Re: Peppered moths again

Mark D. Kluge (
Fri, 02 Apr 1999 00:04:21 -0500 wrote:

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

Understood. Please understand, however, that I was responding only to your
presentation of their hypothesis, which might or might not correspond to
their hypothesis.

> >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.

Indeed it does. Selection is ubiquitous. That is why any plausible
explanation here will involve selection to some extent. It would be salutary
had Wells cautioned biologists not to concentrate exclusively upon a single
selection scenario to the exclusion of others. But Wells didn't say that. He
used the controversy over whether the traditional bird-predation selection
mechanism is or is not the predominant reason for observed evolution of
peppered moth pigmentation to launch into an irrelevant collateral attack on
Darwinism and alleged preoccupation with Darwinism.

> 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.

Which has no bearing on the current discussion. Jonathan Wells' remarks are
colloquial, and must be understood, unless they explicitly make the
necessary qualifications, to refer to Darwinism in a colloquial way. Had
Wells wanted to address some specific aspect of Darwinism or selection in a
way calculated to influence the thinking of biologists, I have no doubt that
he could and would have done so specifically using appropriate vocabulary.
He didn't do so, and he didn't do so because he meant not to do so.He wanted
to take a crude, broad slap at the bogeyman Darwinism for a vulgar audience

> 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.

Good commercial! I'll keep it in mind.

> 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.

Indeed. The problem is that your premise has not been established.

> 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.

You have not shown either that the story isn't true or that someone
believing it to be untrue has put it into textbooks.