Haeckel had a point

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My colleague Paul Strode wrote a very clear and concise explanation of Ernst Haeckel’s “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” law for our book Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails). In Chapter 11, Strode explains that Haeckel was wrong in thinking that embryos resemble the ancestral adult forms; rather, early embryos resemble the embryos of ancestral forms. In other words, Haeckel was on to something, but he didn’t get it quite right. Strode explains further, “Recapitulation nevertheless provides helpful insight into evolutionary relationships and ancestry,” and argues that von Baer’s law is closer to the truth. Chapter 11 follows:

In 1874, a German comparative embryologist and Darwin enthusiast, Ernst Haeckel, began publishing his drawings of vertebrate embryos in various stages of development to explain common ancestry and support Darwin’s theory of evolution. Haeckel drew the first phylogenies and coined the term “tree of life.” His skillful and detailed drawings clearly showed that the early-stage embryos of vertebrates are nearly if not wholly identical. With his drawings and accompanying descriptions, Haeckel promoted the idea that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” also called the biogenic law. The biogenic law states that the path of an organism during its embryological development (ontogeny) is a summary of its evolutionary history (phylogeny). For example, a human embryo has structures that resemble gill slits, just like a fish. The human embryo then loses the gill slits and grows a tail and four limbs, resembling a reptile. The tail disappears, and the embryo begins resembling a primate. Haeckel tirelessly promoted his biogenic law, and many biologists in the nineteenth and into the twentieth centuries embraced it as a simple explanation of evolution. How convenient that all we had to do was look at embryological development to understand an organism’s evolutionary history!

While Haeckel had many supporters, he was not without his early critics. Almost immediately, many of Haeckel’s fellow embryologists noticed that he had taken artistic liberties in his drawings to support his ideas, yet few rejected the biogenic law outright. One of the first written criticisms of the biogenic law appeared in an 1894 article by zoologist Adam Sedgwick in the Quarterly Journal of Microscopic Science. Sedgwick argued that the biogenic law conflicted with a principle known as von Baer’s law, after Karl Ernst von Baer, one of the founders of embryology. Von Baer had noted, contrary to Haeckel, that the embryos of higher animal forms resembled the embryos, not the adults, of earlier forms. Thus, for example, a human embryo may pass through a stage where it resembles a fish embryo, but not an adult fish. Sedgwick noted, “Embryos of different members of the same group are more alike than the adults, and the resemblances are greater the younger the embryos examined.” He continued that when the actual embryos were examined “a blind man could distinguish between them.”

As the twentieth century unfolded and empirical embryology and genetics emerged, it became clear that Haeckel had emphasized similarities between the embryos of various vertebrate classes in his drawings and neglected the differences. It is not clear whether he purposely altered his drawings to better fit his ideas. Even so, the drawings fascinated lay people and scientists outside the fields of embryology and evolution. Biology textbook authors looking for images to illustrate their chapter pages happily included the drawings. Due to the cost-effective practice of recycling images and accompanying explanations, as well as the paucity or even lack of evolutionary biologists on the editorial staffs of textbook companies, the drawings remained in many textbooks until the 1970s. During this time, many teachers who had little or no background in evolution taught their students that the drawings were evidence of evolution, and the students were encouraged to understand and memorize the catchy phrase, “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny.”

Finally, in 1977, in his technical book Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Stephen Jay Gould carefully dissected Haeckel’s drawings and disproved the general ideas behind the biogenic law. Later, in one of his last essays in Natural History magazine (March 2000), Gould explained that while Ernst Haeckel was regarded among his contemporaries as a master naturalist, he often “took systematic license in ‘improving’ his specimens to make them more symmetrical or more beautiful.” Most likely as a result of Gould’s careful critique of Haeckel, Haeckel’s drawings are no longer found in today’s biology textbooks.

