What is the Name of This Fallacy?

April 10, 2007 psipsina

The Bug BitesTM Endangered Species chocolate I enjoyed after lunch came with a little picture of the Green Snout Moth enclosed.  On the back, it says, “It is interesting to ponder why moths that are primarily active at night would employ such varied coloration.”

Oh, really?  Why is it so interesting?  Why should the moth’s nocturnal habits have anything to do with its coloration?  Do we think it’s odd that it’s such a bright green because no one can see that at night when it’s active?  And if so, are we not assuming that critters have the pretty colors they have just so us diurnal critters can look at them?

I guess I’d call it the “man is the measure of all things” fallacy.

Really, you’d think an organization that’s trying to raise awareness about dwindling genetic diversity would understand something about natural selection.  That is to say, the features of an animal are not designed for our benefit; they are shaped over many generations of natural selection to fit themselves to an available environmental niche.

To redeem itself, the author of the little snippet does go on to say that a vivid green moth has this coloration because – surprise! – it’s gotta sleep somewhere, and it’s better if it can blend in with its surroundings so some hungry diurnal bird won’t snap it up.  That is to say, the coloring is useful to the animal; the fact we find it pretty is just a nifty little side effect.

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Entry Filed under: biology, bugs, chocolate, moths, natural selection, Uncategorized

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