When Gnu atheists are confronted with the empirical fact that the popular Gnu scientists who continually attack Francis Collins have actually published fewer scientific studies than he has (even when we combine all their work), a common way to rationalize this is to assert “quality, not quantity, matters.” While it is true that quality matters, there is a serious problem with this rejoinder that renders it ineffective.
Y’see, if we shift our focus from quantity to quality, we are shifting from objective reality to subjective reality. For how does one objectively define and measure “quality?” It would seem to me that “quality” is in the eye of the beholder. Must the study represent a breakthrough that serves a current paradigm? Must it entail a novel shift in the way we look at some problem? Can it be just a solid experimental design that produces meaty data? Can it simply replicate and thus confirm an earlier study? Everyone will have an opinion on this and that’s the problem – they will be opinions. Subjective judgments based on biases and personal values.
As it turns out, the inherent irony of the simple little analysis continues to spawn further layers of irony. For in this case, the Gnus, who proclaim strict and total adherence to “objective reality” that is delivered by “objective evidence,” want to retreat into the realm of subjectivity.
And why do I get the feeling some folks are desperately looking for ways to overcome their cognitive dissonance? I would not be surprised to learn that some Gnu, some place, is already trying to come up with a response that doesn’t smell like rationalization.
He might, for example, begin by envisioning a result like this in his mind:
In this case, IPQC would stand for “Invisible Pink Quality Coefficient.” The trick would then be to look for some metric that can represent the IPQC. Look here, look there, look everywhere. For if that metric could be found to support the preconceived conclusion, why then, the Gnu could really shout “Quality, not Quantity, matters!”
In the meantime, we’re left only with the implication that the IPQC graph above is real. But the community that sells itself as having some deep commitment to evidence needs to get to work. Perhaps, for example, someone will take Sam Harris’s two papers and find a way to claim their Great Quality eclipses the sum total of Francis Collins’ accomplishments. After all, two unicorns are worth more than 384 horses any day, right?