Haeckel was not wholly wrong. As we will see below, phylogeny is to some extent recapitulated in embryological development, but it does not recapitulate the adult forms. Rather, embryological development of today’s vertebrates summarizes the evolution of past embryos, not past adults. Haeckel’s conception that evolution is inherently progressive, however, is no longer accepted. Whether Haeckel deliberately fudged his drawings remains a matter of debate. Unfortunately, the creationist Jonathan Wells, in the book Icons of Evolution [discussed in Chapter 3], exaggerates the importance of Haeckel and the biogenic law, and purports to show that the entire theory of evolution is founded on a handful of errors such as the biogenic law. In reality, as we have seen, biologists disputed the biogenic law early on and eventually replaced it with the more-realistic von Baer’s law. The eventual discovery of Haeckel’s misstep is an excellent example of how science self-corrects. That such mistakes are uncovered is not a weakness of science, but a strength. Haeckel’s drawings were mere bumps on the road to a comprehensive theory of evolution.

Recapitulation

In its original form, the idea that “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” is not an accurate evolutionary statement. Recapitulation nevertheless provides helpful insight into evolutionary relationships and ancestry. Harvard University zoologist Ernst Mayr described recapitulation in embryological development as the appearance of an ancestral structure that is found in two different lineages, say, for example, the pharyngeal arches and pouches (see below) that are found in the embryos of both fish and mammals. The structure then disappears from the embryo (or provides the organizational foundation for future structures) in one lineage, mammals, but is maintained in the adult form of the other lineage, fish. Mayr argued that this structure provides evidence that these two lineages are, in fact, connected to a common ancestor, that is, a group of organisms, not a single individual, from which two lineages most likely descended.

But does not an organism waste energy on a structure that will disappear later during embryological development? To the contrary, these ephemeral ancestral features provide a framework upon which the successful development of future structures depends. In other words, these ancestral characteristics are now playing new roles in embryological development, like organizing tissues that will eventually become bones in the skeleton of an individual. For example, the notochord is a character that provides internal structural support and unites all members of the phylum Chordata (or chordates, animals with notochords and pharyngeal arches, among other characteristics). At some point in development, every species within Chordata, from sea squirts to sea lions, possesses a notochord. Most members of the chordate phylum, those in the subphylum Vertebrata, replace the notochord with vertebrae (the backbone) later in development to support the pelvic and pectoral girdles (to which the front and hind limbs are attached) and to protect the spinal cord. Yet in vertebrates, as the notochord is forming (during a developmental process called gastrulation), it first functions to establish the midline of the embryo. Once the notochord forms, its cells send molecular signals to neighboring cells, inducing those cells to begin developing divisions of the central nervous system and eventually the brain and spinal cord. Thus, without the notochord functioning as an organizer in an early vertebrate embryo, the development of the entire central nervous system of the individual is compromised. In the two other subphyla of the chordates, Cephalochordata and Urochordata, the notochord is either maintained in the adult (Cephalochordata such as Lancelets) or present in the larval form and lost during metamorphosis into the adult form (Urochordata such as Tunicates).

Another character that unites the chordates is the pharyngeal arches and pouches (sometimes inaccurately called gill arches and gill slits). It is not advantageous for terrestrial animals with lungs to retain the gills that develop from the pharyngeal arches and pouches in fish species. The successful embryological development of terrestrial vertebrates, however, requires the organizing presence of these early structures. For example, among other things, the arches give rise to facial bones, parts of the inner and outer ears, and the cartilage of the larynx. The pouches give rise to the Eustachian tubes, and the thyroid and thymus glands. Proper interaction between the arches and pouches is required for normal embryological development. For example, a mutation on chromosome 22 in humans allows an improper association between these early structures and results in the thymus failing to develop. The resulting syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome, causes recurrent infections, heart defects, and facial bone malformation.

