Re: Peppered Moths again
Thu, 1 Apr 1999 08:53:41 -0600 (CST)

Mark Kluge wrote:

>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?

Not quite sure where you're going with this. Jonathan was arguing that
an a priori commitment to the role of selection in the peppered moth
phenomenon has hindered investigators from considering other
possibilities, and he sees this as another instance of the shackles
of Darwinism on creative thinking in biology. However, your
conception of the Darwinian paradigm is pretty capacious [the authors
who want to look into induction, e.g., David Lambert, describe their
ideas as challenging Darwinism; see Lambert et al., _Rivista di
Biologia - Biology Forum 79 (1986): 11-49]. Yet if nearly any possibility
is "intelligible from within the Darwinian paradigm," then it's hard
to see how any anomaly, no matter how striking, could challenge the
theory. Gould calls this "The Blob" effect, after the movie of
the same name.

>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?

You make the call. (Forget about the Discovery Institute.) Is it
really honest, in 1999, for biology textbooks to include photographs
of peppered moths resting in daylight on tree trunks?

Back to lurking.

Paul Nelson
Senior Fellow
The Discovery Institute