Re: My last word

Mark D. Kluge (mkluge@wizard.net)
Fri, 16 Apr 1999 15:58:16 -0400

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"Jonathan Wells (by way of \"Arthur V. Chadwick\" )" wrote:

> 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.

Jonathan Wells misstates the significance of affiliations. They are important,
but for reasons opposite to what is commonly thought. We thinking people
believe some of what is written by colleagues despite their affiliations, not
because of them. Institutions have collective biases which, we suspect
sometimes find themselves into their members' writings. We seek to filter them
out. In other cases writers trumpet the prestige of their institutional
affiliations. We know that prestigious institutional names are appealing to the
ignorant lay public, but not serious thinkers. An author, then, who trumpets
his prestigious institution with his writings is appealing with them to the
ignorant public, rather than the thinking few.

> 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."

Perhaps Jonathan Wells will give us an example of a text book which sought to
portray non incidentally the resting place of peppered moths on tree trunks
rather than under branches. The point of textbooks' use of the photos is to
highlight differences in visibility of the moths on differently colored
backgrounds. Perhaps it would be better to use photographs of the moths on
differently colored branches; but the difference between branch and trunk is
regarded as quantitative rather than qualitative, and cannot support the
strident, invective condemnation that Jonathan Wells has unleashed upon it.

MKluge

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"Jonathan Wells (by way of \"Arthur V. Chadwick\" )" wrote:

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.
Jonathan Wells misstates the significance of affiliations. They are important, but for reasons opposite to what is commonly thought. We thinking people believe some of what is written by colleagues despite their affiliations, not because of them. Institutions have collective biases which, we suspect sometimes find themselves into their members' writings. We seek to filter them out. In other cases writers trumpet the prestige of their institutional affiliations. We know that prestigious institutional names are appealing to the ignorant lay public, but not serious thinkers. An author, then, who trumpets his prestigious institution with his writings is appealing with them to the ignorant public, rather than the thinking few.
 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."

Perhaps Jonathan Wells will give us an example of a text book which sought to portray non incidentally the resting place of peppered moths on tree trunks rather than under branches. The point of textbooks' use of the photos is to highlight differences in visibility of the moths on differently colored backgrounds. Perhaps it would be better to use photographs of the moths on differently colored branches; but the difference between branch and trunk is regarded as quantitative rather than qualitative, and cannot support the strident, invective  condemnation that Jonathan Wells has unleashed upon it.

MKluge
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