Conclusion

Whereas Haeckel’s recapitulation theory was wrong in detail, recapitulation, as we now understand it, provides powerful support for Darwin’s ideas of common ancestry and descent with modification. Because development is genetically controlled, small changes in developmental genes can have substantial implications for an individual’s juvenile and adult form and function, and on its eventual ability to survive and produce offspring of its own.

In the next chapter, we will introduce and describe a new field of biology that shows, through the biology of genes, how an individual passes from a single-celled egg to a multi-celled adult and how a fish journeys through evolutionary time to eventually arrive as a human. This is the field of evolutionary developmental biology, or Evo Devo.

I am very sorry, but if you want to read the next chapter, you will have to buy the book.

A similar argument was presented briefly here in the text and the comments.

Chapter 11 of Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails), by Matt Young and Paul K. Strode. Copyright © 2009 by Matt Young and Paul K. Strode. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

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Of course, it was obvious that the Discovery Institute would get someone to blog about the responses that they’ve had to Casey Luskin’s recent posts about Haeckel’s embryos, but I never knew it would be such a vicious and personal att... Read More

35 Comments

Excellent post, Matt, and thanks for the reminder regarding Strode’s excellent summation in that superb volume of yours (which I might add, ought to be on everyone’s reading list merely to understand and to defuse cretinous arguments from creos, especially those of the Dishonesty Institute.

What amazes me is that this all translates, in creationist terms, to “Haeckel was a fraud, therefore evolution is false.”

What amazes me is that this all translates, in creationist terms, to “Haeckel was a fraud, therefore evolution is false.”

why?

the gullible have been falsely claiming fraud at large since before piltdown man, and will continue to do so every time there is the slightest bit of misinformation posted by (and inevitably discovered and corrected by) scientists.

they.

don’t.

like.

science.

Ichthyic said:

they.

don’t.

like.

science.

And what makes it really problematic is that they refuse to admit it. If they just said they didn’t buy evolution, science is bunk, there wouldn’t be too much to say in response.

However, they keep trying to say that science shows evolution is wrong – which is, ignoring the admittedly significant question of whether evolution is right or not, exactly the opposite of what the sciences say. It’s like claiming Mexicans speak French.

And the only way to support such a blatantly bogus position is to mangle the facts in every possible way. Somehow it always ends up sifting down to the real bottom line, saying science is bunk – but then denying that’s what they mean.

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/[…]he_bride.php

…just in case anyone was wondering if the Dishonesty Institute has done this before.

Ichthyic said:

…just in case anyone was wondering if the Dishonesty Institute has done this before.

I would be surprised if anybody was. But nice link anyway.

Excellent post! Thanks for this!

I know, right? I should be used to it. The level of denial that it takes to believe that the universe is 6,000 years old is so staggering that dismissal of history and scientific evidence with respect to Haeckel is trivial.

Ichthyic said:

What amazes me is that this all translates, in creationist terms, to “Haeckel was a fraud, therefore evolution is false.”

why?

the gullible have been falsely claiming fraud at large since before piltdown man, and will continue to do so every time there is the slightest bit of misinformation posted by (and inevitably discovered and corrected by) scientists.

they.

don’t.

like.

science.

When such people are asked “why do you hate science?” to which they always reply, “I don’t hate science, I just hate how those evil materialistic scientists (ab)use science to brainwash children into becoming evil, God-hating atheists. Oh, and I don’t like learning about science because it’s of the Devil.”

Or you get the “bad science” “good science” game, as in: “I’m not against science, it’s just that evolution is bad science.”

“So how do you define ‘bad science’?”

“That’s any science that tells me anything that I don’t want to hear.”

“And ‘good science’?”

“That’s all the rest of science that I’m ignoring for the moment until it tells me something I don’t want to hear.”

MrG said:

However, they keep trying to say that science shows evolution is wrong –

When IDers change the definition of science (as was revealed in Dover) to include the supernatural then “all things are possible.”

