Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"Fraud" in my Son's Textbooks?




Hope your week is well professor. I just want to repeat here what I said in our first correspondence, which is: “dark and light moths existed before the industrial revolution, dark and light moths existed after the Industrial Revolution… ergo, macroevolution is not in question here.”

My Son’s Science Book

Let us start out this second conversation with an example from my son’s seventh-grade science book says this (p.144):

In the 1700’s , most English peppered moths were light gray in color. The light-colored moths had an advantage over black peppered moths because birds could not see them against the light-gray trees. Natural selection favored the light-colored moths over the black moths.


The Industrial Revolution began in England in the late 1700s. People built factories to make cloth and other goods. Over time, smoke from the factories blackened the trunks of the trees. Now the light-colored moths were easier to see than the black ones. As a result, birds caught more light-colored moths. Natural selection favored the black moths. By 1850, almost all the peppered moths were black.

Of course my son’s science book has a *photo (see above) of trees with dark and light bark with dark and light moths on them to “show” how these moths would look. I put show in parenthesis to weed out what has been created in the lab versus what is actually found in nature. What I have clearly shown in my past posts is this, and take note how divergent the facts are from what my son’s science book said “happened”:

Short Summary

This will be the recurring subject of this letter, that is, “further studies done of ‘Peppered Moths’ have shown that their resting positions in nature are not in fact tree trunks.” We will also see that these moths rest underneath leaves and branches during daylight hours which also shows how Kettlewell biased his research work, which if being the case, undermines the legitimacy of the conclusions drawn both in your class and my son’s seventh-grade class. Some points to start:

  • It is now universally acknowledged that Cyril Clarke, who observed that in twenty-five years he had seen exactly two Biston (peppered moth) resting on tree trunks, was right after all: the normal resting place of peppered moths is not on tree trunks but in shaded areas under branches, where the color differences would be muted.
  • According to Majerus, the resting spot of the moths would be crucial: “If the relative fitness of the morphs of the peppered moth does depend on their crypsis [blending into the background], the resting position is crucially important to the estimation of fitness differences between the morphs” (M.E.N. Majerus. Melanism: Evolution in Action).
  • Additionally, the experiment densities were too high. In nature peppered moths are known to be very scantily distributed, but Bernard Kettlewell (the author of the experiment who’s work my son’s book summarizes) set out at least four moths per tree, and then replaced them immediately after one type were eaten. When he and Tinbergen were making their “historic” film, they laid the spread on even thicker.

A Recommended Book

Everyone now concedes that these densities were unnatural. Kettlewell was, in effect, creating a feeding tray, and the “intensity of predation” recorded in his experiments simply reflected a learned response by the local birds from Kettlewell’s previous “bird buffets” (An Evolutionary Tale Of Moths and Men: The Untold Story of Science and the Peppered Moth, pp.265-266). I recommend the chapter that explains the actual parameters to Kettlewells experiment (chpt 6), it is fascinating, and would mute any further discussion. Just two “unnatural” examples can also be found in the popular press:

Quote:

“The moths filmed being eaten by the birds were laboratory-bred ones placed onto tree trunks by Kettlewell; they were so languid that he once had to warm them up on his car bonnet (hood).” Calgary Herald, p. D3, 21 March 1999.

Quote:

University of Massachusetts biologist Theodore Sargent helped glue moths onto trees for the famous NOVA documentary. He says textbooks and films have featured ‘a lot of fraudulent photographs’.” J.A. Coyne, Nature 396(6706):35–36. & The Washington Times, p. D8, 17 January 1999.

The Nitty Gritty – Sargent’s Work (from Of Moths and Men)

In a series of experiments between 1965 and 1969, Sargent tried to replicate Kettlewell’s background-preference work. He got contradictory results, and concluded that the moths’ resting places were genetically predetermined, not selected, as Kettlewell believed, by individual moths noting whether their “circumocular tufts” matched the background. Sargent has also found that the plants eaten by the larvae may induce or repress the expression of such “melanism” in adult moths (see Sargent T.R. et al. in M.K. Hecht et al, Evolutionary Biology 30:299–322, Plenum Press, New York, 1998).


