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Haeckel’s biased, manipulative, dishonest drawings

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It is strange that Haeckel has come up again, so let us first understand just how manipulative and dishonest he was in his books that popularised Evolutionism in Germany and elsewhere. As a start, here is his infamous drawing of heads of men and other primates:

This was a time when photography was not ubiquitous, where trips to Zoos and Museums were relatively rare and so “heavy artillery” “facts” in drawings like this from respected scientists, scholars and publishers would have powerful impact.

I just say, failed duty to truth, right reason, prudence [including warrant] and fairness. Likely, though, Haeckel did not see where this sort of racist propaganda would end, in the 1930’s and 40’s.

It is in this context that we should evaluate his similarly artfully distorted comparative illustrations of embryos, intended to support the phrase — he seems to have coined it — ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny . . . the development from zygote retraces evolutionary, body plan level ancestry. (Often, in textbooks up to the turn of the 2,000’s, much was made of what superficially looks like gill filaments.)

Here, the 1874 version (the first was 1868):

Richardson’s comparison [HT: Creation dot com}:

In Jonathan Wells’ Survival of the Fakest, he documents the gill slits distortion, c 2000, from a textbook by a well known publisher:

If memory serves, gill slits was in my HS Bio textbook and was shown in TV documentaries from about 25 – 30 years earlier.

Wells’ commentary is, for cause, stinging:

Darwin thought “by far the strongest single class
of facts in favor of” his theory came from embry-
ology. Darwin was not an embryologist, however,
so he relied on the work of German biologist Ernst
Haeckel, who produced drawings of embryos from
various classes of vertebrates to show that they are
virtually identical in their earliest stages, and become
noticeably different only as they develop. It was this
pattern that Darwin found so convincing.
This may be the most egregious of distor-
tions, since biologists have known for over a cen-
tury that vertebrate embryos never look as similar as
Haeckel drew them. In some cases, Haeckel used
the same woodcut to print embryos that were sup-
posedly from different classes. In others, he doc-
tored his drawings to make the embryos appear
more alike than they really were. Haeckel’s con-
temporaries repeatedly criticized him for these mis-
representations, and charges of fraud abounded in
his lifetime. In 1997, British embryologist Michael
Richardson and an international team of experts
compared Haeckel’s drawings with photographs of
actual vertebrate embryos, demonstrating conclu-
sively that the drawings misrepresent the truth.
The drawings are misleading in another way.
Darwin based his inference of common ancestry on
the belief that the earliest stages of embryo devel-
opment are the most similar. Haeckel’s drawings,
however, entirely omit the earliest stages, which are
much different, and start at a more similar midway
point. Embryologist William Ballard wrote in 1976
that it is “only by semantic tricks and subjective
selection of evidence,” by “bending the facts of
nature,” that one can argue that the early stages of
vertebrates “are more alike than their adults.”
Yet some version of Haeckel’s drawings can
be found in most current biology textbooks. Ste-
phen Jay Gould, one of evolutionary theory’s most
vocal proponents, recently wrote that we should be
“astonished and ashamed by the century of mind-
less recycling that has led to the persistence of these
drawings in a large number, if not a majority, of
modern textbooks.”

This contains a reference to the embryological hourglass issue:

That is, some accept that there is a bottleneck stage but it is not the initial one nor is there strong commonality leading up to it before onward divergence to the fully formed newborn or newly hatched.

We do not need to go into an extensive debate with revisionist side tracks that minimise the significance of Wells’ work to bring the icons issue to public attention, Haeckel’s frauds and/or distortions were important and up to a few years ago had lingering impact. END

11 Replies to “Haeckel’s biased, manipulative, dishonest drawings

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Haeckel’s biased, manipulative, dishonest drawings

  2. 2
    asauber says:

    And I submit that “biased, manipulative, dishonest” images continue to be presented with zero accountability by Science™

    Andrew

  3. 3
    MikeW says:

    I agree with Andrew@2. Darwinists continue to use Haekel’s drawings to manipulate and confuse the issue. For example, the National Center for Science Education presents a completely correct quote from a critic of Haekel’s drawings, stating that Haekel “produced a set of influential drawings showing that the embryos of various classes of vertebrates were very similar during their earliest stages of development”, followed by their reply, “This claim is false.” They go on to support their reply by noting that “Haekel was aware of significant departures in the morphology of early embyos from what would be predicted by his Biogenetic Law.” But the original criticism states nothing about Haekel’s “awareness” of the problem. Indeed, Haekel’s awareness actually reinforces the charge that his drawings were and are fraudulent.
    https://ncse.ngo/haeckels-drawings

  4. 4
    Sandy says:

    All the papers that promote the hoax of the century (darwinism) should be shredded .Shredded papers will form a mount bigger than Everest. :)))

