Monday, May 7, 2007

Darwin’s drawings under suspicion

Transcript of today's show:

Darwin’s chief illustrator has been accused of producing fraudulent drawings in order to provide better evidence for Darwin’s arguments. Ernst Haeckel deliberately fudged his drawings to reveal similarities in embryonic development among species. An international team of experts recently compared Haeckel's drawings with actual embryos and have concluded that Haeckel's work is one of the most famous fakes in biology. In spite of this widespread discrediting, Haeckel's drawings still appear in many textbooks and are presented as fact. [source: Science magazine, Talk Origins]

Listen to the 1-minute broadcast of this story [mp3]

Sound Off: Science & Faith. Our point/counterpoint regulars Shelley (the voice of science) and Peter (the voice of faith), comment on the story.

The Voice of Science: Shelley Greene, Ph.D., comments:
All textbooks containing Ernst Haeckel’s questionable drawings should be pulled from use and revised or replaced. I believe in a zero tolerance rule regarding fraudulent presentation of material. Haeckel’s frauds must be fully brought to light and expunged from all teaching materials.

Now, what about Darwin? We do well to remember that Haeckel’s drawings were a post factum addition to Darwin’s published work. Haeckel’s embryo drawings did not appear until 1874, almost two decades after Darwin published the “Origin of the Species.” Haekel’s exaggerated drawings never influenced Darwin’s thinking nor formed a basis for his theories of natural selection and adaptation. Creationists and ID proponents rightly assail Haeckel’s utter lack of professional ethics, however, they go to far when they pin this on Darwin with the purpose of discounting his work altogether. The transgressions of Haeckel do not belong to Darwin.

The Voice of Faith: Peter Williamson, M.Div., comments:
This travesty of scientific integrity points to a little-known political campaign that was waged in the years following Darwin’s publication of his controversial “Origin of the Species.” Colleagues of Darwin undertook a decades-long disinformation campaign to trump support for his bizarre and heretical theories (which were quite unpopular among the people of his day). Haeckel played a significant role in this political machine. He was a great embellisher of his observations, he had a comfortable genius for creating false proofs, and he expounded many outlandish theories of his own, which he often devised from thin air. And there are other Darwinists who, like Haekel, would do anything to make their theory seem believable to the public. This unethical approach of disinformation is exactly why state legislators are introducing bills that would allow other theories to be taught along side evolution. Darwin’s theory of natural selection is not gospel. There has been much sleight of hand and underhanded deception from the Darwinists. They must be questioned vigorously and unapologetically.