"Rank amateurs" on t.o. - some statistics
Post of the Month: March 1998
by Sverker Johansson
In a recent discussion, our favourite Professor of Mathematics claimed that much discussion on t.o. was
>PN: ...by rank amateurs when it comes to science, for the most >PN: part, from what I have seen.
[Posted by Peter Nyikos on Feb 6, in the thread "Enormous gaps..."
(the specific topic he referred to was the use of the word "theory" in science, but I took the comment as more general.)]
I was not entirely convinced that t.o. is dominated by rank amateurs (apart from our local kooks), so I gathered some statistics on the scientific credentials of t.o. denizens. This was really intended for my next followup to Peter, but he hasn't responded for a while, and possibly this may be of general interest, so here we go:
My source was the list of t.o. home pages on http://www.tiac.net/users/cri/topeople.html (thanx to Richard Harter for maintaining this list!). I went through all the home pages, and noted what they said about the owner's education and profession. Here are some results:
In total, 95 home pages were reachable (a few links didn't work.) Of these, 77 gave enough info to deduce relevant data.
(I've assumed that computer gurus have a college education, even though they don't always say so. 13 of the 37 are computer people.)
Presumably almost all these 18+12 are actively engaged in research.
Most of the other PhDs have research jobs as well.
(all fields are sensu lato, and include related subfields)
Other college degree:
This sample of t.o. people is dominated by people with higher education in science or science-related fields. More than 40% have a college degree in empirical natural science, and can by no stretch of the imagination be called "rank amateurs" in a discussion on how empirical science works.
A significant fraction are active researchers.
Me? I'm included in the statistics, as PhD, professor, "Other empirical natural science" (physics, actually).
Not strictly amateur in biology either, since I've actually got paid for teaching it on a few occasions :->
(That was fun - the students' formal qualifications in biology were a lot higher than mine, but the biology prof knew how rank an amateur I am, and trusted me to teach evolution to second-year biology majors. Talk.origins really can help your career :->)
(with apologies to Lucy...)
Article originally posted 12 Mar 1998
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