Re: Behe on Kansas in Today's NYT

George Murphy (
Fri, 13 Aug 1999 16:37:56 -0400

egm wrote:
> The New York Times, August 13, 1999, Friday, Page
> A21, Editorial Desk
> HEADLINE: Teach Evolution And Ask Hard Questions
> BYLINE: By Michael J. Behe; Michael J. Behe,
> professor of biological sciences
> at Lehigh University, is author of "Darwin's
> Black Box: The Biochemical
> Challenge to Evolution."
> DATELINE: BETHLEHEM, Pa. ..........................
> Third, the embryos
> of fish, amphibians, birds and
> mammals look virtually identical in an early
> stage of development, becoming
> different only at later stages.
> ................

the third is downright
> false. .....................

> The story of the embryos is an object lesson
> in seeing what you want to see.
> Sketches of vertebrate embryos were first made in
> the late 19th century by
> Ernst Haeckel, an admirer of Darwin. In the
> intervening years, apparently
> nobody verified the accuracy of Haeckel's
> drawings. Prominent scientists
> declared in textbooks that the theory of
> evolution predicted, explained and was
> supported by the striking similarity of
> vertebrate embryos. And that is what
> generations of American students have learned.
> Recently, however, an international team of
> scientists decided to check the
> drawings' reliability. They found that Haeckel
> had, well, taken liberties: the
> embryos are significantly different from each
> other. In Nature, the head of the
> research team observed that "it looks like it's
> turning out to be one of the
> most famous fakes in biology." What's more, the
> embryonic stages shown in the
> drawings are actually not the earliest ones. The
> earliest stages show much
> greater variation.

I think everyone knows now that Haeckel's theory of embryological
recapitulation was vastly oversimplified, but the above statements of Behe's
are clearly wrong. Sketchs of vertebrate embryos were not "first" made in the
"late 19th century" by Haeckel. See, e.g., Chapter 30 of Stephen F. Mason's
_A History of the Sciences_.

George L. Murphy