Those naughty vestigial bits and other bad engineering

Those naughty vestigial bits and other bad engineering

by Bob Riggins

Human Embryos
…especially very small ones, actually have tails and gill slits. So do all mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, and fish embryos. One would almost think they are related somehow. Thank goodness for modern Creation Science, which has taught us how to ignore, deny, or find some rationalization (anything at all will do) to explain away this and all other evidence of evolution. (Yes, Ernst Haeckel fudged his diagrams of embryos to emphasize the similarities among the youngest ones. But he didn’t make up the tails and gill slits. They’re there. Look closely at some of your favorite fetus photos. Quit writing me about this until you’ve done your homework.)

Unusual Babies
…with such birth anomalies as being born with a tail, or covered with fur. Tails (abnormally extended coccyges ) are more common than most people realize, since they are, of course, surgically removed immediately, and often the child himself is never told. For furry people, refer to the famous Mexican family, several of whom are circus performers.

These would, of course, be some of the “throwbacks” which creationists assert must, of course, occur if evolution is real. But since evolution is, of course, not true, the good creationist, upon being presented the very evidence he demanded, will, of course, not be fazed in the slightest.

Of course.

A small footnote: back in the good old days, when everyone was a literal-creationist, and religion was science (known as the Dark Ages, with good cause), such babies were identified as the spawn of Satan, and killed instantly, along with their mothers, who were, naturally, witches.

Their Own Coccyges
…when examined closely via X-rays or a prepared skeleton, look disturbingly like the vestigial remnants of tails . They certainly serve no purpose nowadays (or very little–the few muscular attachments they still have could easily be re-engineered onto a less vulnerable structure), and if you’ve ever broken yours, you’ve probably wondered why we were Created with such a useless source of potential agony. (Besides, coccyx sounds downright obscene.)

Their Appendixes
Same problem as the coccyx, only it’s even more likely to cause the average creationist great discomfort, and occasionally death. The scientifically literate, when cursed with appendicitis, might bewail the incomplete evolution that has left him with a useless and sometimes dangerous abdominal organ. Perhaps the creationist praises his Creator for blessing him with a “cross to bear.” (Part of the Improving the Gene Pool Project: If you’re a young-Earth creationist, the next time you have an attack of acute appendicitis, or better yet a ruptured appendix, rush with it to the nearest Peter Popoff Healing Crusade. Stay away from those modern “doctors,” who actually think we’re mammals ! And for those folks who have heard that the appendix may serve some role in endocrine or immune functions, in the words of Carl Drews, “Something that explodes and kills people is definitely a mixed blessing, even if it does help somewhat with immune functions.” Folks whose “god-given” appendixes have been removed don’t seem to suffer from their absence, and I’ve never met one who wished he had it back.)

The Cause of Cancer
And who wouldn’t hate that? But I don’t mean the carcinogens that set it off, like tobacco tars, asbestos, or solar ultraviolet; I mean the root cause that makes it possible for things like those to start cancers growing. And that cause turns out to be evolution in action! A cancer starts when a carcinogen, or sometimes just a random accident, causes a mutation in a gene of one cell. That mutation “switches on” genes that are normally “off,” and makes the cell start reproducing wildly, as though it were an embryonic cell, and not a dedicated part of an adult body. A mutation is one unit of evolution. In this case it is harmful, but the ability to mutate is so valuable to DNA–it lets it adapt to new conditions–that that mutability cannot be given up, even if it sometimes produces fatal cancer. It is perhaps significant (it makes evolutionary sense) that cancers in people are very rare until after their peak reproductive years.

The Hair on the Backs of Their Necks
…which stands up at the very thought that their children might actually be exposed to an evil-lutionist at school. When they stop to think why the hair on the backs of their necks should stand up, at that or any terrifying situation, the only explanation that makes sense is that it’s a vestigial reaction inherited from our mammal ancestors. Other mammals’ hair rises in response to “hair-raising experiences” as a defense. It’s a warning sign of aggression, and may make the animal look bigger and fiercer. We’ve apparently given up that signal, maybe in favor of words or other body language. About the only trace left is that creepy feeling about nape of the neck and scalp, which is almost impossible for others to see.
(suggested by Ron Tolle)

Goosebumps
(the bumps, not the books [although many creationists hate those “occult” books, too]) Goosebumps were obviously “created” to erect and “fluff up” the hair or fur on a hairy or furry mammal ancestor, thereby improving its insulation value against the cold. Since most of us nowadays have so little body hair as to render it useless for insulation purposes, goosebumps are another vestigial reaction whose tool (fur) is no longer with us.

