• Welcome to Christian Forums
  1. Welcome to Christian Forums, a forum to discuss Christianity in a friendly surrounding.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register to be able to join in fellowship with Christians all over the world.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon and God Bless!

Modern books that still use Haeckel’s embryo drawings

Discussion in 'Creation & Evolution' started by Aggie, Sep 7, 2009.

  1. Aggie

    Aggie Soldier of Knowledge

    +190
    Deist
    In Relationship
    US-Libertarian
    Well, these things are definitely worth knowing. I was originally intending to recommend Prothero’s book in my own, but now that you’ve pointed out these mistakes, I’m having second thoughts about it.

    What’s your opinion on Jerry Coyne’s book Why Evolution is True? It’s not as detailed as Prothero’s book, but if it contains fewer inaccuracies, that’s probably more important.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  2. Aggie

    Aggie Soldier of Knowledge

    +190
    Deist
    In Relationship
    US-Libertarian
    By the way, does anyone have a copy of the 1972 version of Jack Chick’s tract “Big Daddy”? I’m pretty sure it points out the problem with Haeckel’s embryo drawings, and the fact that textbooks are being misleading by continuing to include them.

    The only version of the tract I can find online is the newest one from 2002. But I know the point about Haeckel’s drawings is in the 1992 version also, because I looked at that version of it when I was in high school. If the 1972 version talks about this also, Jack Chick was pointing out this problem more than 25 years before Douglas Futuyma or Ernst Mayr became aware of it, if Mayr was ever aware of it before he died.
     
  3. Baggins

    Baggins Senior Veteran

    +452
    Humanist
    Married
    UK-Labour
    Are those the original fraudulent drawings or later corrected ones though? I thought Haeckel was convicted of fraud at the time and amended drawings were put out - with his exaggerations removed and with the background changed - of which these would all be copies. That is what I have been lead to believe but I have no written proof of that beyond the original fraudulent drawings were on a black background and these obviously aren't.

    It would seem bizarre that drawings that were known to be fraudulent well over 100 years ago would be kept in circulation rather than the later amended drawings.

    But I agree that there is no need to use any drawings these days as the the same, although weaker, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny argument could be made with photographs of embryos and then everyone could forget about Haeckel's "artistic flair " because his argument does not stand or fall on his original drawings anyway.

    Ontology does recapitulate in a very weak way and not in the way that Haeckel originally suggested, but things like gill slits in human embryos do exist
     
  4. Thistlethorn

    Thistlethorn Defeated dad.

    785
    +48
    Agnostic
    Single
    We just concluded a rather lengthy discussion about this and I think the consensus was that no evidence could be provided that supported Haeckel ever being put on trial for fraud. It's a creationist myth.

    The rest I agree with in full. It's very strange indeed that Haeckel's original drawings, complete with errors, should remain in circulation. I'm not familiar with him having published corrected versions, but I wouldn't dismiss the possibility.
     
  5. Aggie

    Aggie Soldier of Knowledge

    +190
    Deist
    In Relationship
    US-Libertarian
    Here are the original drawings, with a black background and German captions.

    [​IMG]

    And here’s the newer version again, made by George Romanes. Romanes made these drawings in 1892, after the inaccuracy of Haeckel’s original version had been known for around 20 years.

    [​IMG]

    This is the one that’s published in modern biology books. As you can see, the only thing Romanes changed about it was the color of the background and the language of the captions.
     
  6. Split Rock

    Split Rock Conflation of Blathers

    +626
    Agnostic
    Single
    He's a paleontologist, so I am not surprised he muddled up some of the writing on molecular biology and genetics. Hell, I have trouble finding all of my the mistakes in a 5 page research paper... there always seems to be one or two that no one notices before its published. I cannot imagine trying to find all the mistakes in a 381 page book! So yeah... maybe you are being a bit anal :)
     
  7. USincognito

    USincognito Do u? Supporter

    +10,308
    United States
    Atheist
    Private
    I'm really disappointed at this revelation Aggie. Dealing with Creationist nonsense is hard enough without textbook editors giving them fodder for it.

    Ironically I've been asking Creationists to provide scans concerning this claim for years now and - hold your breath everyone - it was an evolution advocate who finally ponies up the evidence. :D
     
  8. Baggins

    Baggins Senior Veteran

    +452
    Humanist
    Married
    UK-Labour
    It would be interesting to post this evidence on a a site like Pharyngula where we could get some more input from interested parties, anyone a member there?

