Evolutionary Biologists and the Human Body

The "white paper" and evolutionary biologists knowledge of the human body... [white paper URL: http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~ecolevol/fulldoc.html ]

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 14, 1998 at 13:40:43:

White Paper, section I - Introduction: "We are struck, first, by the innumerable features that enable us to function. Whether we consider our eyes, brain, or immune system, we find complex features admirably suited for the functions they perform. Such features, serving survival and reproduction, are called adaptations. How did they come to be?

 "Looking more closely, though, we find anomalies that don't make adaptive sense. How do we account for our nonfunctional appendix,..."
Am I to understand from this that evolutionary biologists don't know that the appendix serves as part of the immune system in the first few years of life, and that it is only after that time that other organs take over immune functions, and the appendix is no longer necessary?


First Response

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 14, 1998 at 13:45:17:

PK: The fact that you haven't figured how something works in an evolutionary framework only goes to show, you don't understand the framework. Regrettably, it appears stunningly simplistic, as if drawn w/ a broad crayon.

PK: In fairness, we don't have a good explanation for why it remains in adult forms, other than there doesn't seem to be anything gained in the appendix shriveling up and going away.


Response to Mockingbird1

Posted by karl on September 14, 1998 at 14:33:47:

Appendix - which plays a part in the control of intestinal flora and fights disease in the intestinal tract.


Response to Mockingbird1

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 14, 1998 at 16:35:52:

PK: The fact that you haven't figured how something works in an evolutionary framework only goes to show, you don't understand the framework. Regrettably, it appears stunningly simplistic, as if drawn w/ a broad crayon.

Please, enlighten me.

PK: In fairness, we don't have a good explanation for why it remains in adult forms, other than there doesn't seem to be anything gained in the appendix shriveling up and going away.

It seems that Helen's post addressed several possible functions of the appendix in adult form.


Response to Kevin Kamberg

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 14, 1998 at 17:15:50:

:KK: Please, enlighten me.

PK: Sorry, Kevin, all I can say is that evolution is what evolutionists say it is. My crayons are at gramma's house.


Second Response

Posted by Deb on September 14, 1998 at 14:10:54:

And your references for the function of the appendix in early life are...?  Please include references that indicate that said function is necessary and not itself vestigial.  Excuse my skepticism, Kevin, but you have not supported your assertion, have you?


Response to Deb

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 14, 1998 at 15:10:51:

PK: Where did the evolutionists support their assertion? We do have equitable standards, don't we?


Response to Deb

Posted by Kevin Kamberg on September 14, 1998 at 16:01:57:

First of all, it is the White Paper that asserts that the appendix is "nonfunctional." That is the issue here! So the issue is not even about where or when, but IF it functions at all, ever.

The appendix is classified as "Mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT), and is one of several such MALTs, the Tonsils being another MALT. MALTs contain T and B cells which, as you probably know, T lymphocytes (T cells) and B lymphocytes (B cells) play a central role in the immune system. This according to Robert C. Mellors, M.D., Ph.D. at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

What made me think to ask the question in the first place was a question and answer I found at MedicineNet - Appendicitis, what is the function of appendix?

[ http://www.medicinenet.com/Ques.asp?li=MNI&ag=Y&QaKey=17968 ] while surfing. I remembered hearing before that the appendix is considered a useless vestigial organ and went to the White Paper to see if they had anything on it. They did and I'm questioning what they meant by what they said there.

Okay. I guess that'll learn me, huh? (nt) Deb 22:20:56 9/14/98 (0)


Response to Deb

Posted by Helen on September 14, 1998 at 16:14:23:

The appendix was originally considered vestigial because it did not seem to cause any apparent ill effects when removed. Isaac Asomov, in The human body: its structure and operation, (Houghton MIfflen, Boston; 1963) wrote:

In man what is left of the caecum (a vestige perhaps of herbivorous ancestors) is of no particular use and can actually be a source of trouble...[it is] a further remnant of a once sizeable and useful caecum.

