Archive for February, 2010

Vestiges: Evidence for Evolution? Part V

 

Long denigrated as vestigial or useless structure, the human appendix is now known to have a number of specific functions. The most widely recognized function is as a “safe house” for the beneficial bacteria living in the human gut.” There are approximately 500 species of bacteria in the gut alone—the continued presence of beneficial bacteria is essential for good health.

ScienceDaily in an article entitled “Appendix Isn’t Useless At All: It’s A Safe House For Good Bacteria,” October 8, 2007, William Parker, Ph.D., assistant professor of experimental surgery along with R. Randal Bollinger, M.D., Ph.D., Duke University professor emeritus noted—”Our studies have indicated that the immune system protects and nourishes the colonies of microbes living in the biofilm. By protecting these good microbes, the harmful microbes have no place to locate. We have also shown that biofilms are most pronounced in the appendix and their prevalence decreases moving away from it.” One of the functions of the appendix is to serve as a microbe storehouse.

According to their study published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, the bacteria in the human gut functions to digest food and produce vitamins, like Vitamin K—essential to coagulation. In the event that bacteria in the intestines become unbalanced, or taken over by opportunistic organisms such as cholera or amoebic dysentery, the appendix functions to reboot the bacterial flora. Parker explains the mechanism: “Once the bowel contents have left the body, the good bacteria hidden away in the appendix can emerge and repopulate the lining of the intestine before more harmful bacteria can take up residence.”

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

When Jerry Coyne (2009), professor at the University of Chicago, writing in his book, Why Evolution is True that “our appendix is simply the remnant of an organ that was critically important to our leaf-eating ancestors, but is of no real value to use,” excluded known evidence. Continued adherence to the vestige status of the appendix by evolutionists requires rejection of the scientific method.

“Maybe it’s time to correct the textbooks,” says William Parker, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgical sciences at Duke and the senior author of the study. “Many biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a ‘vestigial organ.'”  

Vestiges: Evidence for Evolution? Part IV

 

Jerry Coyne (2009), professor at the University of Chicago, writes in his new book, Why Evolution is True that, “We humans have many vestigial features proving that we evolved. The most popular is the appendix.” Coyne claims that: “our appendix is simply the remnant of an organ that was critically important to our leaf-eating ancestors, but is of no real value to use.”

Coyne believes the expansion of appendix development occurred because of “use” followed by contraction due to “disuse”—the rise and fall of the appendix. Following this belief, one would expect to find the appendix first increasing then decreasing in our presumed human evolutionary ancestors.

The vestige logic is great; unfortunately, the evidence does not support the logic. Coyne, along with the rest of the vestiges adherents fail mention that the rise and fall theory of the appendix simply never happened. The reason: the appendix occurs only in a few diverse mammals—and does not follow an evolutionary continum of rising and falling.

In fact, the appendix, in any form, is not present in any invertebrate. Among the vertebrates, the appendix is absent in fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and, most importantly, even in only a few mammals. In fact, the appendix is only present in a few marsupials, including the wombat and South American opossum, a few rodents, including rabbits and rats, and only a few primates, only the anthropoid apes and man. Even monkeys do not have an appendix.

Even though the appendix is “critically important to our leaf-eating ancestors,” tracing the development of the rise and fall of the appendix in presumed human evolutionary ancestors is simply a mirage—nothing more.

Although the Chimpanzee, touted as our closest genetic ancestor, has an appendix, surgeons are not exploring the possibility of any type of Chimpanzee-to-human transplantation and nor is the pharmaceutical industry exploring the use of any Chimpanzee molecules for use in humans, not even insulin.

Insulin and heart valves from the Suidae, the biological family to which pigs and their relatives belong, have long been used in humans. Calcitonin, a polypeptide hormone, is identical to the Calcitonin produced in the species of the fish family known as Salmonidae—Salmon. Why are pigs and the salmon more similar to humans than our closest genetic counterpart?  

The reason is—nature is discontinuous and digital, designed as unique creations. Anatomical and molecular evidence demonstrates that nature is not the result of “slight, successive changes” via mutations as touted by evolution adherents—evidence Jerry Coyne must inconveniently ignore; a practice popularized by Charles Darwin.  

In the final paragraph of the section entitled Rudimentary, Atrophied, and Aborted Organs, Darwin writes: “Finally, the several classes of facts which have been considered in this chapter, seem to me to proclaim so plainly, that the innumerable species, genera and families, with which this world is peopled, are all descended, each within its own class or group, from common parents, and have all been modified in the course of descent, that I should without hesitation adopt this view even if it were unsupported by other facts or arguments.”

The concept of vestiges from the actions of “use and disuse” continues today even though proven to be “unsupported by other facts or arguments.” Little wonder why students continue to question whether science in the classroom today is really science. Even though touted by esteemed college professors, what may be “most popular” can be dead wrong. 

Vestiges: Evidence for Evolution? Part III

 

Vestiges  are touted as evidence for biological evolution based on the Larmarckian concept of “use and disuse” that Charles Darwin reluctantly, yet fully accepted by the 6th edition of The Origin of Species in 1872.

In the 1st edition Darwin wrote that“use and disuse seem to have produced some effect” that was later changed to “use and disuse seem to have produced a considerable effect” in the 6th edition. For Darwin, the importance of “use and disuse” increased from “some effect” to “considerable effect.”

In this series, we are examining the concept that the human appendix is a vestige structure through the process of “disuse.” Vestiges are thought to be biological elements that have lost their function through “disuse.” At issue is—what is the evidence that the process of “disuse” can actually produce vestiges?

