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Haeckel’s Embryos Are Alive


Sounds like the title of a bad horror movie, but it’s true. Run.

All right, you can walk. The link above takes you to a pdf of page 110 of Donald Prothero’s new book, Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007). Prothero argues that “all vertebrate embryos start out with a long tail, well-developed gill slits, and many other fish-like features” (p. 108). Thus, he continues, “to the limited extent that von Baer had shown 40 years earlier,” Haeckel’s biogenetic law — ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny — “is true.”

Except sometimes it’s not:

But embryos also have many unique features (yolk sac, allantois, amniotic membranes, umbilical cords) that have nothing to do with the evolutionary past and are adaptations to their developmental environment. Thus it is dangerous to overextend the evolutionary implications of the stages in the embryo, but they are useful guides nonetheless. (p. 108)

Useful guides to what? “Well-developed gill slits” and a long tail are features of adult organisms. Prothero has confused von Baer’s laws (which concern embryonic features) with Haeckel’s biogenetic law, which asserts that the adult features of ancestors are recapitulated during the embryogenesis of their descendants.

In any case, the conservation of embryogenesis is very much in dispute: certainly nothing like a “law” applies. Moreover, the caption to Prothero’s figure 4.10 is wrong. The first stage in the diagram, the so-called “pharyngula,” is actually midway in vertebrate development; these embryos exhibit strikingly different patterns at their earlier stages. There’s just no reason to reprint these figures as an accurate representation of anything; the Haeckel scandal concerned the very accuracy of these drawings.

Flipping to another page of Prothero’s book (p. 45):

In August 2005, an ID creationist article on the “Cambrian explosion” appeared in the obscure Journal of the Biological Society of Washington. According to reports, the peer reviews were scathing and recommended rejection of the article, but the editor had creationist sympathies and let it be published anyway. Once the editorial board and the Smithsonian scientists became aware of what had been slipped past them, they repudiated the article, and the editor resigned. (p. 45)

All wrong (the statements in bold):

1. Steve Meyer’s article was published in August 2004, not 2005.

2. The reviewers recommended publication, as Roy McDiarmid of the Biological Society of Washington acknowledged on reviewing the file of reports.

3. Rick Sternberg’s normal term as editor had already ended by the time Meyer’s article was published. He did not resign as a consequence of the article.

Who is copy-editing at Columbia University Press?

