The return of the peppered moth

Last week's edition of BBC Radio 4's The Material World (which you can listen to online here) began with an excellent interview with Professor Mike Majerus, the geneticist and lepidopterist who first identified weaknesses in some of Bernard Kettlewell's classic experiments investigating industrial melanism in peppered moths, along with Jerry Coyne, who first wrote about Majerus's findings in Nature magazine.

The interview explains how the experimental weaknesses were blown out of all proportion by creationists, who saw the flawed experiments as somehow disproving evolution. It goes on to explain how Majerus has painstakingly repeated Kettlewell's experiments, having carefully removed the flaws, and verified Kettlewell's original findings. It also makes a lie of the claim often made against evolution that it is unscientific because it makes no predictions by predicting that industrial melanism in moths will continue to decline in the UK, now that the air is a lot cleaner, whereas it will start to rise in countries where pollution is on the rise, such as China and India.

A fascinating programme. (The second half contains an interview with the recent winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine, Sir Martin Evans, which is also pretty interesting.)

Richard Carter, FCD

Writer and photographer Richard Carter, FCD is the founder of the Friends of Charles Darwin. He lives in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire.WebsiteNewsletterMastodonetc…

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