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Ernst Haeckel’s contribution to Evo-Devo and scientific debate: a re-evaluation of Haeckel’s controversial illustrations in US textbooks in response to creationist accusations

  • Elizabeth WattsEmail author
  • Georgy S. Levit
  • Uwe Hossfeld
Original Article

Abstract

As Blackwell (Am Biol Teach 69:135–136, 2007) pointed out, multiple authors have attempted to discredit Haeckel, stating that modern embryological studies have shown that Haeckel’s drawings are stylized or embellished. More importantly, though, it has been shown that the discussion within the scientific community concerning Haeckel’s drawings and the question of whether embryonic similarities are convergent or conserved have been extrapolated outside the science community in an attempt to discredit Darwin and evolutionary theory in general (Behe in Science 281:347–351, 1998; Blackwell in Am Biol Teach 69:135–136, 2007; Pickett et al. in Am Biol Teach 67:275, 2005; Wells in Am Biol Teach 61:345–349, 1999; Icons of evolution: science or myth? Why much of what we teach about evolution is wrong. Regnery Publishing, Washington, 2002). In this paper, we address the controversy surrounding Haeckel and his work in order to clarify the line between the shortcomings and the benefits of his research and illustrations. Specifically, we show that while his illustrations were not perfect anatomical representations, they were useful educational visualizations and did serve an important role in furthering studies in embryology.

Keywords

Haeckel Visualization Creationism Evolution Science education Textbooks 

Notes

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Watts
    • 1
    Email author
  • Georgy S. Levit
    • 2
  • Uwe Hossfeld
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology Education Research Group, Institute for Zoology and Evolutionary Research, Faculty of Biological SciencesFriedrich Schiller UniversityJenaGermany
  2. 2.Institute for BiologyUniversität KasselKasselGermany

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