Vestigial structures are structures or organs that have been claimed by evolutionists as evolutionary "leftovers", that are no longer functional or have ceased to be used for their "original" function, and this has been used as evidence for evolution, as God would not have created useless structures and organs.
This is not a scientific argument, but a theological argument. Also, the list of supposedly vestigial organs in humans has gone from 180 in 1890 to none in 1999, as functions have been found for such organs.
- "Vestigial structures are entirely consistent with intelligent design, suggesting structures that were initially designed but then lost their function through accident or disuse. Nevertheless, vestigial structures also provide evidence for a limited form of evolution. From both a design-theoretic and an evolutionary perspective, a vestigial structure is one that started out functional but then lost its function. Yet, in the case of evolution, vestigiality explains only the loss of function and not its origination. Vestigiality at best documents a degenerative form of evolution in which preexisting functional structures change and lose their function." -- The Design of Life
Functional "vestigial" organs
Some of the organs previously thought to be vestigial have important functions. Jerry Bergman wrote:
Few examples of vestigial organs in humans are now offered, and the ones that are have been shown by more recent research to be completely functional (and in many cases critically so, see Bergman and Howe)...
One popular book on the human body which discussed vestigial organs stated that next to circumcision‘… tonsillectomy is the most frequently performed piece of surgery. Doctors once thought tonsils were simply useless evolutionary leftovers and took them out thinking that it could do no harm. Today there is considerable evidence that there are more troubles in the upper respiratory tract after tonsil removal than before, and doctors generally agree that simple enlargement of tonsils is hardly an indication for surgery...’
Loss of function does not prove evolution
Scientists have found fossils of a legged snake with “hips” – a specimen that could be the most primitive snake ever unearthed. The find suggests early snakes were not creatures of the sea and has reignited the debate over how snakes evolved.
Sebastián Apesteguía at the Argentine Museum of Natural History and his team found the snake fossil in a terrestrial deposit in the Río Negro province of north Patagonia, Argentina, in 2003. Unlike a handful of legged fossils found in marine deposits and identified as snakes over the past decade, the new fossil, named Najash rionegrina, has a well-defined sacrum supporting a pelvis and functional hind legs outside of its ribcage.
Creation scientists dispute that snakes with legs are evidence for the theory of evolution:
Even assuming it could be established that the ancestor of snakes today had legs, creationists have no problem in principle with loss of features through natural processes. Development of leglessness is not evidence for molecules-to-man evolution, which requires addition of new genetic information. Loss of legs could be achieved through degeneration of the DNA information sequences that specify leg development.
In the view of secular evolutionists, vestigial structures are some of the best evidence in favor of evolution and against intelligent design because the most parsimonious explanation for these structures' existence is that they were once functional in progenitor species, but were rendered useless by evolution. According to Occam's Razor, all other things being equal, the solution that makes the fewest assumptions is the best.
However, this argument ignores the counter argument of the fall, where it is understood that current conditions are not the way God originally designed, and that vestigial structures are, if anything, evidence for devolution, not evolution.
Furthermore, the fact that science has not determined the function of a particular structure does not mean that the structure has no function. Indeed, as stated earlier evolutionists have in the past proposed 180 human organs as being vestigial, but we now know that the vast majority of those organs have since been found to have definite functions, including the tonsils, thymus, and the pineal gland. The tonsils were found to help fight infection, and the thymus and pineal gland were both found to secrete important hormones. In addition, a number of suggestions and claims have been made about the role of the human appendix.
The recent trend among evolutionists is to claim that supposedly vestigial organs, while serving purposes, actually have different functions than what they originally did in our alleged evolutionary ancestors. For example, they point to the human appendix and claim that while it has been proven to serve a purpose now, its original purpose in our ancestors was to help digest plant material. Of course, such arguments are pure conjecture that will never have any sort of evidence to back them up.
- Anon., Snakes with legs? A preliminary reply, 20 March 2000.
- Anon., Scientists may have found appendix’s purpose, MSNBC, 5 October 2007.
- Associated Press, Purpose of appendix believed found, 2007.
- Batten, Don, and Sarfati, John, ‘Vestigial’ Organs: What do they prove? (Creation Ministries International).
- Bergman, Jerry, "Do any vestigial organs exist in humans?", Journal of Creation 14(2):95–98, August 2000. HTML, PDF.
- Darwinism Refuted.com, The Myth of Vestigial Organs.
- Doyle, Shaun, Vestigial arguments: remnants of evolution, 11 June 2008 (Creation Ministries International)
- Glover, Warwick, The human vermiform appendix Journal of Creation 3(1):31–38, April 1988.
- Ham, Ken, and Wieland, Carl, Your appendix ... it’s there for a reason, Creation 20(1):41–42, December 1997.
- New Scientist Oldest snake fossil shows a bit of leg, 19 April 2006
- Wilkinson, Richard, Cutting out a useless vestigial argument, Creation 26(3):51, June 2004.
- Wieland, Carl, and Doyle, Shaun, More musings on our ‘useless’ appendix, May 2008 (Creation Ministries International).
- Zimmer, Carl, How the snake lost its legs: Snakes, researchers once thought, descended from humble burrowing lizards. New evidence suggests a marine pedigree, and a family tree that includes 45-foot reptiles, Discover, July 1997.
- Bergman, 2000
- Doyle, 2008
- Zimmer, 1997
- New Scientist, 2006
- Anon, 2000 (emphasis in original)
- Batten and Sarfati
- Darwinism Refuted.com
- Glover, 1998; Ham and Wieland, 1997; Wilkinson, 2004; Anon., 2007; Wieland and Doyle, 2008, Associated Press, 2007.