Peppered Moths: We Told You So

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The ID movement hasn’t had many successes, but one area where they did pretty much succeed in causing considerable havoc was the classic textbook example of natural selection in action: the change in color of peppered moths (Biston betularia) from peppered white, to black, and back to peppered white again. Through a series of accidents that is still difficult to understand, the idea got started in the late 1990s that leading peppered moth researcher Michael Majerus had debunked Bernard Kettlewell’s famous study confirming the old hypothesis that the change in peppered moth color was due to selective predation of conspicious moths by birds.

This confusion, minor by itself, was massively magnified when the ID/creationists picked it up and spread it far and wide. In the 1970s-1980s, creationists used to just resort to traditional obfuscation when confronted with natural selection producing a the “designed-looking” adaptation of moth camouflage to match their changing background – creationists would just reply “they’re still moths”, purposely avoiding the point of the peppered moth example. But once they heard that Kettlewell’s research and hypothesis were in trouble, they declared the example a fraud, the illustrative photos a dastardly fraud, and told the world that the biology textbooks were lying to the children and that the ID movement’s quack science should be given a place in schools to balance things out. I think Jonathan Wells probably considered the alleged downfall of the peppered moth his career achievement.

Science journalists, forgetting the maxim “If a creationist declares victory, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve actually won” breathlessly and almost entirely uncritically repeated the basic “peppered moths debunked” storyline, almost completely neglecting the horrified objections of the actual people who knew something about the subject, the peppered moth researchers like Bruce Grant and Michael Majerus himself. Piling on was the (2002) book Of Moths and Men by New-Ager science journalist Judith Hooper, who naively took all the hubbub as an indication of reality, and added her own rumor-mongering and uninformed speculation to the mix, for example by postulating that maybe night-feeding bats somehow magically selectively predated one color of moth, and, most egregiously, inventing the idea that Kettlewell had actually deliberately faked his results, a conclusion which Hooper based on nothing but clueless armchair analysis of a few datapoints and a magical letter that somehow influenced Kettlewell the day before he actually received it (see debunking of this).

Well, the press was against Kettlewell’s Bird Predation Hypothesis. More than a few scientists (outside of the peppered moth community) looked askance at it. And the creationists were crowing for years. In addition, while I haven’t done a systematic analysis, my sense of it is that the poor peppered moth took a serious hit in coverage in the textbooks. The only defenders, basically, were the peppered moth guys themselves, and, well, us PT/talkorigins/NCSE folks. We defended the old Biston example through thick and thin, based mostly on the novel idea that one ought to read the original research and the actual experts to get a sense of what the most likely reality is. You can see most of this long-live-the-peppered-moth stuff here, here, here, and here.

It’s all well and good to argue about old studies, but for the last five years or so, Michael Majerus has been working on a long-term, answer-all-the-critics experiment to re-test (yet again) the idea that selective bird predation on conspicuous moths is the primary cause of the change in color morphs of the peppered moth. It looks like he’s finally finished:

Majerus Lab Evolutionary Genetics Group

STOP PRESS - The text of Mike Majerus’ talk given at Uppsala on 23 August is now available as a pdf file - The Peppered Moth: The Proof of Darwinian Evolution

I have emailed Majerus, he says that he will put up the powerpoint slides and photos when he gets back from a meeting next week. (So please, don’t flood his email asking for these.)

Here is the news story on his talk:

Moth study backs classic ‘test case’ for Darwin’s theory

For more than a century it has been cited as the quintessential example of Darwinism in action. It was the story of the peppered moth and how its two forms had struggled for supremacy in the polluted woodlands of industrial Britain.

Every biology textbook on evolution included the example of the black and peppered forms of the moth, Biston betularia. The relative numbers of these two forms were supposed to be affected by predatory birds being able to pick off selectively either the black or peppered variety, depending on whether they rested on polluted or unpolluted trees.

It became the most widely cited example of Darwinian natural selection and how it affected the balance between two competing genes controlling the coloration of an organism. Then the doubts began to emerge.

