A Whiff of Truth and a Sniff of Lie in a National Geographic Caption

My family and I recently took advantage of a low cost subscription offer for National Geographic, which we have been enjoying.  I had some time ago allowed a previous subscription to National Geographic lapse for reasons practical and principled: Of the former, I simply did not have time to read the magazines, and of the latter, I had begun to see why disputes arose between the magazine and institutions such as the Smithsonian due to the magazine’s sometimes sloppy science reporting.  (For those who wish to look into the matter, you can Google for info about the so-called “archaeoraptor” scandal in which (1) National Geographic unethically — though surely without malicious intent — named a “fossil” publicly before the discovering scientist had an opportunity to do so, thus robbing him of the little enduring popular token of credit that normally goes to such individuals; (2) National Geographic reported on this same “fossil” before any scholarly journal had done so; (3) and finally, National Geographic suffered the humiliation of seeing the “fossil” find it was touting in its pages exposed as a total fraud, in which legitimate dinosaur fossils had been placed together with bird “fossils” from a totally different animal.) (My, what a long parenthetical comment that was!)

Anyway, the most recent issue (February 2007) has an interesting article about “Hawaii’s unearthly worms” with some fascinating facts and photographs.  One of those photographs (on p.123) shows an acorn worm and bears a caption containing the following sentence: “It has a liver (the nubs along its body) and gill slits like those of sharks — and embryonic humans.”  Ah, there’s the rub.  “…gill slits like those of sharks — and embryonic humans.

First, let me comment on what I appreciate about that sentence, though it annoys me nonetheless.  With all of the talk these days about using human “embryos” as mere organic fodder for experimentation — a “resource” to be “harvested” — I find this interchange between adjective and noun to be painfully delightful.  Why can’t we experiment on “human embryos,” one might ask?  Isn’t it just like human blood, human hair, human teeth, human organs, et al.?  When we are discussing treating these “objects” as something to be experimented with or manipulated or frozen or destroyed or dissected or handled in whatever manner we please, then the object is an “embryo” which just so happens to be “human.”

Yet in this caption, in which an entirely different point is being hinted at, we find the same “object” described not as a “human embryo” but as an “embryonic human.”  Do you see the fascinating shift of emphasis?  Do you catch the import and implication of this shift?  Sleeping human, angry human, old human, young human, short human, tall human, comatose human — embryonic human.  Putting it this way, the “object” is seen not as a “thing” which just happens to be related to humans, but as a human who just happens to be in a particular state.  A world of difference, illustrated by simply shifting the words used as noun and adjective.

I have no desire to pretend that I am neutral and unbiased in this matter, for I am not.  I like the term “embryonic human” much better.  It coveys a truth that “human embryo” does not.

In this sense, I was pleased to see it used in this caption.  However, the probable reason it was used here does trouble me.  I don’t want to make assumptions about the intent of the caption’s author, but the stress given to the statement by that unnecessary highlighting dash (“…like those of sharks — and embryonic humans.”) seems to me to be an attempt to make a point: “We used to have gills, too,” the writer seems to be saying with that dash.  “We all evolved from the same primitive life: worms, sharks — even humans.”  Apparently such truths as the subtle difference between “human embryos” and “embryonic humans” only surface when there is an evil agenda to promote.  When we wish to evangelize the masses for the Faith of Evolutionism, they’re “embryonic humans.”  When we wish to evangelize the masses with the Faith of Medicine Without Ethical Restrictions, they’re “human embryos.”

If you think I am making too much of such a subtle difference, I would say: (1) I engage in such healthy skepticism myself, so I don’t fault you too much.  People often do read too much into the words of others.  Yet, (2) I would caution you to remember that “the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field” (Genesis 3:1, KJV).  Sometimes, subtle differences are big clues.  And in the world of “science evangelism” subtleties are very often pressed into service.  One can pack a great deal of dogma into a well crafted “subtlety.”

Leading me to the “sniff of lie” in the caption.  The comment that embryonic humans have gill slits.  They do not have gill slits.  They have pharangeal clefts or arches, which are the structures which eventually become the ear canals, the thymus gland, and the parathyroid glands — far from gills.  These structures on the embryo are often referred to as “gill slits,” but there is no reason to call them this outside of tradition and a history of bad science.

