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Empire' - a letter to the author
By Richard Gunther
to the author of the book 'Alien Empire')
I recently purchased ‘Alien Empire’ and was very impressed by the
interesting information and beautiful photographs in the book. As a keen
collector of research material, your book will have its place on the shelf.
However, I had a problem with something I read on page 34, 35 and 38,
about the peppered moth. I have come across this example of natural selection
before, in school text books and at least two encyclopedias, but the conclusions
which all these articles, and your article, reach have never satisfied me.
As you correctly pointed out, the blackening of the trees should have
given the darker moth an advantage over the lighter moth. I have read about
H.B.Kettlewell, who performed most of the original studies on the moth. He said,
if Darwin had seen the results of his work “He would have witnessed the
consummation and confirmation of his life’s work” (Kettlewell 1959,
Scientific America, 1978 page 3)
But surely, all Kettlewell proved was that gene frequencies have shifted
back and forth? The same moth, which can express a gene which gives it a light
colour or a dark colour, is still the same moth, with the same genes? If a new
gene had been produced, due to the arrival of industrial soot on the trees, we
would have a clear example of evolution, but as far as we know, the moth has no
new genes, so no evolution has occurred.
I have also read something written by L.Harrison Matthews, a biologist
who wrote the foreword for the 1971 edition of Darwin’s ‘Origin of the
Species’. He said, on the subject of the peppered moth, that it showed natural
selection but not “evolution in action”.
Also, British scientist Cyril Clarke has investigated the peppered moth
for 25 years. He said he saw only 2 moths in their natural habitat by day. He
says that Kettlewell and others attracted the moths into traps in the forest by
night, using a light, or released female pheromones. In each case the moths were
seen only at night. (C.A.Clarke ‘Evolution in reverse : clean air and the
peppered moth’ Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society 26:189-199. 1985)
The moths being filmed eaten by the birds were laboratory-bred ones
placed onto the tree trunks by Kettlewell. They were so languid they had to be
warmed up – on the car bonnet – before they were stuck to the trees. Dead
moths stuck to tree trunks hardly proves that moths settle by day on tree
Theodore Sargent – University of Massachusetts biologist – helped
glue the moths. He has now admitted that textbooks and films have featured “a
lot of fraudulent photographs” (J.A.Coyne ‘Nature’ 396 (6706):35-36 and
The Washington Times Jan.17th 1999 page D8)
But there is another aspect to what you wrote in ‘Alien Empire’ which
I have a problem with – about Gregor Mendel. You seem to think that the
peppered moth “demonstrates the inheritance of discrete factors or genes” in
the sense that genes may become mixed, producing new combinations which will
then be passed on to future generations. This is not what Mendel discovered.
What Mendel proved, years before Darwin published, was that genes are
never blended. Traits in parents are inherited by the offspring, make a
temporary association only in the offspring, and in subsequent generations the
genetic material separates into the distinct units that were present in the
Darwin believed in blending inheritance, but Mendel had already proved
that this did not happen. When Mendel’s work was rediscovered in the early
1900s the initial reaction was against Darwin.
Mendel’s studies clearly established the stability of plants and
animals. He also showed that traits which were not present in the parents but
which appeared in the offspring were not ‘new’ at all, but had been present
in the parent’s ancestors. The information to produce the trait was present in
the genetic material all along, but it was hidden because of the dominance of
another trait. Mendel’s work showed that natural selection alone cannot bring
about a new trait, let alone a new species.
You say that “The process of natural selection has now been amply
demonstrated by observation and experiment . . .” To a certain extent this is
true. Natural selection is a powerful mechanism, which sorts out the strongest
from the weakest, and the best-adapted from the less adapted. Natural selection
helps organisms to survive in a changing environment. But if you think natural
selection is a mechanism whereby evolution occurs, the evidence is lacking. All
natural selection does is ‘shuffle’ pre-existing genes. It never produces
new information, or new genetic material.
A second theory has been proposed, that mutations provide the new
material, but in every observed case, mutations have been either lethal, or they
have worked against the best interests of the organism – unless it has been
placed in an abnormal environment to protect it. Mutations usually amount to
removal of or confusion of information, so they have never been shown to be a
viable mechanism behind evolution.
I think it is a terrible shame that millions of people believe in natural
selection as a cause for evolution when this has never been demonstrated. So
many people have been indoctrinated with so-called ‘proofs’, which are in
fact fraudulent (as in the case of Kettlewell and others), or a mixture of
half-truths and philosophy. The lack of real, solid evidence is a shameful
aspect of the noble pursuit which we call Science.
I am open-minded enough to recognize genuine proof of evolution when I
see it, yet, over the last 30 years, I have never seen any proof. Every
so-called proof is lacking. Natural selection (or survival of the fittest)
produces no new genetic information. All it does is modify already existing
information. No new DNA appears. Animals may seem to show evolution, but all
they are doing is expressing genes which were not, until that moment, dominant.
Suppressed genes are not evidence of evolution because they are already there.
Thanks to the variety of genes already available within an organism,
there is room to adapt, to change, to modify, but never beyond the strict limit
imposed on the organism by the genes. It is a case of “This far but no
One illustration of this might be the spectrum of visible light. There
are seven colours in a rainbow, and all the colours we see are different
combinations of these seven. No new colours are ever produced, because the
primary limit is always seven.
It is a truly remarkable thing how Science constantly affirms the truth,
yet scientists constantly deny it.
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