It’s an outgrowth of their presuppositional apologetics. I had to go to wikipedia to read about it, and now I understand why AIG, CMI, ICR, CRS, and all the rest keep harping about the “presuppositions of the evolutionary worldview.”

They know their position collapses immediately without presupposing their book is holy and their designer is almighty.

The only way they know to fight is to declare that everyone else’s position is also ‘presuppositional.’ Thus everyone is on an equal footing (American democracy, right?).

Afer all, are not all denominations and religions in America equal under the eyes of the law? Why should not their YECreationism have equal consideration vs. genuine science? Are they not just different worldviews with different presuppositions? (I have to stop - I’m making myself sick.)

In the name of their holy cause no lie is too vile no sin is too great.

Italy 1; New Zealand 1; I think I’m going to have to forego my atheism, there must indeed be a god.

…Friday is Paraguay.

Stanton said:

When such people are asked “why do you hate science?” to which they always reply, “I don’t hate science, I just hate how those evil materialistic scientists (ab)use science to brainwash children into becoming evil, God-hating atheists. Oh, and I don’t like learning about science because it’s of the Devil.”

There is no such thing as “good science” or “bad science”. There is only science and what denialists, whether of evolution or global warming, do is cherry pick which expressions of science they wish to accept. They they exaggerate any doubts, uncertainties, or gaps in our knowledge to justify outright denials of whatever ideas in science offend them. What crybabies and hypocrites they are. If we try to do that to religion, they go ballistic. But religion is based on human opinions blown up into “divine revelation” or at least interpretations of divine revelation, which science is based on studies of the physical universe we live in. Deny reality and affirm unreality as truth? You might as well plead insanity!

Dale stop pussyfooting and tell us what you really think… ;-)

How convenient that all we had to do was look at embryological development to understand an organism’s evolutionary history!

Hmm.

Not less incomplete is the second, most important record of creation, that of Ontogeny. For the Phylogeny of the individual is the most important of all. Yet, it also has its great defects, and often leaves us in a lurch. In this matter, we must distinguish quite clearly between palingenetic and kenogenetic phenomena, between the original, inherited evolution and the later, vitiated evolution. We must never forget that the laws of abridged and vitiated heredity frequently disguise the original course of evolution beyond recognition. The reproduction of the Phylogeny in the Ontogeny is but rarely tolerably complete. The earliest and most important stages of germ-history are usually the most abridged and compressed. The youthful evolutionary forms have in turn often adapted themselves to new conditions, and have thus been modified. The struggle for existence has excited an equally strong modifying influence upon the various independent and yet undeveloped young forms, as upon the developed and mature forms. Therefore, in the Ontogeny of higher animal forms the Phylogeny has been very greatly limited by Kenogenesis; as a rule, only a blurred and much vitiated picture of the original course of evolution of their ancestors now lies before us in the Ontogeny. Only with great precaution and judgment dare we infer the tribal history directly from the germ-history. Moreover, the germ-history itself is known to us only in the case of very few species. - Haeckel, Ernst (1876) The Evolution of Man Vol. II (3rd Edition), H. L. Fowle, p. 39-40,

Troy Britain said:

How convenient that all we had to do was look at embryological development to understand an organism’s evolutionary history!

Hmm.

Not less incomplete is the second, most important record of creation, that of Ontogeny. For the Phylogeny of the individual is the most important of all. Yet, it also has its great defects, and often leaves us in a lurch. In this matter, we must distinguish quite clearly between palingenetic and kenogenetic phenomena, between the original, inherited evolution and the later, vitiated evolution. We must never forget that the laws of abridged and vitiated heredity frequently disguise the original course of evolution beyond recognition. The reproduction of the Phylogeny in the Ontogeny is but rarely tolerably complete. The earliest and most important stages of germ-history are usually the most abridged and compressed. The youthful evolutionary forms have in turn often adapted themselves to new conditions, and have thus been modified. The struggle for existence has excited an equally strong modifying influence upon the various independent and yet undeveloped young forms, as upon the developed and mature forms. Therefore, in the Ontogeny of higher animal forms the Phylogeny has been very greatly limited by Kenogenesis; as a rule, only a blurred and much vitiated picture of the original course of evolution of their ancestors now lies before us in the Ontogeny. Only with great precaution and judgment dare we infer the tribal history directly from the germ-history. Moreover, the germ-history itself is known to us only in the case of very few species. - Haeckel, Ernst (1876) The Evolution of Man Vol. II (3rd Edition), H. L. Fowle, p. 39-40,

