did not know about genes and DNA so his
theory was wrong.
Take the mouse for example. If the tails of mice are cut off, do they
produce offspring without tails? No. If humans circumcise their boys for many
generations (as the Jews have done for thousands of years) does this produce
boys already circumcised at before birth? No. If the Chinese bind the feet of
their girls (as they have done for thousands of years) does this eventually
produce girls with small feet? No. If a certain tribe of Indians bind the heads
of their babies over successive generations (as they have done) does this
produce deformed skulls in the next generation? No.
Because as the environment changes, the offspring which are best suited
to surviving the change will survive, as the genetic pool of possible variation
is sorted, but no change beyond a certain point will ever occur. Genes are like
a bank account, from which plants and animals may make withdrawals. Once the
full amount is withdrawn, no more variation remains. This is why, after
thousands of years, no amount of stretching will give a giraffe a longer neck
than its genes will allow. This is why Persian cats will never have longer fur
than the best example bred. No horse will be larger than a certain size. No
sugar beet will ever have more sugar in it than its maximum – no matter how
many more thousands of years the sugar beet is bred. There is a limit to the
amount of variation which genes can supply, but once that limit is reached,
nothing can alter it.
In other words, the genes are an absolute barrier in the path of
evolutionary theory. Nothing can get past the inherited genes. Nothing can alter
the DNA in such a way as to increase the potential. It is a simple mathematical
statement. From seven characteristics possible, only seven can be extracted.
The following are just a few of the organs which evolutionists have
claimed as evidence for evolution:
The thyroid gland.
claimed to be useless, this is now known to be a vital gland for normal body
growth. If this gland produces too much or too little thyroxine the whole body
is affected (overactivity or underactivity). Deficiency at birth causes
deformity known as cretinism.
The pituitary gland.
organ is now known to ensure proper growth of the skeleton and proper
functioning of the thyroid, adrenal and sex glands. If the pituitary gland
doesn’t work properly gigantism can result.
The tonsils and appendix.
thymus gland, the tonsils and the appendix are all part of the lymphatic tissue
which helps to prevent disease germs from entering the system. Once a child has
built up sufficient resistance to the usual disease germs the importance of the
appendix and tonsils diminishes so they can be removed, but they are very
important at the early stage of life.
named the ‘tail bone’ by the evolution-minded, this small bone at the end of
the spine is now known to have as a point of insertion for several muscles and
The semilunar fold of the eye.
animals and birds have a third eyelid, known as the nictitating membrane. Darwin
claimed that Man has a vestige of this membrane in the inner corner of the eye.
But the fold is actually a portion of the conjunctiva which aids in the
cleansing and lubrication of the eyeball.
The pineal gland.
was once thought to be the remains of a third eye. The exact function of this
gland is not fully known, but tumors of the pineal gland can cause abnormal
Today it is happily agreed by the medical profession that none of
these ‘vestigial’ organs are redundant, or useless. All are important, and
some are incredibly crucial. Many of the so-called vestigial organs in plants
and animals have also now been acknowledged as essential to the health of the
organism. (For example the whale’s so-called vestigial legs are now known to
play some part in its balance). It is only fanciful guesswork to look at some
part of a plant or animal and decide what some imaginary ancestor used that
organ for, and it is dreaming to say that vestigial organs support evolution. If
anything, they indicate de-volution.
As mentioned before, the only way evolution could happen is through the
appearance of new genetic information. For example, in order to grow
wings, a fish would need a huge amount of new information to produce the
muscles, bones, feathers, blood-supply, oil and many other things. All this
information would need to appear complete and intact, giving the fish the
ability to survive its change without suffocating or crashing.
Could this happen very gradually, over millions of years and millions of
generations? As far as biologists can see today, no new DNA or genetic
information is currently appearing in living things. Because it is not happening
now, why should we think that it must have happened in the past? The only trend
which has been observed today is the LOSS of information. Birds which
used to fly, cannot fly now. Fish which used to be sighted, are now blind. Dogs
which used to be big and strong are now bred to be small and weak. The genetic
information in animal and plant populations is being depleted, not increased, so
where is the mechanism for evolution? It does not exist.
On the other hand, no new organs have ever been seen to arise because no
new DNA is ever produced. Mutations have been called in, but they are often or
usually harmful. Another problem with mutations is the way they usually make the
animal or plant less able to survive, and the only really successful
survivors of mutation are those which humans have isolated from the normal
‘wild’ state. If these mutated
forms were left to the way of Nature, they would not be ‘fitter’ or
‘stronger’ and so would soon be eliminated. The genes we find today are the
finite limit to the available information. Genetic information is steadily being
lost, through natural selection and special breeding programs, but never gained.
Even genetic engineering cannot produce new information – all it does it take
existing DNA and transfer it about.
Embryonic vestigial organs.
While one group of Darwin enthusiasts was busy publishing its theories
about vestigial organs, another man was propping the theory up with a deliberate
fraud. His name was Ernst Haekel. In 1866 he proposed what he called a
Biogenetic Law, which, put simply explained that “as an embryo develops, it
goes through the various stages of evolution before it reaches the species it
was meant to be”.
To back up his theory, Mr. Haekel drew a series of embryos from several
different animals, but he drew them from his imagination as well as from actual
embryos. The result was a very graphic display of how different animals looked
very similar as embryos. The truth was quite a different matter.
It is true that a human embryo does have what appears to be gill slits,
but these folds have nothing to do with respiration. They develop into the ear
and jaw areas. The appearance of a ‘tail’ is simply a result of the sequence
of development. Humans have 33 vertebrae, never any more, and at the embryo
stage this line of vertebrae appear like a tail, with the limbs ‘budding’
later. Mr. Haekel drew tails and
gills wherever he thought they ought to be, and ignored what he actually saw in
real embryos. His work has since been totally discredited as a complete fraud.
As Sir Gavin de Beer of the British Natural History Museum wrote, in 1958
“Seldom has an assertion like that of Haekel’s theory . . .done so much harm
to science”. He also called it “facile, tidy, plausible, and widely accepted
without critical examination”.
Why do theories like that of vestigial organs persist?
It cannot be because of good science, because good science has exposed
the theories as unscientific. It cannot be because of evidence because there is
none. It cannot be because of experiment because no experiments have been done
which have proven that evolution is true.
It may be because of faulty reasoning, preconceived ideas, assumptions
and even wishful thinking. In some cases it may be the pay packet, as scientists
are sometimes caught between towing the party line, or losing their job. Pride
also may be involved as what scientists wants to publicly admit he or she was
wrong? The unfortunate side-effect of all this is that the general public
continues to be mislead, and the State schools continue to teach error as fact.
Another reason, and probably the most important, is the spiritual.
Man is at heart a rebel against God, and unwilling to acknowledge the truth. To
accept creation is to also accept accountability to a Creator. Responsibility
and repentance, submission and obedience follow. Evolution provides an imaginary
escape hatch for rebellious humans. They dive down the ‘bolt hole, into the
labyrinth of reasonings and arguments, and they hide underground in the warren
of twisting, turning tunnels, where they feel safe from searching eyes of God.
Scientists are not supermen or superwomen. They are sinners, like all other humans. They do not always think rationally or fairly. They are subject to the same power-plays, personality conflicts and intellectual blind spots as anyone else. They have bias. They presuppose things and they have their own personal philosophies. Scientists can be immoral, corrupt and dishonest, just like the rest of the human race. They need to be saved, and to acknowledge Jesus as Saviour and the Bible as the written Word of God – just like everyone else.
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