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NYTimes.com Article: 'Of Moths and Men': The Moth That Failed

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  • shepherdmoon@yahoo.com
    This article from NYTimes.com has been sent to you by shepherdmoon@yahoo.com. A disappointing revelation, but not one that should allow ID proponents to
    Message 1 of 8 , Aug 26, 2002
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      This article from NYTimes.com
      has been sent to you by shepherdmoon@....


      A disappointing revelation, but not one that should allow ID proponents to justify allowing theological control of the science classroom.

      shepherdmoon@...


      'Of Moths and Men': The Moth That Failed

      August 25, 2002
      By PAUL RAEBURN






      It was the story that was supposed to prove Darwin right.
      It began in England, during the Industrial Revolution, when
      foul black smoke began to pour from factory chimneys. The
      air grew so thick with soot and grime that mothers, it was
      said, ''could barely make out the outlines of their
      children across the street.'' Acid rain soaked nearby
      woodlands, stripping tree trunks of their speckled lichens,
      leaving them bare and nearly black.

      At the same time, British lepidopterists, mostly a pack of
      woodsy amateurs, noticed a change in the peppered moth. The
      typical speckled variety was quickly being replaced by an
      unusual black form, especially in the polluted industrial
      Midlands. As the forests darkened under the grimy skies,
      the moths grew darker. The typical peppered moths -- which
      had been nearly invisible on the trunks of unpolluted,
      lichen-covered trees -- were now becoming easy for hungry
      birds to spot on stripped, dark tree trunks. Perhaps the
      darker moths, less visible in polluted forests, were an
      adaptation, evidence of natural selection at work. Ever
      since Darwin, biologists had been looking for an example of
      evolution in action. Now they thought they had it.

      The idea that natural selection might explain the rise of
      the dark moths was suggested in the late 19th century. But
      it wasn't tested until 1953, when E. B. Ford, an Oxford
      biologist, recruited an amateur lepidopterist, H. B. D.
      Kettlewell, to get out into the field and find out what was
      happening. Kettlewell, a doctor, and a moth collector since
      he was a boy, jumped at the opportunity to abandon his
      medical practice and pursue his hobby full time.

      He lugged mercury-vapor lamps and moth traps into the
      English countryside, where he released thousands of moths
      and monitored their survival. The experiments were
      difficult, but within two years Kettlewell had the evidence
      Ford was looking for. In industrial areas, birds gobbled up
      the typical peppered moths, leaving the dark moths behind
      to reproduce. That explained why the population of dark
      moths was increasing. And the opposite happened in
      undisturbed forests -- the dark moths were eaten, and the
      typicals survived.

      ''It is the slam-dunk of natural selection,'' Judith Hooper
      writes in ''Of Moths and Men.'' The experiments made their
      way into all the evolution textbooks, many of which
      reproduced a now famous pair of seemingly indisputable
      black-andwhite photographs. In one, a dark moth is
      strikingly obvious on a lichen-covered tree trunk, while an
      arrow points to a nearly invisible speckled moth nearby. In
      the other, the speckled moth stands like a beacon on a
      dark, stripped trunk, and the dark moth is neatly
      concealed.

      There it was: natural selection in action. Darwin was
      right. End of story. Sadly, as Hooper shows, that wasn't
      the end of the story. In recent years it has become clear
      that the evidence on which the story hangs is as flimsy as
      a butterfly's wing. Kettlewell's experiments proved
      nothing. The most famous example of evolution in action
      must now become the most infamous.

      Kettlewell went into the woods knowing the results he
      wanted, and he didn't quit until he got them. The
      experiment was done under highly artificial conditions.
      Laboratory-bred moths were put on trees in unnatural
      positions, at the wrong time of day. Kettlewell himself
      decided which moths were safely concealed from birds and
      which were not. He was so adept in the field that even his
      critics might say he could think like a moth. But nobody
      believed he could see like a bird. ''We don't allow
      experiments like this any more,'' says Ted Sargent, an
      emeritus professor of biology at the University of
      Massachusetts, Amherst, and Kettlewell's severest critic.

      Sargent doesn't suggest that Kettlewell lied or cheated. In
      Kettlewell's desperation to succeed, and to please Ford, he
      might simply have seen what he wanted to see. ''There are
      subtle ways to seduce yourself,'' Sargent says. Hooper's
      aptly titled book is about the men as much as about the
      moths. The characters in this tragic tale were among
      Britain's most brilliant scientists. But that brilliance
      was undermined by cold ambition that led them to turn on
      one another and perhaps even tamper with results of
      experiments. Hooper shows us their failings, but with
      gentleness and respect, creating a moving and compassionate
      portrait of Ford, Kettlewell and the others in this
      decades-long drama.

      The most sympathetic figure here is Kettlewell. Ford
      brought him to Oxford because he was the best field
      lepidopterist Ford knew. Ford was on a mission, to
      demonstrate the importance of natural selection in Darwin's
      theory. But Kettlewell was never accepted at Oxford. He did
      not have the requisite academic degrees, nor could he
      compete in the often cruel intellectual jousting common in
      college dining halls. ''He was the best naturalist I have
      ever met, and almost the worst professional scientist I
      have ever known,'' said one colleague.

      Kettlewell's personal life crumbled as he struggled to meet
      the increasing demands placed upon him by Ford, whose
      reputation owed much to his analysis of Kettlewell's
      experiments. Ford used him up. Kettlewell, a hypochondriac,
      increasingly began to suffer from real diseases: recurring
      bouts of bronchitis, pneumonia, pleurisy and flu, along
      with heart problems. In 1978, he fell out of a birch tree
      on a collecting expedition, breaking his back. He never
      recovered. More than anything, Kettlewell wanted to be
      accepted as a fellow of the Royal Society. Ford nominated
      him three times, but did so in a way that made sure
      Kettlewell would not be accepted.

      Kettlewell died on May 11, 1979. The Dictionary of
      Scientific Biography says he ''apparently'' overdosed on a
      painkiller. But Kettlewell's colleagues knew his death was
      no accident, Hooper says. Many obituaries expressed
      enormous affection; ''everyone loved him,'' one said.
      Everyone except Ford, that is. Told that Kettlewell had
      committed suicide, Ford called him a coward.

      The story of the peppered moth, as Hooper shows, is not
      what it seemed. Nor is it settled. The dark moths have now
      nearly disappeared, but the debate continues. ''At its core
      lay flawed science, dubious methodology and wishful
      thinking,'' Hooper writes. ''Clustered around the peppered
      moth is a swam of human ambitions, and self-delusions
      shared among some of the most renowned evolutionary
      biologists of our era.''



      Paul Raeburn, a senior writer at Business Week, is
      president of the National Association of Science Writers.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/25/books/review/25RAEBURN.html?ex=1031368744&ei=1&en=a034ebdd55436271



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    • Paul Andrew King
      ... Not even that. There are other informed views out there which disagree. See the talk.origins thread on the subject, (For instance, Ian Musgrave s opinion
      Message 2 of 8 , Aug 26, 2002
      • 0 Attachment
        >This article from NYTimes.com
        >has been sent to you by shepherdmoon@....
        >
        >A disappointing revelation, but not one that should allow ID
        >proponents to justify allowing theological control of the science
        >classroom.

        Not even that. There are other informed views out there which disagree.

