Re: Biston moths. Was Re: The Significance of Memetics is ...

Mario Vaneechoutte (
Mon, 23 Nov 1998 13:00:20 +0100

Date: Mon, 23 Nov 1998 13:00:20 +0100
From: Mario Vaneechoutte <>
Subject: Re: Biston moths. Was Re: The Significance of Memetics is ...


> On Mon, 23 Nov 1998 11:15:14 +0100 Mario Vaneechoutte
> <> wrote:
> > Derek,
> >
> > Great you mention this 'classical' example which proved natural selection.
> >
> > It is a fake! E.g., black moths appeared as well in the US without air
> > pollution and these moths never sit on tree barks under natural conditions.
> Firstly, it is not a fake.

Apologies. This is due to my poor English. I mean something like: 'it is not
really true'. I did not mean that the people who did the work tried to fool us.

> This work was done by my colleagues up the
> road at the University of Liverpool. There is no question of
> fakery here, absolutely none, none whatsoever. The very suggestion
> that fakery is involved can wreck a scientist's career. This is not a
> fake.
> Secondly, what you say is factually incorrect.

I hope to find time tomorrow to reply to what you say below. Fact is that nothing
much is left of the classical Darwinian adaptationist story, whereby darker
mutant moths were eaten less frequently by birds than the white wild type moths
because they were better camouflaged against dark bark, which was caused by
pollution.(This remark is not against Darwinism, it is just to show how cautious
we should be with every good-sounding story - like many adaptationist stories.
The more elegant it is, the more careful we should be.)

> The study on moths in
> the US _did_ show air pollution was an important fact:
> "In both countries, the declines in melanism appear to be correlated
> primarily with reductions in atmospheric sulphur dioxide" (Grant et al
> 1998)
> The revision that the Liverpool group made on the standard
> interpretation was simply that:
> "..the role of lichens has been inappropriately emphasized" (Grant et
> al 1996)
> This work has been replicated in spittlebugs, Philaenus spumarius.
> (Stewart and Lees 1996)
> Grant et al (1996) Parallel rise and fall of melanic peppered moths in
> America and Britain. Journal of Heredity 87, 351-357.
> Grant et al (1998) Geographic and temporal varaition in the incidence
> of melanism in peppered moths populations in american dn Britain.
> Journal of Heredity 89, 465-471.
> Stewart AJA and Lees DR (1996) The colour pattern polymorphism of
> Philaenus spumarius in England and Wales. Phil. Trans. Roy.. Soc. 351,
> 69-89.
> ===============================================================


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