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October 06, 2007
To: Editor Star Tribune (opinion@startribune.com)
Subject: Appendix

So the Associated Press has finally discovered evidence that the appendix has a function ("Appendix's role finally discovered: making gut germs" 10/6/07)! The surprise factor is about 50 years late. Another role of the appendix (and the tonsils) in the development of immune function early in life has been known for decades. But what can we expect when biology text books still use Haeckel's embryology drawings to prove that humans go through "a salamander stage" even though they were discredited over a century ago. (And by the way, the appendix is incapable of "making germs" -- it can only harbor them.) The latest incarnation of the "if we don't understand it, it must be useless" approach to biology is the "junk DNA" theory, which is being abandoned almost a quickly as it appeared. Living creatures are designed with a level of complexity that we may never fully comprehend.

Ross S. Olson MD