Yes, there are similar-looking structures in vertebrate embryos of different species.  But the conclusions drawn about these structures reflect the presuppositions and assumptions that one takes to their observation.  The Evolutionists sees similar looking structures in the embryos of a number of creatures and, although they produce vastly different organs in the adults with very different functions in the adults (gills, feeding mechanisms, ears and glands), they are declared to be evidence of common ancestry.  Yet others (admittedly, with their own preconceived assumptions) can look to the great differences of structure and function in the resulting adults and declare the embryonic structures to be unrelated in all but appearance.

I remember as a child seeing these so-called “gill slits” highlighted in various PBS specials and programs, and actually believing (as some still do today) the completely false conclusion that embryonic humans breathe through gills while in the womb.  Completely false!  My childhood mistake was encouraged by the “convincing” drawings of the 18th Century evolutionary biologist Ernst Haeckel and his drawings of various embryos, showing their startling “similarities.”  Well, it has been unshakably proven that Haeckel lied in his diagrams — a fact known by scientists for a century-or-so.  He even went so far as to physically alter some embryos to stress “similarities,” and to copy the same embryos over and over again, claiming they were different animals.  And when I say his fraud has been proven, I mean by other evolutionists.  See, for example, the article in Natural History (March 2000) by the late famed evolutionist, Stephen Jay Gould, entitled, “Abscheulich! – Atrocious! – the precursor to the theory of natural selection” in which he unequivocally declares Haeckel’s work to be fraudulent.  I have read that Haeckel, himself, had to deal with accusations of fraud in his work, in which he apparently blamed the artist — conveniently omitting the crucial fact that he was the artist.  Still (and Gould understandably laments this) Haeckel’s fake “embryo” drawings continue to be used in many modern biology textbooks without comment or criticism.  Once a wonderful and functional lie is set loose, it is hard to place it back in its cage.

I look forward to future issues of National Geographic.  But, as always, I will remember that it is a publication whose writers have an agenda to advance and a religion to promote.  And we may ask, “What writer does not?”

21 thoughts on “A Whiff of Truth and a Sniff of Lie in a National Geographic Caption

  1. “And we may ask, ‘What writer does not?'” Indeed. Another of the great yet subtle lies circulating in science — and in public schools, courtrooms, politics and everywhere else in American public life — is that there is such a thing as metaphysical neutrality. There isn’t.

  2. Glen Dean

    It might be kind of fun to earnestly heckle ol’ Ernst TW time … LOL. “Hey Ernst, I’ve had it up to my gills, now that your re-evolved from the dirt … (SLAPS HIS KNEE AS HE POINTS AND LAUGHS) … I’ve got some bones to pick with you – then we’ll sort them out … ROFL.” What a cwazy kairwacteh, what an ultra maroon. That’s just terrible, I shouldn’t say such things. Snicker-chuckle … LOL. ……. Okay. To be honest the subtle change in wording went right by me. Good catch & great commentary. LOL

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  7. Steve

    “Haeckel’s fake “embryo” drawings continue to be used in many modern biology textbooks without comment or criticism.”

    Name one.

  8. How about three?

    In 2011 in submissions to the Texas State Board of Education the drawings are used in curriculum submitted by these publishers:

    * Rice University
    * Adaptive Curriculum
    * Holt McDougal

    In at least one of them, students are asked as an exercise to arrange Haeckel’s embryo drawings in their “correct” order.

    Thanks for asking.

  9. Steve

    Referring to, ‘2011 submissions…submitted… by these [textbook] publishers’ doesn’t really validate your claim that, there are textbooks NOW in use: “Haeckel’s fake “embryo” drawings continue to be used in many modern biology textbooks without comment or criticism”

    What I’m hoping you can provide is the name of the textbook and the year published [or better yet, its LCCCN] so that I can advise the appropriate school officials. Since I’m not aware of any such textbooks and you claim there are “many”, hopefully this won’t prove as daunting a task for you as it’s been for me.

