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Of Moths and Men

  Of Moths and Men is a controversial book by the journalist Judith Hooper about the Oxford University ecological genetics school led by E.B. Ford. The book specifically concerns Bernard Kettlewell's experiments on the peppered moth which were intended as experimental validation of evolution. She highlights concerns about the methodology of Kettlewell's experiments which may invalidate the results obtained, but does not accuse Kettlewell of deliberate fraud.

Allegations of poor experimental practice

Hooper alleges several flaws in experimental methodology, including gluing the moths in place on parts of trees where they would not naturally settle, feeding birds heavily enough to condition them to expect feeding at that point, artificially boosting recapture rates, altering experiments (unconsciously) to favour the expected outcome, and errors in statistical analysis.

Historian of biology David Rudge (2005) has also carefully reexamined the records upon which Hooper's argument is based. He claims that her historical research is poor and she has fundamental misunderstandings about the nature of science.


The book was often well received in the mainstream media[1] but has been criticised in the scientific press. Writing in Nature, Coyne (2002) attacked Hooper's "flimsy conspiracy theory [of] ambitious scientists who will ignore the truth for the sake of fame and recognition [by which] she unfairly smears a brilliant naturalist". In Science, Grant (2002) critically summarised the book's content, saying "What it delivers is a quasi-scientific assessment of the evidence for natural selection in the peppered moth (Biston betularia), much of which is cast in doubt by the author’s relentless suspicion of fraud". Clarke (2003), who worked alongside Kettlewell at Oxford, described Hooper's book as "a treasury of insinuations worthy of an unscrupulous newspaper".


  1. ^ For example, a review in The Guardian.
  • Clarke, B. (2003). The art of innuendo. Heredity 90, 279-280.
  • Coyne, J. (2002). Evolution under pressure. Review of Judith Hooper: "Of Moths and Men: Intrigue, Tragedy and the Peppered Moth". Nature 418, 19-20.
  • Grant, B. (2002). Sour Grapes of Wrath. Science 297, 940-941.
  • Rudge, D.W. (2005) Did Kettlewell Commit Fraud? Re-examining the Evidence. Public Understanding of Science 14(3):249-268.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Of_Moths_and_Men". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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