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Missing evolution link surfaces in Africa
The Christian Science Monitor ^ | June 12, 2003 | Peter N. Spotts

Posted on 06/11/2003 3:31:46 PM PDT by aculeus

In a discovery that several colleagues describe as "spectacular" and "extraordinary," an international team of researchers has uncovered fossils in Ethiopia that fill a crucial gap in the record of human evolution.

Judged by their physical characteristics, the 160,000-year-old-fossils - nearly complete skulls of two adults and a child found near the village of Herto - teeter on the razor-thin edge of change between anatomically early and modern humans. The team also found skull pieces and teeth from seven other individuals.

The discoveries dovetail with an expanding body of genetic evidence indicating that modern humans first evolved in Africa about 150,000 years ago.

Over the years, paleoanthropologists have gathered fossils that open windows on key periods in the history of human evolution in Africa dating back millions of years, notes Tim White, co-leader of the team that made the discovery. But "the record has been mute" on what was happening 150,000 years ago, he says.

"We're opening the first window on the continent in this time period," he adds. And the view from the window is "very consistent with the predictions made by genetic evidence" that modern humans originated in Africa.

Combined with existing fossil and genetic evidence, researchers say, the new find seriously undermines hypotheses that modern humans evolved roughly simultaneously in different regions of the world and that in Europe, Neanderthals gave rise to anatomically modern Europeans.

In one sense, the finds at Herto come as little surprise to some paleoanthropologists who work in Africa.

Given the pattern of development in fossils that date to either side of the Herto group, these are the kind of hominids one could expect from that time and that region of Africa, according to Curtis Marean, professor of anthropology at Arizona State University's Institute for Human Origins.

What makes them special, he says, is their "outstanding state of preservation" and their tightly defined dates. The technique that Dr. White's team used allowed it to date the fossils between 160,000 and 154,000 years ago. The age of other potential near-modern human fossils, such as those found at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco, is more uncertain.

The White team, which details its results in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, first came across the site where the fossils were found on Nov. 16, 1997. It's a landscape that today looks as much like a Martian plain as anything on Earth.

Pebble-strewn, virtually treeless, scorchingly hot, the terrain along the rift valley containing the site stretches in subtle undulations toward distant mountains. But 160,000 years ago, when much of the Northern Hemisphere sagged under a sheath of ice two miles thick, this patch of Africa was the site of a shallow freshwater lake teeming with catfish, crocs, and hippos, researchers say.

According to White, he noticed a butchered hippo skull and related artifacts in an eroding slope near Herto. Eleven days later, he and colleagues returned to survey the site.

As White worked on a shaded enclosure for a lunch break, he says, "I sent two people off to begin the survey near where we had found the hippo." When they came back about a half hour later, both had found hominids, he says.

And the painstakingly slow process of collection and excavation began.

Of the specimens included in Thursday's report, the child's cranium presented perhaps the biggest reconstruction challenge. More than 200 pieces were scattered over some 4,300 square feet of the valley floor, presenting Ethiopian scientist and team member Berhane Asfaw with a 3-D jigsaw puzzle to assemble.

In addition to the hominids, stone tools also emerged from the team's excavations that signal a shift in toolmaking technology to the flake-based features of the Middle Stone Age. Moreover, one of the adult skull fragments shows evidence of parallel surface cuts that could indicate some form of primitive burial rites, the team reports.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: ancienthistory; crevo; crevolist; ethiopia; evolution; godsgravesglyphs; homosexual; missinglink; skulls
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To: annyokie
161 posted on 06/11/2003 9:52:26 PM PDT by Aric2000 (If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by labeling our ignorance god)
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To: qam1
And you need to figure out the difference between science and opinion.
162 posted on 06/11/2003 9:54:40 PM PDT by Aric2000 (If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by labeling our ignorance god)
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To: qam1
LOL! Thanks!
163 posted on 06/11/2003 9:54:55 PM PDT by annyokie (provacative yet educational reading alert)
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To: Aric2000
Glad to make your Wednesday lighter!

164 posted on 06/11/2003 9:55:34 PM PDT by annyokie (provacative yet educational reading alert)
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To: qam1
Damn, why do I do that?

