Re: Peppered Moths again

Mark D. Kluge (
Thu, 01 Apr 1999 17:39:30 -0500 wrote:

> 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.

So Jonathan says. My point is that he and you have to go beyond stretching to
make commitment to Darwinism/selection even relevant, and that any plausible
explanation for the rise and fall of malanism in peppered moths will necessarily
involve selection of some sort, even if it should turn out that ease of bird
predation isn't the answer. Yes, your induction method would appear to get around
considerations of selection; but it's not plausible Unfortunately my
very-gentle-sarcasm indicators were not on for my last post, and even Kevin
O'Brien felt he had to explain in response why your induction mechanism won't

As I myself noted in my previous post:

I assume, since malanism is heritable, that that environmental
influence also triggered the particular mutation for malanism.

OK? The carbonaria allele is known to be genetically dominant over the familiar.
The pre-1850 population, consisting almost entirely of familiars, was therefore
almost entirely free of the carbonaria gene. Whatever induction you might invoke,
then, actually has to be a mutagen, changing the familiar gene to the carbonaria.

Since you and Wells want an explanation not based upon selection, the unknown
mutagen has to act upon nearly the entire population. Yet, despite the
extraordinary high rate of mutation induced, the mutagen also has to be a pretty
specific mutagen, acting, apparently, only upon a single gene.

And then you need to invoke the reverse induced mutation to "explain" the revival
of the familiar form where that form has become predominant. Otherwise, without
something inducing the carbonaria-familiar mutation, the only way to explain the
increased predominance of familiars over carbonarias is by differential
reproduction rate between the two; but that would involve selection, which is a

Yes, Paul, the classical bird-predation explanation might turn out to be wrong.
Induced mutations for malanism might even turn out to be part of the ultimate
explanation; but there is Darwinistic/selection considerations as essential
attributes of any analysis of such explanation. (Even if, impossibly, the two
induced mutations necessary for your induction scenario occurred, one would still
have to do the same Darwinian analysis to determine whether either of them
offered selective advantage in order to determine whether those mutations were
the predominant factor accounting for both the spread of melanism, and the latter
reversion to familiarity.

So Darwinian or selection analysis is necessary no matter what hypothesis one
might wish to advance for the evolution of color of peppered moths. I cannot
fathom what reasonable construction can be put on Wells'' diatribe against
Darwinian analysis of this problem.

> However, your conception of the Darwinian paradigm is pretty capacious

Indeed it is a capacious paradigm!

> 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.

I am not wont to do or think of science in terms from the movies. And your remark
on challenging the "theory" is unintelligible equivocation. What "theory" are you
talking about? We have been talking about the Darwinist "paradigm of selection",
which you now conflate with Darwin's "theory", apparently his theory of evolution
by means of natural selection. That equivocation is not permitted.

Indeed, no new species are contemplated in considering the evolution of the
colors of peppered moths. If the "traditional" bird-predation explanation is
correct, then it is a particularly elegant illustration of Darwinian selection,
but it is only a distant illustration of the mechanism of speciation according
to Darwin's theory.

It is indeed practically useless to think of falsifying the Darwinian paradigm,
unless by "falsification" one means to show "that the paradigm, although
applicable to many situations, is not useful in analysis. "Darwin's "theory", on
the other hand, could be falsified by showing that new species did not, in fact,
arise by means of natural selection, or perhaps by showing that new species arise
by methods besides natural selection. Comprenez-vous, monsieur, la diffˇrence
entre falsifier le paradigme de Darwin et la thˇorie de Darwin?

>>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?

No, I will not make the call. Where I grew up it was incumbent upon the one who
made charges of dishonesty to prove his charge. Jonathan Wells made a charge of
dishonesty. You backed him up. Let him and you, then, justify your charge or
withdraw it and apologize. That's what is expected under the conventions of
ordinary day-to-day intercourse. It's also expected that scientists don't
gratuitously make accusations of dishonesty unless they are prepared immediately
and massively to back them up. It's also the Christian thing to do.