  10. Thanks for writing, again, Steven.

    The basis of my comment in this old post was the criticism made by individuals such as Michael Richardson and Stephen Jay Gould in Science and Natural History, respectively, about modern textbooks in the years leading up to this post. Michael Richardson, for instance, is no creationist, to be sure, and could reasonably expected to be familiar with the biology textbooks of the day. (In Science, for instance, his words were that “fifty recent biology textbooks” used the forged Haeckel drawings “uncritically.”) If you doubt their claims were accurate at the time in which they made them, perhaps you should contact the editors of Science and Natural History. For my part, considering the time-honored and well-earned prestige of these magazines as representatives of “hard, real” science (Science, in particular — official journal of the AAAS — has been called “one of the world’s most cited scientific journals”), if I can’t consider such esteemed representatives of the best of science to be accurate representatives of the state of their own discipline and its literature, where else can I go? I consider the sources solid, and, so, the comment solid…

    in it’s day, of course. However, it is certainly true that some time has passed since those claims and since my post, and many textbook makers have surely responded to the criticisms of these two evolutionists (and others). If your difficulty in finding current books that use Haeckel’s drawings in any way has been experienced after a great deal of effort on your part, that would be wonderful news! It’s been four-and-a-half years since I wrote this post, but I would be delighted to do an update on biology textbook publishers’ change of heart if that’s what you’ve found in your search. However, I must say that given the books up for review in 2011 which I mentioned earlier, there is reason for concern. (If you’d like the specifics of those books, I would recommend contacting the TSBOE. They’d be much more able to give you the LCCCN of the books than I would be.)

    Thanks, again, for commenting. And hopefully your concern about whether or not that comment is still true today has not been too large a distraction from the point made in the post, which is a great deal larger in scope than the state of current dependence on fraudulent embryo drawings.

  11. Steve

    Dang! And I really wanted to see one of these “modern textbooks” you talked about. But whenever pressed, people who make such brash claims always end up backtracking and hemming and hawing just as you have.

    The PLAIN TRUTH is that, not only weren’t Haeckel’s drawings, “used in many modern biology textbooks without comment or criticism” in 2006 but they hadn’t been for decades! Those instances where they were used in ‘modern’ biology texts were historical in nature and meant to illustrate the self-correcting nature of science— and NOT a continued endorsement of his views. Had you gone to the source [and not a second hand one that distorted the articles in “time-honored and well-earned prestige” journals which, btw, repudiate “the larger point” of your essay] you’d have realized that much of what you were relating all the way back in 2006 was false. Just as it was false in 1996, 1986, 1976…

    See: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/02/wells_false_accusation_against.php

  12. Greetings, again, Steve, and thanks for showing your true colors a little more clearly! It is appreciated.

    How referring you to the original articles and authors (evolutionists, at that) who are the sources of those claims is “backtracking and hemming and hawing” is beyond me. To paraphrase a great fictional swordsman, “I don’t think those words mean what you think they mean.” However, let me spend a little extra time to help you see your mistakes, as well as offer you what concessions I can, before offering you the chance to go waste the time of others instead of ours. I will take some time (you’ll want to take notes), but you seem to need the extra effort — and I believe you’re worth it, Steve! Besides, it will make a good lesson for others who’ve fallen for the same poor mistakes that you have.

    * Thanks for the link to PZ Myers’ article, for the little value it has. (And I do take Richardson & Gould’s credibility more seriously than Myers’, by the way.) But I note that even one of PZ’s fans (though perhaps he’s a spy!) points out to him that he’d be better off choosing another topic since this one really isn’t winnable, and he offers a text visible online that is guilty of the mistakes under discussion.

    (Or, perhaps he found that text’s name in that conservative bastion of Creationism known as the New York Times, which mentioned the same textbook in one of their articles and makes the exact same point I did in the sentence you seem to hate so much. Those wacky, untrained, crazy/conservative/creationist New York Times fact checkers! What a riot! Just like those silly publishers of Science and Natural History! What a bunch of maroons!)

    * Considering the “mistakes under discussion,” I suppose the statement “without comment or criticism” is what really bothers you. Perhaps a biography of Bernie Madoff should merely mention that he was simply practicing the self-correcting art of investment, and leave it at that. Using Haeckel’s drawings and their numerous derivatives without actually pointing out that the drawings are faked in several ways and represent academic fraud is poor authorship. In this way the “comments” that some have added represent “no comment,” and the pictures are so tainted so as to render their use — other than as an example of corruption in science — inexcusable (as, again, others with more credibility than I, and evolution “true believers” at that, have pointed out).

    Or to put it another way, consider using “Piltdown Man” in a diagram of human descent with only a note to say, merely, “later, conclusions derived from the Piltdown Man discovery were improved and corrected.” Sorry, that’s a non-comment given the context (certainly not a “criticism”!) and would neither excuse nor absolve the authors of using such a fraud in their text. Nor would using Piltdown Man as an illustration to make a point, whether or not the point would be valid without the illustration. You would skewer a Creationist for such work, and you’d be right. Well, sauce for the goose, my friend, is sauce for the gander.

