Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Positive Discrimination

Pharyngula has been hosting a discussion (also here) on the New York Times series on intelligent design creationism (ID). Many of the arguments have already been aired. Let me just say that I maintain my opinion that Kenneth Chang's piece was terrible, even though I understand his arguments. Just because the piece wasn't written for me, doesn't mean I can't criticize it for its unfair balancing of positions. As poke commented in that discussion, the problem is that the piece treats the "debate" as if it was occurring within science.

To illustrate this, let's analyse the list of scientists featured in the article on each side. How influential are they really? One way to judge is to look at how many papers they've written and how many times these papers have been cited. Here's the data from ISI Web of Science since 1988. Note that this includes all kinds of papers, not just ones on evolution.

In the case of the IDers we have:
  • Axe: 8 papers, 169 citations
  • Behe: 33 papers, 317 citations
  • Dembski: 5 papers, 4 citations
  • Meyer: 3 papers, 4 citations
(Have you noticed how they are always referred to as "theorists"? I wonder why that is?)

On the evolution corner, we have:
  • Bottjer: 62 papers, 791 citations
  • Doolittle: 110 papers, 4719 citations
  • Erwin: 58 papers, 989 citations
  • Lenski: 115 papers, 4314 citations
  • Miller: 18 papers, 388 citations
As for Darwin and Paley, here's a simple comparison of their stature in modern science. Paley's Natural Theology has been cited 141 times since 1988. Darwin's Origin alone (in either the 1859 or 1872 editions), has been cited 2632 times.

I believe the NYT should do better when they report on a disagreement between Behe and Doolittle or Lenski, or between Meyer and Erwin or Bottjer. Equal time just doesn't cut it.