FROM THE PASTOR
Perhaps you noticed the little science item that made the news a while back. New studies indicate that the appendix is not as useless as we have been told. Here is a portion of the report from Livescience.com.
The body's appendix has long been thought of as nothing more than a worthless evolutionary artifact, good for nothing save a potentially lethal case of inflammation. Now researchers suggest the appendix is a lot more than a useless remnant. Not only was it recently proposed to actually possess a critical function, but scientists now find it appears in nature a lot more often than before thought.
In a way, the idea that the appendix is an
organ whose time has passed has itself become a concept whose time is over.
"Maybe it's time to correct the textbooks," said researcher William
Parker, an immunologist at
When many of us were in high school, all Biology textbooks had a large section on vestigial organs. These were presented as leftover pieces of our evolutionary history. They once served a necessary purpose, but had lost it along the way. At one point, more than thirty such organs had been identified. Since then that list has been steadily shrinking. Increased medical knowledge and more sophisticated research instruments have knocked item after item off of the leftover list. Tonsils were once classified as vestigial and readily removed. Now, concerted efforts are made to save them. It appears that the final example is about to disappear and the category of vestigial organs become meaningless.
This progress in scientific knowledge exposes two dangerous mistakes which are commonly made. They appear among the scientific community, but are also found in all areas of life. It is sad to say “They even appear in theology”.
The first is mistaking ignorance for knowledge. It goes something like this, “If I cannot figure out the purpose of something, it does not have a purpose.” “If I cannot detect something, it does not exist.” This is always the product of blind arrogance. Reality is strictly limited to what I can see, measure, and understand. I act as if my perception is unlimited. I assume that the tools I have created are the ultimate research equipment and my insight and comprehension are perfect.
Why can we not accept the fact that we do not know everything? Why do we assume that we are at the climax of historic progress? It is easy to look back and detect this flaw in others, but very hard to perceive it in ourselves. The Egyptians did not know the purpose of the brain, so they threw it away when they preserved the rest of the body. We may chuckle at their ignorance, but then we need to recognize that others will be chuckling at us. A good dose of humility is the antidote to this error.
The second common mistake is allowing a popular idea to control all subsequent thought. Evolution was the unrivaled king in the middle of the Twentieth Century. All other theories and research had to conform to its assumptions. Since evolution was a fact, and we have parts of our bodies that serve no known purpose, they had to be leftovers of evolution.
Science is to be the systematic pursuit of knowledge. Theology is to be the systematic presentation of revealed truth. As soon as there are questions that may not be asked, or options that may not be considered, both fail to serve their intended purpose. Arrogance and intimidation are two obstacles that consistently frustrate our desire to know the truth.