    * Regardless, the point I made originated not with me but with evolutionists sincerely concerned with the quality of biology textbooks, which brings me to another key error in your comment. You say I’ve failed to go to the source. How can you say that when I link to Gould’s entire article and not to a secondary source? Did you even follow the link to check it out? I encourage anyone reading this to read the Gould’s entire article — it’s just a click away. In fact, I encourage you do to so, Steve, since you don’t seem to have done so. If I have misrepresented Gould’s position, let the reader judge (I haven’t). And the quote I used above from Richardson is used in exactly the same manner by Gould in that same article. Again, if you have an issue with the accuracy of the claim, take it up with Science and Natural History (and, again, the New York Times). The point isn’t mine, but theirs. I’ve simply repeated it accurately.

    * Your idea that the inappropriate use of Haeckel’s drawings has never been an issue is just silly and so easily disproved it’s just sad. For just one example, look at the gracious and honest response of Ken Miller and Joe Levine concerning their own inappropriate but innocent use of Haeckel in their own textbook, leading them to edit it out in the late 90s. I respect them for that, and there’s no dishonor at all in discovering an error and correcting it. On the other hand, perhaps they haven’t read your extensive research proving that claims of such inappropriate use were “false in 1996, 1986, 1976…” Seeing how you are more familiar with their own books than they are, they’d probably appreciate hearing from you.

    * As for the “larger point” of the article (i.e., that language can be subtly used to support one’s chosen bias–“human embryos” when we want to treat them as meaningless “blobs,” but “embryonic humans” when we wish to push evolution), how do the articles even touch that?

    If you mean that the articles argue for evolution and that the form of early embryos can be used to argue for common descent in a different way: Well, duh. That only strengthens their case as being sincere criticisms of Haeckel’s fraud, thus further justifying using them or quoting them. (Another “duh” there, BTW.)

    Frankly, Steve, your comment comes across as another knee-jerk example of pre-programmed thinking among the brainwashed: “Ooooo, he mentioned Haeckel–I gots him! Hyuk, hyuk, hyuk!” No critical thinking needed.

    The examples of inappropriate use of Haeckel’s drawings in modern textbooks have been provided before (again, even Myers’ fan found one), and I won’t help you to publicize the same old excuses given for their use–especially since the excuses completely miss the point.

    The fact that they are used at all is shameful, let alone that the fraud they represent goes uncommented and uncriticized. (The comment that they are only used “historically” is hilarious, but untrue. And even if it were true, why not use Piltdown Man the same way? Easy: It would be morally wrong and intellectually dishonest.) Do I think that the use of the pictures represents a deceptive conspiracy like some would believe? No. Rather, like Gould, I like to assume the best and think it amounts to ignorance and/or intellectual laziness. (Dr. Eugenie Scott of the NCSE says essentially the same thing, as I read her, though, admittedly in a much kinder way and with kinder assumptions, to be sure.)

    So, I’d be happy to make a concession! If you’d like, I can replace the words “Haeckel’s fake ’embryo’ drawings continue to be used in many modern biology textbooks without comment or criticism” with “Haeckel’s fake ’embryo’ drawings continue to be used in many modern biology textbooks without acknowledging the fraud they represent.”

    And, again, if the use of Haeckel’s fraud has diminished since publications of the 90s and early 2000s due to the attention brought to it, that is fantastic. But the fact that it has crept up in 2011 offerings to the State of Texas shows that it hasn’t gone away.

    In summary, the facts are simple: (1) If you have an issue with my single sentence characterization, then you have an issue with Gould, Richardson, Science, Natural History, and the New York Times, not with me. To take your word over their well-paid authors, editors, and fact checkers — not to mention the word of some of the authors of the textbooks themselves — you’ll need more than an “I couldn’t find nuttin’!” and a blog post by (let’s be charitable) a rather biased fellow on the subject. (2) Read the whole articles all you like (again, I linked to one in the original post to make it easy for you): they validate my single sentence characterization rather clearly. (3) If you haven’t found textbooks that use Haeckel’s drawings and their derivatives without criticizing them or commenting on the fraud they represent, then you clearly aren’t looking hard enough. And, (4) even if that (accurate) sentence were removed from this post, the “larger issue” it addresses would be absolutely unaffected.

