Of Moths and Men Revisited

A Darwinian debate

In the September/October issue of Books & Culture, Jonathan Wells reviewed Judith Hooper's book, Of Moths and Men, a critical account of the notorious peppered moth experiments. Two scientists whose work was criticized by Wells respond in a letter below.

In his review of journalist Judith Hooper's book Of Moths and Men in Books & Culture ["The Peppered Myth," September-October 2002], Jonathan Wells made several incorrect and misleading statements about both the science behind Hooper's book and (for no apparent reason) our review of his book, Icons of Evolution.  We write to correct these misrepresentations.

In the first place, our review of his book (Quarterly Review of Biology, March 2002) was written by both of us, not just Padian. In it, Wells claims, we implied that he was a sociopath by comparing him to the main character in the film The Talented Mr. Ripley. We did no such thing. Rather, we compared the similar use of a rhetorical device in both works, as our original passage shows:

When we first meet the protagonist of the film The Talented Mr. Ripley, he is playing piano at a rooftop party in New York City.  As the song finishes, an older man approaches and, observing Ripley's Princeton blazer, remarks that Ripley must have been at school with his son, Dickie.  Sensing an opportunity, Ripley does not mention that the blazer is borrowed from another guest, nor that he did not attend Princeton, but only worked there.  He merely asks, "How is Dickie?"
This kind of distortion, misleading by the omission of important information, is the basis of Icons of Evolution. …

We supported our comparison with copious examples.  And we made no further reference to scenes in the film.

Wells characterizes Ripley as a sociopath, but those ...

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