Collins vs. New Atheists

In my previous posting, we uncovered the ironic fact that while Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist, calls upon scientists to join his anti-religious culture war, Francis Collins, a biologist and evangelical Christian, has actually generated more scientific knowledge than Dawkins.

So what if we tried to help Dawkins by enlisting the work of his fellow Gnu leaders who are also biologists – Jerry Coyne, Sam Harris, and PZ Myers?  After all, these three men have viciously attacked Collins on the internet.  They publicly opposed Collin’s nomination to head the NIH by suggesting, without any evidence, that his religious faith would lead him to somehow harm the funding of scientific research.   Harris has claimed that Collins “has repudiated the scientific worldview” and is “a man who believes that understanding ourselves through science is impossible.”  He has also insisted:

There is no question but that nominally religious scientists like Francis Collins and Kenneth R. Miller are doing lasting harm to our discourse by the accommodations they have made to religious irrationality.

Coyne has accused Collins of being an “embarrassment to the NIH, to scientists, and, indeed, to all rational people” and an “advocate of profoundly anti-scientific beliefs.”  Myers calls him a “creationist dupe arguing against scientific theories” and “an amiable lightweight” who doesn’t know how to think like a scientist.

You would think that when these three biologists dish out their smug vitriol, it would come from a foundation of having generated more scientific knowledge than the religious guy.  But alas, such is not the case.

Recall that Collins has published 384 scientific papers from 1971 to 2007. I’m sure he has published since 2007, as that is where the CV on the web ends.  In fact, by searching through PubMed, a database that contains millions of scientific articles, it looks like he has published 483 papers.  But we’ll stick with 384 since there could be other “Collins FS” authors out there mixed in with the PubMed search results.

Again using PubMed, I was able to determine that Jerry Coyne has published a very respectable 88 papers from 1971 to 2011.  For Myers, I found only ten papers from 1984-1999.  For Harris, I did not bother with PubMed.  I used his own site where he promotes himself and his publications.

He has published two papers since 2009.

So let’s plot the data to see how well Collins matches up against these leaders of the New Atheist Movement (I only count Dawkins’ scientific articles and small books, not his atheist fluff):

My, none of the New Atheists even come close to generating the same amount of scientific knowledge. But hold on.  Could it be?  Let’s plot it another way:

Oh my flying spaghetti monster!  Collins has contributed more knowledge to the scientific community (and humanity) than Dawkins, Coyne, Myers, and Harris combined!

This calls for one minor modification of the pie chart:

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4 Responses to Collins vs. New Atheists

  1. Sas says:

    Nice finish haha 😛

  2. stcordova says:

    “You would think that when these three biologists dish out their smug vitriol, it would come from a foundation of having generated more scientific knowledge than the religious guy. But alas, such is not the case.”

    And then PZ Myers called the inventor of the Laser and Nobel Prize winner in physics Charles Townes a “fraud” after Townes won the Templeton prize for religion.

    Oh, and there are more. For example, John Harnett, a confessed YEC physicist has 200 scientific papers, 83 of which are in refereed journals, not to mention, he gets recognition where it counts, to the tune of almost 6 million dollars in scientific grants!

    Here is his research:
    http://www.uwa.edu.au/people/john.hartnett

    Future researchImproving cryogenic sapphire oscillators that use specially designed ultra-low vibration pulse-tube cryocooler technology.