    It appears to me that there are obvious differences between the original - Haeckel - print and the later Romanes one. Remember most of Haeckel's work was accepted he just invented what he thought should be there in a few embryos. An example of this is the circular area near the head of F1 which nearly disappears later, it is just a case of whether that is down to alterations to remove fraud or is just poor reproduction. In detail the two prints are substantially different whilst remaining the same on the large scale. That is what you would expect if some minor embellishments had been removed. I would expect bigger changes in the interpretation that went with the print rather than the print themselves and this is what we see.

    The whole print shouldn't look that different, there should be a few minor alterations.

    I would like to make two other points Haeckel was tried for fraud in an academic rather than criminal court at Jena University and in the case of Mayr he uses the embryo drawings as an illustration to reject Haeckel's thesis.
     
  9. Baggins

    Baggins Senior Veteran

    +452
    Humanist
    Married
    UK-Labour
    There have been discussions on this point in Pharyngula:

    Textbooks and Haeckel again : Pharyngula

    But none addressing this exact point, I suppose it is because the reproduction on plates based on Haeckel's work is getting rarer.

    Edited :

    This deals with the specificquestion

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/06/return_of_the_son_of_the_bride.php

     
  10. Aggie

    Aggie Soldier of Knowledge

    +190
    Deist
    In Relationship
    US-Libertarian
    I think it’s mostly just a poor reproduction. The scan of the Romanes’ drawing at Wikipedia isn’t all that great to begin with, but it’s the one I posted because it was the easiest to find. This one is a bit better:

    [​IMG]

    It’s still not exactly the same as Haeckel’s original, but you need to realize is that none of Romanes’ alterations to the original image do much to get rid of the inaccuracies. This is an series of photographs from the Kenneth Miller article that Naraoia linked to, which show what embryos of these animals at comparable stages in development actually look like:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Here’s another image of the same thing, from the Pharyngula post that you linked to:

    [​IMG]

    If the purpose of Romanes’ alterations to Haeckel’s image was to remove its inaccuracies, he would have changed a lot more than he did.

    He does? I included the image’s caption from Mayr’s book in my scan of it. As you can see from the image of it in post #17, Mayr presents this image as an accurate comparison between the stages in embryonic development of these animals.

    I’m not sure where P. Z. Myers is getting his information, but it doesn’t appear to be right. Look at what Kenneth Miller says on this topic:

    My own observations suggest that Kenneth Miller’s interpretation of this is more accurate than P. Z. Myers’. Three of the five general books about evolution that I own use these images, present them as an accurate comparison of the animals’ embryos, and two of the three written by a pair of modern biology’s most highly-regarded evolutionary biologists. If you don’t believe me about this, look at the images I posted in post #17, where I scanned the images and their captions.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  11. marktheblake

    marktheblake Member

    +26
    Pentecostal
    Married
    Well done Aggie.

    But its not a revelation. Creationists have been saying all along that there are lies in the textbooks. How many more?
     
  12. Thistlethorn

    Thistlethorn Defeated dad.

    785
    +48
    Agnostic
    Single
    Sorry, Baggins. He really wasn't. Read the False Proofs thread.
     
  13. Baggins

    Baggins Senior Veteran

    +452
    Humanist
    Married
    UK-Labour
    I think if you read the second Myers link he nails it. People still used the Romanes print because it was free and redoing the work would have been a hugely expensive effort for anything except a text specifically on this issue and, ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny having been rejected, using the Haeckel/Romanes plates didn't really matter any more as they were being used to illustrate something different that they did show.

    I agree that it isn't ideal, but neither is it widespread or fraudulent in what it is attempting to show because Haeckels's original prints, and more importantly the Romanes alterations, showed what was being written about truthfully - gill arches etc.

    I agree that it isn't ideal, but neither is it a major problem, and it appears to be a problem that is slowly being removed from texts as better embryonic photographs become available a price book publishers are willing to pay.
     
  14. Baggins

    Baggins Senior Veteran

    +452
    Humanist
    Married
    UK-Labour
    Where's the lie, the pictures have been altered to remove embellishments and are being used to illustrate either the wrongness of Haeckel's original thesis, or something different?

    Sorry you will have to do better than that, you obviously don't have a clue what you are talking about and you hope by interjecting the word lie that you can poison the intellectual well.

    Sorry, but some of us here know what we are talking about.
     
  15. Baggins

    Baggins Senior Veteran

    +452
    Humanist
    Married
    UK-Labour
    Really? I

    Wikipedia and other sites say he was tried by an academic court in Jena.

