Ideas have consequences, and false ideas sometimes generate bitter consequences. One of the premier examples of this principle is the infamous "recapitulation theory, " developed by such philosophers as Goette and Robert Chambers, and then popularized in Darwin's day by Ernst Haeckel, the German atheist. Called by Haeckel the "biogenetic law, this idea was spread widely by his euphonious slogan, "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, " meaning that embryonic growth of the fetus in the womb rapidly recapitulates the entire evolutionary history of the species. This bizarre notion has been cited by evolutionists for over a hundred years as one of the main "proofs" of evolution. Darwin, himself, made great use of it in his Origin of Species and Descent of Man.
Nevertheless, it is completely false, and most competent evolutionists today know this. Two leading neo-Darwinists have admitted:"Haeckel misstated the evolutionary principle involved. It is now firmly established that ontogeny does not repeat phylogeny."1 More recently, Dr. Keith Thompson, Professor of Biology at Yale, said:"Surely the biogenetic law is as dead as a doornail. It was finally exercised from biology textbooks in the fifties. As a topic of serious theoretical inquiry, it was extinct in the twenties."2
In spite of its specious character, this notion captivated the minds of evolutionists, and is still believed by millions of their followers even today. Four of the very important, but very bitter fruits produced by the corrupt tree of recapitulationism are discussed briefly below:
(1) The Standard Geologic Column. The fossil record has long been considered the definitive evidence of evolution, with simple life forms preserved in ancient rocks and complex forms in younger rocks. The dating of the rocks, however, is based on the fossils they contain—not on their vertical position in the sedimentary sequences. Leading evolutionists acknowledge this to be circular reasoning."The charge that the construction of the geologic column involves circularity has a certain amount of validity."3"And this poses something of a problem: If we date the rocks by their fossils, how can we then turn around and talk about patterns of evolutionary change through time in the fossil record?"4
Thus this key "proof" of evolution is based on the assumption of evolution. In fact, pre-Darwinian theistic evolutionists and progressive creationists had already worked out the desired order of the fossils before any significant number of them had even been discovered, so that it was essentially ready-made as an evidence for evolution when Darwin proposed his theory. They had assumed that there was an innate principle operating in the cosmos and in living organisms that impelled them to proceed upward in complexity, and that this evolutionary order must be the same everywhere—in embryology, morphology, paleontology, and even psychology. It was natural, therefore, to use embryological studies as a basis for assigning order to the fossils."In Down's day, the theory of recapitulation embodied a biologist's best guide for the organization of life into sequences of higher and lower forms."5"Another major factor keeping some sort of recapitulation alive was the need of comparative morphologists and especially paleontologists for a solid theoretical foundation for homology. They had long since come to rely on comparative ontogenetic information as a base."6 Although a number of other factors contributed significantly to the development of the standard stratigraphical column, (e.g., the rock sequences in Western Europe), embryological studies were perhaps most important of all. This standard geological column is found only in textbooks, and all the supposed transitional forms are still missing in the rocks themselves.
(2) Freudian Psychoanalysis. Another deadly fruit of the recapitulation idea was the psychological system developed by Sigmund Freud. Although much of his system is now rejected by modern psychologists and psychiatrists, there is no question that all have been profoundly influenced by Darwinism and the whole concept of man's animal ancestry. Recent discovery of a hitherto unpublished manuscript of Freud reveals how strongly he relied on recapitulationism."In a 1915 paper, Freud demonstrates his preoccupation with evolution. Immersed in the theories of Darwin, and of Lamarck, who believed acquired traits could be inherited, Freud concluded that mental disorders were the vestiges of behavior that had been appropriate in earlier stages of evolution."7"The evolutionary idea that Freud relied on most heavily in the manuscript is the maxim that 'ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny, ' that is, that the development of the individual recapitulates the evolution of the entire species."8
All the anti-Christian impact of Freud’s atheistic psychological system, leading even to the modern sexual revolution, so-called, can thus be traced largely back to this recapitulation notion.
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