The Impact Of Ernst Haeckel”s Pseudo-Science

It is written:

“You may think you have won your case in court, until your opponent speaks.” (Proverbs 18:17 CEV)

Ernst Haeckel was a very interesting man.

He believed (as many Darwinists do) that a human embryo “runs through” its’ evolutionary background in the womb. So (for example) there is a point where the embryo resembles a fish, and even develops gill slits (which we know today is not true).

In any case, Haeckel tried to bolster his claims with a well-known drawing which purported to compare the development of many different kinds of animals, trying to show that their development demonstrated they had a common ancestor. It was claimed that they all resembled each other remarkably during their development (especially in the early stages). Even to this day, there are those who claim that a baby in the womb is like a fish with gills.

It would seem that the proof of Haeckel demonstrates the truthfulness of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Or does it?

One scientist who carefully studied these matters learned some very shocking facts. In his interview with investigative journalist Lee Strobel, scientist Jonathan Wells and Strobel have the following conversation:

“Haeckel’s most renowned images depict the embryos of a fish, salamander, tortoise, chicken, hog, calf, rabbit, and human side-by-side at three stages of development. The illustrations support Darwin’s assertion that the striking similarities between early embryos is “by far the strongest single class of facts” in favor of his theory that all organisms share a universal ancestor. I was mesmerized by the nineteenth-century drawings when I first encountered them as a student. As I carefully compared the embryos at their earliest stage, looking back and forth from one to the other, I could see they were virtually indistinguishable. I searched my mind, but I couldn’t think of any logical explanation for this phenomenon other than a common ancestor. My verdict was swift: Darwin prevails. The real explanation, as it turns out, would have been far too bizarre for me to have even considered at the time. “When you saw these drawings,” I said to Wells, “did you have the same reaction that I did—that this was strong evidence for Darwinism?” “Yes, I did, the first time I looked at them,” Wells answered. “It wasn’t until I was doing my graduate work that I began to compare actual photographs of embryos to what Haeckel had drawn.” “And what did you find?” “I was stunned!” he said, his eyes widening. “They didn’t fit. There was a big discrepancy. It was really hard to believe.” As he described what had happened, I slowly shook my head in amazement at the implications of what he was saying. “I sort of rationalized by saying, well, textbooks tend to oversimplify things,” he continued. “But over time it bothered me more and more.” I was hungry for details. “What was it specifically that bothered you?” I asked. “There are three problems with these drawings,” he said. “The first is that the similarities in the early stages were faked.” He leveled the accusation without emotion in his voice, but nevertheless it was a stunning charge. “Faked?” I repeated. “Are you sure?” It seemed inconceivable that the books I had relied upon as a student could have so blatantly misled me. “You can call them fudged, distorted, misleading, but the bottom line is that they were faked,” he replied. “Apparently in some cases Haeckel actually used the same woodcut to print embryos from different classes because he was so confident of his theory that he figured he didn’t have to draw them separately. In other cases he doctored the drawings to make them look more similar than they really are. At any rate, his drawings misrepresent the embryos.” “That’s amazing!” I said. “How long has this been known?” “They were first exposed in the late 1860s, when his colleagues accused him of fraud.” I cocked my head. “Wait a minute—I saw these drawings in books that I studied when I was a student in the 1960s and ’70s—more than a hundred years later. How is that possible?” “It’s worse than that!” he declared. “They’re still being used, even in upper-division textbooks on evolutionary biology. In fact, I analyzed and graded ten recent textbooks on how accurately they dealt with this topic. I had to give eight of them an F. Two others did only slightly better; I gave them a D.” Anger was brewing inside of me. I had bought into Darwinism—and subsequently atheism—partially on the basis of drawings that scientists had known for a century were doctored. “This is really hard to believe,” I said. “Doesn’t it make you mad?” “Of course it does, because I was raised on this stuff too. I was misled,” he said. “There was no excuse for it. When some biologists exposed this in an article a few years ago, the evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard complained that this was nothing new. He had known about it for twenty years! It was no secret to the experts. “But then why was it still in textbooks? Even Gould said textbook writers should be ashamed of the way the drawings had been mindlessly recycled for over a century. At least he was honest enough to call it what it was: ‘the academic equivalent of murder.’….“Wells’s first disclosure about Haeckel’s embryos was a stunner, but he had said there were a total of three problems with the drawings. I couldn’t wait to hear him address the others. “What are the other two problems?” I asked. “The minor problem is that Haeckel cherry-picked his examples,” Wells explained. “He only shows a few of the seven vertebrate classes. For example, his most famous rendition has eight columns. Four are mammals, but they’re all placental mammals. There are two other kinds of mammals that he didn’t show, which are different. The remaining four classes he showed—reptiles, birds, amphibians, and fish—happen to be more similar than the ones he omitted. He used a salamander to represent amphibians instead of a frog, which looks very different. So he stacked the deck by picking representatives that came closest to fitting his idea—and then he went further by faking the similarities.” That sounded like a pretty serious breach of scientific protocol to me. “If that’s the minor problem,” I said sarcastically, “then what’s the major one?” Wells moved to the edge of his chair; clearly, this was tapping into his passion area. “To me, as an embryologist, the most dramatic problem is that what Haeckel claimed is the early stage of development is nothing of the sort. It’s actually the midpoint of development,” he explained. “If you go back to the earlier stages, the embryos look far more different from each other. But he deliberately omits the earlier stages altogether.” I didn’t immediately catch the full significance of this. “Why is that important?” “Remember Darwin claimed that because the embryos are most similar in their early stages, this is evidence of common ancestry. He thought that the early stage showed what the common ancestor looked like—sort of like a fish. “But embryologists talk about the ‘developmental hourglass,’ which refers to the shape of an hourglass, with its width representing the measure of difference. You see, vertebrate embryos start out looking very different in the early cell division stages. The cell divisions in a mammal, for example, are radically different from those in any of the other classes. There’s no possible way you could mix them up. In fact, it’s extremely different within classes. The patterns are all over the place. “Then at the midpoint—which is what Haeckel claimed in his drawings was the early stage—the embryos become more similar, though nowhere near as much as Haeckel claimed. Then they become very different again.” What a devastating critique! Haeckel’s drawings, which had been published countless times over more than a century, had failed on three levels. I couldn’t help but ask Wells: “If they’re so misleading, then why did scientists continue to publish them for generation after generation of students?” “One explanation that’s often given,” he replied, “is that although the drawings are false, they teach a concept that’s basically true. Well, this is not true. Biologists know that embryos are not most similar in their earliest stages.” With that, Wells picked up his book from the desk and flipped to the chapter on Haeckel. “Yet listen to this: one textbook shows Haeckel’s drawings and says, ‘Early developmental stages of animals whose adult forms appear radically different are often surprisingly similar.’ One 1999 textbook has a slightly redrawn version of Haeckel’s work and tells students, ‘Notice that the early embryonic stages of these vertebrates bear a striking resemblance to each other.’ “Another textbook accompanies its drawings with the statement: ‘The early embryos of vertebrates strongly resemble one another.’ Another says flatly: ‘One fact of embryology that pushed Darwin toward the idea of evolution is that the early embryos of most vertebrates closely resemble one another.’” (Lee Strobel, he Case for a Creator: A Journalist Investigates Scientific Evidence That Points Toward God, 802-862 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added, M.T.); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)