Sorry, my mistake, I blew it, I ACTUALLY agree with you...

Damn, LONG day..;

My apologies!!!
165 posted on 06/11/2003 9:56:12 PM PDT by Aric2000 (If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by labeling our ignorance god)
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To: annyokie
It was perfect,TOTALLY perfect, I wish that I could do that!!
166 posted on 06/11/2003 9:57:03 PM PDT by Aric2000 (If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by labeling our ignorance god)
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To: Tamar1973
[Then how, in your simplistic worldview, do you explain the millions of scientists who accept evolution and who also believe in God?]

Theistic evolution, which is what you are basically proposing, is an oxymoron. If people actually read the Bible from cover to cover and believed it, they would quickly realize it's utterly and completely incompatible with evolution.

I didn't ask you whether you felt it was "inconsistent" or not. I asked you how you reconciled your claim that:

Evolution is the folklore of those who don't want to believe in G-d.
...with the fact that there are many, many people who believe in God (and thus presumably are hardly the sort who "don't want to believe" in Him), but who nonetheless accept evolution anyway?

Clearly, something is missing from your description of evolution as merely "folklore of those who don't want to believe in G-d", since many people who *do* believe in God find reason to accept it anyway, *apart* from your "one motive fits all" claim.

Please explain.

Theists who believe in evolution are intellectually inconsistent.

Does not address my question.

Read my post #53, where I quote an article that goes into more detail on the issue of theistic evolution and it's logical inconsistencies.

Again, this does not address my question.

167 posted on 06/11/2003 9:58:06 PM PDT by Ichneumon
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To: annyokie
Where did your Priest fail you?

"If the Christ of God, in His sorrowful life below, be but a specimen of suffering humanity, or a model of patient calmness under wrong, not one of these things is manifested or secured. He is but one fragment more of a confused and disordered world, where everything has broken loose from its anchorage, and each is dashing against the other in unmanageable chaos, without any prospect of a holy or tranquil issue. He is an example of the complete triumph of evil over goodness, of wrong over right, of Satan over God,-one from whose history we can draw only this terrific conclusion, that God has lost the control of His own world; that sin has become too great a power for God either to regulate or extirpate; that the utmost that God can do is to produce a rare example of suffering holiness, which He allows the world to tread upon without being able effectually to interfere; that righteousness, after ages of buffeting and scorn, must retire from the field in utter helplessness, and permit the unchecked reign of evil. If the cross be the mere exhibition of self-sacrifice and patient meekness, then the hope of the world is gone. We had always thought that there was a potent purpose of God at work in connection with the sin- bearing work of the holy Sufferer, which, allowing sin for a season to develop itself .. was preparing and evolving a power --- which would utterly overthrow it, and sweep earth clean of evil, moral and physical. But if the crucified Christ be the mere self-denying man, we have nothing more at work for the overthrow of evil than has again and again been witnessed, when some hero or martyr rose above the level of his age to protest against evils which he could not eradicate, and to bear witness in life and death for truth and righteousness,-in vain ... (( not // link )) ---."

168 posted on 06/11/2003 9:58:06 PM PDT by f.Christian (( apocalypsis, from Gr. apokalypsis, from apokalyptein to uncover, from apo- + kalyptein to cover))
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To: qam1
Your analysis of Gen 2 is wrong.

There are no contradicitons between chapters 1 & 2 of Genesis.

This is an exerpt from:

If, with the NIV, we read 'Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east . . .' (Genesis 2:8) and, 'Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field . . .' (Genesis 2:19 with emphasis added), it is clearly seen that chapter 2 states that the plants and animals were formed before Adam. When Adam named the animals (Genesis 2:20), they obviously were already in existence. There is no contradictory significance in the order of animals listed in Genesis 2:20; it is probably the order in which Adam met the animals, while the order of their creation is given in Genesis 1:20-25. Dr Henry Morris comments:

"It was only the animals in closest proximity and most likely as theoretical candidates for companionship to man that were actually brought to him. These included the birds of the air, the cattle (verse 20 - probably the domesticated animals), and the beasts of the field, which were evidently the smaller wild animals that would live near human habitations. Those not included were the fish of the sea, the creeping things, and the beasts of the earth mentioned in Genesis 1:24, which presumably were those wild animals living at considerable distance from man and his cultivated fields." [1].