If this is true, then evolution is facing a remarkable series of parallel evolutions, for the appendix is not distributed the way evolution would predict: it is not present as a large organ in herbivorous animals only to gradually decrease in size through omniverous animals and then become almost functionless in the "highest" of the evolutionary types. Among the primates, the appendix is present in certain lemurs, humans, and four anthropoid apes. However it is absent in monkeys. Documentation available. Neither old nor new world monkeys have an appendix, but rabbits have a large one, and some rodents (but not all) and other scattered animals have an appendix. There is no gradualistic progression or regression of this organ through the animal kingdom.

Is the appendix vestigial? Not according to medical research.

First of all, the appendix has a rich blood supply, which might be presumed if it were a functioning organ. And it does seem to be functioning well to do what it was designed to do. Maisel, in 1966, and Bloom and Fawcett, in 1974 concluded from their work that the appendix played an active role in the immune system. This was over 20 years ago, so, as an aside, I confess to being amazed that it could still be considered functionless and/or vestigial among educated people....

Sussdorf in 1959, 1960, 1962, and 1974 wrote describing how the appendix helped in fighing the effects of post-radiation infection. After radiation exposure, the body's immune system is severely compromised, leaving the individual susceptible to all manner of illnesses and infections. Sussdorf found in the late fifties and early sixties that if a rabbit's appendix was shielded from radiation the white pulp and hemolysin production in the spleen were enhanced compared with rabbits whose appendices were not shielded. This is because of the presence of lymphoid tissue in the appendix. If it is undamaged, it can help restore antibody production in the spleen.

When the spleen itself is damaged, the lymphoid cells from the appendix will migrate to the spleen, thus restoring the immune function of the organ. This, of course, is only if the appendix itself has not been exposed to radiation or damaged, or removed.

A study in 1970 involved irradiated rabbits whose appendices and spleens were shielded and the rabbits were then injected with bovine gamma globulin. This study led them to the conclusion that the appendix participates in antibody production, but cannot do everything itself.
Another study in 1970 by Ozer ahd Waksman found that irradiation together with an appendectomy completely inhibits the spleen. Work regarding the bone marrow in this study also showed the effectiveness of the appendix in producing antibodies and restoring the spleen's activity.

A further use of the appendix is in shielding the local area from infection from bacteria in the colon. Positioned as it is, next to the valve which connects the small and large intestines, the appendix seems to have the additional function of guard, to prevent contamination of the small intestine from material in the large intestine. The appendix itself is lined almost continuously with a layer of large and small lymphatic nodules. In this sense, it has been compared to the tonsils.

The appendix is also rich in argentaffin cells. I do not know if the actual function of these cells has yet been identified, but Banks, in 1981 suggested they might be involved with endocrine gland function. I am behind on this and do not know what more recent studies might have shown.
A study by Dr. Howard R. Bierman in the early seventies showed that 84% of the sample group he was dealing with who had certain forms of cancer had also had their appendix removed. In a control group without cancer, 25% had had their appendices removed. This does not show causality, but it does indicate a possible correlation. Again, I do not know if further studies have been done on this.

All this is in addition to what happens during fetal development when the appendix is comparatively large: it seems to be the opinion of many researchers now that the appendix is very instrumental in aiding in the development of the initial immune system. This is the only part of this response I cannot provide references for, however. It seems to have become common knowledge.....
As for the other references, please feel free to ask and I will type them out.

Again, I am rather chagrined that, considering the present state of medical research, anyone would consider the appendix non-functional. Being able to get along without it does not deny its function, only its necessity for life.


Response to Helen

Posted by Sumac on September 14, 1998 at 20:50:10:

I'm not sure how accurate the information Helen posted is, but there is a clear function for the appendix in the immune system. One of the primary functions for the appendix may be as a site of first defense against antigens that are encountered in the gut.

