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New York Times Rehashes Darwinist Myths about Haeckel’s Embryo Drawings and Evolution

The NCSE’s rebuttal to Jonathan Wells’ Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Evolution, as re-published in this past Sunday’s New York Times, contains some small differences from their original response which Wells refuted in 2002.

I will rebut some of the NCSE’s new false claims in a couple of posts this week.

First, let’s look at the fourth question that Dr. Wells asks: “Why do textbooks use drawings of similarities in vertebrate embryos as evidence for their common ancestry — even though biologists have known for over a century that vertebrate embryos are not most similar in their early stages, and the drawings are faked?” Dr. Wells is referring to the faked embryo drawings by the 19th century embryologist Ernst Haeckel, drawings which have been repeatedly used in modern biology textbooks to promote evolution. The NCSE’s 2002 response took the approach of denying that the drawings are in textbooks, stating that “hardly any textbooks feature Haeckel’s drawings, as claimed.” Not only does this statement not answer Dr. Wells’ question, but as will be seen below, it is blatantly false.

In the newer, slightly different response printed in the New York Times, the NCSE adds that Haeckel’s drawings “were used in textbooks 20 years ago.” This false claim is almost as bad as evolutionary biologist Randy Olson’s claim that Haeckel’s fraudulent drawings were not used in textbooks to promote evolution since 1914. What follows is documentation of 10 textbooks that have used Haeckel’s embryo drawings (or near-identical colorized versions) to promote evolution in the past 10 years:

Textbook Year Published Further Explanation
Joseph Raver, Biology: Patterns and Processes of Life 2003 What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?
Cecie Starr and Ralph Taggart, Biology: The Unity and Diversity of Life (proposed version) 2003 What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?
Peter H Raven & George B Johnson, Biology 2002 What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?
Michael Padilla et al., Focus on Life Science (California Edition) 2001 What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?
Peter H Raven & George B Johnson, Biology 1999 What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?
William D. Schraer and Herbert J. Stoltze, Biology: The Study of Life 1999 What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?
Douglas J. Futuyma, Evolutionary Biology 1998 What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?
Cecie Starr and Ralph Taggart, Biology: The Unity and Diversity of Life 1998 What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?
Kenneth R Miller & Joseph Levine, Biology: The Living Science 1998 What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?
Kenneth R Miller & Joseph Levine, Biology 1998 What do Modern Textbooks Really Say about Haeckel’s Embryos?

In relying upon the NCSE, the New York Times has promoted blatantly false information to the public about Haeckel’s embryo drawings in textbooks. Many biology textbooks within the past 10 years even have used Haeckel’s embryo drawings to promote evolution, just as Jonathan Wells claimed.