        See the talk.origins thread on the subject,

        (For instance, Ian Musgrave's opinion :
        "Sadly, the book is wrong on almost all major points of the peppered
        moth story, although it provides a fascinating picture of the
        personalities involved. It repeats the "moths don't rest on tree
        trunks" nonsense, even though it has been shown they do, and
        Kettlewell put his moths on trunks AND branches. Worse, the author
        concocts a tale of fraud due to her basic innumeracy (and a letter
        that mysteriously influences moth counts before it arrives). This
        entire book is meant to be a vindication of Theodore Seargent, a moth
        researcher with rather singular views, and is somewhat less than
        critical of his claims, and somewhat dismissive of the major peppered
        moth researchers.")

        --
        --
        "The T'ang emperors were strong believers in the pills of
        immortality. More emperors died of poisoning from ingesting minerals
        in the T'ang than in any other dynasty" - Eva Wong _The Shambhala
        Guide to Taoism_

        Paul K.
      • Tom Curtis
        This is certainly not a disapointing revelation so much as a slanderous beat up. I ve been collecting data on this ever since Steve Jones started falling all
        Message 3 of 8 , Aug 27, 2002
        • 0 Attachment
          This is certainly not a disapointing revelation so much as a slanderous beat up. I've been collecting data on this ever since Steve Jones started falling all over himself to post accusations of fraud on CED, including checking out Kettlewells' original papers. There is no sign of fraud anywhere. On the contrary, they are some of the best scientific papers I have read, and the experiments are clearly carefully prepared, performed and recorded. There is also information in the papers directly germaine to later accusations, but which is not normally acknowledged. For instance, Kettlewell placed the moths on the trunks AND BRANCHES (he uses the term boughs). Kettlewell also allowed the moths to wander from the place in which they where located, and they did so to such an extent that in some instances he was unable to find them a short time latter, even though he had stayed in the vicinity to ensure there was no predation. He also carefull where he placed the moths on the trees, ensuring he placed them only on the side of trees where they are observed in the wild (I am intending to check the correlation of that placement and recent information about crustose and foliose lichens). Finally, he carefully recorded what he did, so that others could check out his experimental design; and himself criticised aspects of the design he felt likely to be misleading.

          The two current leading experts on Peppered Moths in Britain (Michael Majerus) and the US (Bruce Grant) have not problems with Kettlewells' experiments, thought they do have problems with the over interpretation of the results, ie, they express the same concerns expressed by Kettlewell himself. For Grant's opinion, see:
          http://www.wm.edu/biology/melanism.pdf

          See also:
          http://talkorigins.org/faqs/wells/#moths
          for and excellent review of Wells' opinions on Peppered Moths, including extensive quotes of Majerus and Grant on Well's opinions of Peppered Moths.

          Tom Curtis
          ----- Original Message -----
          From: shepherdmoon@...
          To: IntelligentDesignUpdate@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Monday, August 26, 2002 11:32 PM
          Subject: [IntelligentDesignUpdate] NYTimes.com Article: 'Of Moths and Men': The Moth That Failed


          This article from NYTimes.com
          has been sent to you by shepherdmoon@....


          A disappointing revelation, but not one that should allow ID proponents to justify allowing theological control of the science classroom.

          shepherdmoon@...


          'Of Moths and Men': The Moth That Failed

          August 25, 2002
          By PAUL RAEBURN






          It was the story that was supposed to prove Darwin right.
          It began in England, during the Industrial Revolution, when
          foul black smoke began to pour from factory chimneys. The
          air grew so thick with soot and grime that mothers, it was
          said, ''could barely make out the outlines of their
          children across the street.'' Acid rain soaked nearby
          woodlands, stripping tree trunks of their speckled lichens,
          leaving them bare and nearly black.

          At the same time, British lepidopterists, mostly a pack of
          woodsy amateurs, noticed a change in the peppered moth. The
          typical speckled variety was quickly being replaced by an
          unusual black form, especially in the polluted industrial
          Midlands. As the forests darkened under the grimy skies,
          the moths grew darker. The typical peppered moths -- which
          had been nearly invisible on the trunks of unpolluted,
          lichen-covered trees -- were now becoming easy for hungry
          birds to spot on stripped, dark tree trunks. Perhaps the
          darker moths, less visible in polluted forests, were an
          adaptation, evidence of natural selection at work. Ever
          since Darwin, biologists had been looking for an example of
          evolution in action. Now they thought they had it.

          The idea that natural selection might explain the rise of
          the dark moths was suggested in the late 19th century. But
          it wasn't tested until 1953, when E. B. Ford, an Oxford
          biologist, recruited an amateur lepidopterist, H. B. D.
          Kettlewell, to get out into the field and find out what was
          happening. Kettlewell, a doctor, and a moth collector since
          he was a boy, jumped at the opportunity to abandon his
          medical practice and pursue his hobby full time.

          He lugged mercury-vapor lamps and moth traps into the
          English countryside, where he released thousands of moths
          and monitored their survival. The experiments were
          difficult, but within two years Kettlewell had the evidence
          Ford was looking for. In industrial areas, birds gobbled up
          the typical peppered moths, leaving the dark moths behind
          to reproduce. That explained why the population of dark
          moths was increasing. And the opposite happened in
          undisturbed forests -- the dark moths were eaten, and the
          typicals survived.

          ''It is the slam-dunk of natural selection,'' Judith Hooper
          writes in ''Of Moths and Men.'' The experiments made their
          way into all the evolution textbooks, many of which
          reproduced a now famous pair of seemingly indisputable
          black-andwhite photographs. In one, a dark moth is
          strikingly obvious on a lichen-covered tree trunk, while an
          arrow points to a nearly invisible speckled moth nearby. In
          the other, the speckled moth stands like a beacon on a
          dark, stripped trunk, and the dark moth is neatly
          concealed.

          There it was: natural selection in action. Darwin was
          right. End of story. Sadly, as Hooper shows, that wasn't
          the end of the story. In recent years it has become clear
          that the evidence on which the story hangs is as flimsy as
          a butterfly's wing. Kettlewell's experiments proved
          nothing. The most famous example of evolution in action
          must now become the most infamous.

          Kettlewell went into the woods knowing the results he
          wanted, and he didn't quit until he got them. The
          experiment was done under highly artificial conditions.
          Laboratory-bred moths were put on trees in unnatural
          positions, at the wrong time of day. Kettlewell himself
          decided which moths were safely concealed from birds and
          which were not. He was so adept in the field that even his
          critics might say he could think like a moth. But nobody
          believed he could see like a bird. ''We don't allow
          experiments like this any more,'' says Ted Sargent, an
          emeritus professor of biology at the University of
          Massachusetts, Amherst, and Kettlewell's severest critic.

          Sargent doesn't suggest that Kettlewell lied or cheated. In
          Kettlewell's desperation to succeed, and to please Ford, he
          might simply have seen what he wanted to see. ''There are
          subtle ways to seduce yourself,'' Sargent says. Hooper's
          aptly titled book is about the men as much as about the
          moths. The characters in this tragic tale were among
          Britain's most brilliant scientists. But that brilliance
          was undermined by cold ambition that led them to turn on
          one another and perhaps even tamper with results of
          experiments. Hooper shows us their failings, but with
          gentleness and respect, creating a moving and compassionate
          portrait of Ford, Kettlewell and the others in this
          decades-long drama.

