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evolution-digest Sunday, April 18 1999 Volume 01 : Number 1413
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 19:52:41 EDT
Subject: Re: My last word
Art Chadwick wrote: Jon has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology from Berkeley, and
many years of research experience and publications.
This in fact turns out not to be correct; see below.
Kevin L. O'Brien wrote: Perhaps you could provide us with some references.
I did a literature search of Entrez MedLine using "Wells J" as author name
and "Berkeley" as affiliation and found just two articles. Does he have a
middle name? At what other institutions has done research? At the very
least, what journals has he published in?
Mark Kluge responded: This past January on the CARM list, Helen Fryman
posted the following (#2356), in relevant part, from Jonathan Wells listing
two references to articles listing Wells as coauthor.
This is what Wells wrote: I am officially a post-doctoral research biologist
in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology, U.C. Berkeley. I'm not in the
directory because I don't have my own extension (and besides I'm currently
working mostly at home, writing and doing library research).
There is a "John Wells" listed with the Department of Molecular and Cell
Biology as a Visting Scholar, and said person has a mailing address at the
Strohman lab. While said person is listed among the postdocs, he is labelled
as a Visiting Scholar. Paul Nelson has told me that Jonathon Wells is being
funded from a source outside Berkeley, rather than by the university itself.
This is not unusual, since most Visiting Scholars are funded by their home
institutions. Visiting Scholars are often given postdocs to make them ad hoc
members of the faculty, and one could argue that any postdoc is technically a
"visiting scholar" (except that they are funded by the university). So based
on Jonathon Wells' own statements, plus these facts, it seems reasonable to
conclude that Jonathon Wells and "John Wells" are one and the same (assuming
the Strohman lab doesn't have two people named J Wells).
Wells continues: If they want references to verify my affiliation, try these
(both articles were published while I was in my present position): Larabell,
Rowning, Wells, Wu & Gerhart, "Confocal microscopy analysis of living Xenopus
eggs and the mechanism of cortical rotation," DEVELOPMENT 122 (1996),
1281-1289. Rowning, Wells, Wu, Gerhart, Moon & Larabell,
"Microtubule-mediated transport of organelles and localization of B-catenin
to the future dorsal side of Xenopus eggs," PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL
ACADEMY OF SCIENCES USA 94 (1997), 1224-1229.
Apparently then Wells went straight from graduate work in the Gerhart lab to
his post-doctoral position in the Strohman lab, where he has been for three
years at least. Assuming three years as a graduate student we are talking
about six years. That is hardly "many years of research experience" as Art
Chadwick describes it. I have fifteen years experience myself, twelve of
which have been after graduate school. And all of it is lab work; Wells
apparently has done no lab work since graduation. As for publications, I
have four, with another one pending (research associates tend not to get
included as authors in most labs); Wells appears to have just the two, nor
has he published any papers with Strohman (which is to be expected if he us
simply working on a book, as Paul Nelson informs me).
Mark Kluge continues: I have not verified either reference.
They are real, but it's hard to tell from the abstracts how much Wells
contributed to the research. Both projects involve some cellular
manipulation, but mostly observation. For all we know he simply took
pictures and entered data into a computer, though I tend to doubt it. In any
event, it is very different work from that done by field biologists such as
Kettlewell, Majerus or even Sargent, all of whom have far more years of
experience and publications. Wells' credentials hardly qualify him as the
critic he pretends to be; even I am better qualified experience- and
publication-wise than Wells to evaluate the validity of the peppered moth,
and I would still defer to Don Frack.
Kevin L. O'Brien
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 21:29:07 -0700
From: Brian D Harper <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: My last word
At 03:10 PM 4/17/99 EDT, Huxter wrote:
>In a message dated 4/17/99 7:00:02 PM !!!First Boot!!!, firstname.lastname@example.org
>***in regards to:
> > << > >I wonder if Jon Wells has ever heard of the phrase 'experiment'? >>
><< Better word, unsupported insinuation. You didn't say it straight out, but
> implied he has not by the tone of the phrase. Unsupported in that you did
> not explain what you did (not) know about his experience in the area.
> Without the explanation of that, it's left unsupported.
>***** The support was supplied by his own words. Anyone should have been
>able to recognize the point I was making. EVERYONE has heard the word
Yes, everyone has heard the word "experiment" but I suspect not
everyone appreciates the difficulty in performing good experiments.
The primary thrust of my own research has been designing and
implementing experiments, though I also do a little theory.
