Friday, 16 December 2016

Celebrating a Notorious Fraudster: Ernst Haeckel and His Tree of Life in Nature

Ernst Haeckel's tree of life (1866), public domain.

Joel Kontinen

A letter published in Nature sees Ernst Haeckel as a trailblazing scientist who built a more comprehensive tree of life than Darwin had done.

Darwin’s initial version that he sketched in 1837 was very simple. Haeckel “painstakingly drew up a much more comprehensive tree.”

Charles Darwin sketched his earliest tree in 1837. Image: public domain.

The letter presents a biased view of the zoologist who invented non-existing species as evidence for evolution and is now mostly remembered for his fraudulent embryo drawings.

He also inspired some leading Nazis.

This [i.e. Haeckel’s tree] represented Earth's wealth of species in the context of evolution — a concept he dubbed phylogeny (General Morphology of Organisms; 1866).

The root of the tree symbolizes a common primordial ancestor from which all other forms emerged. Haeckel developed his tree over almost 1,000 pages, basing it on palaeontological, embryological and systemic data — a precursor to modern biology's phylogenetic trees.”

We now know that Haeckel’s tree – just like Darwin’s – was simply wrong.

Secular researches have begun to understand that a bush or a net is a far more better description of the development and diversity of life.

Creationists have said so for decades.


Hossfeld, Uwe and Georgy S. Levit. 2016. Phylogeny: 'Tree of life' took root 150 years ago. Nature 540, 38.