Its like, you didn’t even read the supplied chapter.…

Ichthyic said:

What amazes me is that this all translates, in creationist terms, to “Haeckel was a fraud, therefore evolution is false.”

why?

the gullible have been falsely claiming fraud at large since before piltdown man, and will continue to do so every time there is the slightest bit of misinformation posted by (and inevitably discovered and corrected by) scientists.

they.

don’t.

like.

science.

It’s not the gullible that I worry about. They (peddlers and their hopeless followers) will not admit evolution with or without these PRATTs (points refuted a thousand times). I am concerned about more reasonable people who just lack the time or interest to follow the refutations of those PRATTs, and instead, repeat sound bites like “I heard that evolution has problems.”

The problem is the same for any science-pseudoscience “debate.” Pseudoscience has a catchy but misleading sound bite, and science has several pages of clarification that impresses only the tiny % of us who closely follow the “debate.” I’m not sure how to change this situation, and I don’t expect anything more than a slow, tedious improvement. But one key is to ignore the “hopeless” (~25% of the population) and concentrate on the “salvageable” (as much as 50% if you include those who accept evolution but understand it poorly and think it’s fair to “teach the controversy” in science class).

fnxtr said:

Dale stop pussyfooting and tell us what you really think… ;-)

“Let he who has never ranted on PT be the first to cast a stone.”

Oh, and I don’t like learning about science because it’s of the Devil.”

Some of the weirder and more malevolent cults actively discourage their children from going to college.

Because they have a high dropout rate as it is. They know that more education means more defectors. Jehovahs Witnesses is one, there are others.

Other sects deal with the too much education problem by setting up their own “bible colleges.” While not all of the private religious schools carefully censor knowledge such as Calvin, Notre Dame, BYU, many of the rest are basically glorified dating services promoting endogamy and baby sitting and fake degree mills.

Cults that can only survive by brainwashing their kids and making sure they are blind and deaf to the real world, probably don’t have much of a handle on the truth.

Wouldn’t lump BYU and Notre Dame with such “universities” as Liberty, etc. They are true bastions of academic learning and freedom:

raven said:

Oh, and I don’t like learning about science because it’s of the Devil.”

Some of the weirder and more malevolent cults actively discourage their children from going to college.

Because they have a high dropout rate as it is. They know that more education means more defectors. Jehovahs Witnesses is one, there are others.

Other sects deal with the too much education problem by setting up their own “bible colleges.” While not all of the private religious schools carefully censor knowledge such as Calvin, Notre Dame, BYU, many of the rest are basically glorified dating services promoting endogamy and baby sitting and fake degree mills.

Cults that can only survive by brainwashing their kids and making sure they are blind and deaf to the real world, probably don’t have much of a handle on the truth.

Some of the weirder and more malevolent cults actively discourage their children from going to college.

The endgame may be playing out right now in Israel. According to a recent article in The Jerusalem Report*, Israeli schoolchildren, who once had achievements near the top internationally, are now consistently near the bottom. Part of the reason is failure to support the Arab school system, but another part is that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) school system provides “at best perfunctory classes in those [secular] subjects at the lowest possible level, and sometimes [do not teach] them at all. Male high-school students in the haredi system typically study religious texts exclusively.”

