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"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton


"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton


"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon


Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Spin Doctor?

 
If you have perused my two recent posts on the peppered moth you will note that I made a prediction as follows:

I am going to make a prediction. Despite the fact that for well over a century the peppered moth has been touted as undeniable evidence - if not the "best" proof - for Darwinian and Neo-Darwinian evolution ( 'the prize horse in our stable' according to evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne) we will now see evolutionists in print and online distancing themselves from such a claim, and even denying that it was ever made.

The fact is that the "peppered moth" (biston betularia) is universally used as evidence for the theory of evolution. Almost all biology textbooks talk about it. Can I suggest that one check out existing editions of general encyclopedias, popular books on evolution, science encyclopedias and biology textbooks to confirm exactly what is enthusiastically claimed for this little moth.

I then presented quite a large number of quotes to back up this assertion. I also presented quotes about textbook rewriting by Professor Kenneth Miller in the light of recent findings (nothing wrong with that, of course) and quoted from various Darwinian luminaries who now seem to be hedging their bets regarding the peppered moth.

Lo and behold, right on cue, I came across this recent article by noted evolutionary biologist, Arthur Shapiro, in the prestigious journal “Evolution”:

PAINT IT BLACK
Arthur M. Shapiro
Center for Population Biology, University of California, Davis, California 95616

The “peppered moth paradigm” (Grant 1999 ) was never without problems. As early as 1937, E. B. Ford argued that melanics had higher viability but had been kept in check by visual predators prior to the Industrial Revolution (Ford 1937 ). The absence of negative selection is not the same as the presence of positive selection. In a 1971 Festschrift in honor of Ford's 70th birthday, David Lees cautioned that for both Biston betularia and Phigalia pedaria, “at least in some cases, factors other than air pollution are responsible for their melanic polymorphisms” (p. 210–211). There was a lag time of about a decade before criticisms of Kettlewell's Biston experiments began to appear. When Michael Majerus published Melanism: Evolution in Action in 1998, the storm broke (Majerus 1999 ). Readers of Evolution will know that some reviewers of this book overreacted to its critique of Kettlewell, declaring that the whole Biston story should be thrown out. Bruce Grant then published his closely argued overview and reappraisal in this journal (Grant 1999 ). Predictably, creationists seized on the controversy to yell “Fraud!” and demand the removal of the story from textbooks. For them, industrial melanism was the best—if not the only—case of natural selection documented in the wild, so if Kettlewell was discredited the impact on evolution would be catastrophic. Of Moths and Men raises the stakes yet again.
Evolution: Vol. 56, No. 9, pp. 1885–1886. July 10, 2002

Let’s examine one crucial passage again:

Predictably, creationists seized on the controversy to yell “Fraud!” and demand the removal of the story from textbooks. For them, industrial melanism was the best—if not the only—case of natural selection documented in the wild, so if Kettlewell was discredited the impact on evolution would be catastrophic.

For them?! I think Professor Shapiro needs to take a reality check. It was not creationists who have been loudly proclaiming the peppered moth as the best evidence of evolution or the prize horse in the stable but Darwinian evolutionists themselves. The evidence is easy enough to find; I presented some of it myself in my two recent blog posts. Is the eminent butterfly doctor now a spin doctor as well?

7:21:00 pm