by Brian Thomas, M.S. *
German zoologist Ernst Haeckel is perhaps most famous for defending evolution with the argument that creatures replay their evolutionary past when developing in the womb. Since Darwin’s time, textbooks have reiterated that early embryos of many vertebrates, including humans, have tiny pouches that reflect an evolutionary fish stage. More recently, embryologists thoroughly refuted that concept, and others have shown that Haeckel’s drawings were partially faked. And a new online video taken from 3-D scans of a developing baby’s face should bury Haeckel’s old and uninformed argument.
Embryologist and evolutionist Michael Richardson and colleagues dropped a bomb on Haeckel’s long-held concept known as “embryonic recapitulation.” He compared Haeckel’s old drawings with actual photographs of the same embryos in a 1997 technical paper.1 The comparison showed that Haeckel’s drawings were frauds.
Richardson’s report revealed that in order to make animal embryos look more similar at a certain early stage of development, Haeckel had omitted limb buds and heart bulges and resized and selected certain creature’s embryos.2 Since Haeckel had to manipulate data to conform it to his evolutionary notions, then perhaps embryos—including human—do not rehearse their “evolutionary past” after all.
However, textbooks have not yet reflected these findings. For example, the 2007 edition of a popular college biology textbook by Sylvia Mader features a Haeckel-like illustration and an explanation about embryo pouches—sometimes called “gill slits” by evolutionists—and how their presence supposedly supports evolution. Mader wrote:
At some time during development all vertebrates have a postanal tail [spinal cord-like scaffold] and exhibit paired pharyngeal pouches… In humans, the first pair of pouches becomes the tonsils, while the third and fourth pairs become the thymus and parathyroid glands. Why should terrestrial vertebrates develop and then modify such structures like pharyngeal pouches that have lost their original function? The most likely explanation is that fishes are ancestral to other vertebrate groups.3….
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