Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The proof of the Truth is in the citation index…

A lost letter I came across in the historical archives dated November 30th 1871

Dear Gregor,

One of the hallmarks of science is that it is fruitful. A good scientific paper will usually lead to much work along the same lines, work that confirms and extends the results, and work that produces more new ideas inspired by the paper. Although citation counts are not completely reliable metrics for evaluating scientific papers, they do give some general information about what papers are considered important.

Pea factorization advocates like to point to lists of “peer-reviewed publications” advocating their position. Upon closer examination, their lists are misleading, packed with publications that are either not in scientific journals, or that appeared in venues of questionable quality, or papers whose relationship to pea factorization is tangential at best. Today, however, I’d like to look at a different issue: the fruitfulness pea factorization work. Let’s take a particular Pea factor publication, one that was trumpeted by a religious nutcase as a “breakthrough”, and see how much further scientific work it inspired.

The paper I have in mind is your paper Experiments on Plant Hybridization, which was published, amid some controversy, in the relatively obscure journal Proceedings of the Natural History Society of Brünn in 1865.

What I want to do here is look at every scientific publication that has cited your paper to determine whether your work can fairly said to be “fruitful”. I used the ISI Web of Science Database to do a “cited reference” search on your article. This database, which used to be called Science Citation Index, is generally acknowledged to be one of the most comprehensive available. The search I did included Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index. Even such a search will miss some papers, of course, but it will still give a general idea of how much the scientific community has been inspired by your work.

I found exactly 0 citations to your paper in this database. Of these, counting generously, exactly 0 are scientific research papers that cite you approvingly!

I hope that you will see how foolish it is for religious nutcases to pretend to be involved in real science and that you will content yourself with simply growing peas and singing hymns in your monastery.

Yours scoffingly,



Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

I acknowledge Cedric Katesby's stimulus for this post:

"There's an article on ID that has just come up.
It touches on a theme that you and I discussed before.
After over twenty years, it's not going to suddenly get any better."

5:24 pm  
Blogger Psiloiordinary said...

I'm not going to comment on this one either.



7:39 pm  
Anonymous Hrafn said...

Dear Andrew,

Your comparison is blatantly, egregiously and dishonestly invalid.

1) That Mendel's (unlike ID's self-serving and arid bloviation) has been MASSIVELY fruitful, is witnessed by the fact that it is still being discussed over a century later (see for example 'Mendel’s dwarfing gene: cDNAs from the Le alleles and function of the expressed proteins', David N. Martin, William M. Proebsting, and Peter Hedden, PNAS August 5, 1997 vol. 94 no. 16 8907-8911).

2) That Mendel's actual paper is not frequently *directly* cited can be attributed to its age. Most direct citations today will be to papers that are built upon (several generations of) elaborations of his work.

ID is neither theoretically nor practically fruitful. It leads to no new avenues of research nor practical inventions. Its sole purpose is religious apologetics.

5:42 am  
Anonymous Cedric Katesby said...

Andrew, feel free to delete this post.
Just wanted you to check out the video.

7:16 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...


You have missed my point entirely. I put a date for this lost letter... November 30th 1871. Mendel's work was completely ignored until 1900. The point was that important new ideas can be deemed unimportant because of the prevailing intellectual atmosphere.

I acknowledge that there is a difference between ID and Mendel in that Mendel's theory was based on a single set of beautiful results.

ID is more of a different intellectual approach and vision.

There are however real parrallels - many argue that it was the fascination with Darwin's idea that resulted in minds being shut to Mendels theory.

The history does however show that there can be a long delay before the importance of a theory becomes obvious.

12:30 pm  
Anonymous Cedric Katesby said...

Truth In Science.
Helping British children become ignorant.
One falsehood at a time.

8:42 am  
Anonymous Cedric Katesby said...

Dear Andrew,
This video has come to my attention.
Thought you might be interested.

2:56 pm  

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