According to Dan Ben-David, a professor of public policy at Tel Aviv University, “the non-haredi Jewish sector has performed at a low level compared to most of the First World. The Arab sector’s education is at Third World levels, and the haredi sector is not even learning what is taught in the Third World.”

One result is that haredim who attempt to go to university cannot do so without significant remedial education. Fortunately, a recent law that permits haredi schools to receive state funding even if they do not teach the core curriculum is being appealed the Supreme Court.

A related problem is the large number of haredim who are not productive and thus contribute to Israel’s falling productivity.

*Ziv Hellman, “The Best and the Worst,” The Jerusalem Report, June 21, 2010, pp. 32-35. Unfortunately, I could not find this article on the Web.

I finally found Hellman’s article here, on the website of the parent Jerusalem Post.

According to a recent article in The Jerusalem Report*, Israeli schoolchildren, who once had achievements near the top internationally, are now consistently near the bottom.

They should be absolutely terrified by this. People should be jumping up and down and screaming that the end of the world is near. It could well be. Israel’s survival was always based on being a technological first world nation, while being surrounded by and vastly outnumbered by a sea of third world and hostile Arabs.

So what happens when they are a third world nation surrounded and vastly outnumbered by other third world nations?

Wouldn’t want to be them, in that case.

That is also FWIW, our edge. The US leads in science and technology and not so coincidentally leads in economic power and military proficiency. Kill science and eventually we will be known as the former superpower which followed the USSR down the hill.

Matt Young said:

Some of the weirder and more malevolent cults actively discourage their children from going to college.

The endgame may be playing out right now in Israel. According to a recent article in The Jerusalem Report*, Israeli schoolchildren, who once had achievements near the top internationally, are now consistently near the bottom. Part of the reason is failure to support the Arab school system, but another part is that the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) school system provides “at best perfunctory classes in those [secular] subjects at the lowest possible level, and sometimes [do not teach] them at all. Male high-school students in the haredi system typically study religious texts exclusively.”

According to Dan Ben-David, a professor of public policy at Tel Aviv University, “the non-haredi Jewish sector has performed at a low level compared to most of the First World. The Arab sector’s education is at Third World levels, and the haredi sector is not even learning what is taught in the Third World.”

One result is that haredim who attempt to go to university cannot do so without significant remedial education. Fortunately, a recent law that permits haredi schools to receive state funding even if they do not teach the core curriculum is being appealed the Supreme Court.

A related problem is the large number of haredim who are not productive and thus contribute to Israel’s falling productivity.

*Ziv Hellman, “The Best and the Worst,” The Jerusalem Report, June 21, 2010, pp. 32-35. Unfortunately, I could not find this article on the Web.

When is the USA going to wake up and realize that Israel is NOT worth supporting unconditionally??? The state that is called Israel now is NOT related to the one that existed 2000 or 3000 years ago! And even if it was, that’s no excuse for letting it get away with its many atrocities.

http://circleh.wordpress.com/2009/0[…]-impossible/

After all the killings and destruction since 1948 in the “Holy Land”, we must do all we can to undo the systematic brainwashing of the American people that has been done for many decades by Christian fundamenalist leaders and propagandists. As far as I’m concerned, they are mass murderers by proxy!

First, they claim that Israel’s founding was a fulfilment of Bible prophecy and thus will lead to the return of Christ and the establishment of God’s kingdom. They must claim this because so many prophecies in the Old Testament referring to Israel were NOT fulfilled in ancient times, therefore, they assume that these prophecies will be fulfilled in modern times with the new state of Israel. But that is nothing but a rationalization.

Second, if you read what Jesus actually said in the Gospels about his return, then certain events were supposed to take place, then he would return while the generation that saw him alive still lived. Indeed, the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70 and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 could be seen as fulfillments of what Jesus said…….but he did NOT return. So why would some Christians still be waiting for his return nearly 2000 years later? And linking his return to the JEWISH state of Israel is absurd, period!

