Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Vox Day: Christianity is more “scientific” than “New Atheism” (because a Christian scientist published more papers) [updated]

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Francis Collins
Francis Collins

It’s been too long since I made an actual post featuring the brain-droppings of my favorite whetstone, Vox Day. Here’s his latest amusingly inane attempt at showing how the “New Atheism” is supposedly less scientific than Christianity, or something:

Christianity is more scientific than New Atheism

And it's not hard to conclusively prove it. Shadow to Light shines a big spotlight on the intrinsic absurdity of the New Atheist attacks on religion in general and Francis Collins in particular:

[Summary: Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers criticize Francis Collins for his evangelical god-botting, yet Collins has published 384 scientific papers from 1971—2007, whereas PubMed only lists 88 papers for Jerry Coyne from 1971—2011 and 10 papers for PZ Myers from 1984—1999, and Sam Harris’s own website lists two papers since 2009.]

In other words, it's obviously not Christianity that hinders science. Collins has not only produced considerably more science than his critics, he has published more than twice as many papers as Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, PZ Myers, and Sam Harris combined. He has published infinitely more scientific papers than the late Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Michael Shermer, all of whom have nevertheless made similarly false claims about the incompatibility of Christianity and science.

As is so often the case, the atheist argument is based entirely on incorrect logic and not on the empirical evidence that they claim - also falsely - to value so highly.

Because, obviously, the best – or maybe even only! – metric for measuring a scientist’s worth is by looking at the sheer quantity of publications to their name, as opposed to such comparatively trivial things as quality, substance, overall usefulness, or even if said papers were peer-reviewed to begin with. And any so-called person of science who chooses instead to focus their time and energy on other tasks such as science education and public advocacy, not to mention raising awareness for the increasingly decrepit state of science education and communication in the United States, is really just a total fraud if they haven’t added a few hundred papers to PubMed’s archives, amirite?

But even beyond that hilarious incongruity, the very idea that any given scientist’s religion, particularly Francis Collins’s Christian faith, has anything to do with their worth or credibility as a researcher is laughable. No-one (including Coyne or PZ) is denying that Collins has conducted and published some brilliant and tremendously worthwhile scientific research. That was never the point of their criticisms (which one would notice never touched on Collins’s actual work), but rather that Collins continually attempts to chalk up any number of evidently non-supernatural phenomena to “Goddidit”. His work, in itself, is fine; his ultimate conclusions are what other scientists are complaining about.

As is often said, a scientist doesn’t need to be an atheist in order to nonetheless do good science. After all, Sir Isaac Newton himself set forth some of the very foundations for modern scientific knowledge despite being what might charitably be called a complete kook. But it does speak against a scientist’s ability to see the world through a lens untainted by the fog and muck of magical thinking when they start bringing gods and other fairies into the mix. That is the bone often picked by PZ, Coyne and others concerning Collins. It’s both ludicrous and dishonest to then try and twist this into some sort of conflict between religion and atheism, or better yet, into supposed evidence for the risible notion that Collins is a better scientist than PZ, Coyne & co. because of his Christianity. God-belief is a drawback, not a virtue, and nowhere is this made more evident than in science.

UPDATE: 04/18/12 5:23 PM ET —

Xuuths in the comments adds a couple of excellent points I missed:

Dr. Collins did not publish all those papers himself based solely on his own work -- his name is included because he happened to be the head of the department, frequently doing absolutely none of the work (perhaps even hindering in the work efforts) but still being listed.

Dr. Collins was not using his christianity when he was doing science -- he never once used prayer to get results, or the urim/thummim to discern results, or private divine revelation to get results, or the holy spirit to get results, or intercession by angels/cheribum/seraphim to get results. No annointing with oil, laying on of hands, or claiming victory in the name of jesus. No application of scripture, no speaking in tongues, and nothing religious.