Dueling Halls of Fame

This is an awesome coincidence. The availablity of all those quantifiable metrics extracted by Google Books has fueled the establishment of a Science Hall of Fame, which lists scientists by an objective measure of their fame, the frequency with which they are cited in books. It was announced in Science, where they also introduced a new unit of measure, the milli-Darwin.

To be able to compare scientists to one another, it is helpful to have a standard unit of fame. I proposed one that would make this kind of fame easy to comprehend: the Darwin. It is defined as the average annual frequency that “Charles Darwin” appears in English-language books from the year when he was 30 years old (1839) until 2000. Because it is such a big unit of fame, it has proved more convenient to use one-thousandth of that frequency: the milli-Darwin, abbreviated as mD.

Here’s the list of over 4,000 famous scientists. Some of them aren’t famous for science — Lewis Carroll, for instance — but all are notable people.

So where’s the coincidence? It turns out that on the same day the Science Hall of Fame was announced, a small gang of loons announced the Creation Science Hall of Fame, “Honoring those who honored God’s Word as literally written in Genesis.” There are a few differences between the two halls. The creation science group, unsurprisingly, is begging for money: they want $4 million in donations. Why? They want to build a physical monument somewhere in the neighborhood of the Creation “Museum,” which sounds like a horrible idea to me. It would create a black hole of concentrated stupidity in the heart of Kentucky that might destroy the world!

Another difference is that they aren’t using any kind of objective metric to identify famous creationists — apparently, they just look around and pick someone from the godly pantheon. So far, they’ve got two: Henry Morris and Duane Gish. Two against the 4,000+ in the Science Hall of Fame. Sounds about right, although zero would be a better number.

Also, opening up the door to scrutiny like that just means the scientists will use the Google microscope to examine the creationist nominees. It doesn’t look good. Creationists like to compare Gish to TH Huxley — “Gish has been called ‘creationism’s T.H. Huxley,” says Wikipedia — but now we can actually compare Gish and Huxley. Huxley gets 102mD. Gish gets 5.

No contest. It was very nice of the creationists to step into the arena and get such a drubbing, though.