Is there any coherent creationist explanation for vestigial organs?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

I have been fascinated with evolution and natural history since I was five, thanks to the BBC’s Walking With series. It was only last year that I actually began to study the evidence for myself (I previously took it for granted), as I had a crisis of my atheism. I concluded that the presence of vestigial limbs are pretty close to solid proof that organisms have radically changed over time. So I am baffled at how evolution deniers can continue to bury their heads in the sand. The only response I have heard is that that vestigial organs still have use (Whales and snakes use their legs for intercourse), but this doesn’t change the fact that these limbs are unnecessarily identical to limbs used for walking. The simplest explanation is that they were originally for walking.

Do Evolution Deniers have any coherent response, other than suggesting God created them as a test of faith?

(Stephen Matheson) #2

How about: God created them because he likes them.

The premise of your question is that “creationism” can offer a coherent “explanation” for things – any things – in the natural world. But think about it. Supernatural creation can “explain” anything, anytime. “God created that.” Done.

Of course I understand your question, and I agree that there are innumerable phenomena in biology and natural history that only make sense in light of an ancient dynamic earth and common descent. But there is no phenomenon, no piece of evidence of any kind, that can elude supernatural “explanation.”

(RiderOnTheClouds) #3

God gave some whales weird tools for copulation which are co-incidentally anatomically identical to limbs used for transportation?

(Stephen Matheson) #4

Why not?

We’re talking about a god who does whatever he wants. He puts tax payments in the mouths of fishes. He kills people for misleading the pastor about donations. He brags about how unpredictable he is. He calls himself “love” after directing his “chosen people” to commit crimes against humanity. And much more notably, he’s all-powerful and answers to no one. So, your attempts to understand why he did something as arcane as make animals in certain ways…are futile.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #5

Okay, explain why some humans are born with ‘prehensile tails’, this isn’t just a weird deformity, this is an actual, working tail, is there any reason why these would exist, if not for descent from primates?

(Stephen Matheson) #6

Simple. God likes prehensile tails. You’re really missing the point. God probably likes that, too.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #7

You’re trolling right?

(Stephen Matheson) #8

I guess you haven’t read what I wrote. Oh well. Bye.


I like to point out the fact that vestigial organs are consistent with the phylogeny of the larger group. Whales belong to the mammal clade, and they have vestigial mammal limbs which the theory of evolution predicts were present in their ancestors. What we don’t see are vestigial organs that contradict the proposed evolutionary history of a species, such as vestigial feathers in a mammal species or vestigial nipples in a bird species. The evidence we derive from vestigial organs is not their relative lack of function but the consistency of these features with the phylogeny predicted by the theory of evolution.

The Appendix/Cave Fish Eyes/Etc. are (NOT) vestigial

Before I believed in evolution, I would simply say that all vestigial characteristics (features and ‘junk genes’) were actually not vestigial at all and eventually science would uncover a function for all of them, as it seemed to have been doing. For example, a 2007 paper has apparently demonstrated a modern function and use for the appendix, besides other minor functions like holding tendons. When it came to the idea of junk DNA, I looked admirably to the project of ENCODE which said that 80% of genes had been shown to have a function, with 100% visible in the future. There has been much rejection of ENCODE’S results because of how they defined ‘function’ I think in their experiment. Nevertheless, I saw almost every day more papers getting published on function in some part of the genes not known before, so I was pretty happy about how things were going.

This all slowly came crashing down with my discovery of the vitellogenin gene which plays a major role for the egg yolk of the eggs birds lay. Apparently, by studying the position of this gene in birds, scientists were perfectly able to predict its locus in modern day humans, where it no longer plays any role in the formation of eggs in us (since we don’t lay eggs) and is therefore functionless. Ironically, all this was introduced to me via an article by the Institute of Creation Research providing information that ‘debunked’ the claim that vitellogenin was junk DNA, which at the time I read it convinced me.

Until in a debate on evolution with someone I was having, where someone brought it up and I responded by pointing to the ICR article, someone pointed me to this series by Biologos by @DennisVenema responding to ICR’s claims. I read all 5 posts, and it became undeniable to me: ICR was absolutely wrong. And thus was the first step of my transition to EC.

EDIT: A funny story: before I believed in evolution, I explained the vestigial ‘legs’ in snakes by saying that this actually proves the Genesis creation account, since Genesis says that the snake was punished for deceiving adam by flopping on its belly, which I took to mean God removed the snakes of the leg and therefore the vestigial features of snakes were clear proof of Genesis.

(Christy Hemphill) #11

I think the typical creationist argument goes something along the lines of denying that vestigial organs are a real thing. (Then you don’t have to explain them, right?) They always put the “vestigial” in quotes and the thinking goes something like: “Vestigial” organs are only vestigial organs if you view the world through the atheist evolutionist paradigm, which is the wrong way to view the world. If you have a biblical worldview, you understand that every creature is fearfully and wonderfully made, and those “vestigial” organs are simply body parts we don’t yet understand the purpose of. They confuse vestigial with useless. So anytime they can attach a function to vestigial organ, they feel they have shown that vestigial organs don’t really exist.

See for example:

(RiderOnTheClouds) #12

I’ve heard this before, two problems:

  1. Snakes ‘do’ have legs (why didn’t God remove them?)
  2. As you and me well know, the ‘snake’ in Eden wasn’t an actual ‘snake’.


Very correct.

(Wookin Panub) #14

There are STILL vestigial organs? Huh…that’s news to me.


Vestigial organs are yet another misunderstood topic in the world of ID/YEC/OEC. At no time has vestigial been defined as having no function al all.

“An organ serving for two purposes, may become rudimentary or utterly aborted for one, even the more important purpose, and remain perfectly efficient for the other… [A]n organ may become rudimentary for its proper purpose, and be used for a distinct object.”–Charles Darwin

The appendix is vestigial even if it has rudimentary function like attaching to tendons or being a rudimentary system for housing gut flora. It lacks its primary purpose of digesting cellulose as a large structure found in other species, and that is why it is considered to be vestigial. The size of the caecum (the full organ of which we only have the appendix) in other species is quite massive compared to the human organ.


Unless you can show that the human appendix is involved in digesting cellulose, then yes, it is still vestigial.

(Dennis Venema) #17

Hindlimb buds in embryonic whales is my favourite example. I’ve yet to see a decent explanation for those from any antievolutionary source.

(Stephen Matheson) #18

Yeah, that’s a Final Four contender. Bird teeth is another strong entry.

But I still don’t understand why “God likes it that way” is not a “decent explanation.”


My two favorite are the embryonic human post-anal tail and the extensor coccygis muscle found on the human tailbone. The human extensor coccygis spans two fused bones in the human tailbone, and its function in other species is to lift the tail. In humans it doesn’t even articulate a joint since it spans two fused bones.

(Wookin Panub) #20

To be honest, I have not a clue what that means, but it doesn’t matter, because that does not necessarily mean for (1) that organ is not needed, just because we haven’t discovered a use for it yet, and (2) that it is an evolutionary throw back. So basically what you are asking evolutionary “deniers” such as I, is, “Is there any coherent creationist explanation for YOUR BELIEF IN vestigial organs?”

I gave you a coherent response, which you will not accept, because you believe wholeheartedly in vestigial organs, but your belief does not negate the fact I gave you a coherent response.