A creationary epiphany! : since God wouldn’t create a useless bodily function, goosebumps were originally useful! Adam and Eve had FUR! (For folks who have stockpiled food and weaponry in anticipation of the Coming Race War, an epiphany is a sudden realization of a great truth.)

Wisdom Teeth
Steven Gay reminds us that wisdom teeth are a bit of a problem for modern humans–and any parts of our bodies that serve no purpose, are in the way, or are just more trouble than they’re worth are a bit of a problem for creationists to rationalize. Why would a Master Creator give us more teeth than will fit in our jaws? I don’t think I know anybody who has had all four third molars grow into place with the others and serve as useful chewing teeth. In some people they never erupt. My top two grew out, but having no bottom ones to work against, they were useless for chewing. A great many people simply have to have them removed or suffer severe dental problems–because modern jaws are just too small to accommodate third molars. Wisdom teeth make sense as evolutionary leftovers (probably in the process of evolving away entirely). What sense can creationists make of them (especially if one lives to the biblically promised threescore and ten)? (Thanks to the folks who have written to me to tell me that they have all four functional third molars. All have noted that they and their dentists recognize that they are rare exceptions.)

The Last Little Piggy
…the one who went, “Wee, wee, wee!” all the way home. (For those with deprived childhoods, I’m talking about little toes.) They’re one more body part that is in the way, all too easily injured, and, when you stop to think about it, useless. We don’t use them in walking. In parts of the world where people go barefoot most of the time, little toes missing through accident or disease are quite common, and don’t hinder the person’s mobility at all. Think we need them for balance or something? Our cloven-hoofed fellow mammals get by with two toes on the ground. Horses manage to be mighty fast with just one! Predatory mammals generally put four down. Do we need the extra because we’re bipedal? Ostriches are on their feet all day, and can outrun anybody you know–how many toes do they use? Think about it: other primates have prehensile toes. Kids notice right away that monkeys really have four hands . A fifth digit is pretty useful if you’re scrambling through branches (and secondarily manipulating objects). Our little fingers are truly useful and probably in no danger of disappearing. But we quit climbing in trees with our rear “hands” and they became feet–which explains why they have useless fifth digits. And while we’re at it…

Doggie Toes
What is that thing hanging off the back of your dog’s lower leg? It’s his “dewclaw,” and it’s entirely useless. On some dogs it’s so much in the way that it’s surgically removed. It’s not a result of selective breeding, either. Cats have ’em, wolves have ’em, tigers have ’em. What would it possibly be except a now-useless fifth toe, in the process of disappearing through evolution?

Lower Back Pain
Kate Harrop-Allin asks the perceptive question: Why should this condition afflict such a huge percentage of the adult population (I read somewhere that more working days were lost for this than for almost any other reason) when we were supposedly “created” in our present bipedal form? Other associated problems with our relatively recently-acquired bipedalism (that other animals don’t seem to have much trouble with):extreme difficulty in childbirth, varicose veins, arthritis ……. all of which indicate that we evolved, and quite recently too, from an animal that was predominantly quadrupedal.

Their Own Eyes
…defeat them doubly. First, creationists trot out that old saw about how “nothing as complex as an eye could evolve in stages, since a half-eye is no good at all.” Darwin himself trounced that one roundly by merely observing that there are creatures alive today with eyes in all “stages of development,” from a few light-sensitive cells, to a cup-shaped receptor with no proper lens, to eagle eyes far sharper than ours. Other creatures seem to get along fine with half-eyes and even 1/100 eyes.

Then for the final insult, human (the pinnacle of creation) eyes are clearly an engineering mistake! The retinas are inside out. The nerves and blood vessels come out through the light-sensitive area of the retina, producing a blind spot, then spread over the front of the light-receptor cells, so that light has to get past the fibers into the receptors. Why aren’t the nerves and capillaries behind the receptors, where they would be out of the way and there would be no need for a blind spot? Squid eyes are arranged just that way. Since ours aren’t, one is reminded of the maxim that evolution has to work with the materials at hand, adapting systems already in place, with results that often seem jury-rigged or needlessly complicated. Would an Ultimate Engineer make such an obvious blunder, especially having got it right in creatures created earlier?

