November 28, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Male Nipples: Two Views

Is there a beachgoer who has not wondered why men have nipples?  Since Live Science brought it up, let’s use this as a case study on how evolutionists and creationists explain things.

  • The Evolutionist View:  Live Science claims we all start out as females in the womb, and only after about 60 days the testosterone kicks in if it’s a male.  By then, the nipples have already formed and don’t get deleted.  As to why there are nerves and blood vessels serving them, the writer appeals to the old vestigial organ argument.  There is no reason for male nipples, it’s just that natural selection hasn’t removed them yet.  The article denies that early males once suckled the young on the grounds of lack of evidence.  “Brace yourselves for a low blow, tough guy,” the article begins, hinting that the evolutionary answer won’t help a man’s self-esteem; at least it calls the nipples “harmless.”  The article ends with a link to a list of other alleged vestigial organs, including the coccyx, appendix, wisdom teeth and body hair.
  • The Creationist View:  A creationist sees a phenomenon and looks for a design or function.  Several creation sources have addressed this particular feature of the male anatomy: for example, Answers in Genesis gives a brief explanation, with reference to the book Vestigial Organs Are Fully Functional by Bergman and Howe.  These authors point to the fact that the nipples are very sensitive to touch and therefore act as erogenous zones, contributing to the pleasure response during sex.  Creationists have also argued that the single developmental plan for human embryos, which later differentiates the sexes, is an example of design economy.  We don’t all start out as females.  It’s more accurate to describe the early embryo as sexless in terms of the genes expressed; males, after all, contain an X chromosome.  At the right developmental stage, the sexual differentiation genes are expressed.  AIG also has posted a debate over the issue of male nipples.

Creationists have long pointed out that the vestigial organ argument for evolution, of which this is one famous example, has been discredited (e.g., AIG and True Origin).  They say it also is a “science show-stopper.”  By assuming these traits are useless rather than applying good research to figure out what they are there for, evolutionists have hindered and delayed key insights into physiology that could have advanced medicine and increased understanding of biological design.  Some 180 body parts were considered vestigial as recently as the 1930s.  The list included organs as vital as the pituitary gland and thymus.  This fact was not mentioned on the Live Science link.
    Creationists also argue that just because a person can live without a part, like the appendix, that does not mean it is useless.  Many people alive today had their tonsils removed as kids.  Science now understands better their role in the immune system and recommends keeping them unless seriously infected.  One can live without an arm, too, and without eyes or ears, but is generally better off with everything intact.  Furthermore, some parts may be useful at different stages of life.  A part that was functional in the embryo cannot be considered vestigial if its remnants no longer function in the adult.

Let’s think outside the Darwin box, shall we?  Nipples don’t have to be for suckling the young to have a purpose.  Every human knows these points are very sensitive to touch; that’s true in both sexes.  Sex is a whole-body response God made to be pleasurable as well as procreative.  We can’t rule out, too, that certain traits have value just for decoration – that is part of their function.  Just as a navel can serve as a reminder that we all have an intimate tie to our ancestors, nipples help remind a man that he shares many traits with the female of the species, as well as having his own distinctive attributes.  Even the shared traits, though, are expressed in distinctive man-ifestations.  Women and men both have hair, too, but are the differences not interesting?  Do they not add color and variety to life?  Why does everything in nature have to be explained in terms of survival?  Some things might be part of the costume, and that is good.  A man’s chest would look kind of monotonous without those designer buttons there.  Look at them as ornaments on a fine suit.  (Looks best, guys, surrounded by lots of pectoral muscle; see YouTube.)
    This example shows that creationists and evolutionists deal with the same observational facts but look at them through different lenses.  The evolutionist sees millions of years of waste and struggle, with us latecomers having to deal with the leftovers.  Every trait must be interpreted in terms of survival and reproduction.  Sex is only to generate more aimless, purposeless carbon units.  That is a very cynical, demeaning approach to science and to life.  A creationist, by contrast, believes the Creator designed every part for its own purpose and function.  When a creation scientist doesn’t know the function, he or she is motivated to find it out.  This can and should make science a liberating and joyful exercise.  Many great scientists approached nature in just this spirit.
    Each of us, too, should strive to get over the bad vibes Darwin gave us about our bodies, and look at them in a new, positive way.  Every part is good and useful and respectable because it was designed by a Genius and Artist.  If you are embarrassed by male nipples and think they were some kind of mistake, you are disparaging the Creator.  According to the Genesis account, God looked at man and everything He had created and said it was not only good, it was very good.  Then God created woman and man said oo-la-la! where you been all my life, baby?  It’s OK to feel good about your body the way God made it.  A strong, manly chest is honorable and worthy of respect, no less the gentle curves of the woman’s bosom nursing a baby.  For each sex, for every age, there is something to honor and cherish and be thankful for.  Man or woman, boy or girl, God wants you to enjoy your body, nourish and cherish it, and use it for good.  Let’s take off the Darwin glasses and begin again to have a constructive, positive, joyful view of life.  I Timothy 4 is a fitting passage to consider along these lines, especially verse 4.

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