Have we evolved back problems?

One thing that intrigues me about evolutionary theory is how it’s interwoven into our culture, politics and science. A good example is a story I ran across over at Phys.Org, titled, “Common back problems may be caused by evolution of human locomotion,” and published by BMC Evolutionary Biology.

This article simply assumes that man evolved from a non-human primate, and then, based on that assumption, it seeks to explain why humans have back problems. And they say the reason could be because some people’s vertebrae may supposedly share similarities in shape to our non-human ancestors (ape-like primates). And they blame this problem on how quickly we evolved bipedality- the ability to walk on two legs. They claim that the stress placed on the spine from being bipedal is just too much for some people.

Firstly, it may be true that humans suffer from spinal disease more than non-human primates and other animals, but I don’t know if this claim is true. I haven’t been able to find any definitive study to substantiate this claim, so it might or might not be true. Still, this is a claim I’ve heard before, and evolutionists use it to suggest that God, if he even exists, is a poor designer because he designed our spine wrong (any bridge engineer could do a better job), and that’s why we suffer back pain. And they further go on to claim that this is evidence that we evolved- they believe we supposedly evolved from animals with a much better back design, and that we simply haven’t evolved enough to overcome these problems. They maintain that back pain and arthritis have been a problem since our ancestors became bipedal, and that 20 to 78 percent of people suffer from back pain, such as intervertebral disc herniation.

But I have a number of problems with this line of reasoning. Namely, if our back is so poorly evolved (or designed), then it doesn’t seem to have stopped us from becoming the most dominant species on the planet. Further, all organisms- including people- are very well suited to survive in their environment, and our back is a necessary part of that survival. Every single trait (or lack of) a species has helps it survive, and some animals can even adapt and thrive in alternate environments. If our back simply hasn’t fully evolved, or if it was a mistake for our species to have become bipedal, then we are the first evolutionary example of a species that is “under” evolved. We are not the process of an evolutionary hodgepodge of tinkering of various parts. And while they mention that 20 to 70 percent of humans suffer from back pain, they neglect to mention how many non-human vertebrae suffer from back pain.

Nonetheless, while I haven’t been able to find any articles defending the claim that humans are more commonly afflicted with spinal disease than non-human primates, I have found articles indicating that animals that walk on four legs do indeed suffer from back pain. Horses suffer from back pain, and so do dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, ferrets and other small animals. And not surprisingly, even apes suffer from back pain- as do all vertebrae. Therefore the idea that our vertebrae is poorly evolved is absurd. Even if one believes in evolution, the human vertebrae isn’t any less evolved than any other animal that suffers from back pain; it’s inherent with having a vertebrae. Any animal with a spine will be susceptible to back pain because the spine can be damaged through wear and tear. Lastly, humans live a lot longer than many of the animals I mentioned, and many people who naturally suffer from back pain do so as they get older, long after their supposed ancestors would have died.

Therefore I find it ridiculous that evolutionists would have us believe that some people could suffer from back pain because they share similarities to a non-human primate ancestor. Such similarities are superficial and don’t demand any ancestral relationship. There’s no reason to assume that humans evolved from an ape-like ancestor at all, or that such evolution must have happened relatively quickly. If we didn’t evolve in the first place, then the speed of the evolution is meaningless.

The study compared the vertebrae of humans, chimps, and orangutans and found significant differences in their shape. The researchers suggest that this can be explained by their different modes of locomotion, but I suggest that it can also be explained by God creating humans and apes as distinct organisms. It’s not necessary to resort to evolution to explain similarities or differences between humans and animals.

But the study gets weirder. It says that 54 of the 141 (38%) humans in the study had an indication of vertical disc herniation. And these 54 humans shared more similarities in common with chimp vertebrae than the healthy people did. The researchers, therefore, concluded that people with disc herniation are “towards the ancestral end of the range of human shape variation.” Did you get that? People suffering from herniated discs are “less evolved” than those of us without disc herniation. That means they’re closer to our ape ancestors than those of us who are more evolved. The study concludes that those less evolved people are less well-adapted for bipedalism, and that’s why they suffer from back pain. Perhaps they should revert to walking on all fours to relieve the stress and quell the pain?

Wow! I thought our society had parted ways with such Darwinian thinking, responsible for so much suffering in the past. At one time people used to think that Jews and blacks were less evolved, and that was the justification for imposing slavery and mass executions in Russia, China, Germany, the United States, and elsewhere throughout the world. But now this type of science seems to be coming full circle again. The researchers obtained the exact results they were striving for.

And this is one of the many reasons why I’m opposed to evolutionary thinking. First and foremost I don’t believe evolution is true. But beyond that, such thinking leads to the idea that some people are more evolved and superior to others, while those who are less evolved are inferior. And those who are inferior should be eliminated so that the human race can evolve into a more superior race.

The article contends that these findings could be used to help interpret medical scans and predict susceptibility. But unfortunately the findings could also be used to justify the way some humans treat others. Now that’s not to say chiropractors are going to suddenly start reporting people with back pain to government agencies for roundup. My point is that people who want to hurt others, or make themselves feel superior, will have that justification once they consider themselves more evolved than others. Further, those with back pain could feel inferior, believing they’re closer to their ape-like ancestors than “normal” people. And that’s simply not true.

God made humans in his image, and that means we all have great worth and value. None of us need to worry about whether or not we’re more or less evolved than anyone else. For those of us who don’t believe in evolution, there’s another way to interpret the evidence; it’s more likely that those suffering from back pain simply have a degenerative spine caused by an accident, age, or heredity from human ancestors, and such an understanding can better help people than reducing them to the status of lesser human.


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