Dawkins vs. Collins

Gnu atheists insist that Christianity and science are incompatible. Because of this template, they both call on scientists to join their war against Christianity and disparage scientists for not joining their war (See Dawkins video starting at 11:00 minutes and Victor Stenger’s attack on scientists ). One Gnu activist, Jerry Coyne, uses this template to launch continuous attacks on Francis Collins while praising Richard Dawkins. So that made me wonder. Just who has contributed more scientific knowledge to humanity? Francis Collins, who is an evangelical Christian? Or Richard Dawkins, who is the most famous atheist in the world?

Luckily for us, we can access their CVs on the internet.

Here is Francis Collins’ CV (warning: pdf file):

Here is Richard Dawkins’ CV(warning: pdf file) :

According to Collins’ CV, he has published 384 scientific papers from 1971 to 2007.
According to Dawkins’ CV, he has published 85 Articles and Small Books from 1968 to 2005.

This translates as Collins’ contributing an average of 10.3 scientific papers per year, while Dawkins contributed 2.3 articles and small books per year.

Among Dawkins’ 85 Articles and Small Books, I judged 34 to be promoting atheism and thus refer to this as “fluff.” Representative examples among these 34 are:

  • R. Dawkins (2004) What Use is Religion? Part 2, Free Inquiry
    August/September 2004, Volume 24: Issue 5, 11-12.
  • R Dawkins (2002) A Challenge to Atheists: Come out of the Closet, Free
    Inquiry, Summer 2002 Volume 22: Issue 4, 40-43.
  • R. Dawkins (1992). Lions 10, Christians Nil. New Humanist, 107, 2-3.

So let’s plot their respective publication records on a yearly basis, where I’ll split Dawkins scientific articles from his atheist “fluff”. The results are below the fold:

Clearly, Collins has contributed more scientific knowledge to humanity than Dawkins. In fact, we would be on more solid ground in arguing that Gnu activism is incompatible with science.

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28 Responses to Dawkins vs. Collins

  1. bbrown1 says:

    This is rather expected, as Dawkins is not really a scientist. It would be easy to find atheistic scientists whose publication record could match Collin’s. Of course, Dawkins being one of the leading proponents of atheism does put him in a special category and does make this analysis rather interesting.

    I suspect that a similar enquiry comparing the most original and deepest scientific thinkers would reveal a high degree of religious observance and faith in the Christian God. This has certainly been my observation after 35 years of basic molecular biology research and medical practice.

  2. Michael says:

    Hi bbrown,
    Yeah, I’m not making an atheist vs. christian point here. Like I said, given that Coyne stalks Collins while praising Dawkins, I wondered which of the two high profile scientists has actually used science to give us more new knowledge. And Collins surely comes out on top. In fact, what if we compared the publications of Collins alone vs. all the Gnu leaders? Collins vs. Dawkins + Myers + Harris + Stenger + Hitchins + Dennett + Coyne.

  3. bbrown1 says:

    Yes, Michael, indeed the point is a good one.
    I appreciate so much how you dug a bit deeper and came up with this. We need more of this type of effort.

  4. No way says:

    Did you asses quality of the publications, quantity is not all that matters.

  5. Boz says:

    This seems a bit tangential; surely of more importance is whether atheism or christianity or neither are factually true?

    s

  6. Leinad says:

    Sooo.. what did this have to do with anything again? Are we simply listening to the one with more numerous credentials? I always thought “quality over quantity” was the way to go, but I guess some people dont.

  7. Michael says:

    I see only one real objection.

    Quality, not quantity, matters. The problem with this argument is that a judgment about quality is ultimately subjective. Also, it would take too much work to make that type of judgment call in my free time. The bottom line is that Collins has generated more scientific knowledge than Dawkins. If someone wants to cling to the quality argument, then simply make the argument that Dawkins’ papers were of much higher quality than Collins. Unless that is done, the objection fails and it becomes just an excuse for not facing the truth.

