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Hey, Cut That Out…On Second Thought, Hold That Scalpel!
by Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

In 1931, German scientist Alfred Wiedersheim listed 180 human organs as being vestigial or rudimentary (Wiedersheim, 1931). Today, that list has been all but demolished—thanks to our advancing knowledge of human physiology. However, it appears that the endless evolutionary quest for a vestigial organ will plague us even into the twenty-first century. In the April 2000 issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery, five authors published a paper titled “The Apical Ligament: Anatomy and Functional Significance.” After studying 20 human cadavers, the authors concluded that the apical ligament [the apical ligament extends from the dens of the second vertebrae to the sphenoid bone on the skull] is best described as a vestigial structure that offers no significant added stability to the craniocervical junction [the area where the skull meets the vertebrae] (Tubbs, et al., 2000). They also noticed that this ligament was absent in 20% of the specimens examined. However, time and future investigations are not on the authors’ side. Consider the following.

As late as 1997, Encyclopaedia Britannica described the appendix in the following manner: “The appendix does not serve any useful purpose as a digestive organ in humans, and it is believed to be gradually disappearing in the human species over evolutionary time” (p. 491). However, the importance of this alleged “vestigial organ” was being discussed in medical textbooks as long ago as 1976. As one scientist admitted: “The appendix is not generally credited with significant function; however, current evidence tends to involve it in the immunologic mechanism” (Bockus, 1976, p. 1135). Current medical textbooks describe the appendix as a “well-developed lymphoid organ” (Moore, 1992, p. 205) whose “mucosa and submucosa…are dominated by lymphoid nodules” and whose “primary function is as an organ of the lymphatic system” (Martini, 1995, p. 916). Even with this knowledge, the appendix still is mentioned in some evolutionary literature as being vestigial. But this reasoning begs the question: If our ancestors used an appendix in some earlier function, from which ancestral stock did it “devolve”? The “old” and “new” world monkeys must be more highly evolved than humans, because they do not possess an appendix—which leaves one to rationalize that monkeys must have evolved from humans!

A review of the medical literature documents one of the last alleged vestigial organs in humans to be the vomeronasal organ (also referred to as Jacobson’s organ), which is found on the nasal septae. In the 1970s, this particular organ was regarded as vestigial, but recently was discovered to be more common than previously reported. A study conducted in 1998 found that physicians, using routine nasal examinations, identified the vomeronasal organ in only 16% of the people examined. Yet when nasal endoscopes were employed in the same procedure, the figure jumped to 76% (Gaafar, et al., 1998). Additionally there is now impressive evidence substantiating the fact that this organ has a specific sensory function in humans (Gaafar, et al., 1998; Berliner, et al., 1996).

Vestigial structures are those structures in man and animals that evolutionists claim to be degenerate, and thus useless. We are told that these structures, while of no value to present-day animals, were at one time useful to their evolutionary predecessors. These structures are said to be “leftovers” that eventually will be lost completely through evolutionary processes of selection. The following table contains just a few examples of alleged vestigial organs that still can be found in some modern biology textbooks.

Alleged Vestigial Organs in Man



Coccyx (tail bone)

Nictitating membrane of eye



Little toe

Wisdom teeth

Nipples on males


Nodes on ears (“Darwin’s points”)

Ear muscles (for wiggling)

Pineal gland

Body hair

While space does not permit an examination of each of these, suffice it to say that we now know there are no vestigial organs in the human body. Even many of the so-called vestigial organs in animals (e.g., legs in the python, hip bones in the whale, etc.) are now known to have important functions.

Another point that needs to be considered is this: If man does have 180 vestigial organs (organs that once were functioning), then in the past he would have had more organs than he now has. In the past, he would have been developing the organs that he presently has, plus he would have had the 180 functional vestigial organs. So the farther back we go in time, the more complex the organism becomes (see Wysong, 1976, pp. 398-399). Rather an interesting evolutionary twist, wouldn’t you say?

Those evolutionists who keep up with the scientific literature rarely discuss this issue any longer. Actually, when you consider that there are no evidences of the transitional stages between functioning organs and useless organs, then these so-called useless appendages would prove devolution, not evolution. Evolution is the rise of new, different, and functioning organs, not the wasting away of already-present, complex organs. Creationists ask: “Where are all of these nascent [new—BH] organs? Vestigial organs show degeneration, devolution, not evolution” (Wysong, p. 398).

Evolutionists may continue to promote this line of thinking, but given time and additional research, the true function of each and every organ will become clear. We must understand that without “vestigial organs,” it is much more difficult for evolutionists to claim that all animals are similar, and thus have descended from a common ancestor. As Wysong noted:

Not too long ago man was imputed to have 180 vestiges. Organs like the appendix, tonsils, thymus, pineal gland and thyroid gland were on the list. Today, all former vestigial organs are known to have some function during the life of the individual. If the organ has any function at any time, it cannot be called rudimentary or vestigial.... As man’s knowledge has increased the list of vestigial organs decreased. So what really was vestigial? Was it not man’s rudimentary knowledge of the intricacies of the body? (p. 397).

Dr. Wysong’s point is well made. It turns out that scientists actually used the word “vestigial,” not to mean a “useless” organ, but instead to say, in reality, “we’re ignorant of what this organ’s function is at this point in time.” As our ignorance wanes, so, ironically, does the number of alleged vestigial organs.


Encyclopaedia Britannica (1997), “Vestigial Organs,” (London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.), 1:491.

Berliner, D.L., L. Monti-Bloch, C. Jennings-White, V. Diaz-Sanchez (1996), “The Functionality of the Human Vomeronasal Organ (VNO): Evidence for Steroid Receptors,” Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 58[3]:259-65, June.

Bockus, Henry L. (1976), Gastroenterology (Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders).

Gaafar, H.A., A.A. Tantawy, A.A. Melis, D.M. Hennawy, H.M. Shehata (1998), “The Vomeronasal (Jacobson’s) Organ in Adult Humans: Frequency of Occurrence and Enzymatic Study,” Acta Otolaryngology, 118[3]:409-12.

Martini, Frederic H. (1995), Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall).

Moore, Keith L. (1992), Clinically Oriented Anatomy (Philadelphia, PA: Williams and Wilkins).

Tubbs, R.S., P. Grabb, A. Spooner, W. Wilson, W.J. Oakes (2000), “The Apical Ligament: Anatomy and Functional Significance,” Journal of Neurosurgery, 92[2 Supplement]:197-200, April.

Wiedersheim, Alfred (1931), The Science of Life (New York: Doubleday).

Wysong, R.L. (1976), The Creation-Evolution Controversy (East Lansing, MI: Inquiry Press).

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