Ever since Darwin wrote his famous book on evolution, The Origin of Species, evolutionists have pointed to exam- ples they claim support the theory of evolution. But how good is that evidence?
Darwin relied on the work of others to demonstrate his theory. One famous example, still found in virtually every textbook promoting evolution, is what is commonly called "Haeckel's embryos."
Ernst Haeckel, a German biologist, had supposedly shown that embryos from various animals were identical to each other in their earliest stages. Darwin had written that "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" (The Origin of Species, Great Books of the Western World series, p. 224).
Darwin also wrote that, since humans and all other vertebrates apparently were so similar in the early stages of their development, "we ought frankly to admit their community of descent" (The Descent of Man, 1952, Great Books of the Western World series, p. 265). He wrote to a friend that similarities in early embryos were "by far the strongest single class of facts in favor of" his theory (The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, 1896, Vol. II, p. 131).
Darwin and others promoted this idea even though other experts in the field, such as Karl Ernst von Baer (at one time Europe's most famous embryologist), disagreed. Von Baer stated that "the embryo of the higher form never resembles any other form, but only its embryo" (as quoted by Jonathan Wells, Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?, 2000, p. 84). However, Darwin cited von Baer in support of his theory even though von Baer did not believe in Darwinism and strongly objected to it.
Today, however, biologists recognize that Haeckel faked his drawings to support his theory that embryos in essence reenact their species' evolutionary history as they develop.
Biologist Jonathan Wells writes that Haeckel's illustrations "show vertebrate embryos that look very much alike at their earliest stage . . . In fact, the embryos look too much alike . . . He [Haeckel] was more than once, often justifiably, accused of scientific falsification . . . In some cases, Haeckel used the same woodcut to print embryos that were supposedly from different classes. In others, he doctored his drawings to make the embryos appear more alike than they really were . . . Haeckel's contemporaries repeatedly criticized him for these misrepresentations, and charges of fraud abounded in his lifetime" (Wells, pp. 90-91, emphasis in original).
Comparing Haeckel's drawings (top row) with actual embryos (middle row), it becomes apparent that his illustrations were distorted to support his proevolution ideas. Here we find a classic example of how the prejudices of those examining scientific evidence affect their conclusions. Haeckel, as many other evolutionists over the years, saw only the evidence he wanted to see and apparently believed that the ends (what he believed was the truth of evolution) justified the means (erroneous and even fraudulent supposed proofs of the theory).
British embryologist Michael Richardson, along with an international team of experts, conducted a 1997 study comparing Haeckel's drawings with actual embryos. His conclusion? Haeckel's work "looks like it's turning out to be one of the most famous fakes in biology" (Elizabeth Pennisi, "Haeckel's Embryos: Fraud Rediscovered," Science 277, 1997, p. 1435). In spite of repeated discrediting, however, Haeckel's ideas and drawings still appear in many recent textbooks and are presented as fact.
The truth is that embryos at an early stage are demonstrably different from each other. Haeckel tried to show, through falsified drawings, that the embryos were similar. This supposedly meant that all creatures descended from a common ancestor. However, the development of embryos, rather than demonstrating evolution, shows that each species is distinct. Instead of supporting evolution, embryology points to creation. GN