Re: Peppered Moths again

Kevin O'Brien (
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 16:25:42 -0700

>For those who may care, the citations below constitute what is referred to
>in logic as "ad hominem" defense, and it is usually resorted to by those
>who can make no other response.

And of course I admitted they could be perceived that way by certain people,
which Art has -- as usual -- ignored. What I would ask Art is, how would he
react if a molecular biologist like Wells began claiming that Art, as an
expert in his own field, would in fact be so biased that his statements
regarding the factual validity of some aspect of that field should be
ignored? Would not Art object on the grounds that the molecular biologist
wasn't qualified to make such an assessment, since he was neither a
geologist nor had any practical research knowledge of a field that Art has
spent most of his career investigating? Would not Art's colleagues ignore
whatever the molecular biologist had to say, out of respect for Art's
expertise and out of disgust for the molecular biologist?

Since in fact Art has already responded in exactly that fashion, when I
challenged the validity of his frond fossil last year (he suggested that I
didn't know what I was talking about since I was neither a geologist nor a
botanist, an assessment I agreed with), I would think that the answers to
both questions would be yes. Why, then, should Art get upset when, having
joined forces with that molecular biologist to impugne the objectivity and
expertise of a geneticist, someone points out how unscientifically he is

>For your information, Jonathan Well has
>explored the issue in great detail and has submitted an article on the
>subject to a major scientific journal.

And just what does "explored" mean? That he has read about it extensively
for the past several months? That may make him more of an expert than
anyone on this list except Don Frack, but it doesn't qualify him to imply
that he is a better judge of the factual validity of this issue than
Majerus, who has spent his career (longer than several months at least)
researching (not just reading about) and publishing (more than one paper) in
this field. If I have to chose who to believe -- an acknowledged expert or
a self-proclaimed expert -- I would chose the acknowledged expert, and as a
scientist so should Art. At least until Wells had demonstrated (not just
claimed) that he is the better expert. As it is right now, Art believes
Wells over Majerus simply because Wells says what Art wants to believe.

>Those who wish to defend the status
>quo on the peppered moth on this list ought to be doing what they
>ignorantly accuse Jonathan of not doing, that is, investigating the
>subject for themselves....

Which is exactly what Don Frack, who is more of an expert in this field than
you, I or Wells is, has done. And which, by the way, you yourself did NOT
do before beginning this thread all these months ago.

>...rather than resorting to arguments from authority
>and ad hominem attacks.

Wells claims (and you endorse that claim) that Majerus cannot be believed --
despite his obviously greater expertise -- on this subject because he is
supposedly biased. Wells offers no evidence of bias on Majerus's part, nor
of any other form of incompetence, yet he expects us to believe his claim
despite his lack of expertise of this issue. That sounds like an ad hominem
attack to me. All I did was point this out, so you must believe that
discussing the mistakes made by others is an ad hominem attack.

As for arguments from authority, you began this thread by posting Coyne's
article, in which he practically stated that Majerus had rejected the
peppered moth as bad science. Later you posted the Telegraph article, where
Coyne makes an even stronger claim of this sort. So you were yourself using
Majerus as an "authority" and implying that since such an eminant British
geneticist has rejected the peppered moth, every evolutionist should as
well. Yet now that we know that Majerus has not repudiated the peppered
moth, but actually affirms it as one of the best examples of evolution in
action, suddenly any mention of Majerus in direct support of the peppered
moth becomes an appeal to authority.

Doesn't that sound just the least bit hypocritical to you, Art?

Kevin L. O'Brien