Critics suggested that the key experiments on the peppered moth in the 1950s were flawed. Some went as far as to suggest the research was fraudulent, with the implication that the school textbooks were feeding children a lie.

Creationists smelt blood. The story of the peppered moth became a story of how Darwinism itself was flawed - with its best known example being based on fiddled data.

Now a Cambridge professor has repeated the key predation experiments with the peppered moth, only this time he has taken into account the criticisms and apparent flaws in the original research conducted 50 years ago. Michael Majerus, a professor of genetics at Cambridge University, has spent the past seven years collecting data from a series of experiments he has carried out in his own rambling back garden. It has involved him getting up each day before dawn and then spending several hours looking out of his study window armed with a telescope and notepad.

[…]

In a seminal description of his results to a scientific conference this week in Sweden, Professor Majerus gave a resounding vote of confidence in the peppered month story. He found unequivocal evidence that birds were indeed responsible for the lower numbers of the black carbonaria forms of the moth. It was a complete vindication of the peppered month story, he told the meeting.

[…]

While the professor has also described drawbacks to Kettlewell’s methodology, he was able to address all of these concerns and even tested an idea that Hooper had raised in her book - that it was bats rather than birds responsible for moth predation - a suggestion he dismissed altogether.

Professor Majerus compiled enough visual sightings of birds eating peppered moths in his garden over the seven years to show that the black form was significantly more likely to be eaten than the peppered.

A statistical analysis of the results revealed a clear example of Darwinian natural selection in action.

“The peppered moth story is easy to understand, because it involves things that we are familiar with: vision and predation and birds and moths and pollution and camouflage and lunch and death,” he said. “That is why the anti-evolution lobby attacks the peppered moth story. They are frightened that too many people will be able to understand.”

Barring the unlikely possibility of a dramatic change in the conclusions before Majerus’s official publication of his results (which, we must remember, will be the official, authoritative presentation of the work), let me say it again. We Told You So.

I do think that this case should be a cause of some reflection on the part of journalists and textbook publishers. Is it possible that these groups, normally skeptical of creationists, let themselves get stampeded into the “bird predation is dead!” meme by creationist propaganda?

At any rate, as sure as night follows day, the ID/creationists, craven as always, are already refusing to admit they were wrong, and are instead trying to crawl unnoticed back to their old hole: “Sure it’s natural selection, but they’re still just moths!” A case in point:

IMHO…a couple of issues with the most recent peppered moth study. It’s still a moth, and the evolution is an oscillation of populations, just like the finches of Galapagos

There it is, in black and white.

187 Comments

Prof. Michael Ruse’s latest book Darwinism and Its Discontents also offers a few pages devoted to the peppered moth example. As a note, that section is part of a chapter which addresses Piltdown Man and Haeckel’s Drawings - which creationists are still using today as examples of scientific frauds.

I’m currently reading Mayr’s Growth of Biological Thought. If there’s one idea I got from this book, it’s that modern biology is all about “populational thinking”, as opposed to the “typological thinking” of the old metaphysical philosophers and the pre-scientific biologists. And the best illustration of it is the concept of species.

So, actually, whenever we hear someone, creationist or not, using such arguments as “they’re still moths”, “it’s still a dog”, etc, we know that this person has no idea about what a species is and, therefore, can be said to know nothing about biology. And we should ask “what do you mean by that?” and force the person to explain their muddled concepts, until complete embarrassment is reached…

What about the case of “Pan Sapiens Sapiens”?

We could point out that “it’s still a chimp!”.

5 million years of evolution have only succeeded in producing a species with minor physiological differences from other chimps. Even the major behavioral and other changes don’t depart that far from those of its close cousins.

And birds are still (mostly) small feathered, bipedal bipeds.

Comment #201237 Posted by Chip Poirot on August 28, 2007 6:09 AM (e)

What about the case of “Pan Sapiens Sapiens”?