How did Haeckel defend himself when these facts were brought to light?

“After this compromising confession of ‘forgery’ I should be obliged to consider myself condemned and annihilated if I had not the consolation of seeing side by side with me in the prisoner’s dock hundreds of fellow-culprits, among them many of the most trusted observers and most esteemed biologists….The great majority of all the diagrams in the best biological textbooks, treatises and journals would incur in the same degree the charge of ‘forgery,’ for all of them are inexact, and are more or less doctored, schematised and constructed.”-(Ernst Haeckel defending himself against forgery of the embryo drawings as quoted by Francis Hitching, “The Neck of the Giraffe: Where Darwin Went Wrong,” Ticknor and Fields, New York, 1982, p. 204, in Randy Ruffles, Evolution: Fact or Fiction? – The Secret Truth Darwinists Don’t Want You to Know, 1770-1781 (Kindle Edition))

Haeckel comforted himself with his fraudulent drawings by remembering that the textbooks and professional journals of his day were likewise filled with known forgeries and pseudo-scientific evidence!

Please consider the following.

First, Haeckel clearly faked his evidence to try and support Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Second, the fact that his evidence was faked was known and publicized as early as the 1860’s. Despite this fact, his “evidence” is still used in modern textbooks for advocating the theory of evolution!

Ask yourself: if the proof for Darwin’s theory is as strong as commonly claimed, why do defendants of Darwinism have to rely on discredited fraudulent evidence?

Finally, notice that the actual facts demonstrate proof of the complexity of life in the early stages, arguing strongly against Darwinism and in support of the Creator of the universe!

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