Third, and worst of all, many Christians see what has happened in the Middle East since 1948 as a reenactment of the ancient wars described in the Bible, where many atrocities were also committed. Indeed, the Book of Joshua describes a long campaigne of conquest and genocide that would be compared with what the German Nazis did if it happened today. And that is the main reason most fundamentalist Christians are not bothered by the wrongdoings of Israel because they think, “Such things were done in Biblical times and were said to be God’s will, so why not let them happen again?” That’s a bit like expecting a teenager to wear diapers long after he has outgrown them and been potty trained. This is one reason why I am sometimes so contemptuous of religion: It actually prevents people from growing up spiritually and morally.

And Palestinians, you are not blameless either! You, just as Israel, have murdered far too many innocents in the name of your religion and your nationality. If I had my way, I’d sweep both you AND the Jews off the “Holy Land” and allow that land 100 years of healing before I ever allow any people to live there again. And then only atheists and agnostics, who would treat the land and its history more objectively than any Jew, Christian, and Muslim would.

If you want to see just how stupid the mentality I described just above can get, just go to a library and check out The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, and its several sequels that this despicable fraud wrote in the late 1970s and 1980s. He was using religion to promote hard-line Conservative politics, and for that alone I will spit on him forever!

I will allow Mr. Husband’s self-described rant to stand, but I consider it very far off task and will limit responses. I will not go into more detail, but I also consider it intemperate and not entirely accurate as regards the founding of Israel.

I do not want to get into an overtly political discussion, but I frankly could not agree more with Mr. raven’s comment.

Matt Young -

For balance, I will express my views; please feel free to delete them if you wish.

I think that the Israeli education situation described in that article is shocking, and highly instructive for the US.

In some ways the situation here is almost worse, as a major political faction has adopted science denial on a number of issues as part of its defining platform (global warming denial, strong acceptance of evolution denial, strong acceptance of science denial with regard to contraception). We also see vaccine denial and a variety of other science denial movements that are less clearly associated with any one political ideology (the Democratic party and “liberal” media outlets most certainly do not uniformly endorse vaccine denial nor regularly print editorials from vaccine denialists, although, of course, the Huffington Post is well known to do so).

On the other hand, at least we ostensibly do not pay taxes to support purely religious schools that refuse to teach the basics, and that is something we have to keep fighting to maintain.

As for other politics, I will briefly add the following…

I strongly oppose some Israeli actions (I also strongly oppose many US policies) but I also oppose inhumane actions toward or stereotyping of individual Israelis.

I vehemently oppose any suggestion that any current nation state or jurisdiction should be “destroyed” in any way, or that any group of people should be forcibly removed from their homes. I equally condemn both the “destruction of Israel” and the “transfer” of Palestinians as absurdly inhumane ideas which a civilized person would not entertain.

I do NOT advocate “unconditional” support for Israel or any other foreign nation by the US. Nor does any rational person.

The US gives a great deal of aid to Israel and it is in US interests to encourage Israeli policy that meets international standards. However, although the US has the right to determine how much aid it sends (within the limitations of treaty requirements), and to set trade barriers, the US does not have the right to directly dictate domestic policy to any other nation.

“Peace settlements” that require impossibly good behavior from every individual on one side or the other are not merely doomed to fail, but are designed to be doomed to fail. Setting up a “peace settlement” that gives a heckler’s veto to any extremist on either side who can manage to blow himself up in public or launch crude rockets is an exercise in futility. Any workable peace settlement is guaranteed to provoke a transient explosion of desperate violence by extremists, who know that if it isn’t blocked, it will become the status quo.

I will not be offended if this is sent to the BW, but would prefer that it could be viewed.

I endorse your comments Matt, but am in a most unique situation, given the fact that I have two Muslim relatives (One of whom was the notarious US Army Muslim chaplain at Gitmo earlier this decade.) and quite a few Jewish ones. While I have the utmost admiration for Dale’s comments with respect to science, I do not endorse his views pertaining to Israel:

Matt Young said:

I will allow Mr. Husband’s self-described rant to stand, but I consider it very far off task and will limit responses. I will not go into more detail, but I also consider it intemperate and not entirely accurate as regards the founding of Israel.

