Encyclopedic ‘truth’ … or worldly wisdom?


Much of the scientific ‘evidence’ claimed by one popular encyclopedia1 to support evolution has in fact long been discredited and/or discounted, even by secular scientists. The examples given by the World Book Encyclopedia 2000 (WBE2000) as evidence for evolution—but which were long ago abandoned by evolutionists—include:

1. Embryonic recapitulation

This is the idea that the development of the human embryo in the womb is a rerun (or ‘recapitulation’) of the steps in man’s alleged rise from a primitive creature. Ernst Haeckel popularised this theory with his famous series of embryo drawings in 1868, but these were later shown to be fraudulent, and Haeckel was forced to issue a modest confession in which he blamed ‘the draughtsman’—without acknowledging that he himself was that person!2

Objective assessment of embryonic development in the past 80 years had already led most informed evolutionists to conclude that the recapitulation theory is false.3 For example, well-known evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould in 1980 said that ‘Both the theory [of recapitulation] and ‘ladder approach’ to classification that it encouraged are, or should be, defunct today.’4

The embryo photos used here by kind permission originally appeared in Michael K. Richardson et al, ‘There is no highly conserved embryonic stage in the vertebrates: implications for current theories of evolution and development’, Anatomy and Embryology 196(2):91–106, 1997, ©Springer-Verlag GmbH, Heidelberg, Germany. Embryo photos
Above, top row: Haeckel’s drawings of several different embryos, showing incredible similarity, in their early ‘tailbud’ stage.
Bottom row: Richardson’s photographs of how the embryos really look at the same stage of development.

But most still believed, on the basis of the full range of Haeckel’s diagrams, that embryos from widely differing creatures were remarkably similar in their early development, and interpreted this as evidence for a shared evolutionary ancestry. However, the full extent of Haeckel’s deception was made known to the scientific community in 1997, when it was shown that this alleged ‘similarity’ of embryos was itself based on further fraud. Real embryos of the various creatures featured by Haeckel at that stage of development are not only quite different from one another, but remarkably different from his published drawings (see below).5,6,7

The well-known Clydesdale draughthorse, one of the largest of horses, is seen here to dwarf one of the smallest varieties, a miniature horse. Despite the obvious difference in size between these two, they are both clearly horses.

One could in charity perhaps excuse the WBE2000 for not having caught up with this recent ‘second blow’ exposure of Haeckelian fraud. But in fact it presents recapitulation itself (discredited for decades, and based on the discovery of fraud last century) as evidence for evolution!8

2. Horse evolution

The WBE2000 cites the horse as an example of ‘continuous evolution found in the fossil record’. But informed evolutionists now recognise that the fossil record, even in their own framework, is not continuous but ‘bushy’, stricken with gaps and fossils out of evolutionary sequence.9 One paleontologist noted, ‘The record of evolution is still surprisingly jerky and, ironically, we have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time. By this I mean that the classic cases of darwinian change in the fossil record, such as the evolution of the horse in North America, have had to be modified or discarded as a result of more detailed information—what appeared to be a nice simple progression when relatively few data were available now appears to be much more complex and less gradualistic.’10

The wildly speculative nature of the horse evolution series is privately acknowledged by informed evolutionists,11 and is also evident from the lack of consensus among paleontologists, with many different ‘family trees’ being drawn from the same data!9 In fact, all of these evolutionary family trees have a false origin. The so-called ‘dawn horse’, or Eohippus, was most likely not related to horses at all, but was very like a modern-day hyrax—that is, a rock badger or coney. This is reflected in the name Hyracotherium given by the paleontologist who first discovered it—who saw no connection with the horse. The rest of the alleged evolutionary horse ‘series’ can be simply explained as variation within the equine (horse) kind. The staggering variation among living horses (undoubtedly one kind)12 in body size, dentition, number of toes, ribs, etc., supports this.

