Back to previous page

Moth Mayhem
The Case Long Been Closed
By Jordan P. Niednagel
© - 10/03

I couldn't believe it. I simply could not believe it. There I was, having an informed debate with a well-known evolutionist, when suddenly he reverted to it. Was he just joking? No, he was serious. But how? Didn't everyone know by this time that it was a hoax? A fraud? A cleverly devised "experiment"? But it was on that day when I realized that proposed truth, when falsified, can remain truth for an awfully long time. People are uninformed, unconvinced, or unbelieving, but whatever they are, they are ignorant. Please understand; ignorance can be on purpose, or by mistake, and with this article I hope to inform our readers regarding the truth about the supposed Peppered Moths of England. Whether you're familiar or unfamiliar with this subject, I ask that you read, because the case, to anyone informed, has long been closed.

His name was H.B. Kettlewell, and at first his theory and experiments seemed very straightforward. During the Industrial Revolution, England, home to Peppered Moths (Biston betularia), underwent a disastrous change. Skies grew pale, air became dense, and interestingly, pale lichen covering tree trunks the country over were widely killed off, thus darkening them, because of the intense pollution. Kettlewell observed this, and also noticed that the lighter form of Peppered Moths, which at one time were more common, were now less common. In there place, amazingly, were the darker form of Peppered Moths. What had happened?

One theory made perfect sense. Whereas before hungry birds ate the darker moths because the pale lichen on the trees exposed them, now the birds ate the lighter moths because the dead, dark lichen now exposed them. Kettlewell's experimental observations were supposed to have shown that this is indeed what happened. Then, not much later, as the the pollution began to go away, the tree trunks reverted to their lighter color again, so that the light moths resting on the tree trunks were, as before, camouflage, and the darker moths were, as before, exposed.

Photographs, in fact, were taken of the dark and light forms resting themselves on the tree trunks. To further support the case, birds were even filmed picking off the less camouflaged forms. Yes, it was natural selection in action.

What's The Significance?

Before proceeding further, something important must be pointed out. Whether the experiments of Kettlewell were valid or not, it simply does not matter. Natural selection is not denied by creationists, nor is it a key argument for evolutionists. L. Harrison Matthews, a well-known biologist, wrote in the foreword to the 1971 edition of Darwin's Origin of Species that the Peppered Moth observations did not show evolution in action, but rather natural selection, which creationists readily adhere to. They are mutually exclusive, and should not be confused as one and the same. If anything, natural selection preserves the genetic information already present, much like an assembly line with motor vehicles. It is not a changing force, turning an animal from one kind to another. In fact, natural selection is an important part of the creation model, being discussed by Edward Blyth 25 years before Darwin.

The Plot Thickens

When people soon found out that Peppered Moths do not actually rest on tree trunks in the day time, but rather hide under leaves in treetops, the hoax began to unravel. It turned out that the photographs of light and dark moths resting on a tree trunk were faked by pinning and gluing dead moths onto logs and trunks, and that the moths were either dead or came from the laboratory to be used in the supposed "filmed experiments."

This is fact. This is truth. If ever anyone brings Peppered Moths to the forefront in a discussion, know then and there that they haven't done their homework. Interestingly, Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago said that finding out the moth story was wrong was like when he found that it was actually his father who was bringing in the Christmas presents when he was 6 years old. For many, the Peppered Moths were once a trusted evolutionary weapon.

The story does not stop here, however. According to many sources, it appears that the proportion of dark to light moths did in fact rise and fall in response to the rise of industrial pollution. The argument is this: Was this due to differential predation? Did birds really change their menu from light to dark moths? This has yet to be concluded.


The conclusion is this: We began our story with genetic information present for dark and light moths. We continued our story with genetic information present for dark and light moths. Lastly, we ended our story with genetic information present for dark and light moths. The moths remained moths, whether light or dark. In other words, the only thing that happened was that the relative numbers of each went up or down. Evolution was and is not a factor, nor does it need to be mentioned. The Peppered Moth mayhem raises clouds of smoke that need not be disturbed, so that we may see clearly in order to move on to more significant issues. The case has been closed, and hopefully will remain that way for a long, long time.



1. Hooper, J., Of Moths and Men: Intrigue, Tragedy & the Peppered Moth, Fourth Estate, London, 2002.
2. Darwinism in a flutter, The Guardian (UK), 11 May 2002, p.10.
3. Carl Wieland, M.B., B.S., The Moth Files, Creation, pp. 14-15, December-January, 02-03.

Available online at