PEPPERED MOTHS AND NATURAL SELECTION
Biston betularia, a moth species of the family Geometridae, is perhaps one of the most celebrated species of the insect world, and its fame is due to the fact that it was the main so-called "observed example" of evolution since Darwin.
There are two known variants of Biston betularia. The widespread light-colored type called Biston betularia f. typica is a light gray color, with small dark spots that lends it its common name, "the peppered moth." In the mid-19th century, a second variant was observed: dark in color, almost black, it was named Biston betularia carbonaria. The Latin word carbonaria means coal-colored. The same type is also called "melanic," which means dark-colored.
The photographs of peppered moths on tree bark, published for decades in biology texts, were actually of dead moths that Kettlewell had glued or pinned to the trees.
In 19th-century England, the dark moths became prevalent, and this coloration was given the name melanism. Based on this, Darwinists composed a myth that they would use consistently for at least a century, claiming that it was a most important proof of evolution at work. This myth found its place in nearly all biology textbooks, encyclopedia articles, museums, media coverage and documentary films about Darwinism.
The myth's narrative can be summed up as follows: At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, in Manchester and other predominantly industrial areas, the bark on the trees was light in color. For this reason, darker, melanic moths landed on these trees could easily be seen by the birds that preyed on them, so that their life expectancy was very short. But 50 years later, as a result of industrial pollution, the light-colored lichens that lived on bark died off and the bark itself became blackened by soot. Now predators could easily spot the light-colored moths. As a result, the number of light-colored moths decreased, while the dark-colored melanic forms, harder to notice on the trees, survived to reproduce.
Evolutionists resorted to the deception that this process was a major proof for their theory; and that over time, light-colored moths had "evolved" into a darker-colored type. According to Darwinist literature, this was evolution in action.
Today, however, like the other classic Darwinist myths, this one has been discredited. In order to understand why, we must look at how the story developed.
Kettlewell's Glued Moths
The thesis that the melanic form of peppered moths appeared and multiplied in England because of the Industrial Revolution began to be discussed even while Darwin was alive. In the first half of the 20th century, it remained current only as an opinion, because there was not a single scientific experiment or observation to prove it. In 1953, H.B.D. Kettlewell, a Darwinist medical doctor and amateur biologist, decided to conduct a series of experiments to supply the missing proof, and went out into the English countryside, the habitat of peppered moths. He released a similar number of light and dark peppered moths and observed how many of each type the birds preyed. He determined that more dark-colored moths were taken by predators from the light lichen-covered trees.
In 1959, Kettlewell published his findings in an article entitled "Darwin's Missing Evidence" in the evolutionist magazine Scientific American. The article caused a great stir in the world of Darwinism. Biologists congratulated Kettlewell for substantiating so-called "evolution in action." Photographs showing Kettlewell's moths on tree trunks were published everywhere. At the beginning of the 1960s, Kettlewell's story was written into every textbook and would influence the minds of biology students for four decades. 1
The strangeness of his assertion was first noticed in 1985 when a young American biologist and educator, Craig Holdrege, decided to do a little more research concerning the story of the peppered moths, which he had been teaching his students for years. He came across an interesting statement in the notes of Sir Cyril Clarke, Kettlewell's close friend, who participated in his experiments. Clarke wrote:
All we have observed is where the moths do not spend the day. In 25 years, we have only found two betularia on the tree trunks or walls adjacent to our traps... 2
This was a striking admission. Judith Hooper, an American journalist and writer for The Atlantic Monthly and the New York Times Book Review, reported on Holdrege's reaction in her 2002 book, Of Moths and Men: The Untold Story of Science and the Peppered Moth:
"What is going on here?" Holdrege asked himself. He had been displaying photographs of moths on tree trunks, telling his students about birds selectively picking off the conspicuous ones. . . "And now someone who has researched the moth for 25 years reports having seen only two moths" sitting on tree trunks. What about the lichens, the soot, the camouflage, the birds? What about the grand story of industrial melanism? Didn't it depend on moths habitually resting on tree trunks? 3
This strangeness, first noticed and expressed by Holdrege, soon revealed the true story of the peppered moth. As Judith Hooper went on, "As it turned out, Holdrege was not the only one to notice the cracks in the icon. Before long the peppered moth had kindled a smoldering scientific feud." 4
So, in the scientific argument, what facts became clear?
Another American writer and biologist, Jonathan Wells, has written on this subject in detail. His book Icons of Evolution devotes a special chapter to this myth. He says that Bernard Kettlewell's study, regarded as experimental proof, is basically a scientific scandal. Here are some of its basic elements:
Judith Hooper's book
Many studies made after Kettlewell's experiments showed that only one type of these moths rested on tree trunks; all the other types preferred the underside of horizontal branches. Since the 1980s, it has become widely accepted that moths rarely rest on tree trunks. Cyril Clarke and Rory Howlett, Michael Majerus, Tony Liebert, Paul Brakefield, as well as other scientists have studied this subject over 25 years. They conclude that in Kettlewell's experiment, moths were forced to act atypically, therefore, the test results could not be accepted as scientific.
Researchers who tested Kettlewell's experiment came to an even more striking conclusion: In less polluted areas of England, one would have expected more light-colored moths, but the dark ones were four times as many as the light ones. In other words, contrary to what Kettlewell claimed and nearly all evolutionist literature repeated, there was no correlation between the ratio in the moth population and the tree trunks.
As the research deepened, the dimensions of the scandal grew: The moths on tree trunks photographed by Kettlewell were actually dead. He glued or pinned the dead moths to tree trunks, then photographed them. In truth, because moths actually rested underneath the branches, it was not possible to obtain a real photo of moths on tree trunks. 5
Only in the late 1990s, the scientific world was able to learn these facts. When the myth of the Industrial Melanism that had been a feature in biology courses for decades came to such an end, evolutionists were disappointed. One of them, Jerry Coyne, said he felt very dismayed when he learned of the fabrications with regard to the peppered moths. 6