I do not want to get into an overtly political discussion, but I frankly could not agree more with Mr. raven’s comment.

Haekal was a genious who saw a connection, but over emphasised it. Today we relise the development of embryoes does indeed mirror evolution. It would be interesting if bio-chemists could test the reaction, combinations, and mutations of say, hox-genes to see when deviations become substantial between different species, phyla.

That said, if the Israeli/Palestinian question is ever amicably settled (fat-chance) what on earth will entertain me on evening news? They deserve one another!

Ntrsvic said: Its like, you didn’t even read the supplied chapter.…

My point, cryptic as it may have been, was the apparent discrepancy between Matt’s somewhat glib version of Haeckel’s position regarding our ability to glean phylogenetic information from ontogeny and what Haeckel actually said about it.

What was yours? Because it seems even more cryptic than mine, at least to me.

Almost immediately, many of Haeckel’s fellow embryologists noticed that he had taken artistic liberties in his drawings to support his ideas, yet few rejected the biogenic law outright. One of the first written criticisms of the biogenic law appeared in an 1894 article by zoologist Adam Sedgwick in the Quarterly Journal of Microscopic Science. Sedgwick argued that the biogenic law conflicted with a principle known as von Baer’s law, after Karl Ernst von Baer, one of the founders of embryology. Von Baer had noted, contrary to Haeckel, that the embryos of higher animal forms resembled the embryos, not the adults, of earlier forms. Thus, for example, a human embryo may pass through a stage where it resembles a fish embryo, but not an adult fish.

Oh, boy. I really don’t want to do this…

The first paragraph from the Sedgwick article in question:

THE generalisation commonly referred to as v. Baer’s law is usually stated as follows:—Embryos of different members of the same group are more alike than the adults, and the resemblances are greater the younger the embryos examined. It appears to be pretty clear that v. Baer held some such view as this, and there can be no doubt that it is a view which is largely taught at the present day. In fact, I think it is safe to say that all zoologists are brought up with this view as one of the fundamental postulates of their science.

It will be the object of the following pages to show that this view is not in accordance with the facts of development.

Sedgwick does mention Haeckel briefly in a footnote, just long enough to make a snide remark about the accuracy of his drawings:

I do not feel called upon to characterise the accuracy of the drawings of embryos of different classes of the Vertebrata given by Haeckel in his popular works, and reproduced by Romanes and, for all that I know, other popular exponents of the evolution theory. As a sample of their accuracy, I may refer the reader to the varied position of the auditory sac in the drawings of the younger embryos.

That’s in on Haeckel in an 18 page article. The whole thing is basically a criticism of Von Baer (with a few shots a Darwin thrown in).

The whole article is available online here.

Oh, boy. I really don’t want to do this…

Why not? Science is self-correcting, and we should be grateful when errors are uncovered. The article was not entirely Greek to me, but I am not really competent to discuss it in detail. I have asked Dr. Strode if he wants to respond.

My apologies for not responding sooner; much gets put onto the back burner during Wimbledon.

I agree, and thanks for bringing this to light. I will rewrite this section more clearly if we ever get the chance at a second edition. My intention wasn’t to argue that Sedgwick promoted v. Baer over Haeckel, just to establish the timetable for Haeckel’s critics.

P.Z. Meyers said it better here:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/[…]_embryos.php

“Sedgwick, for instance, compiled an extensive list of objections to recapitulation as formulated by von Baer and Haeckel, and specifically rejected it as untenable - in 1894.”

It’s “Myers”

Sorry P.Z.

To the asshole spammer from www.b2bsharing.com:

You are going to be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.

That can put you out of business.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on June 20, 2010 9:00 AM.

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