We could point out that “it’s still a chimp!”.

5 million years of evolution have only succeeded in producing a species with minor physiological differences from other chimps. Even the major behavioral and other changes don’t depart that far from those of its close cousins.

And birds are still (mostly) small feathered, bipedal bipeds.

But their brains aren’t, somehow a whole lot of what otherwise look like humans have bird brains.

Darwinism simply can’t explain this.

In fact the whole field is completely outside science and would be what some people might call philosophy, if you went to school.

And bird poop if you didn’t.

Many theologians have over the centuries tried to explain this phenomenon, materialists, positive logicists and fantacians. Each has reached a different conclusion but most of them agree that chicken tastes better when cooked and that feathers will be spread all over the place if you try to pluck them before they are dead.

A small fraction of them refuse to cross the road and some bird brains subscribe to the bird brain in the bird bath school of thought.

A famous rooster by the name of Sigmund Fowl said that basting in a orange sauce would bring out the worst in your mother and has since been discredited as an over-rated couch salesman. He did however suggest the radical idea at the time most girls and boys want to grow up and play doctors and nurses unless they end up having 2 brains in the one bird. This was know as split birdanality or schitzonuggets, a pathological desire to describe the known and the unknown in terms of chickens entrails, a profession that went out in the western world with Julius Pollo IIIV a Roman General. The practice continues in Manila where chicken’s livers are regularly pulled out of fat tourists with terminal cancer.

“[B]ut they’re just still moths!” isn’t the stupidest thing that I have heard from a creationist. The stupidest thing regarding Peppered Moths would have to be that “it isn’t an example of evolution because the pollution was man made and evolution is natural”.

We should be glad that they are trying to limp into a hole right now…

I was always amazed at the stupidity of the “peppered moths are a fraud” argument.

Camoflaging coloration is so common in the animal world, especially among insects.

I mean, seriously, if coloration is selected for differently, some kind of change in the predation environment would be the first logical thought. Either a change in the background or a predator adaptation (or new predator). Of course something else could underly it, but those would be the first things I would think of to test.

Even if it had been true that industrial pollution didn’t contribute to the selection for darker moths, something obviously did.

At the very worst, the story could have been an example of an amusing surprise - in this one case, even though there was overwhelming reason to believe that the change in background plant coloration (due to pollution) favored a darker phenotype, some unexpected convoluted explanation was found later.

However, now it seems that the simple, expected, uncontroversial explanation that was initially proposed was the correct one.

Of course, the very exact details of the original research surely can, should, and will be fine-tuned and modified.

The utter intellectual dishonesty of those who pounced on the “fraud” nonsense is pretty astonishing. This was just a very straightforward example of selection of an obvious phenotypic trait, along the lines of antibiotic resistance or breeding of miniature animals. No honest, critical thinker could have thought that, even if some other explanation than bird predation was actually found, the concept of natural selection was weakened. Unbelievable.

In retrospect I guess more people should have asked the “fraud” gang - How do YOU explain the marked changes in frequency of dark coloration?

I am always surprised at the lack of attention that David Rudge’s (Public Understand. Sci. 14 (2005) 1–20) pretty thorough debunking of Hooper’s fraud hypothesis gets (although I’m glad to see that Majerus references it).

They are still moths. And this is still an example of natural selection in action. That is all it ever was. That is all it will ever be. So what?

To construct a straw man argument that every example in biology has to be an example of speciation or marco evolution is complete nonsense. Of course we have lots of examples of those as well. This isn’t one of them. It doesn’t have to be.

I agree with Harold. What about all the other examples of protective coloration in insects alone? What about walking sticks that resemble sticks and katydids that mimic leaves? What about preying mantids that mimic flowers? What about all the examples of Batesian and Mullerian mimicry in insects? Is natural selection not the proper explanation for these examples as well?

