Interconnections everywhere

You really should take a closer look at this map of publication links between scientific disciplines. Here’s the description:


This map was constructed by sorting roughly 800,000 published papers into 776 different scientific paradigms (shown as pale circular nodes) based on how often the papers were cited together by authors of other papers. Links (curved black lines) were made between the paradigms that shared papers, then treated as rubber bands, holding similar paradigms nearer one another when a physical simulation forced every paradigm to repel every other; thus the layout derives directly from the data. Larger paradigms have more papers; node proximity and darker links indicate how many papers are shared between two paradigms. Flowing labels list common words unique to each paradigm, large labels general areas of scientific inquiry.

There’s an amazingly detailed version of the map available at Seed, and it visualizes an important point: all of the sciences are interconnected, sometimes very indirectly, but the contacts are there. When some clueless ideologue (like Michael Egnor, who is up to the same old tricks again) tries to split off a major subset and pretend it is irrelevant, he has to ignore the breadth of science.


  1. Winston the occasionally helpful bear says

    If you squint and look at it sideways, you can make out Jesus’ face!

    Or maybe it’s a bagel, I’m not sure.

  2. says

    “all of the sciences are interconnected” just as all of all is interconnected, well, at least the 4 or 5% of the “stuff” that physicists have or think they can identify, leaving 95% or more just plain unknown. Just think of the field day scientists will have when all “stuff” is known and you guys can start your probing and measuring and poking it with your instruments. Oh yes, please forward a cc of all findings to the monastery so that the brothers can get to work, after all, we do like our theology to be neat and clean, and certainly to fit any newly discovered truths.

  3. says

    I’m afraid that Egnor and Dembski will look at this map and say, “Ah hah! Can’t everyone see that ‘evolution’ does not appear on this map as a major subject? If the evolutionists are right, it ought to be somewhere between the section on genetics and the section on ecology. Isn’t evolution the central organizing principle of understanding life, according to evolutionists? I don’t see it. Do you? As you can tell, evolution has no influence at all on the health sciences section of this map. In fact, it’s not on the map at all!”

    They’ll then have to go and wash their hands.

  4. thwaite says

    it (evolution) ought to be somewhere between the section on genetics and the section on ecology.

    True, it’s not explicitly there – but what *is* right next to biology and ecology is ‘earth sciences’ – and closer to them than to its other neighbor, analytical chemistry.

    Wasn’t one of Egnor’s claims that geology didn’t say anything about evolution at all?

    Interesting graphic, btw.

  5. Terry says

    Years ago I used to teach a series of Sunday School lessons on Science and Religion, specifically what science is, what the evidence for evolution is, etc and why the fundamentalists are flat out wrong. For this latter point, I went to the local university library and measured bookshelves of books in chemistry, physics, geology, etc. I would photograph me in front of these shelves and make a nice slide of them for the class. I would then calculate based on percent of shelves filled plus number os shelves, etc. that the library might have had 40,000 volumes on science. I would then find the two or three random creationist books that they had. My point to the class was always that if these two or three creationists books are true, every one of those other 40,000 books is FALSE. I could almost see light-bulbs go off over people’s heads when they realized that.

  6. Steve says

    I don’t know who Egnor is, but it appears to me that he approaches medicine like a mechanic or technician. See a problem, check out probable causes and fix it. An MD can approach a problem like a mechanic but that doesn’t make him a scientist anymore than a mechanic is an engineer or physycist. Science is a “way”, not a “what” to paraphrase pianist Bill Evans

  7. MarkP says

    That map is fabulous, and illustrates the stark difference between science and pseudoscience. For while the sciences have a lot to say to and about each other, the pseudosciences have nothing to say to or about each other. Astrology, chiropractic, reflexology, creationism, magnet therapy, etc., have absolutely nothing to say to each other. It is as if they are nothing more than self-contained fictional stories with their own reality, which, of course, they are.

  8. Henry says

    Awww, they left my field off (granted it’s not a very big field). There should be a nice green biomechanics dot nestled between fluid mechanics, materials, and applied physics with a string of text about suction-feeding, running, flying, jumping, slithering, swimming, chewing, breathing, etc.

    Still, at least they put herpetology on there, so that’s something….

  9. says

    Wasn’t one of Egnor’s claims that geology didn’t say anything about evolution at all?

    Yikes! I missed that. I’m a geologist, and one reason I went into the field was because of my interest in evolution and paleontology. If Egnor really made this claim, he is a far more foolish twit than I thought he was. (If he did not make this claim, he is still foolish and deserving of scorn for the other, foolish claims he did make.)