    I'd love to hear the real story, have you a link to something more substantial than them, you are obviously a bit more clued up than me on this as is Aggie, I am still working on half remembered scientific scuttlebutt from years ago and wikipedia.

    Sorry I have re-read your post I will go to the false proofs threads
     
  16. Baggins

    Baggins Senior Veteran

    +452
    Humanist
    Married
    UK-Labour
    Perhaps it comes down to what books Miller and Myers' informant ( It wasn't Myers himself ) looked at.

    I'd have to see both, there is a link on Myers' site to the info.

    It could, if you have a lot of texts with this image in, be an American problem, the only text I can find this image in of mine is Mayr's book.

    It is obviously still in circulation because the original errors are no longer important to the argument being made and it is CHEAP!!!
     
  17. Aggie

    Aggie Soldier of Knowledge

    +190
    Deist
    In Relationship
    US-Libertarian
    Look, the problem here is pretty simple. Futuyma, Mayr, and Prothero all claimed that these drawings (accurately) show embryos from various animals at comparable stages of development. They don’t. What the drawings actually show is a highly idealized depiction of what Ernst Haeckel thought this process should look like, in which several of the embryos at the first stage of development were made from the exact same woodcut, and which was subsequently copied by George Romanes while correcting none of Haeckel’s original inaccuracies. By claiming that these drawings show something that they don’t, Futuyma, Mayr, and Prothero have been misleading readers.

    Using this image would be acceptable if its caption stated something like, “This is an idealized depiction of the similarities between embryos, in which the traits they have in common are emphasized.” But the image captions don’t say anything of the sort. You can see what their captions are from the scans I posted in post #17.
     
  18. atomweaver

    atomweaver Senior Member

    +171
    Agnostic
    US-Democrat
    Well, duh. Haeckel's scientific contemporaries took him to task for it. It's not even news that creationists can claim to have discovered. Once again, the anti-biologists are late to the party...
    Likely the main reason the error was perpetuated is because Haeckel's drawings were public domain, and thus cheaper to use 'as is' than to fix by commissioning new drawings. Its being fixed in no small part because of the persistent whinging of anti-biologists. Man, but you folk can carp on about the same old stuff ad nauseam, can't you?

    Let me fix that for you; "The only thing creationists do, is say..."

    However many more there are, it won't be a creationist that finds them... that'd be too much like work for your average armchair anti-biologist. If they're going to lift a finger, it'll be to point their lawyers in the direction of their next target attempt at legislating creationism into legitimacy. Just because Haeckel did something wrong, doesn't make creationism right.
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2009
  19. Split Rock

    Split Rock Conflation of Blathers

    +626
    Agnostic
    Single
    Creationists have been saying all along that evolution is a lie. Where is the evidence for that??


    I agree. This figure should not ever be put into another text book, unless it is in the context of discussing the history of evolutionary thinking.
     
  20. Baggins

    Baggins Senior Veteran

    +452
    Humanist
    Married
    UK-Labour
    I'm not so sure about that.

    Could you point exactly where the errors in these embryo pictures are?

    Haeckel exaggerated a small number of features in a small number of pictures to support an argument that no one now accepts.

    If you can't tell me what these errors are and how they invalidate the information they are supposed to be illustrating today I'd say there is no problem beyond the minor one of giving a little frisson of excitement to a few creationists.

    The pictures are accurate enough to show what the authors are trying illustrate today.

    It would be better if they used different pictures but ding original work on that scale to illustrate a text book is prohibitively expensive, until better pictures and photos come along at an acceptable price they are probably the best many people have got commercial access to.

    I reject that, unless you can tell me exactly how major Haeckel's enhancements were, where they were and why they invalidate the use of the pictures for a different reason I will suggest that people like Ernst Mayr actually knew what they were doing in using them.

    Any hand drawn picture is going to be an idealized representation of the artists impressions of what he is seeing which is why photos would be better. But as far as I can see from reading my Mayr the pictures are adequate for illustrating the text.

    Mayr's point in using the picture is that at earlier stages of embryonic development the embryos are more similar and all start with the same number of gill arches. That is true and the picture illustrates its truth adequately . Those are the only points he is making .

    Can you give me a good reason why he shouldn't use that print to make those points? Haeckel didn't embellish those points they are real.

    I think you are making far too much of this, the picture is adequate for making the general point about embryonic similarity, any small embellishments that Haeckel made don't detract from that point and the picture is obviously cheap and in the public domain.

    I imagine the recent creationist whoohaa over this will mean that this is expunged from text books now, but it won't affect the truthfulness of the point being made.
     
Loading...