For over a century, school textbooks taught students that the Theory of Evolution was illustrated by similarities between the development of a human in the womb compared to the shape of embryos of lower life forms.[1] In other words, human development supposedly imitated the evolutionary path of life on earth.

This theory was initially proposed by Charles Darwin in The Origin of Species and then heavily promoted by the German Darwinist, Ernst Haeckel. In 1904, Haeckel reiterated a view of Darwin: "These lower races ... are psychologically nearer to the mammals (apes or dogs) than to civilized Europeans; we must, therefore, assign a totally different value to their lives." [2]

Haeckel drew diagrams suggesting that an animal, including a human, imitates the shapes of its ancestors' evolution as it develops in the womb. He then drew fraudulent images to popularize his theory. The drawings, shown to the right here, were a complete fake.[3]

The Haeckel diagrams remained in school textbooks long after scientists privately recognized they were fraudulent. The diagrams were not removed from textbooks until the New York Times publicized the fraud in 2001.[4]


  2. Ernst Haeckel, The Wonders of Life (New York: Harper 1904), 56-57 (emphasis added).
  4. James Glanz, "Illustrations More Fiction Than Fact," New York Times (April 8, 2001).[1]

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