Evolution Icon Evolution
Life Sciences Icon Life Sciences
Medicine Icon Medicine

Evolutionary Logic About Functions of the Appendix: Using Darwin to Disprove Darwin Proves Darwin

Almost two years ago, I blogged about how conclusive evidence of function had been discovered for the appendix. Now function has been discovered for the appendix. Again.

A recent news article on Yahoo.com actually frames the issue fairly well:

The body’s appendix has long been thought of as nothing more than a worthless evolutionary artifact, good for nothing save a potentially lethal case of inflammation. Now researchers suggest the appendix is a lot more than a useless remnant. … In a way, the idea that the appendix is an organ whose time has passed has itself become a concept whose time is over.

“Maybe it’s time to correct the textbooks,” said researcher William Parker, an immunologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. “Many biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a ‘vestigial organ.'”

Charles Q. Choi, “The Appendix: Useful and in Fact Promising,” LiveScience on Yahoo News (August 24, 2009)

So what does the appendix do? According to the article, the appendix serves as “a vital safehouse where good bacteria could lie in wait until they were needed to repopulate the gut after a nasty case of diarrhea,” and “make[s], direct[s] and train[s] white blood cells.”

Incidentally, the appendix seems to pose other challenges for evolutionary arguments. As it is found in both marsupial and placental mammals, evolutionists are forced to believe that the same appendix evolved twice, independently, in a striking case of organ-level convergent evolution.

In any case, the story notes that Darwin was the one who advanced the now-rejected idea that the appendix is a useless organ:

No less than Charles Darwin first suggested that the appendix was a vestigial organ from an ancestor that ate leaves, theorizing that it was the evolutionary remains of a larger structure, called a cecum, which once was used by now-extinct predecessors for digesting food.

But following Eugenie Scott’s recent advice, the scientists quoted in the article are careful to not break the third commandment of Darwinism:

“We’re not saying that Darwin’s idea of evolution is wrong – that would be absurd, as we’re using his ideas on evolution to do this work. It’s just that Darwin simply didn’t have the information we have now.”

Another story quotes the scientists similarly exonerating Darwin, stating:

“Darwin simply didn’t have access to the information we have … If Darwin had been aware of the species that have an appendix attached to a large cecum, and if he had known about the widespread nature of the appendix, he probably would not have thought of the appendix as a vestige of evolution.”

Oh, I get it: Using Darwin’s ideas to disprove Darwin’s ideas proves Darwin was right. Makes perfect sense to me.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.