Re: Peppered moths again
Thu, 1 Apr 1999 19:01:27 -0600 (CST)

Mark Kluge wrote:

>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.

Take it up with Sargent, Lambert, Millar, and the other people
looking into the possibility. It's not my induction hypothesis;
it's theirs.

[snip critique of induction hypothesis misdirected at me,
except for this sentence:]

>Since you and Wells want an explanation not based upon selection [...]

Did I say that? It is a matter of indifference to me how this
story turns out. Natural selection happens.

However, I don't want biologists to have to tell a selection story
before they have enough evidence, or to push other possibilities
aside because they are certain that some selection story must be
told, come what may. That goes for Jonathan, as well. Neither
of us has a stake in the outcome, except that the truth be reached
without prejudgment.

[more snips for lack of time]

>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?

There is a non-tautological formulation of natural selection,
due largely to Richard Lewontin and John Endler, which makes
perfect sense, and which is critically important to biological
science. I suppose this is what you mean by "the paradigm of
Darwin," but that's a bit of a misnomer. Darwin did not hold
this view of selection. See a popular article from me, forthcoming
in the magazine _Touchstone_ later this spring, for details.

>>>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.

I think it is dishonest for any textbook writer -- anyone, for
that matter -- who knows that the classical peppered moth account
is in serious doubt nevertheless to use illustrations showing
Biston betularia resting on tree trunks in daylight, or to say
that we know (i.e., causally) why frequencies of typicals vs.
melanics shifted over time.

It puzzles me that you find this simple point somehow objectionable.
Look, if the story ain't true, don't consciously and deliberately
put it in the textbooks.

Paul Nelson
Senior Fellow
The Discovery Institute