          The most sympathetic figure here is Kettlewell. Ford
          brought him to Oxford because he was the best field
          lepidopterist Ford knew. Ford was on a mission, to
          demonstrate the importance of natural selection in Darwin's
          theory. But Kettlewell was never accepted at Oxford. He did
          not have the requisite academic degrees, nor could he
          compete in the often cruel intellectual jousting common in
          college dining halls. ''He was the best naturalist I have
          ever met, and almost the worst professional scientist I
          have ever known,'' said one colleague.

          Kettlewell's personal life crumbled as he struggled to meet
          the increasing demands placed upon him by Ford, whose
          reputation owed much to his analysis of Kettlewell's
          experiments. Ford used him up. Kettlewell, a hypochondriac,
          increasingly began to suffer from real diseases: recurring
          bouts of bronchitis, pneumonia, pleurisy and flu, along
          with heart problems. In 1978, he fell out of a birch tree
          on a collecting expedition, breaking his back. He never
          recovered. More than anything, Kettlewell wanted to be
          accepted as a fellow of the Royal Society. Ford nominated
          him three times, but did so in a way that made sure
          Kettlewell would not be accepted.

          Kettlewell died on May 11, 1979. The Dictionary of
          Scientific Biography says he ''apparently'' overdosed on a
          painkiller. But Kettlewell's colleagues knew his death was
          no accident, Hooper says. Many obituaries expressed
          enormous affection; ''everyone loved him,'' one said.
          Everyone except Ford, that is. Told that Kettlewell had
          committed suicide, Ford called him a coward.

          The story of the peppered moth, as Hooper shows, is not
          what it seemed. Nor is it settled. The dark moths have now
          nearly disappeared, but the debate continues. ''At its core
          lay flawed science, dubious methodology and wishful
          thinking,'' Hooper writes. ''Clustered around the peppered
          moth is a swam of human ambitions, and self-delusions
          shared among some of the most renowned evolutionary
          biologists of our era.''



          Paul Raeburn, a senior writer at Business Week, is
          president of the National Association of Science Writers.

          http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/25/books/review/25RAEBURN.html?ex=1031368744&ei=1&en=a034ebdd55436271



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          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Daniel Edington
          The crap below is the latest from Steve Jones. I anyone other than me getting sick and tired of creationists harping on non-issues like the one below? Jones
          Message 4 of 8 , Sep 22, 2002
          • 0 Attachment
            The crap below is the latest from Steve Jones. I anyone other than me
            getting sick and tired of creationists harping on non-issues like the
            one below? Jones plays up the problems with Kettlewell's work like the
            theory of evolution hinged on this work and without it evolution has
            no evidence.

            The only controversy over Kettlewell's work is the fact that it was in
            textbooks for years. Other than that if it turns out to be fraudulent
            it is really meaningless as it is not an important piece of the
            empirical evidence pointing to evolution.

            He assumes that evolutionist have a need to make excuses for it. Me I
            have no intention of making excuses, excuses are for creationists.

            Dan
            ---------------------------------------------------------------------
            Group

            Here is Discover magazines attempt to spin-doctor Kettlewell's Peppered
            Moth fraud:

            "Kettlewell's work immediately became the textbook example of
            evolution. Thus it was a serious matter when re-examinations of
            that work in the late 1990s began to cast doubt on both his
            experimental design and his conclusions. The critics noted, for
            example, that Kettlewell released his moths during the daytime;
            moths, however, are night fliers, so most of them stayed where he
            put them, easy prey for birds. Had they been released at night, they
            would probably have flown to higher branches in the trees, where
            no birds- nor for that matter, biologists- could have seen them.
            Such criticism, mounted by fellow evolutionists, hinged on technical
            points, but this didn't stop creationists from gloating in Internet chat
            rooms about the death of Darwinism. In retrospect, though, doing
            the peppered-moth experiment right would have proved nearly
            impossible for anyone."

            It is important because it shows the various excuses Darwinists will
            probably
            make in the future in their rewriting of history to ensure their
            theory (and
            they) survive:

            1. the "criticism" was "mounted by fellow evolutionists" [who were ignored
            or even, like Ted Sargent, persecuted];
            2. it "hinged on technical points" [doesn't all science?];
            3. "creationists" were "gloating ... about the death of Darwinism" [it's
            really the creationists' fault!];
            4. "doing the peppered-moth experiment right would have proved nearly
            impossible for anyone" [so Kettlewell really cannot be blamed for
            fudging the data to make it work].
            5. "the Kettlewell affair ... fit[ted[ into the normal self-correcting
            enterprise of 20th-century biology" [it only took ~*40* years! Even
            Saddam Hussein will `self-correct' faster than that.].
            6. "biologist Ted Sargent, whose skepticism regarding Kettlewell's work is
            so extreme..." [Darwinist persecution of the whistleblower continues.]
            7. "When all is said and done, the case for evolution hinges on far more
            than one high-profile experiment" [the `moving target' defence. So how
            could Darwinism ever be falsified?]
            8. "Today biologists who conduct research on natural selection in the wild
            do so with an increasing awareness of its complexity. None of the newer
            experiments is as cut-and-dried as Kettlewell claimed his was." [so why
            not draw the obvious conclusion that natural selection is not as
            pervasively important as Darwin and Darwinists thought? (see tagline)]
            9. "If there is a lesson in the peppered moth, it is that the central
            story of evolution is written not in blacks and whites but in subtler
            shades of gray". [the *real* lesson (which we already knew) is that
            Darwinists will always retreat back to a "subtler shades of gray"
            unfalsifiable position when their theory is shown "in blacks and
            whites" to have been falsified, in order to preserve its, and their,
            cultural dominance!]

            Steve
          • Nic Tamzek
            Someone should give him Bruce Grant s review of Hooper, quoted at t.o. here: http://groups.google.com/groups?q=g:thl16930377d&dq=&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-
            Message 5 of 8 , Sep 22, 2002
            • 0 Attachment
              Someone should give him Bruce Grant's review of Hooper, quoted at
              t.o. here:

              http://groups.google.com/groups?q=g:thl16930377d&dq=&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-
              8&selm=20020825154308.02558.00002949%40mb-mh.aol.com&rnum=6


              =====
              http://www.sciencemag.org/content/vol297/issue5583/#books

              Science 297, 940-941 (2002)

              EVOLUTION:
              Sour Grapes of Wrath

              A review by Bruce S. Grant

              ----------------------------------------------------------------------
              --
              Of Moths and Men: Intrigue, Tragedy and the Peppered Moth
              Judith Hooper
              Fourth Estate, London, 2002. 397 pp. £15.99. ISBN 1-84115-392-3.

              Of Moths and Men The Untold Story of Science and the Peppered Moth
              Norton, New York, 2002. 397 pp. $26.95, C$38.99. ISBN 0-393-05121-8.
              ----------------------------------------------------------------------
              --


              Mark Twain once quipped that reports of his death had been
              exaggerated.
              Recent reports exaggerate the death of industrial melanism as an
              exemplar of
              natural selection. The latest is Judith Hooper's Of Moths and Men,
              which
              promises "the untold story of science and the peppered moth." What it
              delivers is a quasi-scientific assessment of the evidence for natural
              selection in the peppered moth (Biston betularia), much of which is
              cast in
              doubt by the author's relentless suspicion of fraud. This is
              unfortunate.
              Hooper is a gifted writer. In places, her prose is quite enjoyable,
              even
              brilliant. But, sadly, the book is marred by numerous factual errors
              and by
              misrepresentations of concepts and controversies.

              The fundamental problem is Hooper's failure to clearly distinguish the
              evidence for natural selection and the mechanism of selection. A dead
              body
              with a knife in its back is evidence that a murder has been
              committed. An
              inability to establish beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the
              leading
              suspect does not mean that the murder did not occur.

