While watching a PBS show called “Inside Nature’s Giants,” I was astounded to learn that snakes have legs. Well, vestigial legs, according to Richard Dawkin’s guest spot on the show. To which the lead biologist on the show exclaimed, “This is evidence of evolution.” The very next day, someone showed me an internet article of a snake with arms, and said pretty much the same thing: “Evidence of evolution!” After all, it seems logical. Snakes don’t have arms and legs, so if we’re finding snakes with arms and legs, they must be evolving, right? How could anyone argue otherwise?
Well one could argue otherwise if one, simply put, knew their evolution in the first place. Evolution theory maintains that the snake was originally lizard-like, having arms and legs. As the snake evolved and became longer and the need for arms and legs became less, its limbs shrank and eventually disappeared. This was also confirmed by Richard Dawkins during the show. And oddly enough, both evolutionists and creationists agree on this fact: Snakes once had limbs. Evolutionists believe the snake gradually lost their limbs, whereas creationists believe snakes abruptly lost their limbs in the Garden of Eden as described in Genesis 3:14. So we can all agree (which is rare) that snakes once had limbs.
But here is the question of the day. If the snake evolved to lose its limbs, and some snakes are found today with arms and legs, is that evidence of evolution? Well the answer is no. Because the snakes originally had the genetic information to produce limbs. And though many snakes today don’t have this information in their DNA (or just aren’t expressing it), some still may. Left overs if you will. Not a mutation driven increase in genetic information that was never there before as evolution (macro) requires.
It’s like red hair on humans. You can kill every red head in the world, so that there are no more red heads. But non-red headed people can carry the genes necessary to produce a red headed child. Occasionally a child would be born with red hair. Now we wouldn’t say that was evidence of evolution if red heads started to appear worldwide because we always had (or originally had) the genetic information to produce a red hair. In the same way, snakes sporting limbs today, when they supposedly once had limbs isn’t exactly earth shattering.
Sadly most of the pictures people propagate of armed and legged snakes, aren’t snakes at all, but skinks. Which is more lizard than snake.
Another thing to consider is the vestigial legs Dawkins referred to in the documentary. He pointed out two small claws on either side of the snake’s reproductive organs. An autopsy of these claws reveal they have small bones attached to them, somewhat resembling limbs. The conclusion being that these are the left over legs of the snake, vestigial limbs that is. Their small size and single claw a reflection of their non-use. So in this case, the legs are not generating but degenerating.
But no one seemed to point out the obvious… and I say obvious because I learned this in my 7th grade science class while watching our two class pet snakes mate. Those vestigial limbs aren’t so vestigial. They’re critical! The snakes don’t have the convenient arms and legs most other animals have to assist in mating, so they use their two claws to “grip” their partner, to make sexual activity possible. Biologists often refer to them as “Copulation Claspers” or “spurs.” Without the two claws they could not mate successfully. Which is a far cry from being vestigial legs. Which leads me to another conclusion. Obviously Dawkins and the other biologists on the show are aware of this being highly educated and all. Yet it was never mentioned. Instead, the audience was misled into thinking that snakes have useless old little legs as PROOF of evolution. Clearly there is an ulterior motive here.
With that said, there is also a third possibility to make note of: Snakes eating lizards. Snakes can often eat more than they’re capable of digesting. Don’t be too judgmental, maybe they’re very depressed not having limbs and all, and are eating the pain away… Occasionally a snake will swallow an animal so large, that the snake’s tissue will burst open, and a limb will pop out. There have been many cases of lizards legs and arms coming out the side of snakes, not because the snake evolved them, but because the lizard was the snakes last meal, and that last meal was a little too large. Pythons in Florida have been kown to eat small alligators and occasionally they’ll find a dead python with an alligator leg sticking out its side.
With that said I think it’s safe to assume that people who boast about snakes with legs and arms as evidence of evolution don’t know much about evolution… or snakes for that matter.