Their Own Fingers
The problem is, there are five. That puts us firmly in the mammal “family” (layman’s term). All other mammals have five digits per limb, or the vestigial remains thereof, or we can trace the gradual shrinkage and loss of digits through the fossil record (as with horses). But the principle remains: Mammals have five digits–even when there’s no good reason. Why should whales have the bones of exactly five digits buried in their flippers? Why should bats have wings seeming awkwardly stretched over exactly five fingers? “Similarity of design”? Oh, come on. The “Designer” found more efficient ways of making aquatic fins and wings for other creatures. Same old song: the commonality of five digits among the mammal family makes sense only if we are all descendants of a five-digited ancestor. Some of us mammals have good use for five digits, some have already got rid of a few, and some of us are still stuck with useless ones (like dolphins). Remember, that’s what a family is: descendants of a common ancestor.
-suggested by Kjetil Furnes

Snake Hips and Whale Pelvises
No, I haven’t finally gone around the bend. Although there’s not a trace left on the outside, boas, pythons, and blind snakes all have completely useless vestigial hipbones buried in their bodies. So do whales. Now why would an as-is Creation ex nihilo include creatures with functionless bones that really look like the evolutionary leftovers of lost limbs?

Sandy Petersen adds the following: “Pythons and boas actually have tiny vestigial claws on either side of their cloacas, which are [associated with] their useless hips. So you can pick up any python (I suggest a small one, like my family’s pet ball python), turn it over, and SEE the tiny, useless claws that would never ever be there if snakes had been designed ‘from scratch.'”

Chicken Legs
The lower part of a chicken’s legs are not covered by fur, hair or feathers. What’s there? Scales. Is this a sign of their evolutionary past when they evolved from their reptilian ancestors? I think this solves the chicken or the egg riddle: the egg came first in the form of the chicken’s ancestors.
-verbatim from Jim Lobach

Male Nipples
My grandfather, down on the farm, used to have a quaint expression, usually leveled at some lazy individual: as useless as the tits on a boar. Creationists, think hard and send me a carefully reasoned answer explaining why God would create both boars and men (and all other male mammals) with useless nipples (which can even be dangerous–men can get breast cancer). The simple biological-evolutionary answer is that as embryos we are all structurally female first, including proto-breast tissue. Only later in fetal development do the male hormones kick in and modify the feminine genital structures into the masculine. But we men are left with useless breast tissue and nipples, which never get the hormonal signal at puberty to develop into functioning organs. The whole thing seems a messy and cobbled-up system for producing two sexes. Why in Heaven’s name would a Designer worth His salt come up with so inefficient a system, with useless (and sometimes dangerous) parts left over? (Evidence of our heritage: in some of our more “primitive” relatives, gender is changeable throughout life. Some species of fish and reptiles can switch genders without the help of a Danish surgeon. They just respond to environmental cues.)
-suggested by David Pickering…but hey, I was thinking of it too!

Blind Cave Fish
…and other cave critters that still have vestigial but absolutely useless eyes. Evolution can be that sloppy, but can a perfect Creator?
-Donald Wilson

Their Own Hemoglobin
If hemoglobin were designed by God, it was designed to have far too much affinity for carbon monoxide. This great affinity has resulted in countless deaths.

Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas. This is, if anything, an even nastier bit of “design.” At the very least, carbon monoxide could have been given a smell to help warn us (unless the Designer was constrained by the laws of chemistry–surely no impediment). It remains one of life’s traps for the unwary, with its victims often being infants in poorly ventilated winter homes. Or perhaps it is just one of evolution’s quirks, a chance attraction which natural selection has not eliminated because there is too little selection pressure against it. Evolution can play seemingly malicious tricks (think about it: the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning is such a recent development in our evolutionary history that we have acquired no ability to detect it), but could a Perfect Designer? (suggested by Roger Scott)

Pseudogenes
Pseudogenes (also known as junk DNA) were discovered in 1994. They are remnants of genes that no longer function but continue to be carried along in DNA as excess baggage. Pseudogenes also change through time, as they are passed on from ancestors to descendants, and they offer an especially useful way of reconstructing evolutionary relationships. The more remote the last common ancestor of two organisms, the more dissimilar their pseudogenes will be. When the pseudogenes of a human and a chimpanzee are compared, the differences are relatively few. Slightly more differences are present when comparing the pseudogenes of a human with those of a rodent. Yet more disparity is evident between the pseudogenes of a human and those of, say, wheat. This is compelling evidence for an evolutionary origin of Homo sapiens.
(from Steven Mahoney)

And some cases in point from Kevin Dorner: Pseudogenes. One of the more “evolutionary” sets of pseudogenes I’ve read of are those of the sense of smell. There are about a hundred genes for odour receptors in humans. About seventy of them are pseudogenes (broken), but in other mammals they are all functional, indicating that our sense of smell was no longer as important at some time in our past, so is gradually disappearing. Dolphins also have a complement of odour receptors, but they have all become pseudogenes. As dolphins don’t have noses, this is difficult to reconcile with a sudden creation (without silly, untestable, ad hoc guesses, that is) but makes perfect sense if dolphins evolved from a terrestrial ancestor that returned to the ocean, as other cetaceans did, losing their noses in the process.