Even if the moth experiment did turn out to be in some small way flawed, so what? It doesn’t matter if industrial pollution was responsible for the change in allele frequency or not. It doesn’t matter whether bird predation was responsible or not. The details could be different and it would still be a good example of natural selection in action. Unless of course your explanation is that God was punishing the dark moths for eating apples offered to them by snakes. That sounds kind of racist to me.

There it is, in black and white.

Which is great, but it’s only step one in a long uphill grind to undo the sheer inertia of Pepper Moth Mythology.

Carl Sagan illustrated the problem so well in “Demon Haunted World”, when he talked about how intercessory prayer had been deployed without effect, over millennia and literally trillions of prayers. The Believers’ position wasn’t that prayer doesn’t work, of course, it was that we have insufficient data(!)

But some decades ago, someone with (amazingly enough) a vested interest in the effectiveness of intercessory prayer, did a rigged study and found that it works! Religious believers all said “we told you so” in massive unison, and published these congenial results far and wide. Science proves prayer works said all the headlines.

Almost immediately after publication, the (inevitable) confirmation bias was identified, and the study was replicated many times without the methodological rigging. Nope, no effectiveness could be replicated. None.

Now, do you suppose the Believers retreated to their “insufficient data” posture, upon learning that their study was rigged? Are you kidding? To this day, it’s common knowledge that science proved that prayer works; this has become embedded indelibly in the mythology of the Christian experience. No amount of evidence, however exhaustive or clearly presented, has dislodged this mythology even a little bit.

And we expect this new information about the peppered moth to have better luck? Making Stuff Up that we WISH were true is the human meat and potatoes. Drawing most-likely inferences from observational evidence is very much an acquired taste, one of the airs put on by the effete elite.

It’s still just a moth. Let me know when it turns into a goat.

Meanwhile, can you cite an example of an ID type who claims that change in traits over successive generations does not occur through natural, artificial, sexual, and other selective pressures?

More obfuscation from the now admitted PT/NCSE/TO affiliation of highly dedicated crusaders for evolution.

QuestionAndBeSelectivelyIncredulous Wrote:

It’s still just a moth. Let me know when it turns into a goat.

IOW, let you know when evolution has really been falsified.

Should somebody point out that moths and goats are in entirely separate branches of the animal kingdom? They’re both in the bilateral clade, iirc, but their mothiness and goatiness properties arose much later than their split from each other.

QuestionAndBeSkeptical Wrote:

Meanwhile, can you cite an example of an ID type who claims that change in traits over successive generations does not occur through natural, artificial, sexual, and other selective pressures?

As far as I know there aren’t any, which makes their attacks on the peppered moth all the more scurrilous. It didn’t matter to them whether or not the underlying process is well established (there are thousands of studies of natural selection in the wild, so we could ignore the peppered moth altogether and nothing would change), it was simply a smear-job against the scientists involved in the research and, by implication, all of evolutionary biology. The real purpose was to scream “fraud” and sow distrust of the scientific community among the public. That’s what makes the ID movement quintessentially anti-science.

Meanwhile, can you cite an example of an ID type who claims that change in traits over successive generations does not occur through natural, artificial, sexual, and other selective pressures?

And your point is?

.…..oh wait goats from moths.

Seriously leave the parody to the experts.

“It’s still just a moth. Let me know when it turns into a goat.”

This particular misunderstanding of evolutionary theory has always perplexed me (similar to the “show me a cat-dog” challenge). To suggest that evolutionary theory says that one species of animal would be expected to evolve into another, already existing species reveals a strange sort of confusion about the theory. I suppose it is another symptom of the typological thinking mentioned earlier in this thread – i.e. that there is a set number of types of organisms, and so any large-scale change must involve changing from one already-established type to another. Of course, real evolution involves all sorts of contingencies that produce unique variations never seen before. Now, we might see something like convergent evolution (roughly similar solutions to similar selection pressures) but certainly not something like the appearance of a goat lineage completely separate from the standard one we already know.

Question and Be Skeptical -

I wonder if you have any idea how ironic your name is. Assuming that your posts aren’t parody - it’s always so hard to tell.

