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Haeckel's embryos

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Now infamous, the case of the embryological data presented by Ernst Haeckel in his 1866 work Generelle Morphologie der Organismen, has been hailed as the sine qua non demonstration of evolutionary duplicity by such noted creationist luminaries as Jonathan Wells, Kent Hovind, Jonathan Sarfati, and Duane Gish. The facts of the case are significantly less sensational.

Haeckel's 1866 work featured comparative embryological data put into graphical form, in which he compared the embryos of a teleost fish, salamander, tortoise, chicken, pig, cow, rabbit and human. The figures were astonishingly alike throughout ontogeny, and Haeckel thus concluded that the embryological data at hand provided strong support for common descent. Haeckel had in fact substituted dog embryos for human embryos in his work and diagrams, and it was for this reason that Haeckel came under censure at his alma mater. Thus was born the favorite creationist example of "lies in the textbooks" and the general fallacy of evolutionary biology.


What creationists fail to realize is that Haeckel's drawings are not the final word in embryo depiction, and embryonic similarities are very apparent in photographs. Creationists' reliance upon this discrete case of forgery in the long history of scientific forgeries from every field is strange, in that by no means are Haeckel's embryological data the "smoking gun" which alone verifies evolution. Indeed, Haeckel's work is no more than a historical footnote, and evolution stands (and has stood for generations) alone; quite without need of invoking Haeckel in its defense.

Embryo Pictures:


From [http://www.ncseweb.org/icons/index.htm ICONS OF EVOLUTION? Why much of what Jonathan Wells writes about evolution is wrong by Alan D. Gishlick]: http://www.ncseweb.org/icons/figure10.jpg

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