Does “Ontogeny Recapitulate Phylogeny”?

Creation Evidence

The title is a mouthful, isn’t it! Memorize that and spout it off when you want to impress people! Seriously, in the last article, we talked about frauds and hoaxes used to prove evolution. This, it seems, is another example.

Haeckel: The Accomplished Scientist and his Theory

In 1874 Ernst Haeckel presented to the science world this series of drawings that, he claimed, proved that his theory of recapitulation was true. Simply put, the theory stated that, in the development of an embryo, the whole process of evolution is repeated for a species. Thus ontogeny (development of form) retraces the steps of phylogeny (evolutionary descent). Haeckel (1834-1919) was a scientist of impeccable credentials. “He was one of the first to consider psychology as a branch of physiology. He also proposed many now ubiquitous terms including ‘phylum’, ‘phylogeny’, ‘ecology’ and proposed the kingdom Protista.” “Today in the United States, Mount Haeckel, a 13,418 ft (4,090 m) summit in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, overlooking the Evolution Basin, is named in his honor, as is another Mount Haeckel, a 2,941 m (9,650 ft) summit in New Zealand; and the asteroid 12323 Häckel.”¹

Was His Theory Really a Lie?

This is all well and good, but the truth is, Haeckel’s drawings and theory were bogus. First, we know today that just because something is similar does not mean it is related. Genetically, none of these life forms have the same number of chromosomes as another and therefore, cross-breeding is impossible.

Further, even during Haeckel’s lifetime, his academic peers disciplined him “for adding and omitting features and fudging the scale ‘to exaggerate similarities among species.’ His drawings reduced the size of some embryos as much as ten times to make them look similar to other unrelated species.”² In other words, he drew the pictures, not as he viewed the embryos, but in a way that would prove his theory.

That is fraudulent! For example, he drew gill slits on mammals to prove relationship to fish. “Embryonic tissues that resemble ‘gill slits’ have nothing to do with breathing; they are not gills, and they are not slits. Instead, that embryonic tissue develops into parts of the face, bones of the middle ear, and endocrine glands.”³ Quotes from scientists denouncing the drawings are legion. “It is now firmly established that ontogeny does not repeat phylogeny,” said evolutionist George Gaylord Simpson, in Life: An Introduction to Biology. “Since then (when the theory was destroyed in 1921 by Walter Garstang), no respectable biologist has ever used the theory of recapitulation, because it was utterly unsound, created by a Nazi-like preacher named Haeckel.” So said Ashley Montagu. In short, evolutionists admit it was a fraudulent theory based on fraudulent drawings. Haeckel had a theory to prove, whether by fair means or foul.

Do Schools Really Continue to Teach the Theory?

Yet consider this: in spite of this solid renunciation, the drawings have continued to be presented in biology textbooks as proof of evolution! I checked out my own high school Biology textbook published about 1960 and, sure enough, there they were as proof of physiological similarities between various animals. That is just plain dishonest, wouldn’t you admit? Further, “Michael K. Richardson, Professor of Evolutionary Developmental Zoology, Leiden University, while recognizing that some criticisms of the drawings are legitimate. . ., has supported the drawings as teaching aids, and has said that ‘on a fundamental level, Haeckel was correct.’” (Wiki)

All this strikes me as a desperate attempt to prove something (evolution) whose sound evidence is lacking. Inventing proof shouts the absence of truth.


  2. 2. Jobe Martin, The Evolution of a Creationist, p. 214-215
  3. Walt Brown, In the Beginning, p. 9

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