It’s still just a moth.

There is a post immediately above by David Stanton explaining that yes, this is just an example of natural selection within a population of moths. Do you deny natural selection within species? Do you deny that this is an example?

Let me know when it turns into a goat.

I assume that this is intended as rather childish sarcasm.

If I were uncharitable enough to take you literally, this would imply that you think that biologists believe that moths and goats share recent common ancestry, or indeed, that a modern moth lineage could conceivable give rise to goat descendants. But if you were really that challenged, you presumably wouldn’t be able to learn the alphabet and use a keyboard.

If I were to assume that this is intended as a straw man to fool unwary lurkers into mistakenly believing that scientists believe this, that would mean that you are, in essence, attempting to prey on the (even more) ignorant.

Therefore, I make the charitable assumption that this is rather childish sarcasm.

Meanwhile, can you cite an example of an ID type who claims that change in traits over successive generations does not occur through natural, artificial, sexual, and other selective pressures?

This is a dissembling subject change. The topic here is that ID/creationist types made disingenuous attacks on earlier peppered moth research, and have been embarrassed by subsequent developments.

You’ve set the bar very low. Even Michael Behe, who’s works are grounded in the illogical denial that the bacterial flagellum or blood clotting system could have evolved, might not deny every instance of selection.

The broader point is that ID/creationism is nonsense; even if not all “ID advocates” make fools of themselves by denying the most obvious examples of selection, this remains the case. We might make an analogy to a flat-earther who doesn’t quite deny that some force called “gravity” pulls near-earth objects to the ground, even while essentially choosing a ludicrous fantasy over modern physics.

More obfuscation from the now admitted PT/NCSE/TO affiliation of highly dedicated crusaders for evolution.

You are the one who changes the subject, creates straw men, and generally obfuscates.

I just read and post here; I have no official relationship to PT, NSCE, or TO, but why on earth shouldn’t they be affiliated?

I couldn’t care less what your personal beliefs are, and strongly support your right to believe as you wish, but I am pround to be an independent crusader for good science education, respect for constitutional rights, and public policy based on mainstream science.

I think this has a lot to do with the language esp. YEC creationists use. Often, one hears the word ‘kind’ used, which, from what I’ve witnessed, can mean anything from a ‘species’, to a ‘family’ and even a ‘class’ (if you’re persuaded that Dinosauria should be a class) - this allows them to use the cheap rhetorical trick that “a kind can only reproduce after its own kind” without actually having to spell out what ‘kind’ means - is it genetic differences, structural and anatomical differences, is Psittacosaurus a different kind than Protoceratops? I think Chris Thill is right: ask a creationist “what ‘kind’ a Mononychus is?” & watch them funble towards an answer …

Also, creationists tend to conflate genetic variance with structural and anatomical dissimilarity - thinking that natural selection and variation must mean noticeable structural differences in a short period of time. When you explain that we can see rapid gene variance under controlled experiments (more rapid than would occur in the wild) and eventually the kind of sturctural divergence they’d want to see would take place, though in an incredibly time span, they simply deploy the argument from personal incredulity …

this allows them to use the cheap rhetorical trick that “a kind can only reproduce after its own kind” without actually having to spell out what ‘kind’ means

Imnsho, the scientific term that seems to come closest to “kind” is simply “clade”. The descendants of members of a clade are in that clade, after all.

Arguments such as these also point out the general lack of understanding of the nature of science and scientific process seen among the general public. I’ve seen letters to the editor of the newspaper arguing that evolution has never been “proven” – as though science is desperately and foolishly seeking one definitive “experiment” that will “prove” that evolution happens. By the same kind of thinking, creationists have exploited the Peppered Moth story in hopes that it might be one definitive “experiment” that failed to “prove” evolution, and thereby “disproves” it.