  8. eric says:

    The incompatibility of science and religion is about how the two go about establishing the nature of the world, science through observation and evidence and religion with revelation. Not how many scientific papers someone publishes.

  9. Michael says:

    Eric,

    How many scientific papers someone publishes is a reflection of how much new knowledge has been generated by scientific inquiry. And as we can see, Collins has given us more scientific knowledge than Dawkins.

    I mention the “incompatibility of science and religion” because it is an intellectually lazy argument that creates the context for the Gnu attacks on Francis Collins.

    Are you trying to defend the “incompatibility” argument?

  10. eric says:

    Ok, Collins gave us more scientific knowledge. That’s great, I hope he keeps that up. I’m not arguing that.

    I mention the “incompatibility of science and religion” because it is an intellectually lazy argument that creates the context for the Gnu attacks on Francis Collins.

    Yes, Jerry Coyne criticises Collins for saying they’re compatible. That’s not just the context, like just an excuse to criticise, that is the criticism. How is it intellectually lazy?

    You start and end this post about the incompatibility of science and religion, so it sounds like it says they are compatible because a guy that thinks that produced more scientific knowledge. Especially the last sentence, “In fact, we would be on more solid ground in arguing that Gnu activism is incompatible with science.” That sounds like it says these Gnu atheists haven’t produced as much, so that means they’re wrong. Again, how does number of papers published show they’re compatible or not?

  11. eric says:

    And yeah, I do think they’re incompatible.

  12. Michael says:

    Eric,

    You start and end this post about the incompatibility of science and religion, so it sounds like it says they are compatible because a guy that thinks that produced more scientific knowledge.

    Me thinks you miss the irony. The guy who leads the movement that seeks to disparage religious scientists has actually produced less new scientific knowledge than the guy they viciously attack. Your ho hum attitude about this suggests you do not truly value scientific knowledge in of itself.

    Again, how does number of papers published show they’re compatible or not?

    Does it support the belief that they are incompatible?

    Let’s consider the incompatibility argument.

    Those who argue for incompatibility almost always support their case with nothing more than armchair philosophy. Y’see, there is another name for the data above, or the existence of thousands of scientists who are religious. It’s called ‘empirical reality.’ So the incompatibility argument does not derive its strength from empirical reality. It derives it strength from armchair philosophy and rhetoric. The irony goes on. And on.

    Let’s quote from Coyne’s USA article:

    Science operates by using evidence and reason. Doubt is prized, authority rejected. No finding is deemed “true” — a notion that’s always provisional — unless it’s repeated and verified by others. We scientists are always asking ourselves, “How can I find out whether I’m wrong?”

    I see none of that when it comes to the incompatibility argument. “Evidence and reason” serve the needs of Gnu confirmation bias. Doubt of the incompatibility argument is not prized, it is ridiculed and sneered at. The chest-thumping that comes with the incompatibility argument is anything but provisional. How could it be provisional when it serves an important purpose in the Movement? And I have never seen incompatibility advocates ask themselves “How could I find out if I am wrong about this issue?”

    So it would seem clear that if we are to take this armchair philosophy seriously, the incompatibility argument itself is incompatible with science.

    But it’s more than that. If one clings to the notion that religion and science are “incompatible,” then we should note the same reasoning would lead us to conclude that Jerry Coyne’s blog, PZ Myers blog, and Richard Dawkins web page are all incompatible with science. Wouldn’t you agree?

  13. bbrown1 says:

    David Bentley Hart’s “Atheist Delusions” is a refreshing read (.http://www.amazon.com/Atheist-Delusions-Christian-Revolution-Fashionable/dp/0300164297/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334585475&sr=8-1).
    I’m just reread the chapter on science, and it sure blows the lid off the popular mythology relevant to this debate, including the very recent absurd and historically illiterate false dichotomy between religion and science. I highly recommend it as just one antidote to the blatantly false narratives we hear everyday and have been taught. The forces against Christianity are pervasive and powerful. Takes some truly radical free-thinking, an open mind, and a bit of work to get to the truth.