    Those things said, I see no need for continued discussion of this topic, especially seeing how marginal it is to the actual subject of this post. I’m not into high school “back and forth” debate club silliness, and I’m certainly not into providing forums for those who alternately focus on or disregard the details to suit their purposes (regardless of their stand on an issue). If you’d like to spend your time in such food fights there are plenty of places you can go. But this isn’t one of them.

    Well, this has been a long comment, hasn’t it! But, again, Steve, you’re worth it. Thanks for your (final) comment, and have a pleasant day. Class is dismissed.

  13. Steve

    The fact is, outside of pointing out am anomaly, no modern biology textbooks continue to use Haeckel’s fake “embryo” drawings. And haven’t for over 50 years. If you knew of any you’d have referenced them.

    That option is still available to you. But as is so readily evident, you’re far more comfortable talking in circles.

  14. Wow, Steve, thanks on two counts: One, for holding my word and knowledge of the state of biology education higher and in greater esteem than that of Drs. Gould, Richardson, Miller, Levine, and Scott, as well higher than that of the research boards, editors, and fact checkers of Science, Natural History, and the New York Times. You’ve even been willing to set aside authors’ own comments about their own books in favor of hearing from me. Really, I’m touched. I don’t think I’ve ever been given a higher compliment. Secondly, you have managed so briefly to display some of the worst characteristics that Creationists are often accused of, which helps to show others that human nature is, indeed, no respecter of persons or ideologies and that Jeremiah 17:9 applies to all of us.

    So, fine, let me make sure we’re clear:

    If I give you one example of a textbook that…

    (1) has been published within the last 50 years,
    (2) uses Haeckel’s drawings, and
    (3) fails to comment on or criticize the fraud they represent

    …then you will finally concede that you just might be wrong?

    Keep in mind: this means that after I provide an example, if it fails to meet the three criteria above, your very next post must be…

    (1) proof that the book was not published in the last 50 years, or
    (2) proof that it does not use Haeckel’s drawings in any way, or
    (3) a cited quote from the book where they point out the fraud represented by the drawings.

    If you fail to be able to do any of these three with that text, then you would agree to go away and no longer pester people with your denials.

    Seems an easy test! If you’re right, it should be a cinch! If you don’t agree, I would question the sincerity of your belief in your proposition and chalk it up to bluster. If you agree, though, I will hold you to it and your very next post here would have to be one of the three proofs above — no preaching or pontificating, just the required proofs, listed above, that would demonstrate that I am wrong.

    If you are uninterested in agreeing to these terms, then please do not bother to write again. After all, if I am willing to give you what you ask and you refuse to accept it, it will not speak well of you, nor of me for putting up with it. (I posted your last comment in a desire to show some grace; but if you do not accept these terms — terms you’ve essentially demanded — and choose to continue posting, you are turning grace into license.) But if you do accept, then I will provide you a textbook to check to your heart’s content. Deal?

  15. Sorry, Steve, but comments like the one you just submitted aren’t going to cut it anymore. (Now who’s hemming and hawing?)

    Again, based on your own requirements (including this last note, which I will only post after you agree), I am willing to present a text that satisfies each of your criteria: (1) It is “modern” and was clearly “in use” in the 2000s, (2) It definitely used Haeckel’s drawings for instructional, illustrative purposes, and (3) it — in no way shape or form — comments on the fact that the drawings are faked or criticizes the drawing for this.

    (Thankfully, after the attention brought to the matter, books like this have faded away, although, again, the books offered to the TSBOE in 2011 are disturbing. But we’re talking before that attention was brought to bear.)

    You say the claim of evolutionists about textbooks in their own fields (which I have simply repeated–why haven’t you gone after Dr. Richardson like this? It’s his claim!) is a lie and that no textbook in the last 50 years has done what these men say that have. In fact, you got awfully snarky: “false in 1996, 1986, 1976…” Yet, it’s time to put that to the test, and you won’t agree to do so.

    I will happily provide this text if you will simply agree to check it out and determine for yourself (and the rest of our breathless readers) whether or not it fits. And, after all, unless you grossly exaggerated about your “50 years” comment (surely you didn’t!), I really don’t have a prayer, do I?

    It’s interesting that now when it comes down to “put up or shut up” you won’t commit — and that your giant “Haeckel? Who’s Haeckel?” claims have softened terribly.

