My last word

Jonathan Wells (
Fri, 16 Apr 1999 13:46:20 -0700



Don Frack criticizes me at length for being what he calls a "creationist."
But my beliefs and affiliations -- whatever they may be -- are no more
relevant than Frack's beliefs and affiliations -- whatever they may be --
to the facts about peppered moths. The salient facts are:

1. Since 1988, it has been well known to everyone who studies peppered
moths that tree trunks are not their normal resting places. Michael
Majerus lists six moths on exposed tree trunks over a forty year period,
but this is an insignificant proportion of the tens of thousands that were
observed during the same period. There simply is no question about it:
peppered moths do not normally rest on tree trunks in the wild.

2. Textbook photographs which show peppered moths on tree trunks have been
staged. The photographs were made by people who either manually positioned
live, torpid moths on tree trunks, or glued or pinned dead moths to them.

My view of these facts is the following: The use of such photographs
should have been discontinued after 1988; or, at the very least, their
captions should have at pointed out that they did not represent the natural
situation. Their continued unqualified use indicates either that some
textbook writers knowingly used, or experts on peppered moths knowingly
permitted them to use, illustrations which misrepresent the truth.

Such conscious misrepresentation of the truth (which others, including
Theodore Sargent, have called "fraud") has no legitimate place in science.
It doesn't really matter whether the whistle-blower is a "creationist" or
an "evolutionist."

Of course, all of us have theoretical presuppositions which affect our
perception of the evidence. But when a theory leads to misrepresentation
of the evidence, that theory should be discarded, or at least modified to
fit the facts. Creationists who misrepresent the evidence deserve to be
criticized; but the fact that some of them do does not excuse Darwinists
who do the same.

I have used the term "peppered myth" to refer to the textbook story that
cryptic coloration and selective predation are known to be the causes of
industrial melanism because birds eat peppered moths off tree trunks. In
light of the evidence, the peppered myth and its staged photographs should
be abandoned, because they misrepresent the truth.

Jonathan Wells, Ph.D.
Department of Molecular & Cell Biology
University of California, Berkeley
Senior Fellow
Discovery Institute, Seattle