  14. eric says:

    Michael,

    You’re saying these Gnus are incompatible with science because their claims aren’t based on evidence and reason. I’m glad we agree that if something makes a claim not based on evidence and reason, it’s incompatible with science.

    Since religion is not based on evidence, it is incompatible with science. The number of religious scientists and the number of scientific discoveries they make has nothing to do with the fact that religion isn’t based on evidence.

    That’s been my whole point.

  15. Michael says:

    Eric,

    Do you agree that advocacy of the incompatibility argument is incompatible with science?

    Do you agree that Coyne’s blog and Myer’s blog are incompatible with science?

    Do you agree that the New Atheist Movement is incompatible with science?

  16. Yea, because that’s how we measure a scientist’s credentials: by the sheer number of papers he’s published. I guess by that standard Newton was a piker. His Principia Mathematica wasn’t even peer-reviewed. For shame…

  17. Michael says:

    Er, yeah, publications are a fairly good objective measure. That’s why they are important parts of a CV and play a key role in getting tenure at research universities.

    Collins played a key role in the discovery of the genes involved in cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, and neurofibromatosis. New knowledge. It’s this amazing track record of scientific accomplishment which ultimately led to him heading the Human Genome Project. Dawkins? He made some money by writing popular science books, showing off his talent for coming up with new metaphors about previous knowledge.

    Today? Collins heads the NIH, while Dawkins is writing children’s books and autobiographies. Oh, he is also promoting some obscure anti-religious documentary he starred in.

  18. Thank you for demonstrating what an idiot you are to think that publications are more important than intelligence.

  19. Kevin says:

    I look forward to seeing your evidence-backed arguments that demonstrate
    A) Dawkins is more intelligent than Collins (hint: being an atheist is not evidence of this) and
    B) intelligence, which is nebulous at best, is a superior method of gauging a scientist than actual achievements and research in science.

  20. Yes, obviously believing in invisible sky-fairies is no more evidence about a person’s intelligence than belief in leprechauns, lizard people, “orbs,” Santa Claus or Planet X. Good one.

  21. TFBW says:

    I’m going to assume that “Francois Tremblay” is just a troll, and not a bona fide atheist. I might be wrong, but it’s the charitable, safe assumption.

  22. Dhay says:

    Michael > “Er, yeah, publications are a fairly good objective measure. That’s why they are important parts of a CV and play a key role in getting tenure at research universities.“

    A certain Professor Jerry Coyne agrees with you. Here’s a quotation from his January 24, 2012 blog entry entitled, “New and open science: the end of peer review?”, discussing the pros and cons of the scientific journal/peer review system:

    If there is no peer review of published papers, then there is no quality control, at least not beyond that made on posts following online publication. I myself have benefitted [sic] tremendously from the comments of reviewers, and also vet my papers to my colleagues before submitting them to journals.

    Peer review, however flawed, is a sign of professional acceptance and recognition, and peer-reviewed papers (like grants) are appropriate measures of professional success for promotion, tenure, and other ways to climb the scientific ladder.

    Coyne, in his September 1, 2011 blog entry entitled, “The racket of academic publishing”, says he himself tends to ignore papers not published in quality peer-reviewed journals:

    ”It outrages me as a scientist that I review papers for free (and this often takes an enormous amount of time), while the journals for which I review rake in huge gobbets of cash. It’s unfair to scientists, and it’s unfair to the taxpayers. I’m not sure how good a suggestion a single global “publication,” is, though—it would be nearly impossible for a scientist to winnow for good research, for we often direct our attention to those journals known to have stringent quality control and a history of publishing good papers. But at the very least, the public should have low-cost or free access to the research it funds.”

    He doesn’t think the system is wonderful, and criticises it strongly in his September 7, 2011 blog entry entitled, “Science’s publication frenzy—and a solution”, in which he states his pride that his own relatively low publication rate reflects rock-solid academic achievement:

    ”My own output has been modest: I have 119 peer-reviewed papers since I started graduate school, which works out to about 3.1 per year. On the other hand, I do have two books, and pride myself on not gratuitously slapping my name on my students’ papers—one reason why some scientists with big labs can have more than 600 publications in their lifetime!”