    Just commit, and I’ll be happy to provide exactly what you’ve asked for: a book that satisfies all three criteria you require.

    Come on! What have you got to lose? Waiting…

  16. Oooo… found another one — and a high school biology teacher writing just last month says that he currently uses the book in his classroom. They seem to be multiplying. Again, Steven, just commit, and I will be happy to share. Until then, I’m done looking. I only need one to satisfy you and I now have several. I’ll provide one when you’re willing to commit to your claims. It’s “man up” time, Steve! You can do it!

  17. Thanks, again, Steve, for writing, as well as your concern for my credibility. You’re very kind.

    Your comment that “we can go from there” doesn’t inspire the highest confidence that you will deal honestly. For instance, you seem tempted to take my “original statement” out of original context to make it fit your own purposes. This is a tactic that Evolutionists often accuse Creationists of and, to be honest, I have seen certain Creationists do exactly that. However, it doesn’t excuse your doing it, as well, Steve: two wrongs don’t make a right. My “original statement” is defined by its original context, and taking that statement out of its context to define it the way you would like instead of the way it is defined in context won’t be allowed.

    Still, I’ll proceed on good faith, hoping for the best. If I’ve taken your bait in naïveté, please forgive me.

    Here is a text that satisfies all three conditions:

    Molecular Biology of the Cell.

    (I found some other nice ones, as well — some published and used even after my blog post that year — but I picked this one because it can easily be verified online at Amazon.com, where you can search pages of the text, and it fit the time range of the post.)

    Does it satisfy the first criterion? Yes. It was a “bedrock text of the field” according to the New York Times in the early 2000s.

    Does it satisfy the second criterion? Yes, right there on page 33 in the (non-historical BTW) section “Basic Developmental Programs Tend to Be Conserved in Evolution” where its falsified drawings are actually used to support a teaching point. Here’s the sentence that refers to the drawings directly (and, I should say, positively), on pp.32-33: “In terms of anatomy, furthermore, early developmental stages of animals whose adult forms appear radically different are often surprisingly similar; it takes an expert eye to distinguish, for example, a young chick embryo from a young human embryo (Figure 1-36).” Figure 1-36 is, of course, Haeckel’s drawings, without modification and credited fully, and used as evidence to support the authors’ point.

    Does it satisfy the third criterion? In spades. Not only does the text fail to comment on the fraudulent and faked nature of the embryo drawings or to criticize them in any way or to “point out an anomaly” or to use them “to illustrate the self-correcting nature of science” or to use them in a section that is “historical in nature”, it actually directs the reader to look at Haeckel’s provably faked drawings as supporting evidence of the point it is making. The image used to make the authors’ point is Haeckel’s faked and fraudulent pictures of physically altered embryos without comment or criticism, exactly I claimed. If this is acceptible, then perhaps someone can explain how this would be different from making a point — true or not — and then pointing to an image of Piltdown Man’s skull as evidence for the reader.

    If one cannot defend such a use of Piltdown Man — one of the great fakes of history — then this use of Haeckel’s drawing is indefensible.

    Steve, the ball’s in your court. Whether you will deal with it honorably is up to you. You can either:

    (1) prove that the text was not in use in the early 2000s [against the documented evidence that it was],

    (2) prove that those aren’t Haeckel’s drawings [not really an option, of course, with the image staring us in the face along with a helpful citation], or

    (3) provide a quote (a quote, mind you, not your opinion) I missed that mentions that the embryos were altered, that the embryo images are fake and should be ignored, that the authors were “just kidding!” when they pointed the reader to them as legitimate evidence, etc. [the only context I could check online were pages 31-35, though perhaps you could scour all 1,408 pages to find the comment or criticism I missed].

    The undeniable fact: They point people to what an evolutionist, Dr. Michael Richardson, called “one of the most famous fakes in biology” as evidence to support their point, without comment or criticism. Now, I believe they did so innocently, and they did, to their credit, remove the image in their later edition. But for you to deny that it has been done is just wrong. Again, could Piltdown Man’s skull be used in this way?

    (By the way: Dr. Richardson said, “I know of at least fifty recent biology textbooks which use the drawings uncritically.” Frankly, I do not have his resources or connections (and I assume, Steve, that you don’t either), but I have cause to trust his word and integrity about the textbooks used in his own field. Given that even one example could be found simply by using Amazon and without scouring the entire field of books in use in the late 1990s and early 2000s, isn’t it possible Dr. Richardson might have actually been right — at least to some degree? If you still don’t think so, you’ve lost sight of the main virtues of science: looking at evidence rationally and without bias.)