3. Eyeless cave-dwelling fish

Wikimedia commons/H. Zell Mexican tetra

According to the WBE2000, ‘Vestigial organs are the useless remains of organs that were once useful in an evolutionary ancestor.’13 In other words, ‘vestigial organs’, like the non-functional eyes of cave-dwelling fish, are claimed as evidence for evolution having occurred.

The WBE2000 is correct in saying that cave-dwelling fish with nonfunctional (or malformed, or absent) eyes are descended from fully-sighted ancestors. The cave-dwelling (eyeless) and surface river-dwelling (eyed) forms of the Central American ‘banded tetra’ fish (Astyanax fasciatus), demonstrate this well. When the two forms interbreed, viable young are produced (indicating they are the same biological species).14,15 But this alleged ‘proof’ is misleading because this is not evolution in the overall ‘uphill’ information-adding sense that evolutionists say led to our existence. Rather, the loss of eye function is the result of a ‘downhill’ mutational change, a corruption or loss of the genetic information coding for eye manufacture. For fish living in light, such mutations are terribly disadvantageous, but for fish in underground lightless environments, fish with eyes have no advantage over blind ones. In fact, a complete lack of eyes is an advantage when bumping into cave walls in the darkness, as eyes are vulnerable to injury and subsequent infection, possibly leading to death.16

4. Human appendix

‘One of the best-known vestigial organs’, says the WBE2000, ‘is the human appendix, … [which] serves no known purpose ….’ However, even as long ago as 1976, medical textbooks were beginning to credit the appendix with significant function, as accumulating evidence showed it to be involved in the body’s immune system.17 Medical textbooks today are emphatic about the important role of the appendix as part of the lymphatic system,18 yet the WBE2000’s section on evolution continues to indoctrinate readers in the discarded idea that the appendix is great evidence that man evolved.19 At one time, evolutionists reckoned there were 180 vestigial (functionless) structures in the human body. Today, this list has shrunk to virtually none, as functions have been discovered that were not previously recognised, as with the appendix.20

5. Peppered moths

Of all the now-abandoned examples that the WBE2000 uses to support evolution, its citing of the infamous peppered moth (Biston betularia) highlights the degree to which it has fallen behind current evolutionist thought.21 Ironically, it was the original contributing author of the section on evolution, Jerry Coyne (Professor of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago), who wrote in the scientific journal Nature in 1998 of the peppered moth story, ‘Depressingly, … this classic example is in bad shape’.22 Coyne reported that what had been the evolutionists’ ‘prize horse in our stable’ must now be discarded.

The popular understanding of the ‘classic example’ was that when the Industrial Revolution blackened the trunks of trees where the peppered moths rested during the daytime, the light-coloured moths became visible to bird predators, resulting in the ‘evolution’ of dark-coloured moths. But it turns out that the moths do not rest on tree trunks during the day. As Coyne wrote in 1998, this fact alone invalidates the earlier behavioural experiments, where moths were placed directly on tree trunks. (In fact, textbooks and films have featured ‘a lot of fraudulent photographs’ where dead moths were glued to the tree!)21

The story is further eroded because the resurgence of the light-coloured form occurred while tree trunks were still blackened. But the WBE2000 section on evolution makes no mention of any of this. Interestingly, in his 1998 article, Coyne reflects on why there was such general and unquestioned acceptance of the original research. He concedes that teachers such as himself often neglect the original reports in scientific journals in favour of shorter textbook summaries. Coyne admits that when he heard about numerous flaws in the peppered moth story, he was so embarrassed at having taught it unquestioningly for years that he finally read the original research papers for the first time—and unearthed yet further problems! Yet anybody consulting the WBE2000 would be unaware of any of this.

Wikipedia/Martinowksy from nl peppered moths
Light and black versions of the peppered moth.