              Population geneticists define evolution as a change in allele (gene)
              frequency. Adult peppered moths come in a range of shades from
              mottled gray
              (pale) to jet black (melanic). We know from extensive genetic
              analysis that
              these phenotypes result from combinations of multiple alleles at a
              single
              locus. Changes in the percentages of the phenotypes in wild
              populations are
              well documented. The changes continue and are observable even now. The
              steady trajectory and speed of changes in allele frequencies indicate
              that
              this evolution results primarily from natural selection. J. B. S.
              Haldane's
              original calculation of a selection coefficient was estimated from the
              number of generations it took for the melanic phenotype to effectively
              replace the pale phenotype during the 19th century. More detailed
              records
              document recent changes. For example, near Liverpool, England, the
              melanic
              phenotype declined from 93 to 18% in 37 generations (one generation
              per
              year); this change is consistent with a 15% selective disadvantage to
              genotypes with the dominant (melanic) allele.

              We have amassed enormous records of changes in allele frequency in
              peppered
              moth populations that cannot be explained in the absence of natural
              selection. But what is the mechanism of selection? Even the
              answer "we have
              no clue" would not invalidate the conclusion that selection has
              occurred.
              Fortunately, the circumstances have left clues.

              Geographic and temporal variations in the incidence of melanism
              correlate
              with atmospheric levels of SO2 and suspended particles. (The
              correlations
              are not perfect; gene flow by migration spreads alleles, even into
              populations where they are deleterious.) Light reflectance from tree
              bark
              declines as suspended particles increase. Across a range of
              backgrounds, the
              pale and melanic phenotypes are differently conspicuous to the human
              eye. As
              early as 1896, J. W. Tutt suspected that birds were selectively eating
              conspicuous phenotypes in habitats variously modified by industrial
              fallout;
              H. B. D. Kettlewell first tested Tutt's idea in the 1950s.

              It is on Kettlewell and his experiments that Hooper focuses her
              attention.
              In a biography more akin to character assassination than to objective
              disclosure, she portrays Kettlewell as an insecure misfit so driven to
              please his "boss," E. B. Ford, that he is suspected (by Hooper) of
              fudging
              his data. She bases her case on experimental design changes that
              Kettlewell
              himself described in his papers and on a sudden increase in the
              recapture
              rate of marked moths released in polluted woodlands. Several obvious
              things
              that Hooper left unexamined affect the size of moth catches, and her
              case is
              unconvincing. In addition, she presents it as if the very evidence for
              natural selection in peppered moths depends on the validity of
              Kettlewell's
              experiments. But even the evidence for bird predation does not depend
              on
              them.

              Fortunately, science assesses the correctness of work by testing its
              repeatability. Kettlewell's conclusions have been considered in eight
              separate field studies, of various designs, performed between 1966
              and 1987.
              Some of the design changes--such as reducing the density of moths,
              randomly
              assigning moths to trees, altering locations on trees where moths were
              positioned, and positioning killed moths to control for differences in
              viability and dispersal--were made to correct deficiencies identified
              in his
              original experiments. L. M. Cook's regression analysis of fitness
              estimates
              from these experiments plotted against phenotype frequencies at their
              various locations shows the studies to be remarkably consistent (1).

              Other mechanisms of selection have been proposed. An inherent
              physiological
              advantage of melanic over pale phenotypes is consistent with the rise
              and
              spread of melanism, but the widespread decline in melanism that
              followed the
              Clean Air Acts obviates that interpretation. Although the possibility
              remains that physiological differences might be facultative (changing
              with
              conditions), so far no experimental work supports this idea. To date,
              only
              selective predation by birds is backed by experiment.

              Hooper's book turns bizarre when she showcases American biologist T.
              D.
              Sargent as a wounded iconoclast whose career was stultified because
              Kettlewell dismissed his work. She argues that Sargent is now under
              attack
              because he questions the "classical explanation" for industrial
              melanism.
              Hooper garbles the controversy regarding background selection by
              moths, and
              she entertains Sargent's protracted speculation about phenotypic
              induction.
              (He has offered no evidence that melanism is an induced character in
              adult
              peppered moths.) But most egregious is Sargent's assertion that
              studies in
              North America falsify the classical explanation. The history of
              melanism in
              American peppered moths--which are conspecific with Kettlewell's
              moths, not
              a separate species as Hooper indicates--closely parallels what has
              occurred
              in Britain, and melanism is correlated in like manner with levels of
              atmospheric pollution (2). The American studies corroborate rather
              than
              contradict the classical explanation.

              The case for natural selection in the evolution of melanism in
              peppered
              moths is actually much stronger today than it was during Kettlewell's
              time.
              Textbook accounts should be expanded to reflect this newer
              information, and
              they should not cite Of Moths and Men as a credible resource.

              References

              1. L. M. Cook, Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 69, 431 (2000).
              2. B. S. Grant, L. L. Wiseman, J. Hered. 93, 86 (2002).
              ----------------------------------------------------------------------
              --
              The author is in the Department of Biology, College of William and
              Mary,
              Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795, USA. E-mail: Geometrid@...

              =====
            • Tom Curtis
              ... From: Daniel Edington To: IntelligentDesignUpdate@yahoogroups.com Sent: Monday, September 23, 2002 12:03 AM Subject: [IntelligentDesignUpdate] Re:
              Message 6 of 8 , Sep 24, 2002
              • 0 Attachment
                ----- Original Message -----
                From: Daniel Edington
                To: IntelligentDesignUpdate@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Monday, September 23, 2002 12:03 AM
                Subject: [IntelligentDesignUpdate] Re: NYTimes.com Article: 'Of Moths and Men': The Moth That Failed



                > The crap below is the latest from Steve Jones. I anyone other than me
                > getting sick and tired of creationists harping on non-issues like the
                > one below? Jones plays up the problems with Kettlewell's work like the
                > theory of evolution hinged on this work and without it evolution has
                > no evidence.
                >
                > The only controversy over Kettlewell's work is the fact that it was in
                > textbooks for years. Other than that if it turns out to be fraudulent
                > it is really meaningless as it is not an important piece of the
                > empirical evidence pointing to evolution.

