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Peer review

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Peer review broadly defined is the process of inspecting and scrutinizing an author's material (usually of a scholarly or scientific nature) by collegues on an equal level to the author. The process exists to provide impartial judgment of a work or works, determining authenticity and originality, and to screen out errors, flaws and frauds. The backbone of the scientific process is publication, ideally taking place in a respected professional journal, that uses referees.[1] However, not all errors can be eliminated before publication. Many pass the scrutiny of referees through carelessness, or due insufficient or incorrect information provided in the manuscript.[1]

In relation to the creation/evolution debate, peer review is frequently discharged as a reason not to trust creationist materials, because creationist research is not "peer-reviewed" by secular journals.

Creationists and Peer-Reviewed Journals

While most scientific journals summarily dismiss works of a creationist nature (and in some cases, works entirely compatible with evolution, but composed by a creationist), research within mainstream scientific and evolutionary journals is useful for demonstrating the flaws, changes and revisions to evolution.

Furthermore, in numerous creationist magazines and journals, there exists a system of peer review for the creationist community. In some cases, the review is double-blind; the author does not know who submits criticisms, and the critics are not informed of the author they are critiquing.

Discrimination Against Creationists

There have been very many notable examples of an author's work or credentials being repudiated strictly because of the author's position on evolution.

  • Marcus Ross earned a doctorate from the University of Rhode Island after submitting his thesis on mosasaurs. His work was sound according to evolution, but some still questioned whether any young-earth creationist should be given the credentials with which he might "miseducate the public."[1]
  • Forrest Mims was refused a position with Scientific American after his creationist beliefs were uncovered.[2]
  • Richard Sternberg was harassed after allowing an article by Discovery Institute fellow Stephen Meyer to be published in the publication Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington of which he was editor.[3] (U.S. Office of Special Counsel's letter to Dr. Sternberg confirming his allegations)
  • In 1985, Russell Humphreys sent a letter to the journal Science asking with they had a policy against creationists. They replied "It is true that we are not likely to publish letters supporting creationism."
  • In 1992 Russell Humphreys submitted an article titled "Compton scattering and the cosmic microwave background bumps" to the Journal Nature. The editorial staff, knowing he was a creationist, refused to publish it. Six months later, Nature published an article with the same conclusions, but by a different author.
  • After it became nationally known that Robert Gentry was a creationist, Oak Ridge National Laboratories (a lab he was associated with for years) refused to interact with him.

Scientists are pressured not to challenge established dogma (Talk.Origins)

Damadian was denied a Nobel prize because he was a creationist (Talk.Origins)

Scientists are motivated to support naturalism and reject creationism (Talk.Origins)

Creationists are prevented from publishing in science journals (Talk.Origins)

Examples of secular publication

Despite the widespread discrimination against creationist, critics continuously claim that creationist do no original scientific research. They claim no credible intellectual can deny evolution. For example Niles Eldredge claims that no creationist "has contributed a single article to any reputable scientific journal."


"Peer-review is critical for scientific research to be taken seriously … Basically, several other scientists who are experts in the field examine your work to see if it contains errors. Occasionally you will see young earth claims of their work being peer-reviewed. … However, for young earth work to be taken seriously, it must pass the muster of peer-review from non young-earth scientists … Normally, a peer-reviewed article which passes muster would be published in a leading journal such as from the Geological Society of America, [not just] on the ICR website. If the RATE [Radio isotopes and the Age of The Earth] project truly publishes some work which is good enough for publication in secular journals, then they would surely pursue that route. It is clear in this case that the “peers” for these articles are other young-earth proponents, which cast serious doubts upon the validity of the works."-Greg Neyman

Despite these claims, creationist do manage to publish papers supporting their ideas.

Creation in secular publication

The Pitfalls of Peer Review

In the haste to put such emphasis and respect on peer review, some of its difficulties are overlooked. There are at least two important factors that can influence research, and the reputation of peer review, negatively.

Bias

Personal bias may allow mistakes or even fraud to be published. For example, research from the Health Partners Research Foundation published in Nature revealed that five percent of scientists admitted to completely discarding data because it did not fit their previous conclusions. Fifteen percent changed or altered data or conclusions from data based on gut instinct, or to satisfy parties sponsoring the research.[5]

Error

According to research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), "previously published statements, regardless of whether they are subsequently shown to be true or false, can have a profound effect on interpretations of further experiments and the probability that a scientific community would converge to a correct conclusion."[6]

Fraud

Despite what many might think, blatant fraud does sometimes pass peer review. Normally, the people commiting the fraud are smart to keep it underwraps for a years and then get exposed when it is more closely examined.

Evolution myths

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Shapiro, Robert (1987). Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. Toronto: Bantam Books. p. 40-41. ISBN 0-553-34355-6. 

Related References

See Also