Concerning the names of geographical sites, we have no idea what the configuration of the land or the rivers was before the Flood, because the pre-Flood world was completely destroyed. The land areas and rivers named before the Flood do not correspond to similarly named features after the Flood.

The purpose of Genesis 2:18-25 is not to give another account of creation but to show that there was no kinship whatsoever between Adam and the animals. None was like him, and so none could provide fellowship or companionship for him. Why not? Because Adam had not evolved from them, but was 'a living soul' whom God had created 'in His own image' (Genesis 2:7 and 1:27). This means (among other things) that God created Adam to be a person whom He could address, and who could respond to and interact with Him. Here, as in many other places, the plain statements of the Bible confront and contradict the notion of human evolution.

There is therefore enough evidence for us to conclude that Adam most probably was the author of Genesis 2:4b-5:1, and that this is his record of his own experiences with respect to events in the Garden of Eden, the creation of Eve, the Fall, and in the lives of Cain, Abel, and Seth.

The next section is from 5:1b to 6:9a, and deals with the line from Adam to Noah, ending with, 'These are the generations [or origins] of Noah.'

The next section is from 6:9b to 10:1a, and deals mainly with the Ark and the Flood, ending with, 'Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.' The wording of this subscript suggests that this portion was written by one of Noah's sons, probably Shem, as Moses was descended from Shem. These chapters read very much like an eye-witness account because of the intimacy of detail which they contain. Consider Genesis 8:6-12 and note how this contains that ring of authenticity which is characteristic of an eye-witness account. It may even have been Shem's diary!

Genesis 8:6-12 (KJV):

And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark. And he stayed yet other seven days; and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf pluckt off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth. And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove; which returned not again unto him any more.

Such meticulous details are the stuff of authentic eye-witness testimony.

There is thus a substantial body of evidence that these portions of Genesis were written by the persons named therein, for the purpose of making and passing on a permanent record.

169 posted on 06/11/2003 10:02:01 PM PDT by Tamar1973 ("He who is compassionate to the cruel, ends up being cruel to the compassionate." Chazal/Jewish sage)
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To: annyokie
His holiness is not being inconsistent with (you incredibly vast knowlege) of the Church in speaking his pronouncements about Evolution.

However, the pope is certainly being inconsistent in regards to upholding G-d's word. It is infallable, the pope is not.

170 posted on 06/11/2003 10:03:51 PM PDT by Tamar1973 ("He who is compassionate to the cruel, ends up being cruel to the compassionate." Chazal/Jewish sage)
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Comment #171 Removed by Moderator

To: annyokie
Terrific: Religion as a fashion statement. Good-bye.

If dressing in modest attire as the bible teaches us is a "fashion statement" so be it. I just happen to think that the muslim attire on that website I have linked from my site is more consistent with my belief in Y-shua than what passes for "church clothes" some people wear to church these days.

Muslims don't (and shouldn't) have a monopoly on long skirts, long jackets, long sleeves, no revealing slits and high necklines.

Quite frankly, I just got tired of shopping at the mall to try to find maybe one modest outfit worth buying.

172 posted on 06/11/2003 10:10:16 PM PDT by Tamar1973 ("He who is compassionate to the cruel, ends up being cruel to the compassionate." Chazal/Jewish sage)
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To: Ichneumon
Clearly, something is missing from your description of evolution as merely "folklore of those who don't want to believe in G-d", since many people who *do* believe in God find reason to accept it anyway, *apart* from your "one motive fits all" claim.

People can believe what they are going to believe but it doesn't change the fact that one has to ignore a lot of facts about the theory of evolution as well as the facts as stated in the bible to even attempt to reconcile them into one package since they are mutually exclusive.

Theistic evolutionists are fence sitters, like agnostics. They really are not sure what to believe. At some point they will have to take the plunge one way or the other.

173 posted on 06/11/2003 10:13:45 PM PDT by Tamar1973 ("He who is compassionate to the cruel, ends up being cruel to the compassionate." Chazal/Jewish sage)
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To: Tamar1973
MEEP!! Sorry, wrong answer!!!