                Actually, I think the real controversy about Kettlewell's work is why it has been so widely abandoned as flawed or fraudulent by popular science writters when the actual researchers in the field still hold it in high regard. Michael Majerus has this to say:
                [E]very scientist I know who has worked on melanism in the Peppered
                moth in the field still regards differential predation of the morphs
                in different habitats as of prime importance in the case. The critics
                of work on this case and those who cast doubt on its validity are,
                without exception, persons who have, as far as I know, never bred the
                moth and never conducted an experiment on it. In most cases they have
                probably never seen a live Peppered moth in the wild. Perhaps those
                who have the most intimate knowledge of this moth are the scientists
                who have bred it, watched it and studied it, in both the laboratory
                and the wild. These include, among others, the late Sir Cyril Clarke,
                Professors Paul Brakefield, Laurence Cook, Bruce Grant, K. Mikkola,
                Drs Rory Howlett, Carys Jones, David Lees, John Muggleton and myself.
                I believe that, without exception, it is our view that the case of
                melanism in the Peppered moth still stands as one of the best examples
                of evolution, by natural selection, in action.
                (Moths p252; quoted from Nic Tamzik here:
                http://groups.google.com/groups?q=grant+%22of+moths+and+men%22&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&selm=74227462.0209130836.3b5ed136%40posting.google.com&rnum=2
                He has elsewhere expressed his admiration for Kettlewell's experimental approach; and while he criticises certain aspects of Kettlewell's experimental design, he points out that the greatest flaws are due to simple practical exigencies. In particular, Kettlewell, ideally, should have released the moths after dark, and only collected them on the following night (thus allowing them to choose their own resting site). But this would have required releasing 10 times as many moths to ensure recapture numbers where statistically significant. The impracticality of this is testified to by the fact that no-one has tried an experiment with that design. More typically, they have used dead moths to avoid the difficulties of handling live moths in the field at all.
                Other flaws (which are, in my opinion, insignificant) can be attributed to the fact that Kettlewell was the first to do mark, release and recapture experiments on Peppered Moths, and amongst the first to do them on any species. It is only by trying experiments that you learn where the pitfalls are. Latter experimenters have corrected for some of these flaws, the the results have continued to be consistent with Kettlewell's, showing the "flaws" have not been significant. Grant says:
                Fortunately, science assesses the correctness of work by testing its
                repeatability. Kettlewell's conclusions have been considered in eight
                separate field studies, of various designs, performed between 1966 and 1987.
                Some of the design changes--such as reducing the density of moths, randomly
                assigning moths to trees, altering locations on trees where moths were
                positioned, and positioning killed moths to control for differences in
                viability and dispersal--were made to correct deficiencies identified in his
                original experiments. L. M. Cook's regression analysis of fitness estimates
                from these experiments plotted against phenotype frequencies at their
                various locations shows the studies to be remarkably consistent (1).
                (Sour Grapes of Wrath; quoted from here:
                http://groups.google.com/groups?q=grant+%22of+moths+and+men%22&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&selm=20020825154308.02558.00002949%40mb-mh.aol.com&rnum=1
                Original review here:
                http://www.sciencemag.org/content/vol297/issue5583/#books
                One such flaw was placing too many moths on the same trees. For example, in his Birmingham experiment, he placed the moths on 33 trees. As he often placed more than 33 moths, and once placed 114, he must have had more than one moth per tree (and on three occasions had four moths per tree). He again started making the same mistake in his Dorset experiments; but then, realising his mistake, interrupted the experiment while he tested if numbers of moths per tree made a difference. In fact it did. Subsequently he modified the experiment so that there was only one phenotype (not moth) per tree, and recommended that future experiments be designed to avoid that problem. As can be seen from the Grant quote above, subsequent experiments where in fact designed to avoid this problem. Note that releasing more than one moth of the same phenotype (with the probable result that if one moth on a tree was eaten, all would be) would not effect relative predation levels between phenotypes so long as the number of moths per tree was the same for each phenotype. (There is an interesting footnote to this episode below.)

                Finally, other "flaws" in the experiments are figments of creationist imagination. Reading his original experiments was, I found, very enjoyable. Kettlewell provides a host of tables, so that the data can be broken down in a variety of ways. That way you can use the data to test for criticisms made after the event. (Most scientific papers I have read only provide summaries of data, making it very difficult to cross check other claims.) Kettlewell also carefully explains what he did, and why; carefully designed the experiment to include intrinsic tests for experimental flaws; and pointed out some potential criticisms himself. He was for example, the first to criticise his experiments for possible statistical bias due to unnatural resting places:
                To the obvious criticism that the releases were not free to take up their own choice of resting site for the first day, I must answer that there was no other alternative backgrounds available for an insect that has to spend its days on trunks and boughs in this wood. I admit that, under their own choice, many would have taken up position higher in the trees, and since the surface area of the tree increases proportional to the distance up the trunkss and boughs, in so doing they would have avoided concentrations such as I produced. Tinbergen, de Ruiter and others have shown the importance to cryptic insects of avoiding to high a density level, but this is no argument against the findings for the relative advantages of the three forms. It must be accepted, however, that, under natural conditions, predation, though selective, might take place at a lower tempo.
                (Kettlewell, Selection Experiments in Industrial Melanism in the Lepidoptera, Heredity 9, 1955. p 340. Original emphasis.)
                He also kept records of how many released moths were recaptured after more than one day in the wild (29 in the Birmingham experiment) so that those who thought artificiality of placement was a problem could have some initial data, before conducting their own experiments.

                Let's consider some of the false "flaws":

                a.. That he pinned dead moths to trees for his mark, release, recapture experiments.
                Simple false (see quote below). Other experimenters have done that, and Kettlewell criticised the practise.

                a.. That he only release moths onto to the trunks of trees, when moths only rest in the canopy (The essence of Wells' criticisms).
                False on both counts. Firstly, Kettlewell released the moths by shaking them onto the BOUGHS (ie, branches) and trunks of the trees. Second he released live moths so that they could take up their own position. He writes:
                Each insect ... was shaken from its box on to the bough or trunk. They generally wandered about for a few moments, and rapidly took up the optimum postion available. ... Having done this, they did not move again."
                (Kettlewell, 1955 pp 332-334)
                This description reminds me of the procedures used by Liebert and Brakefield (Biological Journal of the Linnaen Society 1987, 37: 129 - 150) and Mikola (Annales Entimologici Fennici 1979, 45: 81 - 87) to test the resting places of moths. In these cases, moths were placed into enclosures restricting their ability to fly away (with very few attempting to fly), and walked to their favoured resting positions (from amongst those available in the enclosure). In both cases a large number of moths took up positions ON the enclosure (20% in the Liebert and Brakefield case), showing a certain lack of selectivity in moth resting postions; but the results for the moths that did rest on natural surfaces are the major experimental basis for questioning the resting positions of Peppered Moths. Now, if moths walking to a resting place is indicative of preffered resting places of Peppered Moths, then moths walking for a few moments before settling down in Kettlewell's experiments must be indicative of their taking up preffered positions in those experiments as well. So while the moths may have been disproportionately on the low branches and trunks of trees, there is no reason to think that they where not in their preffered postions (ie, under branches and near branch/trunk or branch/branch joints) given that restraint. The only reason to suppose this is if we imagine that Kettlewell shook the moths onto the trunk a long way from such preffered sites. The evidence suggests otherwise, however. Kettlewell was carefull, for example, to ensure that moths would not be in full sunlight. The belief that the moths settled in unnatural resting sites rests only on a prior conviction that the experiments must be flawed.

                We then turn to the suppostion that moths rest ONLY in the canopy. This idea directly contradicts the only observational evidence available on the subject, ie, Majerus tabulation of moths he has found on natural surfaces not near traps in the wild. The results of that tabulation, that 25.5% of moths rest on the trunk, and 80.6% rest on the trunk or trunk/branch joint. That information rests on a small observational base, and probably is biased by relative ease of seeing moths on the (nearby) trunks as opposed to the relatively distant canopy. Never-the-less it proves that moths do rest on trunks in the wild - the only question is what proportions. In the meantime, Kettlewell placed his moths in locations consistent with 80% of observed wild resting places.