In teaching my own students about evolution, I first give it this definition: Evolution is the change in the genetics (and the traits they code for) in a population over time. This takes a lot of the fear out of the “E” word and puts it in terms that most students can talk about. After all, changes in gene ratios are something we can directly measure (thereby defusing the argument that “we can’t study evolution directly”). We go through the history of evolutionary theory, from Buffon to Lamarck and Cuvier, to Darwin, to the rise of genetics, to Modern Synthesis Theory. We also talk about what “theory” means in science – the definition that works for them is “an evidence-supported explanation for a natural phenomenon.”

We then talk about population genetics and how we can see and measure genetic differences in a population over time. In some cases, as in the case of the Peppered Moth, these may be cyclic, reversible changes that nevertheless illustrate the principle of selection. It’s when we see cases of long-term environmental change, such as an oncoming ice age, that the gene ratios of a population shift in ways that lead to divergence.

By the time we’re done, most students at least understand what science is talking about and can talk about it themselves without breaking out into a rash, even if they still don’t want to accept evolutionary theory. That’s all I ask of them.

K. Bledsoe Wrote:

In teaching my own students about evolution, I first give it this definition: Evolution is the change in the genetics (and the traits they code for) in a population over time. This takes a lot of the fear out of the “E” word and puts it in terms that most students can talk about. After all, changes in gene ratios are something we can directly measure (thereby defusing the argument that “we can’t study evolution directly”). We go through the history of evolutionary theory, from Buffon to Lamarck and Cuvier, to Darwin, to the rise of genetics, to Modern Synthesis Theory. We also talk about what “theory” means in science – the definition that works for them is “an evidence-supported explanation for a natural phenomenon.”

Your definition of evolution is not controversial because it is diluted. The question is can such changes occur without bounds. If your answer is yes, give me an experiment to reproduce, as reproducibility will make this theory scientific. Quantify (science likes reproducibility and quantification) the number of generations necessary, and the extent of the genetic differences between the original and ultimate generations (And I mean something a little better than diverging a group of fruit flies into, umn, two groups of fruit flies, with members of one group refusing to mate with members of the other group).

I could give you a scientific definition of elasticity, and all is fine. But if I then try to tell you that human beings are so elastic that you can flatten them with a steam rollar and they will return to their normal size unharmed, this is not science. If I obfuscate by mentioning how packing peanuts are elastic to a lesser extent, more nonesense.

The question is can such changes occur without bounds. If your answer is yes,give me an experiment to reproduce, as reproducibility will make this theory scientific.

The premise is a straw-man.

The question is can such changes occur without bounds.

That paragon of a persecuted anti-evolutionist Caroline Crocker once said, “they are quite different from macroevolution. No one has ever seen a dog turn into a cat in a laboratory.”

She is right. Evolution wouldn’t predict that either. Evolution says that the dog and cat shared a common ancestor probably 30 million years ago or so. When you look at the fossil record, that is just what you see.

Evolution predicts that new species arise from old ones in a chain that stretches back to bacteria. Exactly what we see. From fish to humans took about 400 million years. No one saw it directly. Who is going to stay up for 400 million years and watch? Fortunately, we have a reasonably complete fossil record and DNA sequence data that agrees with it.

In case you don’t get it, when the average life span of a human is 77 years and a species can take a million years to evolve from one to another, it is going to be hard to document in real time.

The question is can such changes occur without bounds.

What mechanism do you propose to bind (limit the degree of) those changes? “Kinds”? What would prevent one “kind” from becoming another “kind” over a billion years?

Without bounds??????

Are you kidding?

Evolution has bounds. Consider cars, airplanes, steel armor - any of those could be quite useful, but would be extremely unlikely to evolve.

Evolution is bounded in that a species can only add successive small changes to what it already has.

It can’t grow a new feature just because it would be useful.

One species can’t copy complex features or traits from another species (even acquiring single genes from other species is rare in animals).

A complex new feature would take a long time to evolve; I recall one estimate for eye evolution was around a half million years or so.

Those bounds are expected from evolution as presently understand. There’s no evidence that current life has exceeded those limits.