The bible is spiritual, NOT literal, until you get that into your head, you will have amazing problems figuring it out....
174 posted on 06/11/2003 10:17:11 PM PDT by Aric2000 (If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by labeling our ignorance god)
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To: Aric2000
The bible is spiritual, NOT literal, until you get that into your head, you will have amazing problems figuring it out....

Why? Because YOU say so?@!

175 posted on 06/11/2003 10:19:57 PM PDT by Tamar1973 ("He who is compassionate to the cruel, ends up being cruel to the compassionate." Chazal/Jewish sage)
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To: Tamar1973
No, because god says so...

We were made in gods image, you think that god is human?
176 posted on 06/11/2003 10:27:03 PM PDT by Aric2000 (If the history of science shows us anything, it is that we get nowhere by labeling our ignorance god)
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To: Tamar1973
No, I think it's pretty clear


2:5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

2:6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

2:8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food;

According to G2 there couldn't have been plants before man because there was no rain and man came from dust of the ground and when is the ground dusty? When there are no plants.

As for the Animal part.

2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

2:19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

What part of "every" don't you understand, It's kind of like Bill Clinton and his definition of "Is"

Also Adam named every living creature, I know he lived 900 something years but that still wouldn't be enough time for one person to name all the million+ species of beetles nevermind the rest of the insects and mites and bacteria.

And it's to late to go into the whole flood story and all the craziness there, But I just want to say you creationist demand proof of evolution and we provide it, OK granted we don't have all the answers and there are many unanswered questions but we are finding new stuff all the time and learning more as time goes by, But at the same time you demand all this proof you expect everybody to buy this whole flood story and yet there isn't one sherd of evidence anywhere be geological, archeoloical that a world wide flood ever took place.

177 posted on 06/11/2003 10:35:52 PM PDT by qam1
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To: qam1
But at the same time you demand all this proof you expect everybody to buy this whole flood story and yet there isn't one sherd of evidence anywhere be geological, archeoloical that a world wide flood ever took place.

The evidence is in the fossils themselves but you refuse to see it. The dinosaur fossils you see in eastern montana and other places were buried very quickly by something very powerful. The marine fossils people have found on top of very tall mountains were put up there somehow. The most logical culprit was a worldwide flood.

The facts are the existence of the fossils, interpretation comes in with asking how they got there.

178 posted on 06/11/2003 11:26:25 PM PDT by Tamar1973 ("He who is compassionate to the cruel, ends up being cruel to the compassionate." Chazal/Jewish sage)
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To: Tamar1973
Another reason why I am not Catholic....

I'm not actually interested in your weird belief systems. My point was that the Catholic Church cannot credibly be claimed to be anti-God, even though you asserted that anyone who accepts the possibility of evolution of the species is necessarily anti-God. The Catholic Church, having to apologize to Galileo posthumously is in no mood to cross swords with science again.

Obviously the Catholic Church is not infallible -- otherwise they would have endorsed Galileo right off instead of sticking to the literal "sun revolves around the earth" proclamations in the Bible.

Any serious student of the Bible would realize it is a man written book capturing the "scientific" knowledge of society at the time. Scientific knowledge has advanced since then. We now know that the earth isn't flat. However, even to this day there are fundamentalists who believe the literal flat earth theory and reject the sphereical earth as a Satan created hoax.

Creationists are cut from that same cloth.

179 posted on 06/12/2003 12:05:47 AM PDT by jlogajan
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To: Tamar1973
[Moths do rest on trees, and houses, and whatever else is warm and available.]

No. they don't, at least not during the daytime when their colour would actually matter.

You seem awfully fond of Answers In Genesis, so it truly pains me to have to be the one to inform you that they are a very poor source for scientific information. On the contrary, I've seen far too many real howlers there, as well as such skewed and selective presentation of information that it's hard to escape a conclusion of willful bearing of false witness. They're so eager to find "flaws" in evolution that they'll swallow just about anything without double-checking anyone's claims against original sources, as long as that person claims to be "disproving" evolution in some fashion.

