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Appendix (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Appendix (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.


Claim CB360.1:

The human appendix is not really vestigial. It has an immunological function as part of the lymphatic system. Its lymphoid follicles produce antibodies.

Source: Ham, Ken, and Carl Wieland, 1997. Your appendix: It's there for a reason. Creation Ex Nihilo 20(1):41-43. [1]


CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)


1. Vestigial does not mean functionless.

Responding to the claim that 'vestigial' does not mean 'functionless', Jonathan Sarfati wrote[2]:

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1993) defines 'vestigial' as 'degenerate or atrophied, having become functionless in the course of evolution.' The World Book Encyclopedia 2000 says: 'Vestigial organs are the useless remains of organs that were once useful in an evolutionary ancestor' (emphasis added). This was clearly the understanding of evolutionary zoologist Scadding. He pointed out '...vestigial organs provide no evidence for evolutionary theory', precisely because it is impossible in principle to prove that an organ has no function; rather, it could have a function we don’t know about (S.R. Scadding, 'Do vestigial organs provide evidence for evolution? 'Evolutionary Theory 5:173–176, 1981).
Some evolutionists ... now want to re-define 'vestigial' to mean simply 'reduced or altered in function'. Thus even valuable, functioning organs (consistent with design) might now be called 'vestigial'.
The appendix appears as part of the tissues of the digestive system; it is homologous to the end of the mammalian caecum. Since it does not function as part of the digestive system, it is a vestigial part of that system, no matter what other functions it may have.

To suggest that an organ is vestigial simply because it doesn't have the function that an evolutionist would expect it to have is philosophical nonsense, not science.

2. The human appendix may not be functional. Its absence causes no known harmful effects (other than surgical complications from removing it). When it is present, there is a 7 percent lifetime risk of acute appendicitis, which is usually fatal without modern surgical techniques (Hardin 1999).

Just because the removal of something has no apparent harmful effects, doesn't mean it is functionless. A computer server could have its backup system removed with no apparent harmful effects; that is until the hard drives fail and the backup is needed.

And Talk.Origins is apparently unaware that the appendix is known to have a function[3], [4] albeit only in early infancy, which is why removal later in life is not harmful.

3. Co-opting a part for an entirely different function, such as turning part of the intestines into part of the lymphatic system, is entirely compatible with, and even expected from, evolution. However, it argues against design because
a. it rarely occurs with known (human) designs, and
b. it invalidates design arguments, such as irreducible complexity.

There is absolutely no evidence of this kind of 'co-opting'. So Talk.Origins assumes evolution to use the appendix as evidence for evolution; in other words, your theory does not work under my theory, so your theory must be wrong.

Only a few mammals, with no supposed evolutionary relational patterns, have an appendix. [5]

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