However, there is sufficient experimental evidence to suggest that it plays a more complex role in the regulation of the immune system (I ran a quick Medline search and found a large number of articles on the topic). It is unfortunate that the authors of the "white paper" are ignorant of this particular topic especially when they are trying to use it as a selling point. There are enough examples of vestigial parts that we don't need to rely on a false one to prove the point.


Response to Sumac

Posted by Deb on September 14, 1998 at 22:01:18:

It sounds like the authors of the White Paper should be made aware of this discrepancy, then. Perhaps they can explain their reasons for using it as an example.


Response to Deb

Posted by Mockingbird1 on September 14, 1998 at 22:36:06:

PK: This is a good idea. The appendicts might be the only thing that we dump in the CARM review process, though I suspect other inconsistencies. The E-dress is [email protected] The target cut off date was Sep 97, but I haven't seen an updated version yet.


Response to Sumac

Posted by KSR on September 15, 1998 at 00:12:02:

I still think the appendix is legit, since the digestive system AND body size AND diet AND metabolism are intertwined. And there are patterns through time concerning these features that are involved in the evolution of primates. It appears to have multiple functions.


Response to Sumac

Posted by scott on September 15, 1998 at 11:37:28:

Not first line

GALT is scattered throughout the small intestine.

you're right. my bad. (nt) Sumac 12:44:04 9/15/98 (0)


Response to Helen

Posted by KSR on September 14, 1998 at 21:36:00:

: So the appendix appears to have several different functions. I think this problem has to be thought of in terms of diet/body size. The dietary adaptations of the primates (insects, gums, fruits, leaves, and omnivores) also reflect body size. Look then, at the progression of this organ in terms of the body size and what it eats.


Response to KSR

Posted by Helen on September 15, 1998 at 00:36:54:

Actually, I think what I would look for is a combination of diet and the workings of the immune system in that particular beastie.
The appendix, at least in men, seems to have more to do with the immune system than with digestion itself....


Response to Helen

Posted by KSR on September 15, 1998 at 09:00:37:

The digestive systems of primates follow several adaptations, and the size or presence/absence of the caecum depends on the diet-- which depends on the body size-- which involves the metabolism. And the bones of fossil primates give us the body size estimates and the the tooth types from which reasonable inferences can be made regarding diet and metabolism. I think you felt that the pattern of caecum (presence or absence) created too many parallelisms and was too problematic for evolutionists, but I think you might want to rethink things in the primates based upon what I have told you about body size and diet and digestive system, and see if the patterns can be better understood that way. Early primates are quite small (I know since I have been drawing fossil evidence of some of the earliest), and generally increase in size over time. I don't have this fully thought out right now, but I think there's no real enigma involved. I am having company today, so I don't think I will be able to get back to this until much later tonight, if at all this evening.
I'm hoping Scott and Deb can help me out on this.


Response to Helen

Posted by Fence on September 14, 1998 at 22:20:24:

If scientists classify something as vestigial doesn't that merely note our lack of understanding about function? Do we then stop searching for its function? Does this promote science?

:-) (nt) Helen 09:47:48 9/15/98 (0)


Response to Fence

Posted by scott on September 15, 1998 at 11:33:46:

Funny you say that, since it was, afterall, scientists that discovered the functions of so-called vestigial structures, not creationists or design hypothsists. Maybe you'd like to take a crack at explaining the function of the extensor coccygis - none of the anti-evolutionists on this board have been able to come up with a rational scientific explanation .


Response to Scott

Posted by Fence on September 15, 1998 at 14:53:39:

Are creationists and design theorists not scientists by definition? How do you know where scientists (in all fields) stand on the questions debated on this board?

Which branch of science labeled it a vestigial structure? Which branch discovered its functions?  (I'm just asking. I really do not know.)