You say that "No. they don't [rest on trees], at least not during the daytime when their colour would actually matter." You cite AiG as your source. But note what they cite as their only source:

"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." (Cyril Clarke)
The best AiG can quote is someone who quite clearly says, "gee, I dunno, I've never found them *anywhere* other than in my traps, except for the two I found on tree trunks or walls"

I'm sorry, what was that you were saying about them *not* being found on tree trunks? AiG's own source says that while he's never found many resting in the wild (for lack of looking, presumably, since Clarke's work merely examines the ones which arrive in his traps), he *has* still seen one or two on a tree.

It's also curious that AiG would cite Clarke's "I don't know" statement as "support" for their flat-out claim that "Peppered moths don’t even rest on tree trunks during the day", when there is far more specific literature on the Peppered Moth they could have looked at, such as, for just one example, the work of M.E.N. Majerus, who has spent decades doing *field* work on the Peppered Moth (instead of Clarke's much more limited "trap and count in his own backyard" work). If AiG had bothered looking *there*, they would have found:

Any questions?

Gosh, that's just a little (*cough*) different from what AiG would have us believe based on their highly selective "choice" of "experts", isn't it?

As you wisely advise in another post, "Don't take anyone's word for anything. Examine everything carefully." And yet, you show no sign of critically examining AiG's material at all, and you simply "take their word" for it.

Why do you suppose AiG "forgets" to mention those more comprehensive studies, and continues to list only Clarke's "I don't really know" quote as "support" for their incorrect claim?

Regrettably, many creationists "have once more been indoctrinated with a ‘[dis]proof’ of evolution which is riddled with error, fraud and half-truths".

I will now include some excerpts from's excellent page on problems with Well's book "Icons of Evolution", which includes a lenghty treatment of his chapter about the Peppered Moth, much of which is relevant here (since creationists tend to naively repeat each other on this topic instead of ever looking to the primary literature itself).

So many things are wrong with Wells' treatment of peppered moths (Biston betularia) that it is hard to list them all; but I will try. The authoritative reference on this topic is M.E.N. Majerus' 1998 book Industrial Melanism: Evolution in Action. This book includes two long chapters on Biston. The first chapter, "The peppered moth story," recounts the basic story of melanism in Biston, and relates how this story was pieced together by Kettlewell and others. The second chapter, "The peppered moth story dissected," gives a thorough critical review of the basic story, considering aspects and details of the basic story in the light of research (by Majerus and others) post-dating Kettlewell.

Crucially, however, Majerus clearly and explicitly concludes that, in his view, Kettlewell got things basically correct. At the beginning of his second peppered moth chapter, Majerus writes,

First, it is important to emphasize that, in my view, the huge wealth of additional data obtained since Kettlewell's initial predation papers (Kettlewell 1955a, 1956) does not undermine the basic qualitative deductions from that work. Differential bird predation of the typica and carbonaria forms, in habitats affected by industrial pollution to different degrees, is the primary influence of the evolution of melanism in the peppered moth (Majerus, 1998, p. 116).

Majerus is so clear on this point that one suspects that he was anticipating that his critique would be misinterpreted by non-peppered moth researchers. It seems that there is a "too good to be true" quality about the peppered moth story that leads people to interpret any hint of criticism as a sign that the whole basic story is crashing down. Scientists are by no means immune to this tendency, and indeed they may be more prone to it given the regularity with which popular ideas have been overturned throughout the history of science. The press has an even greater tendency towards snap judgements and oversimplifications when it comes to scientific discussions. Antievolutionists, on the other hand, have always been stuck muttering "it's just microevolution within a species." While this is true, the rapidity and obvious adaptiveness of the change effected by natural selection still seemed to give antievolutionists discomfort. Therefore, it is understandable that when Wells and his fans sniffed a scientific controversy over peppered moths (in truth it was a fairly marginal kind of controversy), they blew things way out of proportion.


Peppered moth photographs, staged and otherwise. Wells raises a fantastic stink about the fact that the photographs of peppered moths in textbooks, showing light-colored typicals next to dark-colored melanics on differing backgrounds, are staged. But the point of such photos is not to prove the truth of the 'classic' story, it is to illustrate the relative crypsis of moth morphs on different backgrounds. Those who feel that their innocent faith in insect photography has been betrayed should consider the fact that most photos of insects in textbooks are probably staged; insects are, after all, small and difficult to photograph. The facts that peppered moths are sparsely distributed and, well, camouflaged also make them difficult to photograph.

