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Darwinism in a flutter

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Category Articles
Date June 14, 2002

DARWINISM IN A FLUTTER

In this book we have an account of flawed fraudulent Darwinists cooking the books to ‘prove’ a theory right

by Geoff Thomas

One remembers the BBC Schools Series on Evolution in the 1970s and Miss Medawar from that illustrious family giving her best shot with all the cool confidence of a dedicated Darwinist. But Albert Einstein as a young man once remarked that “the foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.”

So how did Miss Medawar persuade the children of the facticity of evolution? By referring to ‘biston betularia’ a common species of moth. The problem that Darwinists have with their theory of evolution by natural selection is that they are dealing with events that occur over billions of years. Therefore they are difficult to prove empirically. But then the industrial revolution arrived and changed some landscapes, and so, Darwinists believed, offering scientists a perfect example of rapid environmental change so that organisms adapted quickly.

Judith Hooper tells the incredible story in her recent, “Of Moths and Men: Intrigue, Tragedy & the Peppered Moth” (377pp., Fourth Estate), and Peter D. Smith summarises it thus: “In 1848, a black or melanic form of the peppered moth appeared in Manchester. At the time, 50 tonnes of industrial fall-out were deposited annually on each square of the city. These pollutants killed the lichens on tree bark, and in 1896 a naturalist linked this with the decline of the lighter form of the moth. In polluted areas the black moths were better camouflaged against the dark tree trunks, and so less likely to be eaten by birds. It was evolution in action, a perfect demonstration of the survival of the fittest.” (The Guardian, May 11, 2002). That was the confident story Miss Medawar told the little children.

There was only one problem: no one had ever seen birds eating moths from tree trunks. Then, as Judith Hooper’s book reveals, in 1953, Bernard Kettlewell, ‘a loud, eager man’ who was invariably dressed in shorts and sandals, began an experiment that would transform the peppered moth into ‘evolution’s number one icon’. Camping in woods near Birmingham and sustained by a diet of gin and cigars, Kettlewell set out to prove that birds really eat more pale moths in darkened, polluted woods. His results were striking. The black moths were twice as likely to survive in the polluted woods as the lighter moths. It was one of those “eureka” moments. Kettlewell’s experiment was what scientists had been waiting for, ‘living proof of Darwin’s theory of natural selection.”

But while Miss Medawar was telling the little children this assured proof of Darwinism the American lepidopterist, Ted Sargent, was having serious misgivings with the whole story, but no one wanted to know. Sargent’s research was ignored by the scientific community and his career stymied. Kettlewell’s peppered moth experiment was “sacred”; critics were “demonised”, their views were dismissed as “heresy”. But the evidence grew and in 1998 a prominent biologist, whose weighty judgments could not be rubbished, reviewing it in ‘Nature’, said his shock at the extent of the doubts was like discovering as a child “that it was my father and not Santa who brought the presents on Christmas eve.”

Judith Hooper is a good journalist who knows a scandal when she sees on. “The unspoken possibility of fraud hangs in the air,” she says, noting that Kettlewell’s field notes disappeared. Ted Sargent know one thing was certain: the famous photos of moths on tree trunks were faked, using dead moths and a log. Peter D. Smith points out that “in the wild, peppered moths don’t hang around on exposed tree trunks long enough to be eaten, preferring the shady undersides of branches. And then there’s the nagging question of whether birds actually eat moths on tree trunks. Several experts claim that it does not happen in the wild.” By placing killed moths on the tree trunks, Kettlewell, and late Miss Medawar, were effectively laying out a smorgasbord for the watching birds, who soon learned when it was feeding time. The cameras shot the pecking birds and the children were told that this was proof of Darwinism. However, this was not natural selection at all, but unnatural selection.

Judith Hooper’s book raises the question as to why such a shoddy piece of scientific research was so readily accepted by the scientific community and allowed to attain iconic status in evolutionary biology. Her answer: because scientists wanted to believe it. Once it had been cited enough times, it became an irrefutable article of faith. It became on of the dogma of unbelieving scientists. Creation cannot be true. Scientists are sinners “who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse … their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:20-23).

Judith Hooper explores the amusing eccentricities of moth men: “we are complete nutcases”, says one, with disarming honesty She has some sympathy with the cheat Kettlewell. She portrays him as an outsider in the rarefied academic atmosphere of Oxford university (‘he was not an intellectual’). The villain she chooses is his bullying Darwinian boss at the Oxford School of Ecological Genetics, EB Ford, who exploited Kettlewell’s findings and “behaved as if he were auditioning for the ‘Great Book of Eccentric Dons'”.

In this book we have an account of flawed fraudulent Darwinists cooking the books to ‘prove’ a theory right. The sinful bias of the human heart is the one unchallengeable fact that came out of it all. Ambition, jealousy and megalomania are in all university science departments. Occasionally in the Piltdown Skull deception and this Peppered Moth fiasco bigger truthS emerge. But BBC School programmes are unlikely to show this until a brighter day dawns for the truth.

GEOFF THOMAS

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