[...] Darwinism over the years. He is quoted here and here, for example, affirming Darwin’s truths, and also affirming the miracle of Haeckel’s embryos (described by others as an imposture)* in his 1994 textbook with [...] God's iPod - Uncommon Descent - Intelligent Design
[...] Darwinism over the years. He is quoted here and here, for example, affirming Darwin’s truths, and also affirming the miracle of Haeckel’s embryos (described by others as an imposture)* in his 1994 textbook with [...] Donald Prothero: Sometimes even a Darwinism must confront the pattern of the evidence | Uncommon Descent
Thanks Sal for taking the time to write such an excellent response to my question. Like I said I'm not a young earther. I try to be open minded though, in fact I would be very pleased if the universe were younger than standard dating indicates. I'm rooting for ya. PannenbergOmega
Yeah, I was looking at Dr. Walt Brown's book. I'm afraid however that I don't know enough about the subject to conclude anything about it. http://www.creationscience.com/onlinebook/index.html PannenbergOmega
Hi guys, thank you for answering my questions. Sal. Interesting that you say around 100 Million years, that was Lord Kelvin's prediction for the age of the earth. PannenbergOmega
I recall reading that in the 19th Century the Biblical predications about the return of the Jewish state of Israel were considered metaphorical by just about everybody so I don't think it delusional for one to have faith that the creation story in Genesis will one day jibe with the evidence of science. But that is a statement of faith and those who don't have it ought not be considered hell-bound heretics. The age of the Earth is not foundational to Christianity. And scientific basis for an old Earth is good, unlike for that of the TOE. tribune7
. Is there any viable evidence that the universe could be young?
I think there is at least a fringe chance it is true. If not 10,000 maybe a litte older. There are three positions in general: 1. Literal Genesis 6,000-10,000 years 2. Non-Literal Genesis, but still an Earth that is no older than 100 million. Let us call this position "MEC" :-) 3. Old Earth as mainstream science suggests. I think #2 is defensible, #1 is pretty hard, but I'm committed to trying to explore the issue until the issue is clearer. I was an old Earth advocate some years ago, now I'm not so sure. There has been much that has caused me to doubt. What will settle the issue? I stated a few things at Young Cosmos, but it's pretty obscure. The bottom line is we need better space probes and telescopes. We really need to do distance measurements of the stars using super accurate parallax-type probes like the Hipparcos mission. Our best measurements are out to only 400 light years. If we get to measuring about 1 million light years accurately and can resolve distances between spectrocopic binary stars about 100,000 light years away, we've got a good shot of settling the issues scientifically. If the starlight intensity does not obey an inverse square law to vs. distance, and if the orbits of spectroscopic binaries are slower the farther we look out, then that would be slam dunk evidence the speed of light has slowed down in a manner consistent with YEC or MEC. Right now it's too hard to say. Both camps (OEC vs YEC) seem to find fatal arguements in each other's position. Paul Giem pointed out the work of Ariel Roth and Leonard Brand. Those scientists are associated with Loma Linda/GRI which actually publishes in secular peer review. [Leonard Brand made the cover of the prestigous journal Geology in 2004]. One of the other scientists there, Timothy Standish, was in school with me at GMU while he was getting his PhD in biology. I know some people will fume at me for being critical of Answers in Genesis and ICR, but it was reading their literature a while back that convinced me there wasn't really any chance the world was young. However, it was the writings of Dr. Walter Brown (PhD MIT) and the folks at Loma Lind/GRI (Geoscience Research Institute) that changed my mind, not AiG or ICR.... So what is the payoff if this fringe theory of a Young Cosmos is empirically demonstrated? ID is proven true beyond reasonable doubt....not to mention some important other ideas. :-) I can only suggest a good measure of caution for the time being as the ideas are still speculative and in need of plugging some holes.... Dr. Paul Giem himself is being very modest here as he himself is a medical doctor and researcher and professor at Loma Linda University and has written some really good material on these topics. I would highly recommend his writings! Loma Linda University has a hospital and medical school. It is a serious place for learning and research.... scordova
PannenbergOmega, You are right about the difficulties in meshing Genesis 1-11 with an old age for life on earth. If you are looking for a presentation of young earth creationism (or at least young life on earth creationism) that deals with the facts of geology, you might try Origins: Linking Science and Scripture by Ariel A. Roth, or Faith, Reason, and Earth History: A Paradigm of Earth and Biological Origins by Intelligent Design by Leonard Brand. Paul Giem
If we can't depend on the Bible, then wouldn't the resurrection and life after death be wishful thinking too? PannenbergOmega
Hi Jerry, I wouldn't consider myself to be a YEC. ALTHOUGH. I do sympathize with their point of view. I would love to see them be proven right. The more I study the subject, the more it seems hopeless to reconcile the Genesis account with an old earth. PannenbergOmega
PannenbergOmega, A young earth is wishful thinking and you are certainly welcome to believe it and you will find those who will agree with you if you do. I am sure there are rationales for everything but common sense rules it out. One has only to look at island building, the mid Atlantic ridge, the building of mountains, periodic eruptions of hot spots and how they move as the crust moves, besides the immensity of the universe to rule it out. They can measure how much the plates move each year. They can measure how much a mountain is growing. Go to Hawaii and see the difference between the islands as far as apparent age. Similar with Tahiti to Bora Bora. The older the island, the more different the geology and other features. Even when they dispute the dating techniques, they have to rule out basic physics as applying to isotope degeneration of everything. It is not just one isotope but 15-20 isotopes that are used to date layers of the earth which are so neatly stacked in millions of places. If you want to believe, you can but you have so much counter evidence facing you that is consistent. Occasional those espousing a young earth point out some inconsistencies, but never all the consistent elements which are overwhelming. Ask Sal what he thinks. He often said he was 90% sure of a young earth. Ask him for the pros and cons. Also find a credible scientist who is not a believer in Genesis as literal who believe in a young earth. I don't think there are too many. jerry
Salvador Cordova has a website called Young Cosmos. Is there any viable evidence that the universe could be young? Sal writes that the universe could be 10,000 years old. Walt Brown and Russell Humphreys 6,000 (more or less) years old. If this is a viable possibility, then that is almost too cool for words! PannenbergOmega
Nelson: "Who is copy-editing at Columbia University Press?" That or they are very careless with facts and details, both good reasons for gutting the trust of the public. This betrays their hypocricy and incompetence when they point their fingers at dissenters for not being professional or ethical enough. So be it. Self-inflicting wounds would serve them right in the long run. JPCollado