The following point is important to the understanding of how these moths change color and how this may have also impacted the population change in coloration:

[Sargent] noticed that the caterpillars eating the new-growth pine were growing more slowly that the ones in the other container, and they pupated and eclosed later. In both groups all the male moths were melanics, and among females overall there was a fifty-fifty ratio of typicals and melanics. This meant that, assuming the melanism was controlled by a sex-linked dominant allele, the melanic female had mated with a heterozygous melanic male. However, there was a statistically significant difference between the two groups. More than two-thirds of new-growth-fed female moths were melanic, while two-thirds of the group fed on old-growth needles were typical. A second experiment on 8 July yielded similar results. Sargent believed he had hit paydirt. “Something in the new-growth needles was favouring the expression of adult melanism,” Sargent explains….


…. Although Sargent would undoubtedly be described by nine out of ten eyewitnesses as “quiet and unassuming” – a mild, grandfatherly figure frequently overlooked by waiters in restaurants – he is a dangerous iconoclast in the eyes of the industrial melanism establishment. He finally published, with two co-authors, a devastating analysis of the classic industrial melanism story in 1998 (see below), concluding that “there is little persuasive evidence, in the form of rigorous and replicated observations and experiments, to support [the classical] explanation at the present time.” Although it enraged the community of his peers – Bruce Grant called it a “dreadful review” and a “hatchet job” – Sargent’s article was not the decisive confrontation of the peppered moth wars. That erupted in the 5 November 1998 issue of Nature, in a review written by Jerry A. Coyne, professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Chicago, of a new book by Michael E.N. Majerus. The book, called Melanism: Evolution in Action, was a watershed event. Methodologically and incisively analyzing every flaw in Kettlewell's experiments and in the industrial melanism paradigm, Majerus’s book left no doubt that the classic story was wrong in almost every detail. [I separated it here for ease]:


a. Peppered moths, if left to their own devices, do not rest on tree trunks;

b. bird vision is nothing like human vision [referring to Kettlewell's vision scale that were part of his original thesis];

c. Kettlewell was wrong about how peppered moths choose their resting sites;

d. the high densities of moths he used may have skewed the results;

e. the method of release was faulty, and on and on.


The various predation have not replicated his results particularly well, and other “factors” kept having to be invoked to squeeze the data into the standard industrial melanism model. “The findings of [scientists since Kettlewell],” Majerus concluded, “show that the prĂ©cised description of the basic peppered moth story is wrong, inaccurate, or incomplete, with respect to most of the component parts.”


The reader who makes his way through Majerus’s mountains of evidence is rather stunned to arrive at his verdict: that the basic story, while “undoubtedly more complex and fascinating than most biology textbooks have space to relate”, is perfectly fine. “My view of the rise and fall of the melanic peppered moth is that differential bird predation in more or less polluted regions, together with migration, are primarily responsible, almost to the exclusion of other factors.”


Jerry Coyne (who reviewed Majerus’s book), however, was “horrified.” The sheer magnitude of the problems itemized in the book filled him with dismay and something like shame. After all, he too had been teaching the “standard Biston story” for years. When he dug out Kettlewell’s original papers he found that things were even worse than he thought. How was it that the experiment that Coyne called the “prize horse in our stable of examples” had been accepted unquestionably all this time? …

… [One answer I received from my son’s science teacher in regards to another subject but that fits here as well is that she “merely teaches what the state tells her to”, which I guess is in opposition to critical thinking and the scientific method. When she responded to me with the “state” quote I had visions of the story Animal Farm and 1984.] …

… Was it possible that the facts had been submerged because “such powerful stories discouraged close scrutiny?” Concluding that “we must discard Biston as a well-understood example of natural selection in action, although it is clearly a case of evolution,” he mused:


v B. betularia [peppered moth] shows the footprint of natural selection but we have not yet seen the feet. Majerus finds some solace in his analysis, claiming that the true story is likely to be more complex and interesting, but one senses that he is making a virtue of necessity [emphases added], My own reaction resembles the dismay attending my discovery, at the age of six, that it was my father and not Santa who brought the presents on Christmas eve. (from: Jerry Coyne. “Not Black and White,” Nature 396:35-6. November 5, 1998)


Not so much because of Majerus’s book as because of one review of it – especially the felicitous phrase about Santa Clause – the paragon of natural selection was ousted…. After summarizing the latest findings about peppered moths’ natural resting places in a 1999 article in The Scientist, biologist Jonathan Wells, a fellow of Seattle’s Discovery Institute, an Intelligent Design think tank, quipped: “It seems that the classical example of natural selection is actually an example of unnatural selection.”