In the decade following the publication of the 6th edition, German biologist August Weismann, at the University of Freiburg, launched the first scientific inquiry to directly challenging Darwin’s theory. Now known as the “Weisman Barrier” in 1883 Weismann cut off the tails of mice from twenty-one generations. Seeing that the twenty-second generation still had tails, Weismann concluded that the evidence contradicted Darwin’s theory of “disuse” and that despite obvious reasons for change in the mice, “continuity” was observed, not new variations.

The concept of the Weismann Barrier became central to the emerging  Modern evolutionary synthesis. “Disuse” alone simply does not result in vestige structures. Ernst Mayr, known as Darwin’s bulldog of the twenty-first century, called Weismann “the second most notable evolutionary theorist of the nineteenth century, after Charles Darwin.”

Evidence from the Weismann Barrier continues to stand unchallenged, now for over 100 years. Even more to the point, after thousands of years of circumcision, “disuse” has failed to any effect on human anatomy. Without scientific experimental evidence demonstrating that “disuse” can result in any biological changes, the concept of vestige as evidence for evolution remains untenetable.

Other known vestige problems for evolution include, 1) the appendix is not found systematically found through nature, even in mammals; 2) “vestige” structures are now known to be functional. These evolutionary contradictions for vestiges continue to undermining evidence for evolution.

In the up-coming posts, we will continue to explore why these last two problems have completely undermined the concept that the human appendix is a vestige structure.

Vestiges: Evidence for Evolution? Part II

 

Charles Darwin attempted to avoid the use of the term “vestiges” largely because the term had been associated with the “erroneous” Larmarckian concept of “use and disuse” that was only “veritable rubbish.”

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744 – 1829) was a member of the French Academy of Sciences and was appointed to the Chair of Botany in 1788. When the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle was founded in 1793, Lamarck was appointed professor of zoology. In 1801, he published Système des animaux sans vertèbres, a major work on the classifications and coined the term invertebrates. Lamarck is thought to be the first use the term biology in its modern sense. Lamarck continued his work as a premier authority on invertebrate zoology.

Darwin did credit “Lamarck as the first man whose conclusions on the subject excited much attention.… In these works he up holds the doctrine that all species, including man, are descended from other species.”

Lamarck’s theory of evolution, which he referred to as “transformism,” was based on the idea that individuals develop new traits during their own lifetimes by “use and disuse” and transmit them to the next generation. Larmack writes – “Progress in complexity of organization exhibits anomalies here and there in the general series of animals, due to the influence of environment and of acquired habits.”

The giraffe served as Lamarck’s classic example of evolution through “use,” acquiring longer necks in successive generations in competition to reach the ever-scarcer leaves higher in the trees. In illustrating Lamarck’s views on adaptation, Darwin wrote, “To this latter agency he seems to attribute all the beautiful adaptations in nature; such as the long neck of the giraffe for browsing on the branches of trees.”

For Darwin, however, this explanation was simply not scientific – “Lamarck, who believed in an innate and inevitable tendency towards perfection in all organic beings, seems to have felt this difficulty so strongly that he was led to suppose that new and simple forms are continually being produced by spontaneous generation. Science has not as yet proved the truth of this belief.”

One of the most eminent pre-Darwinists was Charles Darwin’s own grandfather, Erasmus Darwin (1731–1802). Erasmus discussed his ideas at length in a two-volume work, Zoonomia, published in 1794. Erasmus wrote that “all … have risen from one living filament.”

Erasmus’ book was widely popular in Western Europe- even translated into German, French, and Italian. Erasmus envisioned that the driving force behind species modification was a result of “lust, hunger, and danger.” In line with Greek philosophy, Erasmus envisioned changes by “continuing to improve its own inherent activity.”

Actually how these “improvements” developed was completely unknown to Lamarck and Erasmus—evolution was a philosophy, not a science. The unknown cause of “improvements” is what drove Darwin to discover the underlying laws of nature—scientifically. Writing in the preface of The Origin of Species, Darwin suggests how Erasmus’s work, although “erroneous,” may have influenced Lamarck: “It is curious how largely my grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, anticipated the views and erroneous grounds of opinion of Lamarck in his Zoonomia.”

For Lamarck, new characteristics are acquired through the process of “use and disuse.” Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, was a Lamarckian evolutionist. Charles Darwin, however, in pursuit of a “scientific theory” of evolution, initially opposed Lamarckian evolution, only granting the theory marginal support.

In a letter written to J. D. Hooker in 1844, Darwin wrote, “Heaven forefend me from Lamarck nonsense of a ‘tendency to progression.’ … But the conclusions I am led to are not widely diff erent from his, though the means of change are wholly so.” “With respect to books on this subject,” Darwin continues, “I do not know any systematic ones, except Lamarck’s, which is veritable rubbish.”

Although attempting to distance himself from Lamarck’s concepts of “use and disuse” and “vestages,” Darwin distain for “use and disuse” eventually waned as causes for the origin of variation required for the actions of natural selection remained Darwin’s largest unsumountable enigma.

Since then, the term, “vestiges” has once again gained prominence over “rudiments,” as has Larmarckian concepts of evolution. The question remains, however, are structures classified as “vestiges” evidence of evolution? Specifically, have vestiges seemingly lost all or most of their original function in a species through evolution?

To address answers to these questions, we will be examining the most popular example of vestiges—the mammalian appendix in the up-coming posts.   

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Darwin, Then and Now is a journey through the most amazing story in the history of science - the history of evolution. The book encapsulates who Darwin was, what he said, and what scientists have discovered since the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859.

With over 1,000 references, Darwin Then and Now is a historical chronicle of the rise and fall of the once popular theory of biological evolution.

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