Vitamin C
Roger Scott has discovered that God is a dog’s best friend: Humans must have vitamin C in their diets. Without it they will develop scurvy and eventually die from vitamin C deficiency. Apparently we have a pseudogene for producing vitamin C. Dogs, on the other hand, have the real thing. Their copy of the gene actually works, and they do not need vitamin C in their diets. They make it themselves. Roger speculates that this may show how much more God loves dogs than humans. Being omniscient, God knew in advance that sailors on long sea voyages would suffer terribly, but did nothing about it. God made sure that dogs on these voyages would not suffer. Ships’ mutts were looked after, but not the sailors.

The Plantaris Muscle
Dr. Richard Brown of Bristol, UK, submits the following: Ever since I first dissected the plantaris muscle in the human calf as a medical student, I have been a convinced evolutionist. In the monkey it is a useful muscle which causes all the digits to flex at once, and thus is useful in swinging from trees by the feet. In the human it is atrophied, may be absent, and does not even reach the toes, but disappears into the Achilles tendon. There is no sensible reason for its existence in the human, except a common ancestry with monkeys. Try telling that to a creationist, however. In my experience they change the subject!

Shark Reproduction
J. E. Hill has a few questions for the Guy Who created sharks: Some sharks lay eggs, such as the horned shark; some sharks produce eggs which actually hatch inside of them, such as the gray, nurse and whale sharks; some sharks are placental, having live young, such as the great white and hammerhead. This seems so uneconomical for an intelligent designer or grand creator to spend his/her/its time on when one type would have been sufficient. Unless there is another explanation. Additionally, some snakes, such as the rattler, also have live young, while the majority of reptiles lay eggs. How did an intelligent designer determine which would and wouldn’t?

Their Own Eye Teeth
…which they would give for just ONE bit of evidence that would stand up. (From Michael Arndt) Another fact of the human body that cannot be explained without evolution is the size of the root of your upper canine teeth. In monkeys, the canine teeth are much larger than they are in humans, and as such, they require much larger roots to anchor them. In humans the canines are now much smaller, but if you run your finger over your upper gums, you can feel the bump of your unnecessarily large canine root (even through your lip).

Colorblindness
From yet another contributor: The ability to see colors in humans came from our “ape” ancestors. It evolved because a good portion of their diet (and the same goes for our modern cousins), when the fruits, berries, etc. were not in season, was leaves and stalks, etc. The most nutritious of these are the younger or new growth, which is red in a lot of cases instead of green. The ability to tell the difference would be a plus. Colorblindness, especially the difficulty in telling the difference between red and green, is on the rise in humans. With our ability to raise our own food, it is thought that this ability is not so important, and we are losing it. That’s a reasonable evolutionary explanation for the increasing incidence of colorblindness. Can you think of a “creationary” one?

The Human Genome Project
Here’s the shortest version: We have inherited our DNA from earlier species. We share genes with reptiles, fish, insects, worms, and even bacteria. We use the same DNA patterns to do things as other species do. We don’t have any more genes than an ear of corn, and only about twice as many as a fruitfly–and some we have in common with fruitflies. We have lots of useless “junk” DNA that was once useful to some remote ancestor. Bits of it can sometimes be “awakened,” with disastrous results. The scientists that have deciphered the human genome, and those of an ever-increasing number of other species, all agree that there is no other reasonable explanation for the cobbled-up mess of code that builds human beings except an evolutionary accumulation through a chain of ancestors leading back to bacteria.

Sudden Jerks
Not boors that surprise you by ringing your doorbell with a fistfull of Watchtowers, but those sudden jerks that you make when you’re asleep. A reasonable (but not proven) evolutionary hypothesis is that it was a defensive response that developed when we slept in trees. Any slight sense of unbalance would promote an automatic jerk and instant awakening. Sometimes it accidentally goes off even nowadays, even when you’re planted firmly on your Certa Perfect Sleeper. That’s the beauty of evolutionary explanations: there has to be one, and it has to make sense–but you don’t have to commit adamantly to it. A better one may present itself as more evidence is considered. Think of a good “creationary” explanation for those sudden jerks, preferably better than “God made us that way and He moves in mysterious ways.”

Their Prostate Glands
The urethra, essential for urination, runs through the prostate, which is vulnerable to infection. When the prostate becomes infected and swells, it pinches off the flow in the urethra, making urination painfully difficult.
(From Kevin Dorner)

I have compiled a list of “Things Creationists Hate” which might also be of interest.