Re: Peppered Moths again

Mark D. Kluge (
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 20:35:38 -0500 wrote:

> Mark Kluge wrote, responding to Brian Harper:
> >That some selection process is involved is not disputed by anyone,
> >nor can it be.
> On the contrary:
> It also seems plausible at the moment to suggest that melanism
> may arise via some form of induction that is triggered by an
> environmental change....The question of induction with respect
> to melanism is sometimes related to the question of the
> adaptive significance of melanism. If melanism can be induced,
> some would argue, then its recent occurrence may not be
> adaptive but rather a selectively neutral (or even maladaptive)
> response to some predisposing "condition"....Whatever the case,
> we emphasize the point that an induction process would be
> compatible with either a neutralist or selectionist interpretation
> of the industrial melanism phenomenon.
> (see Theodore D. Sargent, Craig D. Millar, and David M. Lambert, "The
> 'Classical' Explanation of Industrial Melanism: Assessing the Evidence,"
> _Evolutionary Biology_ 30 [1998]: 299-322; pp. 303-304) Obviously,
> if melanism were environmentally induced, observed frequencies of
> melanics vs. typicals could shift without any Darwinian selection
> occurring.

OK, Paul, you score a point at my expense for my poor expression; but we're
in danger of drifting. My first post addressed Jonathan Wells' exhortation
that scientists abandon their commitment to Darwinism. Unfortunately (and
this is my fault) I have emphasized selection at the expense of acquisition
of heritable characteristics, an essential aspect of Darwinism.

You are right that one can conceive that malanism in peppered moths was
induced by some as yet unidentified environmental influence. (I assume,
since malanism is heritable, that that environmental influence also
triggered the particular mutation for malanism.) That is still part of the
Darwinian paradigm, although not the narrower selection paradigm that I
considered in my previous post.

So you have surebutted my rebuttal of Wells; but your surebuttal does
nothing to support Wells' original exhortation to lessen commitment to
Darwinism since your alternative scenario-sketch is still perfectly
intelligible from within the Darwinian paradigm. Wells' exhortation, while
good creationist propaganda, has nothing to do with the scientific merits,
has it?

While I have your attention, and since you gave an eloquent defense of
Wells' credentials and qualifications to opine on this subject to this
forum, and since you and he share institutional affiliation, might I ask
your opinion of Wells' suggestion, of dishonesty on the part of textbook
writers and publishers using peppered-moth photos? Your remarks suggest that
you view the question of the cause of the shift in relative frequencies of
carbonaria and familiar to be rather murky. Is it not reckless, then, for
Jonathan Wells to toss out "dishonesty" grenades? I think that such
recklessness does not enhance The Discovery Institute's reputation among
thinking people when such "over-the-top" remarks both originate from a
Discovery Institute Fellow, and their author and source are subsequently
enthusiastically defended by another Fellow from the same institution as you
have done here?