But as it turns out, the differences between staged and unstaged photos are minimal. Readers who wish to see unstaged photos of peppered moths are advised to look up Majerus' Industrial Melanism. Majerus says that all of the peppered moth photos taken by him in the book are unstaged. Readers should consult the figures which are listed below. It may be possible to get permission to include the photos, but until then descriptions shall have to suffice.

(See the above link for the lengthy descriptions of the figures. But the point is that even the "posed" photos are hardly misrepresentations of wild settings.)

Even so, there are several photos that show peppered moths, on tree trunks, on more-or-less matching backgrounds. And guess what? These photos look no different than 'staged' photos of moths on tree-trunks. The most 'staged' aspect about a 'staged' photo is that two differing moth forms are shown side-by-side, but Majerus' first two photos from Plate 3 indicate that even this is not impossible. So the entire photo issue is a mountain made of a molehill.

It should also be noted that several (four) of these unstaged photos have some (minor but noticeable) degree of blurring (e.g., part of the moth will be out of focus). Insects in the wild do annoying things like move and fly away, and are often encountered in poor-light conditions, resulting in less-than-perfect photos. As scientific documentation of observations this is unimportant, but flawed photographs are exactly the kind of thing that are avoided in textbooks, and this is precisely why staging insect photos is a common practice for textbooks (as well as things like nature shows).

American peppered moth researcher Bruce Grant has many complaints about Wells' (and similar creationists') misrepresentations of the Peppered Moth case:
Wells' Chapter 7 is pretty similar to his earlier ms. "Second thoughts about peppered moths" that he posted on the web, and published in abridged form in The Scientist. I sent you my comments about that version about two weeks ago. My general reaction to this latest version is about the same. He distorts the picture, but unfortunately he is probably pretty convincing to people who really don't know the primary literature in this field. He uses two tactics. One is the selective omission of relevant work. The other is to scramble together separate points so doubts about one carry over to the other. Basically, he is dishonest.

He immediately launches the claim "that peppered moths in the wild don't even rest on tree trunks" (p. 138). This is just plain wrong! Of course they rest on tree trunks, but it's not their exclusive resting site. He quotes Cyril Clarke's lack of success in finding the moths in natural settings, but he omits mentioning Majerus' data which reports just where on trees (exposed trunks, unexposed trunks, trunk/branch joints, branches) Majerus has found moths over his 34 years of looking for them.


It is true that the photos showing the moths on trunks are posed (just like practically all wildlife pictures of insects are) but they are not fakes. No one who reads Kettlewell's paper in which the original photos appeared would get the impression from the text that these were anything but posed pictures. He was attempting to compare the differences in conspicuousness of the pale and dark moths on different backgrounds. Nobody thought he encountered those moths like that in the wild. At their normal densities, you'd be hard pressed ever to find two together unless they were copulating. I have always made a point of stating in photo captions that the moths are posed, and I think textbook writers have been careless about this. But they are not frauds.


On page 151 Wells claims Kettlewell's evidence has been impeached. This is nonsense. It has not. But I have argued, that even if it were entirely thrown out, the evidence for natural selection comes from the changes in the percentages of pale and melanic moths. It is this record of change in allele frequency over time that is unimpeachable. It is a massive record by any standard. (I can send a jpg file with graphs, if you'd like.) I have pointed out, and he quotes me, that no force known to science can account for these changes except for natural selection. Yet, he scrambles the ingredients here. He claims (top of p. 153) " is clear that the compelling evidence for natural selection that biologists once thought they had in peppered moths no longer exists." Of course the evidence for natural selection exists! That evidence is overwhelming. Wells, by attempting to discredit Ketttlewell's experiments about predation (and clearly there are things wrong with Kettlewell's experiments) doesn't stop at saying we can't be altogether sure about bird predation because of problems with Kettlewell's experiments. No. He says, instead, that the evidence for natural selection no longer exists. This is just plain wrong. He cannot support this sweeping statement, but he spins it into his conclusion by building a case against Kettlewell. This is what I mean about his tactic of scrambling arguments. He wields non sequiturs relentlessly.

