Evolution’s Debunked Icons Still Being Used

First line is Haeckel’s Phony Embryo Drawings

“When it comes to the ‘evidence for evolution,’ Khan Academy shows that what biologist Jonathan Wells has called the ‘icons of evolution’–lines of evidence refuted long ago–are alive and well on the internet. The ‘Evidence for Evolution’ video seems intent on recapitulating many such icons. Those include Ernst Haeckel’s notorious embryo drawings, in addition to the homology in vertebrate limbs, fossil horse, and human-chimp genetic similarity icons. In fact, these are centerpieces of their argument for evolution. The late Stephen Jay Gould called Haeckel’s work ‘fraudulent’ because Haeckel ‘simply copied the same figure over and over again.’ The journal Science quoted embryologist Michael Richardson slamming them as ‘one of the most famous fakes in biology.’ Science went on to explain that the drawings: show vertebrate embryos of different animals passing through identical stages of development. But the impression they give, that the embryos are exactly alike, is wrong, says Michael Richardson, an embryologist. He hopes once and for all to discredit Haeckel’s work, first found to be flawed more than a century ago. Not only did Haeckel add or omit features, Richardson and his colleagues report, but he also fudged the scale to exaggerate similarities among species, even when there were 10-fold differences in size. Khan says that the ‘early stages’ of embryos ‘look eerily similar.’ But the figure above, from Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells, compares Haeckel’s embryos to accurate drawings of vertebrate embryos. Sometimes evolution apologists like to claim that no one uses Haeckel’s embryos anymore and when we mention these drawings, supposedly we are attacking a straw man. Well, as long as Khan Academy leaves its video on YouTube we can definitely say this is no straw man.”

“Khan Academy Pushes Haeckel’s Phony Embryo Drawings,” Evolution News, Feb. 6, 2022