VSL:SCIENCE // What’s more useless than the appendix?

Members of the intelligent-design movement believe that living things are too precisely engineered to be the by-products of natural selection. This seems sort of plausible to us non-scientists: How could something as beautiful and complicated as the human eye just happen?

But keep in mind that natural selection’s not perfect — and that nature’s evolutionary dead ends and cul-de-sacs are no less interesting than its greatest hits (e.g., dolphins, cockroaches, and Angelina Jolie). Consider vestigial organs — hunks of tissue that are no longer useful but haven’t yet disappeared. As this helpful slide show from LiveScience demonstrates, our body is stuffed full of such appendages, from the appendix, which does nothing but get infected, to wisdom teeth, which don’t even fit the human mouth. Whales have hind leg bones but haven’t walked in 60 million years. And our cousins the chimpanzees have tailbones but no tails. (Come to think of it, we have tailbones, too!) If there is an intelligent designer out there, He, too, has been known to fall asleep on the job.

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VSL:SCIENCE // What’s more useless than the appendix?