Response to Fence

Posted by scott on September 15, 1998 at 18:51:56

I would say that creationists and design hypothesists are poor scientists. You should be carefula bout what you label 'theory'. "Intelligent design" is NOT a theory, it is an ad hoc way for people unable to accept, due to their religious programming, evolution to give themselves intellectual comfort. In science, a theory is an explanation for observations best supported by the evidence - 'design' has no evidence in its favor (awe and incredulity are not evidence).

As has been demonstrated on this board and elsewhere, creationists are not interested in actually finding evidence in favor of creation; they are quite happy to simply broadcast half truths, misrepresentations of scientific principals; out-of-context and misquotes of evolutionists; and outright fabrications to 'win' the debate (i.e., win souls for fundamenrtalist christianity).

Most of the people posting here let thier stances be known. Many that don't 'fit the bill' of siilar individuals that have let their stances be known. Its called extraplation.

As for which branch of science labelled the appendix vestigial, I have no idea, though I suspect it was the early anatomists. And as to those who 'discovered' its function, I would say histologists or anaotomists. Maybe immunologists. Since it plays such a minor role IN its function, it is no surprise that it was thought to be 'functionless' for so long.


Response to scott

Posted by Fence on September 15, 1998 at 22:04:11:

Paragraph one is breast-beating. Are you a pamphleteer?

Paragraphs two and three indicate a high degree of paranoia. Are Christians allowed to lie to advance the cause of their faith?
Before I chose the name Fence, I posted on this board a single time, under the name Just Watching. Would you mind extrapolating anyway?
Thank you for the info in paragraph four.


Response to Fence

Posted by scott on September 16, 1998 at 14:29:05:

Paragraph one is breast-beating. Are you a pamphleteer?

***** Sorry, paragraph 1 is based in observation and documentation. If you don't accept that, fine. You asked for an opinion, I gave it. That you reject it is indicative of your mindset, not mine. How is this : " You should be carefula bout what you label 'theory'. "Intelligent design" is NOT a theory, it is an ad hoc way for people unable to accept, due to their religious programming, evolution to give themselves intellectual comfort. In science, a theory is an explanation for observations best supported by the evidence - 'design' has no evidence in its favor (awe and incredulity are not evidence)." breastbeating? Truth hurts. Label it all you want.******

Paragraphs two and three indicate a high degree of paranoia.

****"As has been demonstrated on this board and elsewhere, creationists are not interested in actually finding evidence in favor of creation; they are quite happy to simply broadcast half truths, misrepresentations of scientific principals; out-of-context and misquotes of evolutionists; and outright fabrications to 'win' the debate (i.e., win souls for fundamenrtalist christianity). "
****Paranoia? Again, the truth hurts. All of the above unsavory desriptions of creationist behaviour is well documented. Much of it occurs on a regular basis on this board, and as for the 'saving souls' bit, check out the mission statements of "Answers in Genesis" or the ICR, then tell me I'm paranoid.

Are  Christians allowed to lie to advance the cause of their faith?

***** I would hope not. But they seem to do it on a regular basis.  Before I chose the name Fence, I posted on this board a single time, under the name Just Watching. Would you mind extrapolating anyway?
***** Since I don't remember any such post, it would be difficult. Maybe later.
Thank you for the info in paragraph four.
***Sure.


Response to scott

Posted by Fence on September 17, 1998 at 09:49:34:

Intelligent design is merely "information theory" applied to questions of biology. The problem with evolutionists is that they think information is the transmission of signals across some sort of communication channel. Current evolutionary theory works off of this supposition. Thus has nature walked blindly towards its most fantastic creation, the human mind. Information theory is in fact about "contingency" (making one choice out of all the possibilities). Information Theory has a three part filter, Law, Chance and Design and lest you thinks it was thunk up by a bunch of creationists to debunk evolution, keep in mind that its precepts are integral to many scientific endeavors. (I'll be glad to name a few for you.)

[note: from this point on the conversation degenerated into accusations and answers]

 

 

 

 
 
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