                To conclude this section, here is Ian Musgraves opinion:
                In contrast, the direct and indirect predation experiments, and the mark release experiments, moths were released onto trunks AND branches (Kettlewell, 1955, pages 327, 332 and Kettlewell 1956, page 287). Note that, the moths were not only released on trunks. Furthermore, they were released onto shaded or shadowed areas of the trees (cf. moths on trunks in the shadow of branches in Majerus's Trunk-branch joint category). Thus in these experiments the moths were released in to areas typically occupied by about 50% of moths, and the experimental results will be more representative of the moth population in general than the filmed experiments. In these experiments differential predation was demonstrated.
                http://members.tripod.com/aslodge/id77.htm
                a.. That Kettlewell fudged his data by not including the results of the experiment for several days of releases.
                This is the footnote to the episode above. It is true that Kettlewell did not include the results of the first Birmingham release, or of the releases on the days in which he experimented with different release methods in final results. But he did record the releases for those particular days, and publish them with the account of the experiment. He also records the day of the other unusual release (the famous warming on the car bonnet), the recaptures from which he did include in his totals. The result is that anyone who disagrees with his decisions, or who thinks they unduly effected the result is free to recalculate the totals. Surprisingly [;-)] creationists don't bother reworking the data, or even mentioning that Kettlewell did record and publish the data he didn't include in the totals, or why that data was not included. They just mention the fact that some days data was not included, and leave it at that.
                a.. That Kettlewell did not allow for the fact that bird vision (which included UV sensitivity) is quite different from human vision.
                Again, it is true that Kettlewell did not know that birds saw with UV light. But as his experiments tested the corelation of relative bird predation to crypsis as determined by humans, that was irrelevant. Note that Kettlewell conducted two sets of experiment to test that correlation, the mark, release and recapture experiments; and the observed predation experiments (both in the aviary and in the field). The former showed an inverse correlation between relative predation and relative crypsis as determined by humans; and the second demonstrated an inverse correlation between order of predation and relative crypsis as determined by humans. I will note here that creationist criticisms fail to note that birds have four peaks in sensitivity, three of which corelate with the three peaks of human sensitivity to light frequencies. Therefore, relative crypsis as determined by humans is likely to correlate with relative crypsis for birds on any background where crypis is the same for different morphs in UV light. The significance of this is that unlike foliose lichens, crypsis in UV for Carbonaria and Typica peppered moths is the same. Brakefield and Liebert (1987) shows that Peppered Moths preffer to rest on crustose rather than foliose lichens.
                a.. That Kettlewell ignored other selection pressures on peppered moths.
                I kid you not, creationists actually make this criticism. An example is Wells here:
                http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2002/005/9.11.html
                What they fail to explain is how the existence of some other selection pressure would preclude selective bird predation from being a selection pressure. The implicit argument is: There may be other, as yet unproved, selection pressures which differentiate between Carbonara, Insulara and Typica morphs of the peppered moths; therefore Kettlewell's experiments showing differential bird predation (and his direct observatin experiments, and the other experiments confirming his result) must be flawed. No more need be said.
                a.. Finally we come to the biggest and latest accusation: That Kettlewell fudged his figures in the Birmingham experiment.
                First as Nicholas Wade notes, Judith Hooper only suggested the possibility of fudging; creationists have jumped all over that suggestion turning it into a claim of actual fraud without any need of proof. (I think this is an important point, not because Hooper's suggestion has any merit - it most emphatically does not - but because creationists may well try to excuse themselves by saying they have only repeated Hooper's claims. They have not, they have definitely extended them; and are themselves responsible for the consequent slander.)
                Reflecting Dr. Sargent's deep skepticism, Ms. Hooper suggests Dr. Kettlewell may have fudged his peppered moth counts so as to please his overbearing mentor. "I wouldn't want to go on record as saying he cooked his results," she said in an interview, but the failure by others to confirm some of Dr. Kettlewell's findings was "quite damning."
                (Nicholas Wade)
                http://www.ag.ohio-state.edu/~ipm/trans/062_181.htm

                Wade continues in the next paragraph:

                But Dr. Majerus rejected the notion that the two biologists had ever fudged their experiments, noting that he had trained with their students and never heard any suggestion of improper scientific behavior.

                That raises the second point, the current experts in the field simply do not believe the accusations of fraud. Here is Grant's take on the subject:

                It is on Kettlewell and his experiments that Hooper focuses her attention.
                In a biography more akin to character assassination than to objective
                disclosure, she portrays Kettlewell as an insecure misfit so driven to
                please his "boss," E. B. Ford, that he is suspected (by Hooper) of fudging
                his data. She bases her case on experimental design changes that Kettlewell
                himself described in his papers and on a sudden increase in the recapture
                rate of marked moths released in polluted woodlands. Several obvious things
                that Hooper left unexamined affect the size of moth catches, and her case is
                unconvincing. In addition, she presents it as if the very evidence for
                natural selection in peppered moths depends on the validity of Kettlewell's
                experiments. But even the evidence for bird predation does not depend on
                them.
                (Bruce Grant, Sour Grapes of Wrath)

                This paragraph immediately precedes the one quoted above, which mentions the eight seperate field studies CONFIRMING Kettlewell's results. So much for Hooper's "failure of others to confirm some of Kettlewell's findings".

                The other basis for the fraud accusations is the sudden jump in number of recaptures in the Birmingham experiment. Alison Motluk writes:

                Hooper does try to delve into the nitty-gritty of how it all went wrong. She interviewed extensively for the book, read the correspondence between the major players, even did some independent sleuthing. For instance, during Kettlewell's first summer testing of the peppered moth hypothesis, he wrote to his boss, the formidable professor E.B "Henry" Ford, bemoaning his low recapture rates. Ford replied, innocuously enough, "I do not doubt that the results will be very well worth while." Oddly, the very next day they suddenly were. After six days of catching only two or three moths per day, Kettlewell suddenly started netting 23 and 34. After asking pointed questions about what could have accounted for this dramatic reversal of fortune -- and checking for herself that no significant weather changes happened during that time -- Hooper speculates that he might have fudged the numbers.

                (Alison Motluk, Or Moths and Men by Judith Hooper)

                http://www.salon.com/books/review/2002/09/18/hooper/index.html

                Well let's look at the data. First the data on recaptures, for Carbonaria, Typica and Insularia, and totals respectively:

                Recaptures
                Date | c | t | i | Total
                25/06 | No recaptures|
                26/06 | 3 | 1 | 1 | 5
                27/06 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 2
                28/06 | 2 | 0 | 2 | 4
                29/06 | 5 | 4 | 0 | 9
                30/06 | 1 | 0 | 1 | 2
                1/07 | 19 | 2 | 2 | 23
                2/07 | 28 | 6 | 0 | 34
                3/07 | 25 | 3 | 1 | 29
                4/07 | 23 | 2 | 0 | 25
                5/07 | 16 | 0 | 0 | 16
                Total | 123 | 18 | 8 | 149

                This data, and all following data comes from Table 3 on page 332 of Kettlewell 1955.

                The first thing to notice is that Hooper makes a very misleading comparison. When quanitifying the low numbers of recaptures in June, she uses the quantities for Carbonaria recaptures ("two or three"), but for the high levels following she uses the figures from the totals column ("23 and 34"). She even uses low values from the Carbonaria column, ie, not the 5, but includes the highest value (34) from the totals column.

                The data is even more interesting than that. Kettlewell collected moths from the traps early in the morning, just before releasing the next days moths. Thus there are no recaptures on 25/6, for there where no releases on the morning of 24/6 to be recaptured. But there were also no releases on the mornings of 26/6 or 29/6 either. Thus the recaptures of 27/6 and 30/6 had in fact spent two nights in the wood. If we correct the data for number of recaptures per release (using totals) for the June and July respectively, the figures are:

                Recaptures per release in June - 7.333;

                Recaptures per release in July - 25.4.

