The Evil Appendix

Posted: December 15, 2011 in Biology Related
Tags: , , , , , ,

The first time I ever heard of the small organ known as the appendix it was when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My older brother was rushed to the hospital because his appendix was about to burst. He went into surgery and it was taken out with no problems. I was told at that time that it was OK for the appendix to be removed from the body because it didn’t do anything. So for years I believed that the appendix was this silly organ that was only capable of one thing, potentially killing you for no good reason!

 

I later learned in my high school biology class that the appendix was one of many organs called vestigial organs. Vestigial organs are organs that once served a purpose but no longer do because we as humans had evolved to no longer use them. From what I was told, the appendix was used to break down raw meat, but since we as humans don’t eat raw meat anymore (or at least, most of us don’t…) the appendix is therefore vestigial. Why not just have appendix removed in advance to prevent a potential future burst?[1] Turns out, doctors did for a time do just that. Doctors would often remove the appendix of a patient if the patient was already undergoing abdominal surgery.[2]

 

Even in one of the funny, yet informative, quirky books that made it into my bookshelf called Why Do Men Have Nipples? by Mark Leyner and Billy Goldberg M.D., the appendix is written of: “The appendix is a small pouch off the large intestine. The wall of the appendix contains tissue that is part of the immune system for making antibodies. Removing the appendix doesn’t cause any harm because there are several other areas in the body that contain similar tissue- the spleen, lymph nodes, and tonsils. The spleen and the tonsils can also be removed.”[3][4]

 

What? Part of the immune system? That doesn’t sound vestigial at all. Further research revealed that the appendix also serves as a “safe house” for storing bacteria used in the intestine for digestion. In fact, in the event of a pathogen making its way into the intestine, beneficial digesting bacteria are often lost in the ensuing purge. The appendix however replenishes the intestine with bacteria after just such an incident.[5] Dr. David N. Menton, a retired medical research technician and professor of anatomy writes, “The appendix is a complex, highly specialized organ with a rich blood supply- not what one would expect from a vestigial organ.”[6]

 

All and all the appendix does in fact sound pretty useful and not useless. But I know what you’re thinking, if it can be removed and not cause harm to us then it is still vestigial. That sounds like a good argument at first. After all we can remove the spleen and tonsils as well without causing any harm. But let us expand on that reasoning. I can remove your ears, hands and teeth and not cause you any harm. You can live without ears, hands and teeth. They must be vestigial as well right? [Insert sarcasm font right there]. Being able to cope without a particular body part does not make it vestigial. Having no functionality what so ever makes a body part vestigial, and the appendix has some pretty complex functionality.

 

So in conclusion, the appendix is not vestigial and not an evolutionary leftover, but instead another part of the multi-functional biological human machine. But what else would you expect from a God that carefully crafted our anatomy to be what it is. As for other “claimed” vestigial organs, they always have a function, and if they don’t, we probably just haven’t found it yet. Remember, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

 

As Dr. William Parker, assistant professor of surgical sciences at DukeUniversitysaid, “Maybe it is time to correct the textbooks. Many biology texts today still refer to the appendix as a ‘vestigial organ.’[7] Amen to that.


[1] The appendix bursting is actually a more recent problem. According to Dr. William Parker of Duke University, appendix bursting was very rare until sanitation efforts were stepped up in the 20th century. Body did not need the appendix as much to aid the immune system, which translated into an underused appendix, which apparently can cause it to burst. http://www.physorg.com/news170010855.html

[2] Menton, D.N., (2010) “Vestigial Organs- Evidence for Evolution?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 3, Master Books,GreenForest: AR, pp.  235.

[3] Leyner, M., & Goldberg, B., (2005) Why Do Men Have Nipples? Three Rivers Press,New York; NY, pp. 64.

[4] Leyner and Goldberg go on further in a casually comedic way to bring up that the human tail and body hair are also vestigial. But both our “tails” and body hair actually do have a function.

[5] Bollinger, R.R., (2007) “Biofilms in the Large Bowel Suggest an Apparent Function of the Human Vermiform Appendix,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 249 no.4, pp. 826-831.

[6] Menton, D.N., (2010) “Vestigial Organs- Evidence for Evolution?” as written in Ken Ham’s The New Answers Book 3, Master Books,GreenForest: AR, pp.  235.

[7] (August 2009) “Evolution of the Appendix: A Biological Remnant No More,” physorg.com

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Comments
  1. […] following is an excerpt from MATTHEW2262′S BLOG in one of the funny, yet informative, quirky books…called Why Do Men Have Nipples? by Mark […]

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