Hi Chuck, A "troll" is a person who comes to Uncommon Decent under the guise of being an ID supporter. In truth, the person just comes to cause trouble or mock us. Your grammar has nothing to do with being a troll. Have a good day. PannenbergOmega
PannenbergOmega, Thanks for the vote of confidence. I readily admit that I'm not the smartest man around, and I may mangle grammre every now and then, but I wish to contribute to the ongoing discussion of ID science. chuckhumphry
"Really good imitations of IDers aren’t written so broadly. Work on your nuances." I don't think Chuck is a troll. He's just another interested visitor to this website. If he is, then he sure did fool me. Where did 'Plato's Plaything' go? She was probably a troll. PannenbergOmega
DLH, Perhaps I should clarify: what I mean is, "Darwinism" as a naturalistic philosohpy existed long before Darwin the man. David Hume and dozens of other materialist philosophers have tried to combat a central philosophical concept of ID as a theory, that we can infer design by an intelligent being through observation and experimentation. I donot mean that Haeckel's embryos have been used for hundreds of years. Only that materialistic science has used the same bad arguments, the same strawmen, the same weak "data", the same talking points from the discredited memo. Each decade the specifics may change (or in this case, be reformated and resubmitted), but the overarching arguments remain the same. Even Hume set forward his argument against an Intelligent Designer: "I can think of a logical alternative: No Intelligent Designer." Yet, an Intelligent Agent is necessary, as demonstrated through the works of Dr. William Dembski. Darwinists will use any lie to further their ends - even when it comes to something as obvious as Haeckel's embryos. chuckhumphry
chuckhumphry Are you claiming that Darwinists were misrepresenting ID in 1854 - 5 years before Darwin published on the Origin of Species in 1859? Please check your facts. "Old news" does not "sell." Examine how do you can redress today's misdeeds. DLH
DLH, Truly, what's left to say? Again, Haeckel continuing to be publshed demonstrates that Darwinists will resort to any distortion of the facts to maintain the popular paradigm. Really, it's old news: Darwinists have been doing this for at least a hundred years - and probably ever since Hume's Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. DLH, you and I know that the press continues to misrepresent ID theory for their own materialist ends. So, what we've inferred through ID theory is there is an intelligent being (whatever it is) that manages to construct irreducibly complex biochemical systems - not that ID science is a religion. chuckhumphry
chuckhumphry at 25 Better. Now turn it around and show positive evidence for design information or Complex Specified Information. Better yet, address the topic of this thread "Haeckel’s Embryos Are Alive" and don't divert attention into rabbit trails. DLH
Did I say anything that hasn't been articulated (perhaps with better spelling and grammar) by the likes of moderators like DaveScot? I do remain incredulous - and for all the right reasons. I am unwilling to accept Darwinism because scientists have shown that the likelihood of evolution occuring without an intelligent agent is so unlikely as to border beyond the unlikely and to approach impossible. chuckhumphry
Here's Evolution News and Views on: Lessons Learned from Haeckel and His Drawings: We Shouldn't Always Believe What the "Leading Experts" Tell Us about Evolution DLH
On Incredulity See: Arguments from incredulity - a double standard Evolutionists commonly misunderstand what is required to form Complex Specified Information and allege it is an argument from personal incredulity. The attribution to intelligent causation is based on the facts that intelligent agents are known to create Complex Specified Information. Conversely, there is no known method for non-telic systems comprising only the four laws of physics from forming such Complex Specified Information. DLH
Daniel King says,
"Hi, Frosty, My question is: How do you know (or guess) what to expect?"
Well I'm assuming that that was a pun- but if not, you would expect very small low level evolutionary improvements (if that) and some rather ugly harmful mutations. If mutation was random you would have a mess and not very little chance of specified complexity existing in life, if any at all. Were talking about improbability and the lack of a mechanism adequate for explaining the diversity of specified complex living things, their structures and the evolutionary pathway that their changes were facilitated by. Also as Michael Behe points out in his book Edge of Evolution you would also be lacking the pathways from which complex and irreducibly complex molecular machines arise from. The point is that modern science has found within the cell nano-factories surpassing the efficiency of even the most advanced human design capabilities- yet eerily resembling some of the very systems that were first discovered when they were devised and elucidated "for purposes" by man-- that is to say that intelligence designed systems very similar to the ones found in the cell BEFORE they were discovered in the cell--in nature. How can evolution be accounted for without the mechanism of a guiding intelligence? It cannot. Moreover, as pertaining to the article above, the evo-devo or evolutionary development debate, according to Behe, is so incapable of dealing with the nonrandom picture that modern science is discovering in biology that they flat out ignore the entire question of randomness in an effort to prevent any discussion of purposive evolution - hence design...
"The recent exciting advances in understanding the genetic basis of animal embryology have helped spark a new field of inquiry dubbed evo-devo... Evo-devo looks both at how animals are built in each generation and at how they might have evolved over millennia. Proponents typically whistle gingerly past questions of how basic cellular machinery may have come about by unintelligent processes at the start. But, given a generic eukaryotic cell that has been endowed with what's been styled a "tool kit" of regulatory genes, they imagine they can scout a path for mutation and selection to go from such humble creatures as flat worms, past insects and arachnids, up through fish, all the way to cats." ---- Michael Behe, pp.182, The Edge of Evolution
I rather figured that. ;-) As soon as I posted it, I figured someone would post something like that. ;-) And my husband grew up on a dairy farm, so I learned a few things about cows along the way. Jasini
I don't understand why everyone is attacking me like a pack of wild dogs! It's clear that random mutation and natural selection cannot produce the diversity we see around us. chuckhumphry
Jasini, I know what you meant. Just trying to provide some levity. russ
Jasini, "How would you get two cows to mate?" I have friends who own a dairy. They keep talking of steers, heifers, bulls, cows, etc. Its a pain. With them, I just developed the term "moo" to get past it. How 'bout being a little less technical. In any case, within the context of "The argument that two cows won’t mate and produce a chimpanzee is an argument from incredulity" even your technical disdain is valid within this context. It is incredible to consider two heifers mating, and producing a chimpanzee. bFast
How do you get two cows to mate and produce anything? Jasini
chuckhumphry said: The argument that two cows won’t mate and produce a chimpanzee is an argument from incredulity. Sure it is. And you, as a logically challenged individual, are welcome to make as many arguments from incredulity as you want. When you start passing those off as ID arguments, however, one suspects you have other motives. Phinehas

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