Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dawkins is not a scientist

The fuse of his opponents was lit once again. This time it was Richard Dawkins who exploded. In a review in Prospect magazine titled The Descent of Edward Wilson, Dawkins accused Wilson of "wanton arrogance" and recommended potential readers to throw the book aside "with great force". 
In a long conversation from his office at Harvard, where he is emeritus professor at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Wilson, though clearly annoyed and more than happy to hit back at his detractors, sounds as though he is enjoying himself. 
"Would you like to talk about Dawkins?" he continues – and when I say yes, he laughs. "I hesitate to do this because he's such a popular guy, but Dawkins is not a scientist. He's a writer on science and he hasn't participated in research directly or published in peer-reviewed journals for a long time. In other words, there is no Wilson-versus-Dawkins controversy: it's Wilson versus … well, I could give you a goodly list of other scientists doing peer-reviewed research."

1 comment:

  1. Wilson is overstating it. But he's right about Dawkins' publishing record.(

    I can't find any other place where any newer publications are listed, and there are some. So this is certainly out of date. I don't expect there to be much of a difference though. You can see here that around the mid-90s, his publication venue has dropped in significance - which is not to say that he is publishing less. His only other publications that might be thought to have any scholarly value are in edited books, which the editors probably asked him to write for - and since Dawkins' name will draw in sales, sloppiness will be tolerated. The only exception might be his 2004 Biology & Philosophy article. But that was a response article, and who knows what standards the editors made him go through. It should have been obvious to the referees that the author was Dawkins - yeah, yeah, blind review, as if that's always a thick veil of anonymity.

    The upshot of this is that Dawkins is less relevant to scholarly communities than he likes to think of himself.