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Index to Creationist Claims,  edited by Mark Isaak,    Copyright © 2004
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Claim CB701.1:

The biogenetic law that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny (that is, that the embryological stages of a developing organism follow the organism's evolutionary history) is false, yet embryological stages are still claimed as evidence for evolution.


Morris, Henry M., 1974. Scientific Creationism, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 76-77.


  1. Haeckel's biogenetic law was never part of Darwin's theory and was challenged even in his own lifetime. Haeckel himself did not necessarily advocate the strict form of recapitulation commonly attributed to him (Richardson and Keuck 2002).

  2. Irrespective of biogenetic law, embryological characters are still useful as evidence for evolution (in constructing phylogenies, for example), just as adult characters are. Furthermore, there is some degree of parallelism between ontogeny and phylogeny, especially when applied only to individual characters (Richardson and Keuck 2002). Various causes for this have been proposed. For example, there is selective pressure to retain embryonic structures that are needed for the development of other organs.


Chase, Scott, 1999. Is Haeckel's law of recapitulation a problem?

Wilkins, John, 1996. Darwin's precursors and influences: 1. transmutationism.


  1. Richardson, M. K. and G. Keuck, 2002. (see below)

Further Reading:

Gould, Stephen J., 1977. Ontogeny and Phylogeny. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.

Richardson, M. K. and G. Keuck, 2002. Haeckel's ABC of evolution and deveolopment. Biol. Rev. 77: 495-528.
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