Sadly, the WBE2000 gives no hint that so-called ‘facts’ of evolution are continually being discarded (though only deleted from text books years later). As Coyne wrote in Nature, ‘From time to time, evolutionists re-examine a classic experimental study and find, to their horror, that it is flawed or downright wrong.’22 Yet many such errors and outdated ‘facts’ in encyclopedias are indoctrinating young readers, ‘priming’ them to reject the truth of God’s Word. Meanwhile, many older readers (e.g. parents helping their children with school projects) will misguidedly retain many of the outdated evolutionary ideas they were taught at school or college, not realizing that even the evolutionists have long abandoned them.

This highlights the importance of Christians comparing everything they read against the Bible (as the ‘noble’ Bereans did—Acts 17:11) to avoid being brainwashed by man’s false theories about our history. For the Bible is a revelation from the One who knows everything—and therefore God’s Word should be the starting point for all of our thinking (Proverbs 9:10).

Published: 7 November 2012

References and notes

  1. World Book Encyclopedia 2000, World Book, Inc., Chicago, IL, USA, 6:426–434, 2000. Return to text.
  2. Grigg R., Ernst Haeckel: Evangelist for evolution and apostle of deceit, Creation 18(2):33–36, 1996. Return to text.
  3. Grigg R., Fraud rediscovered, Creation 20(2):49–51, 1998. Return to text.
  4. Dr Down’s Syndrome, Natural History 89:144, 1980, cited from H. Morris, The Long War Against God, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, p. 139, 1989. Return to text.
  5. Richardson M., et al., Anatomy and Embryology 196(2):91–106, 1997. Return to text.
  6. Pennisi E., Haeckel’s Embryos: Fraud Rediscovered, Science 277(5331):1435, 5 September 1997. Return to text.
  7. Embryonic fraud lives on, New Scientist 155(2098):23, 6 September 1997. Return to text.
  8. Ref. 1, p. 431. Return to text.
  9. Sarfati J., The non-evolution of the horse, Creation 21(3):28–31, 1999. Return to text.
  10. Raup D.M., Conflicts between Darwin and paleontology, Field Museum of Natural History Bulletin 50:22, 1979. Return to text.
  11. E.g. Dr Niles Eldredge, curator at the American Museum of Natural History, cited in L. Sunderland, Darwin’s Enigma: Fossils and Other Problems, 4th Ed., Master Books, Santee, CA, USA, p. 78, 1988. Return to text.
  12. Batten D., Ligers and wholphins? What next? Creation 22(3):28–33, 2000. Return to text.
  13. A recent evolutionary revisionist definition includes useful organs which have reduced or changed function. Return to text.
  14. The offspring of eyed surface-dwelling banded tetra and their eyeless cave-dwelling cousins have eyes intermediate in size. http://www.bmb.psu.edu/597a/stdnts98/ags107/coursework/rsrch.htm, May 29, 2000. Return to text.
  15. Borowsky, R., and Espinasa, L., ‘Antiquity and Origins of Troglobitic Mexican Tetras, Astyanax faxciatus’, Proceedings of the 12th International Congress of Speleology, 3:359–361, 1997—http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/bio/faculty/borowsky/cave_publications/asty.html, June 8, 2000. Return to text.
  16. See Creation Questions: Eyeless fish in caves, Creation 13(2):51, 1991. Return to text.
  17. Bockus, H.L., Gastroenterology 2:1134–1148 (chapter ‘the Appendix’ by McHardy, G.), W.B. Saunders Company, Philadelphia, PA, USA, 1976. Return to text.
  18. Martini, F.H., Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USA, p. 916, 1995. Return to text.
  19. Many public school textbooks also perpetuate the erroneous notion of the ‘useless’ appendix. See Your appendix … it’s there for a reason, Creation 20(1):41–43, 1997. Return to text.
  20. Bergman, J. & Howe, G., “Vestigial Organs” are fully functional, Creation Research Society, Kansas City, MO, USA, 1990. Return to text.
  21. See Wieland, C., Goodbye, peppered moths: A classic evolutionary story comes unstuck, Creation 21(3):56, 1999. Return to text.
  22. Coyne, J.A., Not black and white, Nature 396(6706):35–36, November 5, 1998. Return to text.

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