Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Miracle of Google

On Tuesday, I noted that the economic crisis has reduced the salience of "Culture War issues" (at least for the time being). In particular, when it comes to the issue of Intelligent Design, I noted that the release of the 2008 documentary Expelled (which focused on the I.D. controversy) did not generate as much attention as I would have expected (considering how "hot" that issue was a few years ago). I speculated that the reason for Expelled's performance was that it came out during a recession, and after all, when people's jobs are in jeopardy, they are less likely to participate in Culture War battles.

Now, thanks to the miracle of Google, I have some solid evidence to back up my claim.

If you go to the Google News Archive page, you can enter a search term (say, "gay marriage"), and if you click the "Show Timeline" button, you can see a year-by-year chart on the number of news articles which contain that term.

Well, I entered a few terms which pertain to The Mustard Seed, and here is what I found (as of today, May 14, 2009)...

"Intelligent Design:" First sign of life comes in 1987...level of interest holds steady until 1999... then there's a small jump...then in 2004 comes a big jump...then in 2005 and early 2006 there is an explosion of interest...however, by late 2006, interest peters out, and plateaus at a low level where it remains today...even so, interest in 2009 remains higher than it was in 2004.

"Atheism:" Relatively constant from 1900 to 1925...then there's a medium bulge of interest which peters out by 1945...holds steady until 1984...then there's another slight increase until mid-2006...then there's an even BIGGER bulge, which continues through today...indeed, interest in atheism has never been higher.

"Atlas Shrugged:" As I noted in April, interest in Atlas Shrugged seems to be growing these days...and the Google data bears that out...when the book was released in 1957, there was huge explosion of interest, which quickly died down the following year...then, for the next 3 decades, interest remained at a relatively constistent low level...then, around 1992, there's a small blip upwards that continues through 2004...then, in 2005, there's another blip upwards...finally, in early 2009 (with the inauguration of President Obama) comes an explosion of interest which continues through today...indeed, it's the largest amount of interest in the book in 52 years.

"Objectivism:" While interest in Atlas Shrugged is booming, new sales of the book don't seem to be having a positive effect on the philosophy contained in Atlas Shrugged: "Objectivism." The Google numbers show a big burst of interest in Objectivism when the book came out in 1957...interest remained high in the 60s...lower in the 70s...higher again in the 80s...and just a tad higher again in the 90s and early 2000s...however, since the Mortgage Meltdown began in 2007, interest has reached an all-time...unfortunately, though, we seem to have reached another plateau...indeed, interest in April 2009 was lower than in December 2007.

So what do I make of all this? Well, it seems that two of my gut reactions were correct...the economic crisis has increased interest in Atlas Shrugged, while lowering interest in Intelligent Design...however, I am surprised that interest in "atheism" has continued to increase since 2006 (even though it has fallen for I.D.)...I'm also somewhat surprised that the surge of interest in Atlas Shrugged hasn't necessarily correlated with a newfound love of Objectivism...Those twin surprises are a little disappointing...but the point of my original post on the economic crisis was that if the recession deepens AND persists, there is real potential for a major paradigm things could look very different tomorrow.


**UPDATE, SEP. 3, 2009**

According to the pro-I.D. website, Uncommon Descent, their visits from unique addresses grew over 40% from April to August 2009. Last month, they had 117,161 unique visitors. That's good news.


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