Haeckel's False Embryo drawings

Science is an evolving field of study. Many beliefs or “facts” that scientists once held as true have since been proven as false. We now know for certain that life does not develop from non-life. However, at one time scientists believed that life arose spontaneously, from non-life. It was long believed that maggots came into being from rotten meat and that mice came into existence from wheat, etc. This has been since been totally disproven. We know from observable science that living cells cannot have evolved from inanimate (non-living) chemicals or minerals. Life can only come from life.

There have been many other “facts” held by scientists in the past that were later totally refuted and are no longer believed today. Sadly, some of the erroneous “facts” of the past are still mistakenly taught as truth in today’s society. One glaring example of this is the teaching by German evolutionist Ernst Haeckel in the late 1860’s. He taught the theory that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” meaning that during an organism’s early development it supposedly re-traces its evolutionary history and that early embryos from different mammals, at one stages in development, look nearly identical. He taught that organisms go through various evolutionary stages in early development and claimed that such embryos have gill slits like a fish, tails like a monkey, etc.

Ernst Haeckel
Ernst Haeckel

To “prove” his theory, Ernst Haeckel drew pictures of eight different embryos and showed them to look nearly exactly alike. He then claimed that the similarity in these embryos proved that we all re-trace our evolutionary development during the embryonic stage. This teaching was readily accepted by many who believe the theory of evolution and Haeckel’s drawings of embryos soon appeared in nearly every science textbook. In the minds of several early scientists, Haeckel had proved that we all evolved from a common mammalian ancestor. Sadly, Haeckel’s drawings still appear in many science textbooks in developing countries, though they have long since been proved false.

Ruetimeyer Ludwig
L. Rutimeyer

Just a few short months after Haeckel’s drawings and assumptions appeared in printed magazines and books, L. Rutimeyer, who was a professor of zoology and comparative anatomy at the University of Basel, proved that Haeckel’s drawings were fraudulent (fake, not true to real life). Rutimeyer said that “such drawings are manipulations of public and scientific thought.” (Wikipedia: Opppsition to Haeckel) Other scientists such as William His Sr., who was then professor of anatomy at the University of Leipzig, and who was famous for his work in embryology also said that Haeckel’s drawings and conclusions were deceptive and not correct science.

An embryologist, Dr. Michael Richardson, who worked cooperatively with biologists around the world, recently collected and photographed the types of embryos Haeckel supposedly drew. The pictures Haeckel had drawn did not look like the evidence from the photographic studies of the same embryos in the same stages of development. Why did Haeckel try to deceive the scientific community? To become famous? This is perhaps the best explanation because even today, years after his works have been proven fake and not trustworthy, Haeckel’s (erroneous) drawings and also erroneous conclusions still appear in science textbooks in some countries.

The times (in London) has quoted Michael Richardson, PhD. as saying about Haeckel’s claims, “This is one of the worst cases of scientific fraud. It’s shocking to find that somebody one thought was a great scientist was deliberately misleading. It makes me angry. What he [Haeckel] did was to take a human embryo and copy it, pretending that the salamander and the pig and all the others looked the same at the same stage of development. They don’t. These [drawings of Haeckel’s] are fakes.”

It is now well known in the scientific community that a human embryo never looks like a pig, or some sort of reptile, does not have gill slits, does not have a tail (the early developing spinal column was previously mistaken for a tail) and does not become human only sometime after eight weeks. What were previously thought to be gill slits in humans (like actual gill slits in fish) are now known to be folds that will later become the jaw, throat, etc. of the fetus. As it develops, each embryo of each species looks more and more different from other embryos and each have their own, distinct DNA which promises they will develop into their own, unique species. From the moment of conception a human embryo is clearly a human and will only develop into a human. A pig embryo is totally distinct in DNA, development, etc from a human. It is not “nearly human” until a later stage in development, as Haeckel tried to teach.

Comparison betwenn embryos

Above is a picture showing Haeckel’s fake drawings at the top and actual pictures of embryos at the same stage of development below. It is clear to see that Haeckel drew the embryos to look alike in order to further his false teaching regarding evolution and to “prove” that all mammals came from a common ancestor. In many places this teaching is still believed and taught today, based in part on Haeckel’s false drawings. Though Haeckel’s drawing have been proven over and over to be fake, still science textbook editors print them because it is easy to do so and because they don’t take the time to search for the truth.

Let us beware of deception and erroneous teachings in the field of science. The road of truth is always the best road.

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