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Evolutionary Myths

03 January 2013, 11:14

During the December break, I followed some discussions, and saw a well-read atheist, proclaim that the human embryo had gills, and this was proof of the link between man and fish…

I could only chuckle at the idea. So I thought about discussing this and some other myths..

In an article, Eric J. Blievernicht mentions being handed a book from his then retiring biology teacher. The following was stated there:

"The fish, reptile, and human embryos each form an internal skeleton, including vertebral column, skull, ribs, limb girdles, and limb cartilages. The gills open through the pharynx to the outside... In the reptile and the human embryos, the pharyngeal gills are closed up, and lungs develop."

Ibid, pp. 488-489

He further mentions that a fellow student pointed to human gill slits as "proof" of evolution. One had to admit it was a good point. If humans really have gill slits as foetuses, that would indeed be powerful evidence for the evolution of man from fish!

He states the following…

“Nor is this intellectual hangover from the 19th century confined to old biology textbooks and ignorant biochemistry students. I found the following statement recently in a book by Dr. Ian Tattersall, prominent paleoanthropologist and Head of the Anthropology Department at the American Museum of Natural History. His work included serving as Curator in Charge of the Hall of Human Biology and Evolution there. He writes: "Sometimes the process of individual development can also be informative: the fact that gill slits appear early in embryonic life among humans and other land-dwellers, for example, helps confirm that gills are a primitive character among vertebrates."

The idea that human foetuses have gill slits is a part of what was known as the Biogenetic Law. "The idea that the embryo of a complex animal goes through stages resembling the embryos of its ancestors is called the Biogenetic Law." This "Law", also known as recapitulation theory, (i.e., "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny") was formulated in 1866 by Dr. Ernst Haeckel, an early scientific convert to Darwinism. How has this "Law" fared since then?

In 1874 another German professor, Wilhelm His, showed that Haeckel had deliberately altered earlier sketches of human and dog embryos to support the Biogenetic Law. Professor His was ignored by evolutionists in spite of the "blatant fraud" and the exacting detail in which he was able to show how the fraud had been generated. Taylor comments: "His, whose work still stands as the foundation of our knowledge of embryological development, was not the first to point out the deficiencies of Haeckel's work, nor indeed was he the last, yet Haeckel's fraudulent drawings have continued to the present day to be reproduced throughout the biological literature."

This dishonesty was admitted in the Introduction to the Centennial Edition of Darwin's Origin of the Species: "When the 'convergence' of embryos was not entirely satisfactory, Haeckel altered the illustrations of them to fit his theory. The 'biogenetic law' as proof of evolution is valueless." “

This myth has been and is most probably still spread throughout the education system and schools and universities. But what about the infamous "gill slits" shown in Haeckel's sketches?

A modern medical text states: "The pharyngeal arches and clefts are frequently referred to as branchial arches and branchial clefts in anology with the lower vertebrates, [but] since the human embryo never has gills called 'branchia', the term pharyngeal arches and clefts has been adopted for this book."

Biologist Dr. Gary Parker  states the following: "The throat (or pharyngeal) grooves and pouches, falsely called "gill slits" are not mistakes in human development. They develop into absolutely essential parts of human anatomy. The middle ear canals come from the second pouches, and the parathyroid and thymus glands come from the third and fourth... another pouch, thought to be vestigial by evolutionists until just recently, becomes a gland that assists in calcium balance. Far from being useless evolutionary vestiges, then, these so-called "gill slits" are quite essential for distinctively human development."

If the evidence for the "fact" of evolution was so great and overwhelming, why did evolutionists need to continue to promote a 19th-century fraud to support their theory…

Further information

The whole "ontogyny recapitulates phylogeny" principle has fallen into disrepute. It used to be trumpeted as a common-sense support for evolution, but many examples of this principle turned out to be based on superficial resemblances and misconceptions. That's not to say that one cannot learn about evolution by studying embryos, but the real picture is quite a bit complicated than human embryos having gills and tails.