Peppered Moth researcher M.E.N. Majerus likewise finds great fault with the standard creationist claims about the Peppered Moth:
Evidence of selective predation in the peppered moth is not lacking. It is just not provided in the quick text book descriptions of the peppered moth. How can it be. I have read some 500 papers on melanism in the Lepidoptera. In total, these papers probably amount to about 8000 pages, and the story is condensed into a few paragraphs in most textbooks for schools. Even in my own book, I could only give a review of the case covering about 60 pages including illustrations.


End-note: It is difficult to have an informed discussion of a complicated ecological system with those who have little or no experience of the system. My advice to anyone who wishes to obtain a fully objective view of this case is to a) read the primary papers that I based my review upon, and any other relevant papers, and b) gain some experience of this moth and its habits in the wild. Of all the people I know, including both amateur and professional entomologists who have experience of this moth, I know of none who doubts that differential bird predation is of primary importance in the spread and decline of melanism in the peppered moth.

In a review of a book about the Peppered Moth, researcher Bruce S. Grant states even more clearly the scientific validity of the Peppered Moth example:
Mark Twain once quipped that reports of his death had been exaggerated. Recent reports exaggerate the death of industrial melanism as an exemplar of natural selection.


Population geneticists define evolution as a change in allele (gene) frequency. Adult peppered moths come in a range of shades from mottled gray (pale) to jet black (melanic). We know from extensive genetic analysis that these phenotypes result from combinations of multiple alleles at a single locus. Changes in the percentages of the phenotypes in wild populations are well documented. The changes continue and are observable even now. The steady trajectory and speed of changes in allele frequencies indicate that this evolution results primarily from natural selection. J. B. S. Haldane's original calculation of a selection coefficient was estimated from the number of generations it took for the melanic phenotype to effectively replace the pale phenotype during the 19th century. More detailed records document recent changes. For example, near Liverpool, England, the melanic phenotype declined from 93 to 18% in 37 generations (one generation per year); this change is consistent with a 15% selective disadvantage to genotypes with the dominant (melanic) allele.


Fortunately, science assesses the correctness of work by testing its repeatability. Kettlewell's conclusions have been considered in eight separate field studies, of various designs, performed between 1966 and 1987. Some of the design changes--such as reducing the density of moths, randomly assigning moths to trees, altering locations on trees where moths were positioned, and positioning killed moths to control for differences in viability and dispersal--were made to correct deficiencies identified in his original experiments. L. M. Cook's regression analysis of fitness estimates from these experiments plotted against phenotype frequencies at their various locations shows the studies to be remarkably consistent (1).

Other mechanisms of selection have been proposed. An inherent physiological advantage of melanic over pale phenotypes is consistent with the rise and spread of melanism, but the widespread decline in melanism that followed the Clean Air Acts obviates that interpretation. Although the possibility remains that physiological differences might be facultative (changing with conditions), so far no experimental work supports this idea. To date, only selective predation by birds is backed by experiment.


The history of melanism in American peppered moths--which are conspecific with Kettlewell's moths, not a separate species as Hooper indicates--closely parallels what has occurred in Britain, and melanism is correlated in like manner with levels of atmospheric pollution (2). The American studies corroborate rather than contradict the classical explanation.

The case for natural selection in the evolution of melanism in peppered moths is actually much stronger today than it was during Kettlewell's time.

As is unfortunately common, a creationist attack on a scientific position (because it provides support for evolution) is yet again found to be biased, misleadingly selective, conflates minority scientific disagreements into images of total refutation, totally fails to acknowledge findings which undercut its argument, selectively quotes authorities in ways that the authorities themselves take strong issue with, and in general tears down scrawny straw-man misrepresentations which give grossly misleading impressions about the great volume of study and evidence behind the item the creationists are attempting to hand-wave away.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- if you're getting your "scientific" knowledge from creationist sources, then odds are you really have no true idea what science is really about, or how much evidence there is for/against something. Trying to get a straight view of science from creationist sources is like trying to learn about conservatism from Tom Daschle.

180 posted on 06/12/2003 12:45:38 AM PDT by Ichneumon
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