    Again, if you can’t do any of these three things, there isn’t much of a point in posting at all. But if you can, indeed, do one of these things, I will publish your post as I agreed to. Or, if you’d like to post admitting that I have, in fact, found “one text” (all you asked for, right?) and that you let your zeal get the better of you when you said “The fact is, outside of pointing out an anomaly, no modern biology textbooks continue to use Haeckel’s fake ’embryo’ drawings. And haven’t for over 50 years.” I’ll be happy to comply.

    Really, sorry to be so snarky, Steve, and I know you’re probably just taking a stand that you’ve seen taken by those you respect. I can sympathize, and there is a certain rationale to that. But this is simply a wrong stand to take. Yes, IDers and Creationists might make too much of the use Haeckel’s drawings and, yes, some probably claim that there is a vast conspiracy behind their use. But we don’t have to buy into the worst mistakes of those whose opinions we often agree with. I disagree with fellow Creationists on a number of things (some of which I have mentioned on this blog). But regardless of the flavor of hay they try to make out of the odd, continued use of Haeckel’s drawings (which is, indeed, lessening thanks in part to the dust they’ve kicked up), the fraudulent pictures have been used inappropriately — and recently, let alone in the last “50 years.” Facts are facts.

    There are better battles to fight for your cause, Steve. This one’s not a winner, even if some of your heroes think it is.

    Looking forward to your response — whether it is one I can post or not.

  18. Steve

    First, I want to acknowledge that I was wrong in stating that, “…not only weren’t Haeckel’s drawings, ‘used in many modern biology textbooks without comment or criticism’ in 2006 but they hadn’t been for decades!” Along with your sober analysis, I came across this which, combined, convinced me that scientists and educators had indeed dropped the ball: http://sites.google.com/site/designparadigm/haeckel

    Second, I agree with and appreciate your summary comments about not having to, “buy into the worst mistakes of those whose opinions we often agree with”. Along with, “Yes, IDers and Creationists might make too much of the use Haeckel’s drawings and, yes, some probably claim that there is a vast conspiracy behind their use.” Reviewing our dialogue I see that I went off half-cocked and, frankly, now feel sheepish about it… I made some judgements about you initially that I shouldn’t have, and for that I apologize.

    [If you haven’t yet had your fill of Haeckel, here’s another slant: http://home.uchicago.edu/~rjr6/Reviews/hopos.pdf%5D

  19. Steve, thank you for a gracious comment. I’ll try to be brief here (as you’ve learned by now, I’m not good at “brief”!), but I do want to say that I appreciate your example more than I can say.

    As you might have been able to detect at the end of my last comment, I was beginning to feel bad for being so snarky. I often advise others in my congregations to “respond in kindness instead of in kind,” and, as I’ve demonstrated pretty clearly, I need to take my own advice more often.

    Thanks for both links. In particular, I really enjoyed the second one, and I suspect that I’d be more sympathetic toward Haeckel after reading Richards’ book (actually, I’m more sympathetic just after reading the review! 🙂 ). I suspect they would seem delusional to you, and I’m OK with that, but my beliefs include a general resurrection of everyone who has ever lived and died, and, honestly, I look foward to meeting Dr. Haeckel and talking to him about his take on his famous/infamous drawings. I’m not trying to start a new “discussion” on religion (I don’t know about you, but I’m really tired!) — rather, I mention this because I wanted to let you know that at the end of all this my view of Haeckel, as a man and a scientist, has softened quite a bit. I had let the controversy cause me to view the man more severely than I should have — certainly more harshly than I would like to be viewed when my (many) mistakes are brought to light, let alone paraded in public. The things I had read while you pressed me to search for texts helped, with this last link you sent being a healthy kick in the pants.

    Thanks again, Steve, for being so gracious, and I do hope you will forgive my excesses in all of this. Maybe there’s hope for all of us after all. 🙂

  20. Steve

    I’m a similarly minded Christian who’s beliefs are also considered heterodox by most.

    Yeshua said the world would know we are His disciples because we love one another. He didn’t say it was because we all thought alike.

    ”Preach the Gospel at all times. And when necessary, use words.”

    [My very last post. I promise…]

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