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Discussion 1 to Meditation 807
The best of science, the worst of creationism

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For another example of evolution occuring "before our very eyes," consider the peppered moth. Because of a scientific dispute, creationists argued that the study of the peppered moth showed evolution was bad science. As this editorial from the December 8, 2007 edition of the New Scientist explains, the creationsists have been shown to be wrong.

IN 2000, a popular school textbook called Biology reluctantly dropped its prime example of evolution in action - industrial melanism in the peppered moth. Nothing in evolutionary biology had forced the change. The decision was entirely political, made in response to creationist attacks.

The loss of the peppered moth was a blow to science education in the US, as it is one of the easiest to understand examples of evolution by natural selection. So it is heartening to hear that biologists are fighting back. Thanks to their efforts, evidence that the moth is an example of evolution in action is more robust than ever.

This tawdry tale reveals much of what is good about science - and rotten about creationism. Creationists went gunning for the moth after a scientific disagreement over the fine detail of a seminal experiment done in the 1950s. They used the debate to portray the science behind industrial melanism as hopelessly flawed, if not fraudulent.

In response, one scientist patiently redid the experiment - it took him seven years. It is hard to think of another system of thought that is so stringently self-critical and self-correcting. In science, everything is provisional. There are no preordained answers and fresh ideas are always welcome, so long as their proponents are happy for them to be tested.

That is not how creationists work. They already know the answer. They seek only evidence that confirms their conclusion, and distort or ignore the rest. Such an unreasoned approach is worthless. Creationists will keep trying to undermine the theory of evolution. All science can do is continue, with dignity, to stick to its guns. As with the peppered moth, the best testable explanation will win out.