First, let’s hear prominent atheist P. Z. Myers, who believes in Darwinism, explain why he thinks that the appendix is a useless vestigial organ leftover from an unguided, random process of evolution:
The appendix in humans, for instance, is a vestigial organ, despite all the insistence by creationists and less-informed scientists that finding expanded local elements of the immune system means it isn’t. An organ is vestigial if it is reduced in size or utility compared to homologous organs in other animals, and another piece of evidence is if it exhibits a wide range of variation that suggests that those differences have no selective component. That you can artificially reduce the size of an appendix by literally cutting it out, with no effect on the individual (other than that they survive a potentially acute and dangerous inflammation) tells us that these are vestigial.
Got that? You can cut out the appendix and it has “no effect on the individual”.
Now let’s look at the peer-reviewed science, so we can get the truth of the matter.
My good friend Joe Coder told me about this article from the Melbourne Herald Sun.
MELBOURNE scientists have discovered new proof that the appendix — the often-removed organ once thought to be redundant — can be crucial to digestive health.
Researchers from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute have shown how a group of immune cells team up with the appendix to protect the gut during infection.
They work together during bouts of food poisoning and other bacterial illnesses, and also help boost the immune systems of cancer patients.
Lead researcher Professor Gabrielle Belz, a laboratory head from WEHI’s molecular immunology division, said about 70,000 Australians have their appendix removed every year — making it one of the most common surgical procedures.
“Popular belief tells us the appendix is a liability,” Prof Belz said.
“However, we may wish to rethink whether the appendix is irrelevant for our health.”
Prof Belz said surgeons no longer removed the appendix “at the first drop of a hat”, reserving surgery for more serious cases of appendicitis.
The new research, led by Prof Belz and leading French immunologist Prof Eric Vivier, has shown that innate lymphoid cells (ILCs) shield the appendix from harmful bacteria.
This allows the small organ to act as a safe haven for “good” bacteria, which could then “reseed” the intestines and restore the health of the digestive system.
Prof Belz, whose research was published today in Nature Immunology journal, said ILCs offered an added layer of immune protection for healthy people.
But they were vital in fighting bacterial infections in people with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients, Prof Belz said.
“This is particularly important because ILCs are able to survive in the gut even during (cancer) treatments, which typically wipe out other immune cells,” she said.
Prof Belz said that ability of ILCs to withstand chemotherapy also opened up “new avenues of investigation” for cancer treatment.
This expands on a previous study reported by the Washington Post.
The appendix “acts as a good safe house for bacteria,” said Duke surgery professor Bill Parker, a study co-author. Its location — just below the normal one-way flow of food and germs in the large intestine in a sort of gut cul-de-sac — helps support the theory, he said. Also, the worm-shaped organ outgrowth acts like a bacteria factory, cultivating the good germs, Parker said. That use is not needed in a modern industrialized society, Parker said. If a person’s gut flora dies, it can usually be repopulated easily with germs they pick up from other people, he said. But before dense populations in modern times and during epidemics of cholera that affected a whole region, it wasn’t as easy to grow back that bacteria and the appendix came in handy.
Evolution News comments:
[…][A] few months back David Klinghoffer reported that researchers in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found:
Individuals without an appendix were four times more likely to have a recurrence of Clostridium difficile, [a pathogen common in hospitals,] exactly as Parker’s hypothesis predicted. Recurrence in individuals with their appendix intact occurred in 11% of cases. Recurrence in individuals without their appendix occurred in 48% of cases.
In other words, the appendix performs important immune-related functions. Thus, the appendix is not there to occasionally explode. With the appendix increasingly considered to be an important organ that you wouldn’t want to lose, researchers have also found that antibiotics can cure many cases of appendicitis (see Eriksson et al., 2006 ).
Look, everyone has to decide whether they want to believe in religion or whether they want to believe in science. I understand that some people want to assume a religion of naturalism, and then try to fit reality into that pre-supposed dogma. But I don’t think that’s the right way to develop an accurate view of reality. We should follow the scientific evidence wherever it leads, and we should seek the truth – no holds barred.
Positive arguments for Christian theism
- The kalam cosmological argument and the Big Bang theory
- The fine-tuning argument from cosmological constants and quantities
- The origin of life, part 1 of 2: the building blocks of life
- The origin of life, part 2 of 2: biological information
- The sudden origin of phyla in the Cambrian explosion
- Galactic habitable zones and circumstellar habitable zones
- Irreducible complexity in molecular machines
- The creative limits of natural selection and random mutation
- Angus Menuge’s ontological argument from reason
- Alvin Plantinga’s epistemological argument from reason
- William Lane Craig’s moral argument
- The unexpected applicability of mathematics to nature
- Arguments and scientific evidence for non-physical minds