"One of the most popular and familiar pieces of evidence used to bolster the theory of evolution – reproduced for decades in most high school and college biology textbooks – is fraudulent, and has been known to be fraudulent for nearly 100 years.
Most people have seen those drawings of developing human embryos next to developing animal embryos, and they look virtually indistinguishable. (The Haeckel embryo sequence shown purported to show – left to right – a hog, calf, rabbit and human). This has long been said to demonstrate that humans share a common ancestry with these animals and thus prove the theory of evolution.
These pictures were designed by German zoologist Ernst Haeckel."
"At Jena, the university where he taught, Haeckel was charged with fraud by five professors and convicted by a university court. His deceit was exposed in "Haeckel’s Frauds and Forgeries," a 1915 book by J. Assmuth and Ernest R. Hull, who quoted 19 leading authorities of the day."
"Yet, despite Haeckel’s fraud conviction and early exposure, Western educators continued using the pictures for decades as proof of the theory of evolution.
(See my brief but humorous Jan. 4th post, where my former boss told me, "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny...It took me 4 years of college to learn those 3 words.")
The matter was settled with finality by Dr.. Michael Richardson, an embryologist at St. George’s Medical School in London. He found there was no record that anyone ever actually checked Haeckel’s claims by systematically comparing human and other fetuses during development. So Richardson assembled a scientific team that did just that – photographing the growing embryos of 39 different species.
In a 1997 interview in The Times of London, Dr. Richardson stated: "This is one of the worst cases of scientific fraud. It’s shocking to find that somebody one thought was a great scientist was deliberately misleading. It makes me angry. ... What he [Haeckel] did was to take a human embryo and copy it, pretending that the salamander and the pig and all the others looked the same at the same stage of development. They don’t. ... These are fakes."
Today – believe it or not – Haeckel’s drawings still appear in many high school and college textbooks. (Among them are "Evolutionary Biology" by Douglas J. Futuyma (Third Edition, Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, 1998), and also the bedrock text, "Molecular Biology of the Cell" (third edition), whose authors include biochemist Dr. Bruce Alberts, president of the National Academy of Sciences."