Will we ever evolve out of our useless appendages?

18th July 2011
Will we ever evolve out of our useless appendages? (iStock)

Asked by: ANON

Which appendages are those? As a general rule, humans don’t have any vestigial limbs or sightless eyes or tails dragging along the ground. Every part of a normal healthy body serves some useful function. Our toes help us balance, our tonsils help fight infection, our appendix acts as a reservoir of gut bacteria to recolonise the intestine after an infection.

The 1971 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica claimed humans have more than 100 vestigial organs, but the more we learn, the more we find that they’re doing something useful. But even if it turns out that our wisdom teeth, say, really are useless, evolution doesn’t have much of a say anymore. Modern dentistry is much more convenient. In a thousand years perhaps, when civilisation is a smoking ruin, impacted wisdom teeth will become a life-threatening condition again and natural selection can resume its patient work of eradicating them.