Sargent’s original paper for further study: Theodore D. Sargent, Craig D. Miller and David Lambert. “The ‘Classical’ Explanation of Industrial Melanism,” in Evolutionary Biology, vol. 30, Max K. Hetch et al. (eds) (New York: Plentium Press; 1998.)

Even Staunch Evolutionist “Futuyma” Caves

“We [scientists] don’t always read the original papers,” admits Douglas Futuyma, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, who a few years earlier had been quoted exulting over “parallel evolution” in the New York Times. “It is clear that there is much more going on here than bird attacks and camouflage.”

Follow the Evidence to its Conclusion

Professor, do you disagree or agree with the findings of Majerus, Sargent, Coyne, and others on this issue? Majerus believes it was a cause of birds and their migration patterns. Sargent has shown that melanism isn’t a population change in allele, but that other factors are involved with the production of melanism. What do you think?

A Final Point

Again… I wish to drive home this point about the photos found in my son’s science book and the photo’s shown at your university by dropping here another source on the matter:

….in the 1980s another problem emerged. Researchers discovered that peppered moths almost never rest on tree trunks. Instead, they apparently rest on the undersides of small horizontal branches in the tree canopy.


By releasing moths onto tree trunks during the day, Kettlewell had created an artificial situation. “Peppered moths are night-fliers, and normally find resting places on trees before dawn.” …. When released during the day, in illumination bright enough for human eyes, such moths can be expected to choose their resting places as quickly as possible — often in the wrong place. “The moths that Kettlewell released in the daytime remained exposed, becoming easy prey for predatory birds.”


This undermines the credibility of Kettlewell’s studies, as well as later studies by others, which used dead specimens glued or pinned to tree trunks.


It also undermines the credibility of the photos displayed in so many textbooks. Since tree trunks are such an unusual resting place, “pictures of peppered moths on tree trunks [were] staged. Some are made using dead specimens that are glued or pinned to the trunk, while others use live specimens that are manually placed in desired positions. Since peppered moths are quite torpid in daylight, they remain where they are put.”


These methods have also been used for television documentaries. One biologist [Theodore Sargent] admitted to a Washington Times reporter in 1999 that he had once glued dead specimens to a tree trunk for a TV documentary on peppered moths.

  • Scroll down to “Peppered Moths”
  • 25-Years of Study

    With this in mind, I want to quote a study found in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (by C.A. Clarke, G.S. Mani and G. Wynne) entitled “Evolution In Reverse: Clean Air And The Peppered Moth”:

    “But the problem is that we do not know the resting sites of the moth during the day time. … In 25 years we have found only two betularia on the tree trunks or walls adjacent to our traps (one on an appropriate background and one not), and none elsewhere” (26:189–199, 1985; quote on p. 197)

    Again - Fraud

    We already know that University of Massachusetts biologist Theodore Sargent helped glue moths onto trees for a NOVA documentary. And we already know that he said textbooks and films have featured “a lot of fraudulent photographs” (J.A. Coyne, Nature 396(6706):35–36; and, The Washington Times, p. D8, 17 January 1999). This underscores the issue that the photos in your textbook you use in class and my son’s teacher uses has in it, fraudulent photos.

    Contemplation Time

    Professor, I believe that critical thinking and the true scientific method (not here speaking of metaphysical naturalism) demand that you, and my son’s teacher introduce such information in an easily digestible way to show that there are controversies in these “matter of fact” presentations I find in CSUN’s textbook as well as my son’s textbook.

    I look forward to your response.