                But the data manipulation is even worse than that. Kettlewell did not release the same number of moths each day (the numbers released depended on the number how many moths hatched from their cocoon). From 30/6, the number he released increased markedly. The figures are:

                Releases
                Date | c | t | i | Total
                25/06 | 10 | 12 | 10 | 32
                26/06 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0
                27/06 | 33 | 11 | 15 | 59
                28/06 | 37 | 21 | 5 | 63
                29/06 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0
                30/06 | 68 | 26 | 8 | 102
                1/07 | 90 | 21 | 3 | 114
                2/07 | 74 | 21 | 3 | 98
                3/07 | 68 | 15 | 0 | 83
                4/07 | 67 | 10 | 2 | 79
                5/07 | 0 | 0 | 0 | 0
                | 447 | 137 | 46 | 630

                The average number of moths released in the first three releases (again using totals) is 51.333 for the first period, and 95.2 for the second. Clearly the major cause of the increased number of recaptures is, the increased number of moths released! It appears that Hooper's carefull search for causitive factors before leaping to the conclusion that Kettlewell may have fudged his figures did not extend so far as checking the number of releases in each day.

                The different number of releases may not explain all of the differences the number of recaptures. The recapture rate in July (26.68%) is still 3.5 times greater than the recapture rate in June (7.7%). What these other factors may have been, I do not know; but they also effected capture rates of wild moths. Thus, between 27/6 and 30/6, an average of 40 wild moths were caught per day; while between 1/7 and 5/7, and average of 95.2 wild moths where caught each day; more than double. The correlation between increase of releases (and hence of hatchings from cocoons in Kettlewell's laboratory bred moths) and the increase in captures of wild moths (and hence of hatchings from cocoons of wild moths) suggests a causal connection. Such causal connections might be related to a mechanism to co-ordinate hatchings, a mechanism sometimes used to overwhelm predator appetites. If that is the case here, the reduced predation rate per moth that results would itself account for the increased recapture rate.

                This is, of course, entirely speculative. But it is a possibility not precluded by the data, and so the argument for fraud stands on very shaky evidence. I am sure people familiar with peppered moths (such as Bruce Grant) will be able to think of other possible reasons for the increased recapture rate.

                > He assumes that evolutionist have a need to make excuses for it. Me I
                > have no intention of making excuses, excuses are for creationists.

                I agree emphatically. But I see no reason to abandon Kettlewell's experiments to the slanders of creationists. Those slanders are based only on smoke and mirrors. Without the dishonest selection of data, deliberate misquotation and out of context quotation. Personally, I think the major lesson to be learned from the whole affair is that the ID movement is happy to stoop to the same tactics we have become familiar with from "scientific" creationists.



                Tom Curtis

                PS To Nic Tamzik, I noticed your article on peppered moths at AntiEvolution is not currently accessable, FYI.



                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Tom Curtis
                ... Kettlewell collected (and recorded) moths on the 25th (9) and 26th (144) of June as well. The very low figure for the 25th is unexplained, but including
                Message 7 of 8 , Sep 25, 2002
                • 0 Attachment
                  In my last post I neglected to point out that I had excluded certain figures, and why. I wrote:
                  > Thus, between 27/6 and 30/6, an average of 40 wild moths were caught per day;
                  > while between 1/7 and 5/7, and average of 95.2 wild moths where caught each day;
                  > more than double.
                  Kettlewell collected (and recorded) moths on the 25th (9) and 26th (144) of June as well. The very low figure for the 25th is unexplained, but including it would improve my argument rather than making it worse. I believe the high figures for the second night reflect the lack of previous significant trapping. Peppered moths only have short lifespans as adults, but in the absence of significant trapping, many would survive several days in the wood. The commencement of trapping would, therefore, collect a large number of individuals, but thereafter, trapping would mostly collect individuals that had arrived (or hatched) in the wood from the previous day.

                  In the meantime, I have just read Nic's review at Amazon, and it is very good. This section is particularly relevant to my discussion:

                  Hooper does come up with a few arguments that not even the creationists have proposed -- most importantly, that Kettlewell faked his results, or almost as bad, unconsciously mislead himself. This is despite the fact that the predation and mark-release-recapture experiments have been repeated by other researchers and have in the main confirmed his results (see the articles by Cook, Grant, and the books by Majerus 1998 and 2002 for detailed reviews). The most astounding passage in Of Moths and Men occurs when Hooper spends a paragraph "squinting" at the tables in Kettlewell's paper, and she notes that Kettlewell's moth recapture numbers increase suddenly on July 1, 1953. The implication is that Kettlewell fudged things somewhere.

                  But a modicum of investigation shreds Hooper's fraud hypothesis. What Hooper fails to look at seriously was that when Kettlewell released more moths, he recaptured more. Kettlewell started releasing far more moths on June 30th, and started catching far more moths on the morning of July 1st. In fact, when one does a linear regression, one discovers that "number of moths released" explains 80% of the variance in "number of moths recaptured". This is a nice strong linear relationship. Fraud is not a necessary explanation. Why didn't Hooper realize the obvious answer? Later in the book, Sargent keys off the same change in numbers, and he too mysteriously ignores the obvious explanation -- as in most of the book, Sargent's word is taken as gospel and is substituted for rigorous scientific evaluation.

                  http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393051218/qid%3D1032903651/sr%3D11-1/ref%3Dsr%5F11%5F1/102-8893454-8847321#product-details

                  Tom Curtis
                  ----- Original Message -----
                  From: Nic Tamzek
                  To: IntelligentDesignUpdate@yahoogroups.com
                  Sent: Monday, September 23, 2002 2:26 PM
                  Subject: [IntelligentDesignUpdate] Re: NYTimes.com Article: 'Of Moths and Men': The Moth That Failed


                  Someone should give him Bruce Grant's review of Hooper, quoted at
                  t.o. here:

                  http://groups.google.com/groups?q=g:thl16930377d&dq=&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-
                  8&selm=20020825154308.02558.00002949%40mb-mh.aol.com&rnum=6


                  =====
                  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/vol297/issue5583/#books

                  Science 297, 940-941 (2002)

                  EVOLUTION:
                  Sour Grapes of Wrath

                  A review by Bruce S. Grant

                  ----------------------------------------------------------------------
                  --
                  Of Moths and Men: Intrigue, Tragedy and the Peppered Moth
                  Judith Hooper
                  Fourth Estate, London, 2002. 397 pp. £15.99. ISBN 1-84115-392-3.

                  Of Moths and Men The Untold Story of Science and the Peppered Moth
                  Norton, New York, 2002. 397 pp. $26.95, C$38.99. ISBN 0-393-05121-8.
                  ----------------------------------------------------------------------
                  --


                  Mark Twain once quipped that reports of his death had been
                  exaggerated.
                  Recent reports exaggerate the death of industrial melanism as an
                  exemplar of
                  natural selection. The latest is Judith Hooper's Of Moths and Men,
                  which
                  promises "the untold story of science and the peppered moth." What it
                  delivers is a quasi-scientific assessment of the evidence for natural
                  selection in the peppered moth (Biston betularia), much of which is
                  cast in
                  doubt by the author's relentless suspicion of fraud. This is
                  unfortunate.
                  Hooper is a gifted writer. In places, her prose is quite enjoyable,
                  even
                  brilliant. But, sadly, the book is marred by numerous factual errors
                  and by
                  misrepresentations of concepts and controversies.

