Recently, a comment by a Lance Duval appeared in the combox for the Post-Darwinist’s “Marsupial frogs: Another reason to check out of Darwinism”. DuvalÃ‚Â trashed ID embryologist Jonathan Wells, arguing that Darwin never really believed in recapitulation of embryos and that it has not been taught in textbooks since the 1920s.
Now, a little background: Jonathan Wells is possibly the most hated of the ID guys because his books, Icons of Evolution and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design, catalogue many unsubstantiable claims made in recent textbooks in support of Darwinian evolution. So I asked Wells for a response, and here it is:
Lance Duval really should do his homework … here are some quotes you might find useful (all of them in Icons of Evolution, 2000):
(a) Lance Duval: “that is not Darwinism, but Haeckelism.”
Charles Darwin: “It seems to me,” Darwin wrote in The Origin of Species, “the leading facts in embryology, which are second to none in importance, are explained on the principle of variations in the many descendants from some one ancient progenitor.” And those leading facts, according to him, were that “the embryos of the most distinct species belonging to the same class are closely similar, but become, when fully developed, widely dissimilar.” Reasoning that “community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent,” Darwin concluded: “it is probable, from what we know of the embryos of mammals, birds, fishes and reptiles, that these animals are the modified descendants of some ancient progenitor,” and that early embryos “show us, more or less completely, the condition of the progenitor of the whole group in its adult state.” In The Descent of Man, Darwin extended the inference to humans: “The [human] embryo itself at a very early period can hardly be distinguished from that of other members of the vertebrate kingdom.” Since humans and other vertebrates “pass through the same early stages of development,… we ought frankly to admit their community of descent.” (Origin of Species, Chapter XIV; Descent of Man, Chapter I)
(b) Lance Duval: “This nonsense was never considered mainstream biological science and has not appeared in any textbooks since the 1920s.”
B. I. Balinsky, An Introduction to Embryology (1975), pp. 7-8: “Features of ancient origin develop early in ontogeny; features of newer origin develop late. Hence, the ontogenetic development presents the various features of the animalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s organization in the same sequence as they evolved during the phylogenetic development. Ontogeny is a recapitulation of phylogeny.” [emphasis in original]
Bruce Alberts, et al., Molecular Biology of the Cell (1994), pp. 32-33: “Embryos of different species so often resemble each other in their early stages and, as they develop, seem sometimes to replay the steps of evolution.”
Peter Raven & George Johnson, Biology (1999), p. 416: “Some of the strongest anatomical evidence supporting evolution comes from comparisons of how organisms develop. In many cases, the evolutionary history of an organism can be seen to unfold during its development, with the embryo exhibiting characteristics of the embryos of its ancestors.”
Will the real “poor scholar” please stand up…
This exchange reminds me of a similar claim by Flock of Dodos filmmaker Randy Olson that Haeckel’s fraudulent series of vertebrate embryos d not appear in modern textbooks. As Discovery Institute’s John West and Casey Luskin note,
Were Ernst HaeckelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bogus embryo diagrams ever used in modern textbooks to prove evolution? Not according to filmmaker Randy Olson, who in his film Flock of Dodos portrays biologist Jonathan Wells as a fraud for claiming in the book Icons of Evolution (2000) that modern biology textbooks continued to reprint Haeckel-based drawings.
But it turns out that Olson is the one who is promoting a fraud. The diagrams in question were unquestionably used in modern textbooks, and Olson himself knows that fact.
[ … ]
OlsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s botched coverage of HaeckelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s embryo drawings may have been due initially to ignorance and sloppiness. Although in his film Olson claims to have read WellsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ book Icons of Evolution, he shows little indication of having actually done so. Since WellsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ book provides extensive documentation of the textbooks that have recycled HaeckelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s diagrams, it would have been easy for Olson to have checked the relevant textbooks if he doubted WellsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ account. But the excuse of ignorance no longer applies. At a pre-release screening of OlsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s film at the Scripps Institution for Oceanography in San Diego in April, 2006, Discovery InstituteÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Casey Luskin confronted Olson with copies of recent textbooks that reused HaeckelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s drawings. Later Jonathan Wells sent Olson an e-mail providing a list of recent textbooks that have included the diagrams. Olson has been informed of the facts, but he has chosen to keep hoaxing his audiences.
The question that has always puzzled me is why, exactly? Why this cognitive dissonance about something that is so easy for others to discover the truth about? Clearly, these people themselves need to believe that the textbooks do not mislead, even when they clearly and obviously do.
Most doctors who have been in practice for more than 25 years probably studied from textbooks that are considered dated today. Think of “hormone replacement therapy” for example. Do doctors insist that the previous generation’s protocols never at any time advocated it? Of course not. Medical science learns from its mistakes and moves on.
But Darwinists and their friends, as I have frequently had occasion to observe, are not defending a science, as the doctors are; they are defending a religion – the Book of Genesis of materialism. It is for precisely that reason that the textbooks that promote Darwinism must be holy writ, free of vulgar error (or the vulgar error must have been committed so long ago that no one alive is likely to be misled by it). And if that’s not factually true, the faith position must be maintained anyway as an act of faith.
No wonder there is an intelligent design controversy.