There’s no reason to suppose that an “intelligent designer” would have any such limits.

Henry

Sheesh. So two populations of fruit fly diverge. We agree that the differences between the members of the two populations are the result of natural evolutionary mechanisms.

Start over with one of those populations. Repeat.

Start over. Repeat. (…)

The process is iterative, not cumulative. Your example of elasticity overlooks this distinction in order to draw your faulty conclusion.

Props to Majerus for pointing out the flaws in Kettlewell’s research and backing it up by repeating the experiment sans flaws. By the way, the fact that Majerus has confirmed the conclusions of Kettlewell’s research in no way answers the question of whether Kettlewell committed fraud in his research (I don’t mean to infer that Kettlewell committed fraud). Just because a conclusion is correct doesn’t mean a scientist can’t fudge their way to that conclusion. Similarly, just because a scientist has committed fraud in their research doesn’t prove that their conclusions are false. Thus, it was unfair for creationists to ever point to Kettlewell’s research (even if flawed) to support the idea that natural selection is bogus. But it’s not like creationists are the first to ever attack an entire group because of the isolated actions of one of its members. In fact, I plan to do just that when I impugn the GOP based on the lewd conduct of Senator Larry Craig in the airport.

Re: Wolfwalker

Your recollection closely matched mine.

QABS -

I realize that you are too disturbed to absorb critical feedback, but for the sake of lurking eyes I will add to what others have pointed out. (I also realize that your motivation is probably social and political.)

Your definition of evolution is not controversial because it is diluted.

Ignoramous is a strong word, but no other word will serve here. The definition offered is one commonly used by mainstream scientists.

The question is can such changes occur without bounds.

Of course it isn’t. And this time, there is no excuse of childish sarcasm. This is just a dishonest strawman.

You are trying to imply a false dichotomy - either no bounds, or some magical bound that you wish for.

There are plenty of bounds, of course - just not the imaginary ones that you wish for.

If your answer is yes, give me an experiment to reproduce, as reproducibility will make this theory scientific.

Here is a very cursory overview of some evidence - http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

Quantify (science likes reproducibility and quantification) the number of generations necessary, and the extent of the genetic differences between the original and ultimate generations

How ironic that one of your ignorance would presume to teach science. There is a vast biochemical, molecular, and mathematical literature on rates of mutation and selection. In fact, population geneticists explored these questions in a sophisticated way before the biochemical nature of the genome was even understood.

(And I mean something a little better than diverging a group of fruit flies into, umn, two groups of fruit flies, with members of one group refusing to mate with members of the other group).

In other words, you already know that this can be demonstrated, so rather than accept reality, you’ll move the goal posts.

As has been pointed out, you’ll have to accept experiments on organisms with short generation times if you want to observe significant speciation from an original population in a single human life time.

You’ll have to rely on the overwhelming molecular, biochemical, anatomic, and physiologic evidence for any series of events that can’t be observed in a single human life span.

At one level, you seem to have been denied even a rudimentary level of science education (yes, I know, I know - you’re a “computer programmer” or “engineer” with a “genius IQ” - if you make those claims, I’ll challenge you for details).

At another level, you seem to know just enough to play the silly trick of trying to demand whatever special “evidence” that you are least frightened of being provided with, as an excuse to ignore the mountain of real evidence.

I’m almost ready to call “parody troll” on QuestionAndBeSkeptical. On the one hand, QABS is remarkably deadpan, persistent and, well, dull for a parodist. But those steamroller and packing peanuts analogies above? Hilarious, and almost too good to be true. If it is sincere, it’s just about worthy of a place in the pantheon with “PYGMIES + DWARVES.”

Paul Nelson tries to hide the fact that his side trumpeted the pseudo-fact that “peppered moths don’t rest on tree trunks.”

Once again he demonstrates that he lacks the moral courage to suck it up and admit he and his colleagues were wrong and were actively misleading the public for a decade.

guess wrote:

“Lets go with 100 million.”

