Vestigial features are those parts of an organism which are thought to be useless or no longer needed. The human tailbone is commonly thought to be such a feature. Vestigial features are taught to be leftover from an organism’s ancestors as it has evolved to a new way of life. The idea of vestigial features has been used as evidence for evolution since 1859 when Darwin first proposed that such features were evidence of descent of one organism from a completely different one. The logical consequence of this alleged transformation is that the “new” creature will be left with some features which are no longer needed in its new environmental niche.
Belief in evolution demands that we believe that each type of animal on earth is a result of descent from some previous life form. If this were the case, almost every creature should have many leftover features which are no longer needed. Yet the more we learn about biology, the more we discover that every part of an organism serves some useful function. For example, the appendix is often said to be a useless leftover part of the human body. We now know that the appendix serves as a type of lymphatic tissue in the first few months of life to fight disease. The appendix is no more a useless feature than one of your lungs is useless just because you can survive with only one lung.
The acceptance of the idea that some parts of the human body are useless evolutionary leftovers led to tragic consequences. Based on the misguided concept that the human colon was a vestige of the past, Sir William Land and dozens of other surgeons stripped the colons from thousands of patients in order to “cure” a variety of symptoms2. Many died. As late as the 1960’s many people routinely had their tonsils removed. This practice was fueled by the mistaken belief that the tonsils were a useless leftover feature from our past. It is now known that they serve an important disease fighting function and should not normally be removed.
Even vestigial features such as the blind eyes of cave salamanders are debatable. Blind salamanders have non-functional eyes because they live their entire lives in total darkness. At some time in the past, normal salamanders may have found a niche in dark caves and only those that mutated to blindness had a need to stay in the total darkness where they could compete for existence without blindness being a disadvantage. However, these salamanders are still salamanders, their eyes may yet turn out to serve some useful function, and a mutation to blindness is hardly an upward improvement in complexity.
The human tailbone is frequently listed as a vestigial feature but anatomists tell us that the tailbone serves a very important function in the human physiology. The coccyx (tailbone) is the point of insertion of several muscles and ligaments including the one which allows man to walk completely upright. Without a tailbone, people could not walk in a completely upright manner, dance a ballet, perform gymnastics, or stroll down the street with their arm around their spouse. Hardly a useless, leftover, vestigial feature! The human body is designed for maximum versatility – it is far more versatile than the body of any other creature. What other animal can perform the range of movement required for activities as diverse as ice skating, pearl diving, skiing, and gymnastics? This range of movement would be impossible without the tailbone!
In summary, evolution predicts that there should be leftover features because one organism slowly turned into another. Based on this theory, over 150 human features were at one time listed as useless. None remain on the list today. Creation predicts that although some life forms have degenerated and may have lost use of an original function (due to the literal curse of all creation at the Fall), every part of an organism was originally designed to serve some useful purpose. As we learn more about the biology of living organisms, including ourselves, it is readily apparent which model of reality best fits the facts.
1. Robert Wiedersheim, The Structure of Man, page 200, 1895.
2. Ian Taylor, In the Minds of Men, TFE Publishing, page 273,1987.