In an unfortunate display of Creationist-type behavior, some Evolutionists (and by capitalizing that term I mean to indicate anti-Young-Earth-Creationists, as distinguished from, say, scientists who study evolution) have continued to trot out this canard. It's an appealing notion, to be sure, but one that should probably be discarded in favor of stronger scientific arguments. In his Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Stephen Jay Gould pointed out that it is more accurate to say "ontogeny recapitulates ontogeny." That is, embryos/fetuses do not pass through stages resembling the adult forms of ancestral species, but may pass through stages similar to those of embryonic/fetal stages of ancestral species. The early stages of development are highly conservative; evolutionary modifications are more likely to appear at later stages of development than later ones. Embryonic humans at very early stages resemble embryonic fish (both having branchial clefts); they never resemble adult fish (having true gills). The facial muscles, pharynx, larynx, thyroid, thymus, mandible, facial bones, inner ear bones, tonsils and nasal cavity develop from pharyngeal arches.

The evolutionist says, “There’s no evidence of creation in the human embryo. Otherwise, why would a human being have a yolk sac like a chicken does and a tail like a lizard does? Why would a human being have gill slits like a fish does? An intelligent creator should have known that human beings don’t need those things.”

If the opening were really part of a gill, if it really were a “throwback to the fish stage,” then there would be blood vessels all around it, as if it were going to absorb oxygen from water as a gill does. But there is no such structure. We simply don’t have the DNA instructions for forming gills. The throat (or pharyngeal) grooves and pouches, falsely called “gill slit,” are not mistakes in human development. They develop into absolutely essential parts of human anatomy—the lower jaw, tongue, thymus gland, the parathyroid, etc. The middle ear canals come from the second pouches, and the parathyroid and thymus glands come from the third and fourth.

Without a thymus, we would lose half our immune systems. Without the parathyroids, we would be unable to regulate calcium balance and could not even survive. Another pouch, thought to be vestigial by evolutionists until just recently, becomes a gland that assists in calcium balance. Far from being useless evolutionary vestiges, then, these so-called “gill slits” are quite essential for distinctively human development.

Other vestigial myths

In Chickens, the yolk contains much of the food that the chick depends on for growth. In humans, we grow attached to our mothers, and they nourish us. Does that mean the foetus’s so-called “yolk sac” can be cut off from the human embryo because it isn’t needed? The “yolk sac” is the source of the human embryo’s first blood cells, and death would result without it.

In the adult, you want to have the blood cells formed inside the bone marrow. That makes good sense, because the blood cells are very sensitive to radiation damage and bone would offer them some protection. You need blood in order to form the bone marrow that later on is going to form blood. So, where do you get the blood first? The DNA and protein for making it are “common stock” building materials. And, since it lies conveniently outside the embryo, it can easily be discarded after it has served its temporary-but vital-function.

That’s what we see in human embryonic development. The same kind of structure that can provide food and blood cells to a chicken embryo can be used to supply blood cells (all that’s needed) for a human embryo. Rather than reflecting time and chance, adapting similar structures to a variety of needs seems to reflect creation.

The Human tail

Some of you have heard that man has a “tail bone” (also called a coccyx), and that the only reason we have it is to remind us that our ancestors had tails. If one thinks the coccyx is useless, fall down the stairs and land on it. (Some of you may have actually done that-unintentionally, I’m sure!) What happens? You can’t stand up; you can’t sit down; you can’t lie down; you can’t roll over. You can hardly move without pain. In one sense, the coccyx is one of the most important bones in the whole body. It’s an important point of muscle attachment required for our distinctive upright posture So again, far from being a useless evolutionary leftover, the coccyx is quite important in human development. True, the end of the spine sticks out noticeably in a one-month embryo, but that’s because muscles and limbs don’t develop until stimulated by the spine. As the legs develop, they surround and envelop the coccyx, and it winds up inside the body.

Once in a great while a child will be born with a “tail.” But, is it really a tail? No, it’s not even the coccyx. It doesn’t have any bones in it; it doesn’t have any nerve cord either. The nervous system starts stretched out open on the back. During development, it rises up in ridges and rolls shut. It starts to “zipper” shut in the middle first, then it zippers toward either end. Once in a while it doesn’t go far enough, and that produces a serious defect called spina bifida. Sometimes it rolls a little too far. Then the baby will be born—not with a tail, but with a fatty tumor. It’s just skin and a little fatty tissue, so the doctor can just cut it off. It’s not at all like the tail of a cat that has muscle, bones, and nerve, so cutting it off is not complicated. (So far as I know, no one claims that proves we evolved from an animal with a fatty tumor at the end of its spine.)

So hopefully this will help the individual that stated the little gem about human having gills in the embryonic stage. A little reading goes a far way…

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