The problem I always have with creationists is that for some reason, none of them can do math. They always spout off about astronomical odds, yet they never actually add up the numbers to see if they really mean anything.

So lets go with 1 in a 100 million, guess.

That’s 1 in 10^8th.

Now, conservatively estimating, you have about 10^14 cells in your body right now.

Let’s say you catch the flu, cause it’s been going around (I, myself, have been miserable for a week).

Let’s say every millionth cell in your body is infected.

Let’s say that every infected cell will produce a hundred more viruses (most of which will not succeed in reinfecting).

Let’s say that the viral cycle takes 12 hours.

Again, all of these are very conservative estimates

And still even with these numbers, given guess’s 1/10^8 mutation rate, there are still 2000 mutations every single day in just one flu sufferer.

Now, multiply by being sick for a week. That’s 14000 mutations. Now, multiply by the number of Americans that will develop some level of flu this summer, about half a million. That’s about 7 trillion mutations in one flu season in one country.

Clearly, guess, I am not impressed by your idea of “rare”.

stevaroni said:

guess wrote:

“Lets go with 100 million.”

The problem I always have with creationists is that for some reason, none of them can do math. They always spout off about astronomical odds, yet they never actually add up the numbers to see if they really mean anything.

If you take creationists’ stupid math (il)logic, one should expect that winning the lottery breaks every known law of physics. In fact, one should wonder why creationists aren’t brain-explodingly mystified whenever someone wins at Bingo, poker or go fish.

guess that settles it said:

There’s nothing to say that a bad development wouldn’t be carried on - millions and millions of them even… because the species would try to live.

Ironic you should pick this thread to make this point.

Once upon a time a poor Peppered Moth was born suffering from a small corruption in its parents genes, a mutation, or what you would call a “bad development”. It had no effect on it, and it became parent to a particularly lucky line of moths that had a better than average survival rate. Slowly, in each generation, more moths carried the “bad development” without it affecting them, just by the luck of the draw. Their luck ran out when they become so common they started breeding with their cousins, and some of the next generation came out black. These guys had it tough and died young. They were less likely to live long enough to reproduce. They were often eaten in their sleep, standing out like sore thumbs as they slept on pale tree trunks. The “bad development” stopped becoming more common, not just by luck, but as a result of selection pressures because it could now be called “bad”.

Then things changed. Trees got covered in soot. Breeding with your cousin became a good thing if your cousin also had the “bad development”. Now the pale moths had it tough, and they produced less offspring. The “bad development” suddenly became good, and much more common as a result of selection pressure. Simple.

Then the trees started to become less sooty again. Evolution never stops.

I said… The problem I always have with creationists is that for some reason, none of them can do math.

Maybe I was too harsh. After all, these numbers are pretty big.

I’m probably using macromath here, and maybe creationists only believe in micromath, ya know, like they believe in microevolution.

guess wrote:

“Every species that exists not only would have millions upon millions of transitional form SUCCESSES but millions * millions of failed forms. They aren’t there.”

Sure they are. We call them coal, oil, gas, peat, etc. What’s your point?

You do know that there are three hundred million people in the United States and over six billion in the world right? You do know that a human male can produce hundreds of thousands of sperm per day right?

guess wrote:

“Every species that exists not only would have millions upon millions of transitional form SUCCESSES but millions * millions of failed forms. They aren’t there.”

Huh?

Last time I went out into the street, there were decidedly few brontosaurus, tyranasaurs, homo ergasters, or woolly mammoths wandering around.

Actually, aside from roaches and turtles, there are precious few animals from the fossil record to be found in the modern world.

Apparently, they were all, ultimately, failures.

i was starting to reckon i might end up being the sole guy that cared about this, at least at this point i discover i’m not loco :) i’ll make it a point to examine a number different articles right after i get a bit of caffeine in me, it is really very hard to read with out my coffee, adios for now :)

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on August 28, 2007 3:03 AM.

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