  10. Kagehi says

    I have to agree with the statement that IDists will miss use this. What is needed is another map that overlays this one and shows where all the connections to Evolution are. I say overlay, since I seriously suspect the lines connecting it to everything on that list would look like something wove a spiderweb over the entire existing map, and it may have been excluded simply because it tended to make the map less readable. But, its still necessary to combat the stupid miss use that its going to get from IDiots.

  11. Leni says

    Holy crap. That was wild.

    Except from a “distance” it looks like a hairy web. Two of natures most frightening inventions combined into one. Ew.

  12. Wes says

    One interesting thing the map shows is not only where the interconnections are, but where some interconnections aren’t–how some fields are further away from others.

    I couldn’t help but notice that Social Sciences are several steps removed from the “hard” sciences (physics, biology, chemistry…). I’ve read a few of the sociological “critiques” of science, and couldn’t help but notice that they talk a lot about medicine and technology (two things close to their field on the map), but when they try to talk about science as a whole (including the theoretical sciences) they’re woefully uninformed when it comes to physics and biology (much further away on the map).

    That map seems to confirm what I’ve been suspecting for a while. The sociologists know a thing or two about the sciences most closely linked to the social world–medicine, computers, etc–but the more theoretical sciences they just don’t understand very well, because it’s so far removed from what they’re doing in their field.

  13. Chris says

    I was surprised to find biochemistry so far from organic chemistry. Of course I know that “organic chemistry” nowadays means “chemistry of carbon compounds” and doesn’t necessarily imply any connection to life, but since so much of biochemistry *is* carbon compounds, I would have expected more connection.

  14. Midwest Product says

    True story: several weeks back, my mom was flying into Minneapolis and by chance wound up sitting next to the guy who actually put together this map for the authors of the study. He had just gotten some large reprints back and gave my mom a couple, one of which she gave to me. So I now have an original poster of this chart hanging on my wall. I know that’s probably only exciting to me, but I still feel lucky to have benefitted from that totally random connection.

  15. thwaite says

    My bad on Egnor & ‘evolution vs geology’. He too may see no relationship, but what I was actually recalling was Margulis’s manifesto from the earlier page here about her blog tour in which she wrote:
    Neo-Darwinians biologists, for example, really believe that “evolution” is a subfield of biology, especially zoology. Hence they ignore the non-zoological components of evolutionary science (e.g., all of historical geology including especially paleontology; environmental science, ecology, atmospheric chemistry, microbiology, etc.)

    A counter-example: my own dissertation was on subspecific variation in anti-predator behaviors in California ground squirrels, and a large part of it dealt with the drainage of Corcoran lake from central california ca. 600kya which subdivided northern and southern populations at the present SF bay delta. As a bonus this event even provided a time calibration for the electrophoretic assays of genetic divergence we used. Geology was thus naturally involved in what started as a study of behavioral evolution.

  16. Dustin says

    PZ — great graphic. It’s going on my office door tomorrow morning, since it’s just the kind of thing I’m always getting on the other (more isolationist) graduate students about.

  17. LE says

    I live and work on the Isthmus of Panamá. Anyone who says that Geology and Evolutionary Biology don’t have anything to do with one another is an idiot. Geminate species? Vicariant events? Land bridges? For Pete’s sake, Darwin based his theory in part on his reading of Lyle!

    I agree with Kagehi. The only thing missing from that map is an overlay highlighting Evolution. It would take up about 2/3 of the total. Biology, Ecology, Earth Sciences, Virology, Microbiology, Cell Biology, Genetics, Medicine, BioChemistry, Math, Computer Science…

    Really, hard core Astrophysics and Social Sciences are the only areas I think would be left out (the latter only because I tend to think a lot of Evolutionary Psychology is silly, but that’s only my opinion).

  18. steve s says

    Very interesting post about the amount of shelf space by Terry. I remember from my philosophy of science classes, the professor saying the proof of a scientific revolution was in the amount of regular science it led to. That’s another sign that ID is wrong->they can’t even publish in their own journal!

  19. says

    Wes: Bunge and his students (like me) have advocated for a while now that the gap between the natural and the social is filled by the mixed sciences, which would include psychology, linguistics, anthropology and demography. (No doubt others, but those are the stock examples.)

    Chris: For some reason, biochemistry grew up inside medical schools, to the point that many universities have remarkably seperate departments of biochemistry and chemistry, only now being rejoined. At McGill, for example, the departments are something like a 10 or 15 minute walk apart. So I suspect that a lot of biochemistry is allied with physiology, for example, and not to (say) the synthesis of carbenes or something.

    What a great poster. Ordered one.