    Francois Tremblay > “Yea, because that’s how we measure a scientist’s credentials: by the sheer number of papers he’s published.”

    Coyne laments, in his September 7, 2011 blog entry entitled, “Science’s publication frenzy—and a solution”, that this is exactly what does happen:

    “Today almost nobody stands a chance of getting tenure at a major research institution without at least four or five papers per year, good or not. Numbers are important. When we were discussing how the administration at the University of Chicago regarded publications at tenure time, my friend Russ Lande told me, “They may count ‘em, and they may weigh ‘em, but they won’t read ‘em!””

    Francois Tremblay > “I guess by that standard Newton was a piker. His Principia Mathematica wasn’t even peer-reviewed. For shame…”
    “Thank you for demonstrating what an idiot you are to think that publications are more important than intelligence.”
    “Yes, obviously believing in invisible sky-fairies is no more evidence about a person’s intelligence than belief in leprechauns, lizard people, “orbs,” Santa Claus or Planet X. Good one.”

    I rather think that your inability to extend your responses beyond mere rant, and to give a thoughtful reply, reflects very badly upon your own intelligence.

  23. Michael says:

    Thank you for demonstrating what an idiot you are to think that publications are more important than intelligence.

    LOL! Thank you for demonstrating what an idiot you are to think I think publications are more important than intelligence.

    Look, Francois, it’s pretty clear you can’t follow the argument and are upset because your leader has been criticized. My suggestion is to a)take a breath and b) try to understand the argument that is being made.

  24. Dhay says:

    Francois Tremblay > “Yes, obviously believing in invisible sky-fairies is no more evidence about a person’s intelligence than belief in leprechauns, lizard people, “orbs,” Santa Claus or Planet X. Good one.”

    I recommend you read Michael Shermer’s, “The Believing Brain”, which is full of anecdotes about very intelligent people believing what Shermer classes as “weird things”.

    Or you could look up the Wiki entry on Shermer himself, who — though presumably an intelligent person, one awarded a history PhD — has believed in all sorts of New Age pseudoscientific woo, even down to ‘pyramid power.’ Are you claiming Shermer’s IQ jumped 50 points after he abandoned the woo — or do you perhaps claim Shermer’s IQ must have had to jump 50 points before he was intelligent enough to abandon the woo.

    Or you could look up the Wiki entry on Isaac Newton, surely a hyper-intelligence if ever there was one, who “…dedicated much of his time to the study of biblical chronology and alchemy…”.

    If you are proposing — as you seem to be — that intelligence and what you presumably consider “weird beliefs” are incompatible, Shermer’s book and personal example rather refute that; Newton likewise, and in spades.

  25. Kevin says:

    At this point I’m pretty sure he’s just a typical New Atheist, can’t do anything but throw out insults he found through internet memes or perhaps the books of his anti-theist heroes.

    Regarding the actual content of his response to me, I don’t really know what to say since neither Collins nor Dawkins, to my knowledge, believes in “invisible sky-fairies”. So perhaps he is thinking of someone else, or has changed the subject for some reason. I don’t know a whole lot of lore on invisible sky-fairies, so my contribution to such a discussion would be minimal, I fear.

  26. Shizzle-d says:

    Science and religion are incompatible? Tell that bogus lie to them or the inventor of the MRI who calls evolution or buckyballs discoverer who got a ticket to Christianity after investigating the story of evolution.

  27. Lewis Loflin says:

    Quote, “Science operates by using evidence and reason. Doubt is prized, authority rejected….”

    Now try that with climate change religion and watch the attacks.

  28. Rafael says:

    Shizzle-d > Or to the Catholic Priest who proposed the Big Bang Theory, which ironically every New Atheist ever attempts to use as evidence against God.

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