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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Ohmygod! These photographs are faked!

Jonathan Wells, the author of one of the stupidest books on Intelligent Design Creationism (Icons of Evolution) has just posted a message on the Discovery Institute website [Exhuming the Peppered Mummy]. Wells says,
The peppered myth died several years ago when scientists discovered that photos of peppered moths on tree trunks - used in most biology textbooks to convince students of Darwinian evolution - had been faked.
In his book he reveals the extraordinary deception that has confused thousands of biology students. The photographs of peppered moths on tree trunks were staged. In some cases dead moths were pinned to the tree trunks and in other cases the moths are alive but they were carefully positioned by scientists.

Can you believe it? Look at the pictures above. I bet you thought that some photographer had set up a camera and waited for years to photograph two moths—one black and one white—to land next to each other in the camera's field. Silly you. You've been fooled. Those moths have been deliberately staged. So much for the Theory of Evolution.

Now, as it turns out there's more to the peppered moth story than this "deception." The real issue is whether the moths spend significant amounts of time on tree trunks. But that's not the point that Wells choose to make in his posting. Instead, he emphasizes the "faked" photographs as though that's the most significant aspect of the peppered moth story. Maybe it is. Maybe Wells and his friends were totally taken in by the photographs in the biology textbooks. I wouldn't be surprised. After all, that's we we call them IDiots.

[Photo Credit: The photographs are from bill.srnr.arizona. The original source is unknown.]


_Arthur said...

Disney's nature movies where the racoon plays with the cute cougar cub, are never faked.

Torbjörn Larsson said...

Okay, I haven't read the paper in question. But it looks like those photographs only illustrate the differences in environments and camouflage, using a photo as a proxy for what a predator would see.

I assume that the creationist strawman falls back on their inability to understand how science is done and ultimately what science is. And it seems the "peppered moth myth" is still alive and kicking under the creationist circus tent. Faking a fake, how ironic.

Anonymous said...

As I understand the "controversy," the argument is over whether these moths spend their days on treetrunks (where Kettlewell placed them in his classic experiments) or, instead, prefer to sit on the undersides of large branches. A stupider argument is difficult to imagine.

A. Vargas said...

I think an important question is whether there can be color variation due to epigenetic causes, as is well- documented in several other lepidoptera. I say this becuase at the Majerus website he is very careful to stress that "under the same environmental condition" the color of biston depends on alleles. Makes you wonder, since traits certainly exist that only are inherited in mendelian fashion depending on environmental conditions.
So the predatorcan certainly affect the frequency, but there may be yet another, more "generative" factor involved as well.

TheBrummell said...

Wells' argument seems approximately equivalent to stating that we have no evidence that George W. Bush is president of the USA because all of the pictures I've seen of him, putatively in office as president, were staged in that the photographer was either invited to photograph Mr. Bush or waited for an opportunity at a publicised event. Staged, in either case, and therefore insufficient as evidence of Mr. Bush's appearance, style of dress, or current employment.

Why do I ever devote brain cells to thinking about the rantings of such people? I do just fine ignoring the muttering homeless guy who hangs out behind the bus depot, why can't I just ignore creationists?

noname said...

The Brummell: "Why do I ever devote brain cells to thinking about the rantings of such people? I do just fine ignoring the muttering homeless guy who hangs out behind the bus depot, why can't I just ignore creationists?"

I think we have the same problem. I wish I could ignore them.

Mark said...

If you liked the faked moth photos, you'll wet your pants over the faked caveman-kids riding dinosaurs diorama. I guess that fake proves Genesis has no answers.