                  The fundamental problem is Hooper's failure to clearly distinguish the
                  evidence for natural selection and the mechanism of selection. A dead
                  body
                  with a knife in its back is evidence that a murder has been
                  committed. An
                  inability to establish beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the
                  leading
                  suspect does not mean that the murder did not occur.

                  Population geneticists define evolution as a change in allele (gene)
                  frequency. Adult peppered moths come in a range of shades from
                  mottled gray
                  (pale) to jet black (melanic). We know from extensive genetic
                  analysis that
                  these phenotypes result from combinations of multiple alleles at a
                  single
                  locus. Changes in the percentages of the phenotypes in wild
                  populations are
                  well documented. The changes continue and are observable even now. The
                  steady trajectory and speed of changes in allele frequencies indicate
                  that
                  this evolution results primarily from natural selection. J. B. S.
                  Haldane's
                  original calculation of a selection coefficient was estimated from the
                  number of generations it took for the melanic phenotype to effectively
                  replace the pale phenotype during the 19th century. More detailed
                  records
                  document recent changes. For example, near Liverpool, England, the
                  melanic
                  phenotype declined from 93 to 18% in 37 generations (one generation
                  per
                  year); this change is consistent with a 15% selective disadvantage to
                  genotypes with the dominant (melanic) allele.

                  We have amassed enormous records of changes in allele frequency in
                  peppered
                  moth populations that cannot be explained in the absence of natural
                  selection. But what is the mechanism of selection? Even the
                  answer "we have
                  no clue" would not invalidate the conclusion that selection has
                  occurred.
                  Fortunately, the circumstances have left clues.

                  Geographic and temporal variations in the incidence of melanism
                  correlate
                  with atmospheric levels of SO2 and suspended particles. (The
                  correlations
                  are not perfect; gene flow by migration spreads alleles, even into
                  populations where they are deleterious.) Light reflectance from tree
                  bark
                  declines as suspended particles increase. Across a range of
                  backgrounds, the
                  pale and melanic phenotypes are differently conspicuous to the human
                  eye. As
                  early as 1896, J. W. Tutt suspected that birds were selectively eating
                  conspicuous phenotypes in habitats variously modified by industrial
                  fallout;
                  H. B. D. Kettlewell first tested Tutt's idea in the 1950s.

                  It is on Kettlewell and his experiments that Hooper focuses her
                  attention.
                  In a biography more akin to character assassination than to objective
                  disclosure, she portrays Kettlewell as an insecure misfit so driven to
                  please his "boss," E. B. Ford, that he is suspected (by Hooper) of
                  fudging
                  his data. She bases her case on experimental design changes that
                  Kettlewell
                  himself described in his papers and on a sudden increase in the
                  recapture
                  rate of marked moths released in polluted woodlands. Several obvious
                  things
                  that Hooper left unexamined affect the size of moth catches, and her
                  case is
                  unconvincing. In addition, she presents it as if the very evidence for
                  natural selection in peppered moths depends on the validity of
                  Kettlewell's
                  experiments. But even the evidence for bird predation does not depend
                  on
                  them.

                  Fortunately, science assesses the correctness of work by testing its
                  repeatability. Kettlewell's conclusions have been considered in eight
                  separate field studies, of various designs, performed between 1966
                  and 1987.
                  Some of the design changes--such as reducing the density of moths,
                  randomly
                  assigning moths to trees, altering locations on trees where moths were
                  positioned, and positioning killed moths to control for differences in
                  viability and dispersal--were made to correct deficiencies identified
                  in his
                  original experiments. L. M. Cook's regression analysis of fitness
                  estimates
                  from these experiments plotted against phenotype frequencies at their
                  various locations shows the studies to be remarkably consistent (1).

                  Other mechanisms of selection have been proposed. An inherent
                  physiological
                  advantage of melanic over pale phenotypes is consistent with the rise
                  and
                  spread of melanism, but the widespread decline in melanism that
                  followed the
                  Clean Air Acts obviates that interpretation. Although the possibility
                  remains that physiological differences might be facultative (changing
                  with
                  conditions), so far no experimental work supports this idea. To date,
                  only
                  selective predation by birds is backed by experiment.

                  Hooper's book turns bizarre when she showcases American biologist T.
                  D.
                  Sargent as a wounded iconoclast whose career was stultified because
                  Kettlewell dismissed his work. She argues that Sargent is now under
                  attack
                  because he questions the "classical explanation" for industrial
                  melanism.
                  Hooper garbles the controversy regarding background selection by
                  moths, and
                  she entertains Sargent's protracted speculation about phenotypic
                  induction.
                  (He has offered no evidence that melanism is an induced character in
                  adult
                  peppered moths.) But most egregious is Sargent's assertion that
                  studies in
                  North America falsify the classical explanation. The history of
                  melanism in
                  American peppered moths--which are conspecific with Kettlewell's
                  moths, not
                  a separate species as Hooper indicates--closely parallels what has
                  occurred
                  in Britain, and melanism is correlated in like manner with levels of
                  atmospheric pollution (2). The American studies corroborate rather
                  than
                  contradict the classical explanation.

                  The case for natural selection in the evolution of melanism in
                  peppered
                  moths is actually much stronger today than it was during Kettlewell's
                  time.
                  Textbook accounts should be expanded to reflect this newer
                  information, and
                  they should not cite Of Moths and Men as a credible resource.

                  References

                  1. L. M. Cook, Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 69, 431 (2000).
                  2. B. S. Grant, L. L. Wiseman, J. Hered. 93, 86 (2002).
                  ----------------------------------------------------------------------
                  --
                  The author is in the Department of Biology, College of William and
                  Mary,
                  Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795, USA. E-mail: Geometrid@...

                  =====



                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • Daniel Edington
                  Tom, Thanks for clearing this matter up. Like I stated earlier my knowledge of Kettelewell s work is limited and thus am not really in a good position to judge
                  Message 8 of 8 , Sep 26, 2002
                  • 0 Attachment
                    Tom,

                    Thanks for clearing this matter up. Like I stated earlier my
                    knowledge of Kettelewell's work is limited and thus am not really in
                    a good position to judge its value.

                    I don't think creationists have considered the fact that Kettlewell's
                    work was independently verified by other researchers. If the
                    experiment was repeated an the same results were achieved, then it is
                    unlikely that Kettlewell's data could be fraudulent.

                    Still it is annoying to hear these stories. Creationists make it
                    sound as if evolutionary theory as a whole is crashing to the ground
                    based on the results of this one experiment. Because people like
                    Jones do not confirm thier data (when it supports thier views) the
                    result is that confusion about what the true facts of the matter are.

                    Dan

                    --- In IntelligentDesignUpdate@y..., "Tom Curtis" <tom_kbel@h...>
                    wrote:
                    >
                    > Hooper does come up with a few arguments that not even the
                    creationists have proposed -- most importantly, that Kettlewell faked
                    his results, or almost as bad, unconsciously mislead himself. This is
                    despite the fact that the predation and mark-release-recapture
                    experiments have been repeated by other researchers and have in the
                    main confirmed his results (see the articles by Cook, Grant, and the
                    books by Majerus 1998 and 2002 for detailed reviews). The most
                    astounding passage in Of Moths and Men occurs when Hooper spends a
                    paragraph "squinting" at the tables in Kettlewell's paper, and she
                    notes that Kettlewell's moth recapture numbers increase suddenly on
                    July 1, 1953. The implication is that Kettlewell fudged things
                    somewhere.
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