In the context of the creation/evolution controversy, what does the word ‘appendix’ mean to you? Perhaps you remember having been taught the idea, first mooted by Charles Darwin, that the appendix is evidence of our evolutionary past, a ‘vestigial organ’ that we no longer need?
And thanks to a recent paper published in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol by evolutionary biologist Heather Smith and immunologist William Parker and colleagues,1 the challenge that the appendix presents to the evolutionary paradigm just got a whole lot harder. That’s because the appendix now joins a long list of other features in living things (e.g. the capacity for powered flight) that evolutionists say arose independently not just once (a big enough stretch to credulity on its own) but multiple times.
“Appendix evolved more than 30 times” ran the headline in ScienceNOW,2 which opened its report of the announcement with this paragraph:
“The appendix may not be useless after all. The worm-shaped structure found near the junction of the small and large intestines evolved 32 times among mammals, according to a new study. The finding adds weight to the idea that the appendix helps protect our beneficial gut bacteria when a serious infection strikes.”2
The article went on to explain that in Darwin’s day, the appendix had only been identified in humans “and other great apes”, but during the past decade or so “careful anatomical study of other mammals has revealed that species as diverse as beavers, koalas, and porcupines also have a structure jutting off of their guts in exactly the same place as our appendix—in other words, the feature is much more common among mammals than once thought.”
In this latest research, the team compiled information on the diets of 361 living mammals, including 50 species now listed as having an appendix, and plotted the data on a presumed ‘mammalian evolutionary tree’. As ScienceNow put it, “They found that the 50 species are scattered so widely across the tree that the structure must have evolved independently at least 32 times, and perhaps as many as 38 times.”2
As many as 38 times! Now there’s a big ‘ask’. It certainly impressed some. Here’s the reaction of evolutionary biologist Randolphe Nesse, who was not involved with the study:
“The conclusion that the appendix has appeared 32 times is amazing. I do find their argument for the positive correlation of appendix and cecum sizes to be a convincing refutation of Darwin’s hypothesis.”
However, there was at least one dissenting voice. “I agree with the general assertion that the appendix evolved numerous times in mammals, but I think the exact count is still up for debate,” cautioned Olaf Bininda-Emonds, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. “There is some uncertainty over whether all 50 species considered to have an appendix really do possess one. When just the clear-cut cases are included, the appendix evolved 18 times.”
‘Only’ 18 times? Even granting that the Darwinian mechanism could have achieved the evolution of a structure such as the intestine with an appendix in the first place, to have the same organ evolving in the same way independently one additional time stretches the bounds of credulity.
‘Darwinism is dead—but hail Darwinism anyway!’
Evidently aware of the damage that their findings, and the increasing acknowledgement that the human appendix is not ‘vestigial’ but functional, due to the credibility of Darwin’s words in his Origin of Species, the researchers go out of their way to be generous in their regard for him, even as they dismantle his ideas:
“It thus seems apparent that, had Darwin had access to more data regarding the occurrence of the cecal appendix in mammals, he would not have considered the evolutionary scenario for the appendix described in his seminal work. With this in mind, it seems that the time is ripe to formulate a new hypothesis about the origin of the cecal appendix.”
Hmmm … a new hypothesis? Too bad about the old one!
Telling it like it is
In conclusion, it’s appropriate to consider the ‘unvarnished truth’ of the opening background statement from the researchers in the summary of their paper:
“Although the cecal appendix has been widely viewed as a vestige with no known function or a remnant of a formerly utilized digestive organ, the evolutionary history of this anatomical structure is currently unresolved.”1
Yes indeed—notwithstanding the subsequent inference of the researchers that they’ve made some progress towards addressing this (e.g. that their work shows the appendix evolved multiple times independently), we would go further and say that the so-called ‘evolutionary history’ of the appendix will never be ‘resolved’. That’s because human beings and the creatures that possess an appendix did not ‘evolve’ that anatomical structure, but were created with it, from the very first. Right in line with what the Bible says.
Smith, H., Parker, W., Kotzé, S., and Laurin, M., Multiple independent appearances of the cecal appendix in mammalian evolution and an investigation of related ecological and anatomical factors, Comptes Rendus Palevol (2013), doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2012.12.001; http://ac.els-cdn.com/S1631068312001960/1-s2.0-S1631068312001960-main.pdf?_tid=de14f410-9421-11e2-a79b-00000aacb35d&acdnat=1364088575_fa4baf8a4a7b7380fc85b9029a7137ee. Return to text.
Barras, C., Appendix evolved more than 30 times, ScienceNOW, http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/02/appendix-evolved-more-than-30-ti.html?rss=1; 12 February 2013. Return to text.