I would hope that any experimentalist realizes the inherant
danger of not measuring what you intend to measure. Its kind
of like "garbage in garbage out" wrt to computer models. Assuming
you're not totally inept :), you're always going to measure something.
Are you measuring what you think you're measuring? More to the
point of the present discussion, are you measuring what you
claim to measuring.
Jonathan has raised some important points. Judging by his own
words, as you suggest above, I come to the conclusion that
Jonathan understands more than you think about empirical science.
In any event, it seems to me rather easy to actually deal with
what he wrote rather than measure how long his priestly robes
Now, I'm sure there is a lot that I don't appreciate about the
difficulties of field tests in biology :). I imagine that there
are some compromises that must be made etc. etc. But just
because something is the best that can be done doesn't mean
its good enough. It doesn't mean that your really measuring
what you think or claim to be measuring.
But, in the very least, an experimentalist should go to great
pains in explaining his experiment. What compromises were needed?
How is the experiment different from the actual case being
studied? As an experimentalist myself I would say failure to
do this is simply inexcusable. Maybe its not fraud, but it
certainly is poor procedure.
If what Wells says is true (I can't judge this myself), that
"...peppered moths do not normally rest on tree trunks in the wild."
And if they are portrayed as doing so, then this should be
clearly stated. Further, if, as Jonathan claims
#"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."
then this should be clearly indicated. I simply cannot imagine anyone
who calls himself an experimentalist failing to describe the conditions
under which his or her reported results were obtained.
The Ohio State University
"All kinds of private metaphysics and theology have
grown like weeds in the garden of thermodynamics"
- -- E. H. Hiebert
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 20:33:48 -0700
From: Pim van Meurs <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: My last word
> I thought that Wells' PhD had been established as real.
It sure sounded like you were criticizing Art for showing that the first
statement was wrong. The fact that Wells has a PhD sure seems to imply to
me that he knows a fair bit about experimentation.
That is the question that needs to be addressed. Merely pointing to a PhD degree
is more appeal to authority.
Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1999 22:51:43 -0500
From: "Glenn R. Morton" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Neanderthal/Human Hybrid?
John Rylander was kind enough to point this article out to me. I wish I
could be online during the week to discuss this. The article discusses
the discovery last November in Portugal of a possible Neanderthal/Human
hybrid. While this will most certainly be a controversial find, and
many anthropologists will not agree, others will agree. If this hybrid
really turns out to be a hybrid, it will have tremendous implications
for the Christians. It will impact the place of Neanderthals in
theology, it will raise the possibility that they are truly human as I
have argued for many years. It will move the time of Adam back in
time. No longer would apologists be able to get away with flipply
saying that Adam was the first anatomically modern man and Neanderthals
were merely bipedal mammals unrelated to us. It would also raise the
possibility that Europeans do have some Neanderthal genes and
Neanderthal blood in their veins. Some anthropologists have argued that
position for the past decade based upon morphological data. In any event
this should be an interesting debate and before drawing conclusions we
need to see the studies pro and con on this issue. But my hope is that
it will turn out my way.
I would say that Christians who have dismissed my views as being too
weird to be true, should consider the confirmations over the past few
weeks and this apparent confirmation of those views. The views I am
advocating have a robustness that other apologetical schemes lack--my
views make hard predictions which can and have been supported by these
Here is the article which can be accessed at
I had to put poth parts of the above line in my Netscape URL window to
access the article.
APRIL 16, 13:08 EDT
Ancient Skeleton Found in Portugal
By BARRY HATTON
Associated Press Writer
LISBON, Portugal (AP) ÷ Experts examining a 25,000-year-old child's
in Portugal believe it represents compelling evidence that humans as we
them today evolved from mating between Neanderthals and anatomically
It is believed they coexisted on the Iberian Peninsula. Their hybrid
offspring eventually evolved into what is recognized as modern man, the
director of the Portuguese Archaeological Institute theorized Friday.
``Anatomically modern man arrived on what is now the Iberian peninsula
28,000 to 30,000 years ago and they found Neanderthal man here,'' Joao
Zilhao said in a telephone interview.
``There are two theories about what happened. Some say the Neanderthal
population was wiped out somehow, while anatomically modern man went on
``But another view says there was an intermingling of the two, and the
interpretation of this skeleton is that in fact there was significant
hybridization,'' Zilhao said.