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks, the underlying issue is, that c 1868 on, embryology was viewed as providing the strongest evidence of macroevolution, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. To substantiate this, drawings were produced by an expert on embryology which the general public could not readily identify as materially falsified. Yet, falsified they were. There was some objection but the false drawings were published through many editions and translations, then became part of textbook orthodoxy. This continued for over a century. Linked, the same man produced a chain of heads drawing which was even more blatantly falsified and deceitful, materially supporting a line of racist thinking that ended in disaster, war and genocide in the 1930’s and 40’s. This sort of civilisation-scale failure is significant and a warning on accepting blindly the textbook, museum, headlines and documentary fortified consensus of the reigning orthodoxy. Nor is this an isolated case, there are too many others like it, including on the ongoing pandemic, climate panic, political spectrum, ideological narratives on current affairs, official decision making, court rulings, laws passed by parliaments, dubious referendum results imposed by manipulation of popular opinion, and now even the integrity of elections can become a serious question. We need to do serious rethinking. KF

  6. 6
    Sandy says:

    This sort of civilisation-scale failure is significant and a warning on accepting blindly the textbook, museum, headlines and documentary fortified consensus of the reigning orthodoxy. Nor is this an isolated case, there are too many others like it, including on the ongoing pandemic, climate panic, political spectrum, ideological narratives on current affairs, official decision making, court rulings, laws passed by parliaments, dubious referendum results imposed by manipulation of popular opinion, and now even the integrity of elections can become a serious question. We need to do serious rethinking. KF

    It’s not about to think thought thought it about to believe . In real God.
    What we see is the consequence of dumb humans that instead obey God and be happy they started to study the universe and God’s work and being lost in useless details they start to kill each other.

  7. 7
    tjguy says:

    Very interesting. I never realized that Haeckel had such a huge influence on Darwin! If it had not been for Haeckel, who knows whether Darwin would have been persuaded to publish his hypothesis! So, at least in part, we have Haeckel and his falsified drawings/fake science to thank for the theory of evolution! I guess it’s good to know the theory has no ground on which to stand.

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    TJ, I am not so sure of initial influence c 1858/9, but it is clear that 10 – 15 years later Darwin thought the evidence put up was powerful. He probably was unaware of challenges even then. What is far more telling in some ways is the fakery shown in drawings of people and other primates, which demonstrates manipulative intent. KF

  9. 9
    martin_r says:

    Darwinism = Fraud (no more comments needed)

    but this is what bothers me:

    showing that the embryos of various classes of vertebrates were very similar during their earliest stages of development

    perhaps a silly question, but why on earth, should not be very similar in their earliest stages of development? They all have backbones, they all have eyes, they all have lots of common features…

    (from engineering perspective, i see no reason, why it should not look very similar at early stages of development)

    so, could some biologist (natural science graduate), who never made anything, explain to me, why these embryos (on early stages of development) should not look very similar ? So what would a biologist (who never made anything) suggest, how should these embryos look like (at early stages of development ) ? Or what other self-assembly steps would a biologist (who never made anything) propose ? Can’t wait to hear from a biologist about some bad self-assembly/development design …

  10. 10
    martin_r says:

    by the way, the development of a species is another layer of design. A fully automated self-assembly process is an engineering sci-fi. No materials or parts suppliers are needed, no assembly workers are needed … this is an engineering sci-fi. I can’t decide which design is more complex… whether the design of the species itself, or the design of species self-assembly process (development). I as an engineer would say, the the second is much more complex.

  11. 11
    kairosfocus says:

    MR, the actual original claim is stronger, that embryonic development recapitulates body plan level evolutionary development, hence for instance the illustration of a fish-like stage with a tail and gill like features. Which, recall, was still in at least one key textbook c 2000, complete with labels. The hourglass model highlights that at origin there is considerable diversity then a stage of somewhat similarity then divergence again. Of course, from an engineering perspective, there is no reason why a good common design and basic layout would not include stages that would have a similar layout expressing a common structural form with underlying common organisation. Which, BTW, would also support a pattern of homologous structures such as say backbone based organisation and pentadactyl or modified from pentadactyl limb structures, or even similar molecular structures similarly adapted to particular cases, etc. But that contrast was of course rhetorically suppressed, in part through the emphasis on alleged recapitulation of macro-evolutionary ascent. As for the complexity of self assembly via von Neumann kinematic self-replication and use of metabolism and molecular nanotech guided in key parts by coded algorithmic instruction (BTW, there are suppliers, primarily plants, secondarily, prey species in a food web), it is hard to re-open the eyes of those who think that there is a satisfactory explanation via alleged consensus of experts. Follow the Science is the cry. Where, as Lewontin let the cat out of the bag on, ideological commitments to a priori evolutionary materialistic scientism are smuggled in. KF

    PS: I am reminded of a marketing case from IIRC the 50’s. The ad men were impressed by the steam flushing and sterilisation of bottles. They were told, industry standard. They seized upon it, regardless and pushed the matter in ways suggestive of being attached to this brand. Sales soared, but the underlying manipulativeness should be plain.

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