Smith, H., Parker, W., Kotzé, S., and Laurin, M., Multiple independent appearances of the cecal appendix in mammalian evolution and an investigation
of related ecological and anatomical factors, Comptes Rendus Palevol (2013), doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2012.12.001;
Barras, C., Appendix evolved more than 30 times, ScienceNOW,
http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/02/appendix-evolved-more-than-30-ti.html?rss=1; 12 February 2013.
It seems apparent to me that had Darwin had access to more data regarding science over all that he would not have considered that evolution of microbe to man a credible theory at all.
David V., Australia, 2 April 2013
Not sure about the accuracy of your statement that "appendicitis is only common in countries where a very highly refined modern diet is eaten. Where people eat a high proportion of vegetables, fruit and unrefined cereals, (in other words, have a high fibre diet), appendicitis is actually very rare".
I spend a lot of time in northern Bangladesh where there is very little meat in the diet (people are too poor) and the local hospital still does a lot of operations to remove the appendix from people with appendicitis. I don't have any data to back that up - just my observation.
This is certainly not a criticism of your article in general, which I agree with strongly. God bless.
Richard L., United Arab Emirates, 2 April 2013
When I was about 10 years old, I heard of and saw examples of maps drawn in medieval times. In the oceans of the world not yet explored were those mapmakers’ sketches of various monsters. The teacher gave the psychological-motivation comment—very probable—that those map-makers didn’t like to admit their ignorance and therefore hated all those blank white spaces on their maps, blanks signaling that ignorance. To avoid acknowledging their ignorance, they had to fill those blanks with something, ergo the drawn imagined monsters.
In other words, people with incomplete knowledge are tempted to insist upon speculation that ‘fills in the blanks’—with their bias directing the form of that speculation.
We see this dynamic in operation here. One hundred plus years ago, evolutionists, rather than humbly acknowledging their ignorance of organ function, instead, from their bias, insisted that many organs were vestigial. Thirty years ago, rather than admit ignorance about the function of the vast majority of the genome that does not code for specific-protein construction, their descendents insisted upon ‘junk DNA’.
Let us be aware of this dynamic, this aspect of spiritual warfare—where ordinarily-careful scientists become sloppy and premature in their insistences. Thank you, CMI, for this illustrative update.
Robert B., United States, 2 April 2013
Wow. CMI is spot on again!!
This finding on the appendix is a continuation of a trend that I'm seeing lately. God seems to be aggressively refuting the skeptics by turning their arguments back upon them; ie, what was previously cited as proof of evolution now "Shrieks Creation"
I'm guessing He plans to leave them without excuse for their unbelief. It's both cool and sobering.
Don D., Canada, 2 April 2013
Thank you for another brilliant article. This is just another in a long list of examples of the blind closing their eyes lest they see the truth and must needs repent. Only 18 separate times? Yeah, right!
There is no excuse, judgement is coming.
James J., Canada, 3 April 2013
"...the evolutionary history of this anatomical structure is currently unresolved."
I think that this statement applies to all anatomical structures.
KEITH B., Australia, 12 April 2013
In the early 50's there were over 4 dozen 'vestigial' organs. Since then SCIENCE, but not evolutionists, have shown that God put each one of them there for His reasons. The outer ear controls face temperature, whilst its whorls direct sound into the ears so the hearer knows from which direction the sound comes. Pancreas and spleen were also 'vestigial', along with the tonsils, which like the appendix have immune system function. When tonsils swell they are being overworked dealing with infective material from elsewhere, such as the sinuses. It's only when they are overwhelmed that they actually get infected. They are a lymph filter preventing the infectious material from spreading into the rest of the head and body. How stupid to cut them out instead of dealing with the cause.
Same applies to appendix. One of their jobs is to trap and otherwise deal with dangerous things in the intestine before it can get into the bowel, Amongst other things, it produces an 'antibiotic', a lubricant to assist free bowel motions, and it breaks down cellulose in the diet to a usable fibre, using organisms it produces.
One statistic touted 30+yrs ago said most cancer sufferers in the upper body had had tonsils out, and those in the lower body were much more common in those who had their appendix out.
Medics finally woke up, so the "harvest' of tonsils and appendix every school holidays is now a thing of the past, Praise God. But there are times they have to come out.
Geoff C. W., Australia, 13 April 2013
The appendix - once the evolutionist's friend; now his enemy. Evolution has appendicitis!
Hardly surprising, given the amount of toxins it has to deal with.
Gennaro C., Australia, 13 April 2013
Vestigial organ evolved "independently" 32 times? Say even 18? For good measure would we take 10? It looks to me that just TWO would mean that the "once by chance spark of life" cannot be repeated twice. Two chances on the same matter spell "design": God's powerful as well as wonderful creative act! Thank you CMI.