The hybrid thrived and is the genesis of modern man, according to
theory. He said further research and finds will be required to back up
Chris Stringer, an expert on Neanderthal man at the Museum of Natural
History in London said he had few details of the find but expected it to
make a ``major contribution'' to the debate on how the Neanderthals died
The hybridization theory has been difficult to prove because previously
fragments of skeletons have been found, Stringer said in a telephone
He said current evidence was not enough to make him subscribe to the
hybridization theory, but added he was ready to consider the Portuguese
findings with an open mind.
``The Iberian peninsula is an area where there was a significant overlap
time and space between Neanderthal and modern man. They could have
for as long as 10,000 years,'' he said.
The skeleton, believed to be of a four-year-old child, was discovered by
chance in November in the Lapedo Valley near Leiria, 90 miles north of
Lisbon, the capital.
Known as the Child of Lapedo, the skeleton shows traits of modern man,
including the jaw, teeth and spleen, and Neanderthal features like the
of the femur and tibia, according to Zilhao.
Carbon dating shows the skeleton is about 25,000 years old, Zilhao said.
Other evidence has shown that the Neanderthals and modern man coexisted
the area about 28,000 to 30,000 years ago.
Because the skeleton dates from 3,000 years later and displays strong
anatomical features of both origins, Zilhao concludes that hybridization
The skeleton is being studied at the National Archeological Museum in
Adam, Apes, and Anthropology
Foundation Fall and Flood
Date: Sun, 18 Apr 1999 02:25:19 -0700
From: "Donald Frack" <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: My last word
On Saturday, April 17, 1999 9:29 PM Brian D Harper wrote:
> But, in the very least, an experimentalist should go to great
> pains in explaining his experiment. What compromises were needed?
> How is the experiment different from the actual case being
> studied? As an experimentalist myself I would say failure to
> do this is simply inexcusable. Maybe its not fraud, but it
> certainly is poor procedure.
> If what Wells says is true (I can't judge this myself), that
> "...peppered moths do not normally rest on tree trunks in the wild."
> And if they are portrayed as doing so, then this should be
> clearly stated. Further, if, as Jonathan claims
> #"Textbook photographs which show peppered moths on tree trunks have been
> #staged. The photographs were made by people who either manually
> #live, torpid moths on tree trunks, or glued or pinned dead moths
> to them."
> then this should be clearly indicated. I simply cannot imagine anyone
> who calls himself an experimentalist failing to describe the conditions
> under which his or her reported results were obtained.
There seems to be some confusion here. Jonathan Wells was not describing
illustrations in scientific works (as far as I remember), which is what you
appear to mean by "experimentalists" describing the conditions of
experiments. The illustrations at issue are in textbooks, presumably such as
those used in high school biology classes. These illustrations are usually
used simply to show cryptic coloration vs contrast against two types of
backgrounds. The authors of the textbooks cannot be assumed to be experts on
1) Unless the background of some statistically more likely part of the tree
on which the moths rest differs significantly from the trunk (which Wells
never claimed), what is the point in all this? Comparison with the
background is what is being illustrated.
2) Entomologist friends of mine who I have asked all agreed that they have
always assumed most of these photos were staged. The photos are for
illustrative purposes, not as scientific records. They are frauds if it is
claimed that the were taken naturally and weren't.
2) Michael Majerus stated in his message to me that he tells his students
that many photos are staged. Also, that those in his book are all natural.
3) Another peppered moth specialist I corresponded with (he does not wish to
be brought into this discussion at this time) wrote to me (and cited, with
quotes) that all his papers since the late '80's, and books he has
contributed photos for, stated that the moths were staged (actually, he said
"posed") to demonstrate cryptic coloration.
4) The famous photos from Kettlewell's 1956 paper, reproduced in some
textbooks, are associated clearly in the original with text discussing the
fact that the specimens were released onto trees for experimental purposes
dealing with cryptic coloration. The issue of whether this was the
statistically "normal" position (which came up in the 1980's) was already
discussed in Kettlewell's 1955 paper, as I pointed out previously. How much
of Kettlewell's description should carry over into school textbooks depends
on just how confused you think students are going to get in understanding
that light-colored moths are harder to see than black ones on a light
background, and the reverse is true on dark-colored backgrounds.
Both peppered moth specialists with whom I have corresponded have told me
that Wells unjustified in his claims (actually, they were more explicit).
That being the case, Wells claims of fraud, lying and scandal seem a trifle
harsh. A more civilized approach would be to contact the American Biology
Teachers Association, explain the situation, ask them to evaluate the
problem with experts, and allow them to determine if future editions of
textbooks need to change the illustrations captions or text to make the
situation clear. I don't think any students are going to die in the mean
End of evolution-digest V1 #1413