Evolution triumphs over photosynthesis
In general, I don't want to waste time responding to tired old creationist criticisms of evolutionary theory that have already been refuted elsewhere (such as here or here) -- criticisms backed by new data would be another story -- but I do need to address one issue that could undermine my ability to find a paper to discuss each week. Some creationists have suggested that scientists are increasingly rejecting evolution. Actually they've been saying this for a long time. Is my paper pipeline drying up?
As a scientist, my own impression is rather different. The main change I've seen over the last 20 years has been an increase, not in the percent of research biologists who accept the basic principles of evolution (never quite 100%), but rather in the percent of research that explicitly uses those principles in trying to understand life on earth, past and present. In other words, rather than just asking "how does photosynthesis work?", more scientists are now asking questions such as "how many times did this type of photosynthesis evolve, when, how, and why?"
But personal impressions can be misleading, so I went looking for data. I searched Science Citation Index for papers with "evolution" in the title or abstract. That gave a lot of papers on evolution of stars, etc., so I limited the search to papers that had both "evolution" and "species." This leaves out a lot of evolution papers -- for example, some medical researchers are more likely to report the "emergence" of antibiotic resistance (from a hole in the ground, presumably) -- but I'm mainly looking for trends over years. What I found was more than a 100X increase in evolution papers per week, between 1975 and 2005.
Could this just reflect an overall increase in biological research over this period, or maybe an increase in the availability of computer-searchable abstracts? To test these hypotheses, I used papers with "photosynthesis" as a control. Photosynthesis papers increased also, consistent with an overall growth in research, but much less than evolution papers did. Photosynthesis papers outnumbered evolution papers 20:1 in 1975, but by 2005 evolution papers outnumbered photosynthesis papers by more than 2:1. So the scientific importance of evolution is increasing relative to photosynthesis, but both are very active areas of research. I'll have plenty of papers to choose from.
You can also download the JPG file: