#2: Francis Collins vs. New Atheists

Since the year is winding down, I think I will repost the top 5 most popular blog entries from 2015.  The second most popular one was entitled, “Francis Collins vs New Atheists” and was posted on January 10, 2015.  In fact, this one has always been popular and was so the times it was posted in 2012 and 2013.  I think it’s because the irony is so delicious.  Anyway, coming in at #2 – 

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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This entry was posted in New Atheism, Science, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to #2: Francis Collins vs. New Atheists

  1. Although I am not fan of the term LOL, you’re modified graph did make me laugh out loud 🙂

  2. Oops, in my comment I meant, your graph, not you’re graph!

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