    Development of low phase noise synthesis techniques to provide a low noise reference for standards labs and VLBI radio-astronomy.
    Funding received1.ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship, “New Secondary Frequency Standard for Space Applications,” (2001-2004), $56,234/year = $195,000
    2.ARC Linkage Grant, “High Performance Microwave Oscillators for Radars,” (2002-2004), ARC $412,108: PSI: $108,000
    3.UWA small grant, “Whispering-Gallery-Mode Sapphire-Dielectric Resonators with Exceptionally Enhanced Quality-Factor,” (2001) $19,740
    4.ARC Linkage International Grant, “Investigations and Characterization of New Materials for Wireless Communications,” (2002-2004), $23,190.
    5.Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship (60 days), with the National Measurement Institute of Japan, AIST, Tsukuba, Japan, (October-December 2003) JSPS: $14,600
    6. Communications Research Labs (CRL) UWA collaborative grant “H-Maser Cavity Design,” (2003) CRL: $23,000
    7.ARC Linkage International Grant, “Novel High-Q Resonant Structures for Space and Telecommunications,” (2005-2007) ARC: 30,000
    8.ARC Linkage International Grant, “Microwave Characterisation of New Magnetic and Dielectric Structures and Materials,” (2005-2007) ARC: 30,000
    9. ARC Discovery grant, “New High Precision Tests on the Standard Model of Physics and Relativity,” included my QEII Fellowship, (2005-2009) $913,000
    10.ARC Linkage grant, “Application of Femtosecond Light Sources to Generation of Low Noise Microwave Signals,” (2005-2009) ARC: $798,057, PSI:$ $165,000
    11.ARC Linkage Infrastructure and Equipment grant, “A Facility for Ultra-Precise Time and Frequency Transfer: Creating an Australian User Group for the ESA Atomic Clock Ensemble in Space Mission,” (2005) ARC: $242,000, UWA/Curtin University/French Collaborators $213,500
    12.National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), Japan, consultative grant, “Development of a Cryogenic Sapphire Oscillator,” (2005-2006): NICT $415,781
    13.UWA grant, “The Elimination of Dark Matter from Galaxy Clusters using Carmelian Cosmology,” (2006) $6,150.
    14.ARC Linkage Infrastructure and Equipment grant, “National Electromagnetic Characterization Facility for Advanced Materials,” (2007) ARC: $150,000
    15.ARC Discovery grant, “Extending the Spectrum and Performance of Ultra stable Frequency Generation,” (2008-2011) $1,016,542
    16.ARC Linkage grant, “Application of Ultra-High Stability Cryogenic Sapphire Oscillators to Very Long Baseline Interferometry” (2008-2011) ARC: $320,000, PSI: $75,235, RioTinto: $35,000, UWA: $32,000, Curtin University of Technology: $10,000, CSIRO: $5,000
    17.UWA Research Collaboration Award, “Measurements at the Quantum Limit and Beyond,” (2009) $10,000
    18.ARC Discovery Project, “Precision Time and Frequency in the Lab and in Space to Test Fundamental Physics,” (2010-2012) $750,000.
    19.Australian Academy of Science, Scientific Visits to Europe award (2010) $8100
    20. M.I.T. Haystack Observatory collaboration grant (2010-2011) $15,830.00

    Total from all sources: $5,717,153

  3. ChazIng says:

    Wonder how many atheist scientists it would take to achieve parity with Collins?

  4. stcordova says:

    Collins in Wiki:


    In 2005 Collins and Venter were also honored as two of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report and the Harvard Center for Public Leadership [21] Collins’s commitment to free, rapid access to genomic information helped to make all data immediately available to the worldwide scientific community.
    ….
    He has received numerous awards and honors, including election to the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. He was a Kilby International Awards recipient in 1993. In 2007, he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[25] And, in 2008, he was awarded the National Medal of Science.[26]
    [quote]

    Harris by comparison? Er, not much to say…but comparison of Collins to Harris inspired me to peruse Harris actual scientific work. It was interesting, but well…it hardly would qualify as anything worthy of Collins work as a PhD in Quantum Mechanics/Physical Chemistry plus being a MD geneticist…. (yup, Collins has a PhD and an MD)

    And what earth shattering science has Harris discovered. From his own paper:

    http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0007272

    A variety of experiments suggest that children are predisposed to assume both design and intention behind natural events—leaving many psychologists and anthropologists to believe that children, left entirely to their own devices, would invent some conception of God [47]. The psychologist Margaret Evans has found that children between the ages of eight and ten, whatever their upbringing, are consistently more inclined to give a Creationist account of the natural world than their parents are [48].”

    In otherwords, ID and creationism and religion aren’t just the products of parents forcing their ideas on kids, the propensity for belief in God is a hard-wired result of evolution. If that’s the case, the GNUs will have a never ending battle since they are fighting against the biological imperative for people to believe in God! As Mike said many moons, ago, Evolution is Cruel to Dawkins and Dennett. The perpetuity of religion isn’t soley from parents teaching religious ideas, it is rooted in biology. 😀

    Er, so, the GNU thesis that if we remove the parental influence of religion on kids, they will stop being religious. Not so. It appears there is STRONG evidence that atheism must be actively promoted in order to suppress the biological imperative toward belief in God.

    Here would be a fair followup research opportunity for Harris. Put GNUs to the test. Ask them: “Is Sam Harris a greater scientist than Francis Collins”. Harris after all presents himself as a better more rational scientist than Collins. In fact, why not have Harris do the experiment on himself to find out if his conviction is based on the neural parts of the brain associated with emotion versus reason.

    My scientific hypothesis is that the neural signature would indicate that those answering in the affirmative were using parts of the brain associated with emotion rather than reason. Of course, we know such research won’t be done even if funds were available.

    Or how about testng GNUs over Dawkins/Watson elevator gate. Let’s see how superior GNUs are in using the rational portions of their brain versus fundamentalists.

    The flaw in Harris’s methodology is the presumption that non-believers do not have religious beliefs. One religious belief is that Harris is a more rational individual than Collins, Harris said so himself…One objective way to settle it is for Harris to do a brain scan on his own brain (a brain subjet to 20 years of drug abuse which he justifies as some sort of rational exploration). Compare what Collins was doing in that same time frame while Harris was doped up and getting high on Easter mysticism.

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