Creationists hate the Peppered moth because its color change over the last two hundred years in response to the industrial revolution is a classic and easily-taught example of natural selection. For typical creationist rants, see The Discoveroids and the Peppered Moth and Ken Ham and the Peppered Moth.
They’re still ranting. We found a good one from the creation scientists at Answers in Genesis (AIG), the creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo) — the ayatollah of Appalachia, the world’s holiest man who knows more about religion and science than everyone else. The title is Peppered Moths . . . Evidence for Evolution?
It was written by Dr. Tommy Mitchell. The former practicing physician likes to be called “Tommy” — see AIG’s bio page on him: Dr. Tommy Mitchell. He’s now a full-time, speaker/writer with AIG. Ooops! His bio page now says: “He passed into the presence of his Lord on September 17, 2019.” Rest in peace, Tommy.
Here are some excerpts from what may be Tommy’s last work for AIG, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:
Stop me if you have heard this tale before. [Prophetic last words.] It’s about one of the sacred cows of evolution: the peppered moth. The story of this moth has been set forth for decades as the prime example of evolution in action. It is a fascinating story about how, due to a combination of environmental changes and selective predation, a moth turned into, well, a moth.
Ah, that’s the creationist method of dismissing the peppered moth. It’s still a moth! Tommy says:
The peppered moth, scientifically known as Biston betularia, exists in two primary forms — one light colored with spots and one almost black. As the tale goes [Unlike Genesis, this is a “tale.”], in the mid 1800s, the lighter variety of the moth (typica) predominated. During the Industrial Revolution, the lichen on tree trunks died, soot got deposited on trees, and as a result trees got darker. As this change occurred, the population of darker moths (carbonaria) increased, presumably due to the camouflage offered by the darker trees. Bird predators could not see the dark moths against the dark bark. As the darker moth population increased, the lighter moth population decreased.
Yes, that’s what happened, and it’s not a “tale.” Nor is it a myth or a legend. It’s observed and well-documented history. Tommy tells us:
This story has been touted for years as a great example of Darwinian evolution in action. Countless textbooks are lavishly illustrated with photographs of light and dark moths resting on light and dark tree trunks to teach the wonders of evolution. … Much of the “proof ” [Nice scare quotes.] for this evolutionary change came from the work of a man named Dr. Bernard Kettlewell, a medical doctor-turned-entomologist, at Oxford University. Dr. Kettlewell had been intrigued by changes in the relative populations of the moths. In his experiments, he set out to show that the changes were a result of natural selection in response to environmental change and selective predation.
Tommy then devotes several paragraphs to debunking the research of Kettlewell, after which he announces:
These criticisms bring into question the entire issue of selective bird predation being the driving force behind this so-called splendid example of natural selection. Without an observable, defined environmental factor to push the peppered moth to “evolve,” the famous moth could not even be a candidate to be used as evidence to support Darwin’s theory.
However, the Talk Origins Index to Creationist Claims has this interesting item: Claim CB601: … That story is no longer supportable because of flaws found in the experiments, such as where the moths rested, and the occurrence of contrary data, such as unaccountable frequencies of uncamouflaged moths in areas. They debunk the creationist claim with several paragraphs, beginning with this:
Although the experiments were not perfect, they were not fatally flawed. Even though Kettlewell released his moths in daylight when a night release would have been more true to nature, he used the same procedure in areas that differed only in the amount of industrial pollution, showing conclusively that industrial pollution was a factor responsible for the difference in predation between color varieties. Similar arguments can be made for all other experiments. Although no experiment is perfect (nor can be), even imperfect experiments can give supporting or disconfirming evidence. In the case of peppered moths, many experiments have been done, and they all support the traditional story … .
Okay, let’s get back to Tommy. Surprisingly, he admits that the peppered moth isn’t a discredited example of natural selection:
There has been much written in both the pro-evolution and the pro-creation camps that has been very critical of Kettlewell. Some of this seems justified, but much of it does not, particularly the accusation that he falsified his data. There can be no more serious accusation made against a scientist, so it would seem that more proof is needed before that charge be made. After all, others involved in this area have collected data that validates Kettlewell’s original conclusions.
If Kettlewell’s work isn’t discredited, what does Tommy have for AIG’s drooling audience of creationists? Let’s read on:
To the creationist, it is very, very simple. Over the last 150 years, moths have changed into moths! [Hee hee!] The creationist has no difficulty with this process. The issue of Kettlewell’s shortcomings notwithstanding, the creationist has no problem with the results of his (and other subsequent researchers’) work. The concept that a less visible organism would survive better than a more visible one seems obvious in the extreme. What is not to understand here? … The creationist would agree that this population change represents natural selection. However, this change is most certainly not molecules-to-man evolution. Natural selection and molecules-to-man evolution are not the same thing, and many are led astray by the misuse of these terms.
Aha! The peppered moth story — even if true — means nothing! How’s that for science denial? It reminds us of The Scientific Case Against Stairs. Another excerpt:
Natural selection can easily be seen in nature. Natural selection produces the variations within a kind of organism. Thanks to natural selection, we have the marvelous variety of creatures that we see in our world. However, in this process, fish change into (amazingly) fish, birds change into birds, dogs change into dogs, and moths change into moths. If, during the process of the study of peppered moths, the moths had changed into some other type of creature, a bird perhaps, then we might have something to talk about.
Wowie — that’s even better science denial! And now we come to the end:
Ultimately, the peppered moth story is more of the same. Although much of the clamor surrounding Kettlewell’s work has made for good reading and, in some ways, has made for good science, the results are clear. There is nothing here, in even the smallest way, to provide evidence for the process of molecules-to- man evolution. That is what the creationist is “able to understand.”
Well done, Tommy! You have earned your eternal reward.
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