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The Textbooks Don’t Lie: Haeckel’s Faked Drawings Have Been Used to Promote Evolution: Raven & Johnson (2002) (Part 2)

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As noted recently, we are presently highlighting some textbooks that use Haeckel’s fraudulent embryo drawings to promote evolution. These textbooks use Haeckel’s drawings to assert that they represent factual evidence for evolution in the present-day. “Flock of Dodos” film producer Randy Olson has claimed that either (A) the fraudulent drawings haven’t been used in any modern textbooks, or alternatively, if that argument fails, then (B) when they are used, it isn’t to promote evolution, but simply to demonstrate some kind of historical perspective on the development of evolutionary thought. This post will discuss one recently-published textbook, Peter H Raven & George B Johnson’s, Biology (6th ed, McGraw Hill, 2002), which refutes both Randy Olson’s “A”-argument and his fallback “B”-argument. Unfortunately, Olson’s film is being shown this week on Showtime where it will probably hoax many viewers about the real contents of modern biology textbooks.

Defeating Olson’s “A”-argument: Haeckel’s Fraudulent Drawings Are in Textbooks
The easiest way to demonstrate that Haeckel’s fraudulent drawings are in Raven & Johnson’s 2002 edition of Biology is simply to show drawings straight out of the textbook. In Figure 1 below, Haeckel’s original drawings are shown on the left, while Raven & Johnson’s actual drawings are on the right:

Figure 1: Haeckel’s Embryo Drawings (Rotated) Next to Raven & Johson (2002) for Comparison of Near-Identical Similarities

If you still aren’t convinced that Raven & Johnson’s diagram is merely a colorized and ever-so-slightly reworked version of Haeckel’s drawings, then consider Figure 2, where Haeckel’s original drawings are overlain on top of Raven & Johnson’s (2002) drawings of Haeckel’s Embryos:

Figure 2: Haeckel’s Embryo Drawings Overlain on Raven & Johnson (2002) to show Equivalence

Alternatively, click here to see an animation that overlays Haeckel’s embryo drawings over the drawings of Raven & Johnson’s 2002 biology textbook. (Depending on your connection speed, it may take a little while to load.)

Raven & Johnson’s textbook merely took Haeckel’s original drawings, slightly reworked them, and added some color. For all intents and purposes, these are Haeckel’s drawings. The textbooks don’t lie: here are Haeckel’s drawings in a modern textbook.

Defeating Olson’s “B”-Argument: Haeckel’s Fraudulent Drawings Are Used to Represent Factual Data That Promote Evolution in the Present Day

As I explain in “What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?,” Raven & Johnson use Haeckel’s fraudulent drawings to promote evolution as fact in the present day:
The drawings are presented as valid evidence for the modern theory of evolution, and are not used merely to provide historical context. They come from a section entitled “Embryonic Development and Vertebrate Evolution.” The caption reads: “Embryonic development of vertebrates. Notice that the early embryonic stages of these vertebrates bear a striking resemblance to each other, even though the individuals are from different classes (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals). All vertebrates start out with an enlarged head region, gill slits, and a tail regardless of whether these characteristics are retained in the adult.” (pg. 1228-1229) The text states: “The patterns of development in the vertebrate groups that evolved most recently reflect in many ways the simpler patterns occurring among earlier forms. Thus, mammalian development and bird development are elaborations of reptile development, which is an elaboration of amphibian development, and so forth (figure 58.16).” (pg. 1228-1229) Although Haeckel is mentioned, it is clear that the textbook authors regard these drawing as evidence apart from Haeckel’s interpretation.

The text not only discusses “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” but also affirms it, albeit in a slightly different form. This entire discussion comes from a subsection entitled “Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny,” in which the authors repudiate Haeckel’s claim but then defend a reformulated version of it: “The developmental instructions for each new form seem to have been layered on top of the previous instructions, contributing additional steps in the developmental journey. This hypothesis, promoted in the nineteenth century by Ernst Haeckel, is referred to as the ‘biogenetic law.’ It is usually stated as an aphorism: ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny; that is, embryological development (ontogeny) involves the same progression of changes that have occurred during evolution (phylogeny). However, the biogenetic law is not literally true when stated in this way because embryonic stages are not reflections of adult ancestors. Instead, the embryonic stages of a particular vertebrate often reflect the embryonic stages of that vertebrate’s ancestors.” (pg. 1228-1229, emphases in original) Earlier the text stated: “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.” (pg. 450) The basis for the text’s claims that the law holds is the fraudulent Haeckel-derived drawings, which obscure the differences between the embryos.
There is no indication whatsoever that Haeckel’s drawings are used to merely give some kind of “historical context.” Rather, the drawings are used to represent facts about development in the present day, based upon the fraudulent obfuscation of differences between early embryo stages.

In short, Randy Olson’s arguments have failed. He recently claimed that “PZ Myers a few days later on his blog, took the movie, went through it scene by scene, moment by moment in that whole sequence on Haeckel’s embryos, and bottom line said there’s nothing inaccurate in the film.” According to Olson, it would seem that PZ Myers does not consider it “inaccurate” to use drawings which are known to fraudulently obscure the differences between embryos to promote a version of the idea that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.

In a debate over his film, Olson recently claimed that it was his “agenda” to make the issue of Haeckel’s embryos the “battlefield” over intelligent design. Have it your way, Dr. Olson: Perhaps Haeckel’s ideas aren’t the bedrock of modern evolutionary biology in 2007, but his drawings and ideas sure are used in a lot of textbooks to promote evolution as fact. Moreover, we never claimed Haeckel’s ideas were the foundation of evolutionary biology today–we only said the drawings and ideas are inaccurate and shouldn’t be used as any kind of an argument for evolution. Randy Olson responded by denying that they are even in textbooks promoting evolution: Either (A) They aren’t in textbooks, or (B) They’re used in textbooks If Randy Olson wants to make this the “battlefield,” so be it: The textbooks don’t lie: This textbook uses Haeckel’s drawings to promote evolution as fact in the present day. And that’s precisely the kind of textbook that Randy Olson and his film have claimed doesn’t exist.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



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