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Ernst Haeckel mushroom trip

A while ago, Adam suggested to me that I should have done Professor Rįsdondr's testimoney in the style of Nineteenth-Century biologist Ernst Haeckel. At that time, I'd already finished the work on that section but in case I ever need a reference for that style again, here's a collection of Haeckel's drawings, mostly of marine invertebrates. Found on the ever-interesting Boing Boing.

By the way, I want to take issue with this statement by Boing Boing's Mark Frauenfelder:


Apparently, Haeckel sort of made up certain details in his illustrations to bolster his wacky theories about evolution (he pushed the idea that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny," that is, as na unborn animal develops in the egg or womb, it goes through all the evolutionary stages that its ancestors went through

The "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" concept is wrong, but considering the time it was coined, and the observable fact that some analogy with earlier evolutionary stages goes on in mammalian embryological development, it goes too far to call it wacky, anymore than calling Lamarckism wacky. Probably much less so, come to think of it, and that didn't stop Darwin himself from initially agreeing with Lamarckism.

Comments (3)

Michiel Prior:

As an aftertought, considering Professor Rįsdondr's fondness of hybrids: did you visit artist Silvia B.'s exposition at the CBK (Oosterpoort)? It's pity that show is already over, and I haven't found a website that displays good pictures of Silvia's wonderful hybrids. Maybe this one will do:
http://www.galeries.nl/mnexpo.asp?exponr=1336

P.S. Today's installment is IMPRESSIVE.

Lamarckism, as desccribed by Lamarck himself, was a reasonable enough idea to propose. They didn't know about Mendelian genetics, so Lamarck's best guess was that cells from all over the body all came together to give the instructions to the embryo. And, it follows from that that life's experience would affect these cells.

That Lamarck was wrong is a fact. That Lamarck was stupid is not.

I agree. Uh, I couldn't be arsed to look up Lamarck's actual formulation, and relied on the folk variety of Lamarckism - i.e. cut the tails off mice and they'll have tailless offspring - for the comparison. But I think my point still stands with the correct description of the idea. My point wasn't that Lamarckism was stupid, but that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny" was, at the time, at least as plausible as Lamarckism in *its* day. After all, you do see a full set of toes on an embryonic horse, and a tail on a human embryo.

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