Common descent is an idea in Biology which is applied on two levels, with a group of species being said to share a recent common ancestor, or the broader conjecture, universal common ancestry, which asserts that all organisms on earth originated from common ancestors. The idea of common descent is usually associated with Darwin's Theory of Evolution, but creationists often suggest it as a solution to the difficulty of the Ark capacity limit.
- "When I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited, they seem to me to become ennobled."
Common Descent Implausible
Dr. Jonathan Wells published a book in 2002 entitled Icons of Evolution. Dr. Wells says that "the best-known “evidences” for Darwin’s theory have been exaggerated, distorted or even faked." Also, he says that many current biology textbooks use distorted pictures of vertebrate embryos to convince students that vertebrates share a common ancestor. (Wells)
On the other hand, noted evolutionist Stephen Gould wrote the following regarding Ernst Haeckel's work in a March 2000 issue of Natural History:
"Haeckel’s forceful, eminently comprehensible, if not always accurate, books appeared in all major languages and surely exerted more influence than the works of any other scientist, including Darwin…in convincing people throughout the world about the validity of evolution... Haeckel had exaggerated the similarities [between embryos of different species] by idealizations and omissions. He also, in some cases — in a procedure that can only be called fraudulent — simply copied the same figure over and over again.…Haeckel’s drawings never fooled expert embryologists, who recognized his fudgings right from the start. Haeckel’s drawings, despite their noted inaccuracies, entered into the most impenetrable and permanent of all quasi-scientific literatures: standard student textbooks of biology... Once ensconced in textbooks, misinformation becomes cocooned and effectively permanent, because…textbooks copy from previous texts.... [W]e do, I think, have the right to be both astonished and ashamed by the century of mindless recycling that has led to the persistence of these drawings in a large number, if not a majority, of modern textbooks!"
Some advocates of Intelligent Design accept common descent. Most notably Michael Behe: "The word "evolution" carries many associations. Usually it means common descent—the idea that all organisms living and dead are related by common ancestry. I have no quarrel with the idea of common descent, and continue to think it explains similarities among species. By itself, however, common descent doesn't explain the vast differences among species."
- Darwin Under the Microscope