Organs or parts in this strange condition, bearing the plain stamp of inutility, are extremely common, or even general, throughout nature. It would be impossible to name one of the higher animals in which some part or other is not in a rudimentary condition. In the mammals, for instance, the males possess rudimentary mammae. . . .Darwin and other evolutionists have interpreted such organs as evidence of evolutionary ancestry. In their view, a useless organ like the appendix is a tip-off to the fact that it wasnt created by an all-wise, purposeful Designer; it must be just a left-over inherited from our mammalian ancestors that did have a functioning appendix. As Darwin suggested (423), Rudimentary organs may be compared with the letters in a word, still retained in the spelling, but become useless in the pronunciation, but which serve as a clue for its derivation.
Evolutionary zoologist S. R. Scadding (University of Guelph) has stated (175f.):
The vestigial organ argument uses as a premise the assertion that the organ in question has no function. There is no way however, in which this negative assertion can be arrived at scientifically. That is, one can not prove that something does not exist (in this case a certain function), since of course if it does not exist one cannot observe it, and therefore one can say nothing about it scientifically. The best we can do is to state that despite diligent effort, no function was discovered for a given organ. However it may be that some future investigator will the discover the function. Consequently, the vestigial organ argument has as a premise, either a statement of ignorance (I couldnt identify the function), or a scientifically invalid claim (it does not have a function). Such an argument, from ignorance, or from negative results, is not valid scientifically, and has no place in observational or experimental science.
Since it is not possible to unambiguously identify useless structures, and since the structure of the argument used is not scientifically valid, I conclude that vestigial organs provide no special evidence for the theory of evolution.
Recall Darwins very first example in his Origin of Species (418, quoted above): In the mammalia, for instance, the males possess rudimentary mammae. . . . But did male mammary glands ever function in suckling offspring, in any of our alleged mammalian ancestors?! If not, then they are not vestigial organs in the sense we usually talk about. Concerning male nipples and other vestiges of the reproductive structures of the opposite sex, Scadding comments (175):
These structures . . . clearly reflect the embryonic development of a sexually dimorphic organism which begins its development in a sexually indifferent condition with structures characteristic of both sexes. They certainly do not reflect phylogenetic [evolutionary] development. No one supposes males evolved from females or vice versa.Interestingly, Darwin himself (195) acknowledges the riskiness of calling organs useless, when he is arguing on a different matter:
With respect to the assumed inutility of various parts and organs, it is hardly necessary to observe that even in the higher and best-known animals many structures exist, which are so highly developed that no one doubts that they are of importance, yet their use has not been, or has only recently been, ascertained.
The existence of degenerate structures does not show that microbe-to-man evolution has taken place (Bergman and Howe 31). As Darwin notes, The acquisition of a useless part can hardly be said to raise an organism in the natural scale (199). Creationists can readily accept that created functions could have been lost as a consequence of the Curse in Genesis 3 (Ham and Wieland 41).
In 1895 the German anatomist Wiedersheim compiled a list of eighty-six vestigial organs, plus about a hundred he considered retrogressive (on their way to becoming functionless) (Bergman and Howe 5). The list included organs now known to have important functions, such as the pineal gland and the pituitary. At the historic Scopes Trial (1925), an evolutionist testified:
There are, according to Wiedersheim, no less than 180 vestigal [sic] structures in the human body, sufficient to make of a man a veritable walking museum of antiquities. Among these [is] the . . . appendix . . . . These and numerous other structures of the same sort can be reasonably interpreted as evidence that man has descended from ancestors in which these organs were functional. Man has never completely lost these characters; he continues to inherit them though he no longer has any use for them. (Ham and Wieland 41)The evolutionist Scadding (175) suggests that
Wiedersheim was largely in error in compiling his long list of vestigial organs. Most of them do have at least a minor function at some point in life. . . . As our knowledge has increased the list of vestigial structures has decreased. Wiedersheim could list about one hundred in humans; recent authors usually list four or five. Even the current short list of vestigial structures in humans is questionable.