20
Oct
08

Peppered Moths

One of the often criticized works within evolutionary biology (by creationists) are experiments done to test predation of Peppered Moths. The only real criticisms usually offered are that these animals were released on the tree trunks during the day. I’ll even add on to the list of criticisms a bit:

  1. Kettlewell used too few release sites, resulting in higher population densities and thus, higher mortality
  2. Moths had been released onto tree trunks rather than branches and so those released during the day might not have found the best places to hide
  3. Mixtures of wild-caught and lab-bred moths might have behaved differently
  4. Behavior of translocated moths might have changed because of local adaptation

The allegations that these affected the experiment do not take into account that additional research has been done. Usually, these criticisms are cited from a journalist who misrepresented (unintentionally, I think) the research done by Kettlewell and used these misrepresentations to hurl claims of fraud and deceit. Had this been intentional, it would have been a classic straw man argument, but since, I’m assuming, it was unintentional, it’s just “not even wrong” similar to many other creationist arguments. Unfortunately for the creationists, recent research done (2001-2007) by Michael Majerus has redesigned the experiment while taking into account all prior criticisms. This was done to see if the various valid criticisms (tree trunks, etc) actually affected the experiment. He carried out a six year experiment on these moths. His results were also rather funny. He took note of the resting positions of moths during the day and even looked at both major predators, bats and birds. The research itself reads like something from the KGB; everything is meticulously documented, logged, transcribed, and labeled. Additional research was done on predation; bats preyed equally on light and dark colored moths while birds were preferentially hunting the ones which blended in less effectively indicating that bird predation was the primary cause of predation. All of the creationist literature leaves out these last bits of information, and the most recent research. In fact, I would like to address your attention here. If you still are not convinced, you can read a script of his talk on the subject here.

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4 Responses to “Peppered Moths”


  1. 1 Stacy S.
    October 20, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Sheesh – They are still talking about Haeckle (sp?). I don’t think the Peppered Moth arguement is going away any time soon no matter how many times you show them the evidence.

  2. 2 jaredcormier
    October 20, 2008 at 11:29 am

    Except, you know, Haeckel’s recapitulation theory has been rejected for a number of reasons. Genetics tells us so much more about the phylogeny of an organism…

  3. 3 Stacy S.
    October 20, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    I know … but the cretards just won’t let go.

  4. 4 jaredcormier
    October 20, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Well, recapitulation wasn’t even used in evolution by means of natural selection… Haeckel’s images weren’t done until a few years after the publication of On the Origin of Species


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