Embryos and Evolution

Speed of Particles

April 21

Back in my high school days, I recall thumbing through my textbook for biology class. That’s when I first saw Haeckel’s Embryos… and had my first real encounter with the claim of proof for the theory of evolution.

If you are not familiar, Ernst Haeckel was a German biologist and contemporary of ErnstHaeckelCharles Darwin. Back in those days, evidence for the proof of evolutionary theory was pretty scarce. But, Haeckel, intrigued by Darwin’s approach, decided to employ his skills and training to address the issues at hand.

So from 1868 to 1908, Haeckel published a series of books illustrating an amazing observation. Within these pages were Haeckel’s own observations illustrated and documented in picture form. According to Haeckel, in their earliest stages, the embryos of all vertebrates looked almost exactly the SAME. Darwin’s theory had considerable merit because the evidence revealed that vertebrate embryos shared a common ancestor!


What is more… Haeckel asserted that all embryonic development repeats our evolutionary past. “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” he famously surmised. In other words, every organism as it develops (ontogeny) expresses the history of its development (recapitulates) in all the intermediate forms of its ancestors (phylogeny).

Those wrestling with Darwin’s new theory were ecstatic! Here was direct and conclusive evidence supporting what Darwin was saying. Haeckel’s drawings quickly made him a major voice in the early days of evolutionary exploration.

There was only one problem… Haeckel fabricated his evidence.

This occurred in three ways. First, he completely ignored vertebrate embryos that were, in fact, very dissimilar to others. Second, he selected species that specifically demonstrated his view, and gave every impression that there were no species that were dissimilar. Third, the embryos he chose were NOT in the earliest stages of development (as he claimed) but were actually specimens from the middle stages of development (when embryos ARE more similar). In the end, what Haeckel “proved” by his published research was not accurate at all. His research was faulty… and he knew it!

embryo comparisons

What is more troubling is that even Haeckel’s colleagues knew of his research and all of its misrepresentations and spoke out against it. But they were largely ignored. There was an exciting new theory to promote – a theory that could not be bogged down by something so trivial as fraudulent research.

Almost immediately, Haeckel’s drawings gained a popular audience and soon found their way into biology textbooks throughout America and Great Britain. Haeckel’s drawings continued to be widely published until just after the turn of this century.

Think about that for a moment. The fraudulent research was published as evolutionary proof for more than a century – powerfully influencing the minds of students for several generations.


More troubling still is the response of many scientists and textbook publishers when Haeckel’s fraud became common knowledge. The prevailing attitude goes something like this: “Yes, some of Haeckel’s work is faked and misleading… but evolution is true, even if these particular facts don’t necessarily support it.”

That’s like a prosecuting attorney admitting: “Yes, we fabricated the evidence against the defendant… but hey! The guy was guilty… and our case needed that evidence!”

P A smug

Another prominent scientist has said: “Haeckel was wrong in his approach… but right in his conclusions.”

Apparently, the end does justify the means. Fraud is just fine… as long as it supports the evolutionary cause!

But the question is… was Haeckel right in his conclusions?!

In all fairness, science does tell us that there is a good deal of commonality in many vertebrate’s development. Haeckel saw this and sought to prove Darwin’s notion that we all came from a common ancestor. Even though he faked some of his evidence, he demonstrated that vertebrates seem to have (in many cases) a common beginning. He concluded that most vertebrates traveled a similar developmental path to reach their fully developed form.

Evolution declares that this common path is common ancestry.


But there is another valid possibility. All this commonality (from cell structures, to bone shapes, to DNA, to how we develop, to built-in adaptability) could be offering us proof of another common path.

It could be telling us that we all have a common Designer.

dna (1)


About theheartseeker

I have spent years studying the Scriptures and seeking for God's answer to the question: What IS true Christianity? Let me share some answers with you...
This entry was posted in Creation, Daily devotional, Evolution, God as Creator, Intelligent Design vs. Evolution, Science, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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