Home » Intelligent Design » All Hail Peer Review!?

All Hail Peer Review!?

Yesterday there was an article published online by CNN highlighting the finding by the British journal, BMJ, that Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s sensational study linking autism to childhood vaccinations was a “complete fraud”. Today there’s word that the latest issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology contains an article on ESP. We’re told the article was “peer reviewed”. But it has been “described as ‘pure craziness’ and ‘an embarrassment for the entire field’ by scientists who allege it has serious flaws and that ESP is a myth.”

While it appears that Wakefield falsified medical histories of children (and apparently to aid and abet some trial lawyers who paid him nearly $675,000 so that they could go after Big Pharma), stories like these genuinely undermine the notion that a peer reviewed article has any added credibility—something our Darwinian critics insist is true. (But, of course, there’s all kinds of stuff they insist is true. We just have to believe them!)

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26 Responses to All Hail Peer Review!?

  1. It could be my misconception, but sometimes it appears that the bloggers at UD are trying to have it both ways. On one hand it’s counted as triumph when pro-ID papers make it into the peer-reviewed literature; on the other hand peer-review doesn’t add any credibility at all.

  2. grass, if you want to see why ID has such disbelief with ‘evolutionary’ peer review, please see this article that takes dead aim at the glaring mistakes in a peer review paper by two top evolutionary biologists:

    BIO-Complexity Paper Shows Many Multi-Mutation Features Unlikely to Evolve in History of the Earth
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....42611.html

    i.e. grass, if the peer-review process for evolution were as strict as it is for other fields of science do you think such mistakes would have been tolerated without severe repercussion?

  3. Even if it was true that the peer-review process is less stringent in the field of evolutionary biology compared to other fields of science (a statement which, by the way, I think needs better support than a collection of published errors; a statistical survey of the literature would do), that would affect the credibility of pro-ID papers discussing evolution in the literature (e.g. Prof. Behe’s recent publication).

    So why bother triumphing over publication of such papers, as common practice on UD, if the peer review process in evolutionary biology is so valueless? (Again, please correct me if wrong about the whole triumphing aspect.) Perhaps the reviewers of pro-ID papers all happen to be superior to those of Darwinian evolution?

  4. “While it appears that Wakefield falsified medical histories of children (and apparently to aid and abet some trial lawyers who paid him nearly $675,000 so that they could go after Big Pharma), stories like these genuinely undermine the notion that a peer reviewed article has any added credibility”

    Peer review is not designed to detect fraud. It can’t. Detecting fraud requires a criminal investigation into whether the methods of data collection described in a study have actually been used and the data that is presented is original. That sort of investigation requires interrogations, data confiscation, search warrants, etc., and is obviously completely beyond the scope of peer review.

    Peer review is designed to decide whether the quality of the methods described and data presented (under the good faith assumption that the methods and data are reported correctly) is congruent with the interpretations drawn and discussed in the adequate background of current knowledge (and finally, whether the quality of the data is adequate to the level commonly published in the journal in question).

  5. grass, for what its worth, when you remove all the hype, and spin, and mistakes, from evolutionary papers, they actually are very good at pointing at the truth. Such as the fact that out of thousands upon thousands of evolutionary peer reviewed papers NOT ONE, NOT A SINGLE ONE, demonstrates the evolution a fundamental bio-molecular machine or system. Thus such consistent lack of fundamental corroborating evidence from the entire vast spectrum of peer reviewed literature for the evolution of EVEN ONE fundamental system or motor counts overwhelmingly in favor of ID. Perhaps you would like to be the first Darwinist on UD to ever present a paper of such rudimentary proof for Darwinian evolution to withstand scrutiny????

    In spite of the fact of finding molecular motors permeating the simplest of bacterial life, there are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of even one such motor or system.

    “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation of such a vast subject.”
    James Shapiro – Molecular Biologist

    The following expert doesn’t even hide his very unscientific preconceived philosophical bias against intelligent design,,,

    ‘We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity,,,

    Yet at the same time the same expert readily admits that neo-Darwinism has ZERO evidence for the chance and necessity of material processes producing any cellular system whatsoever,,,

    ,,,we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.’
    Franklin M. Harold,* 2001. The way of the cell: molecules, organisms and the order of life, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 205.
    *Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Colorado State University, USA

    Michael Behe – No Scientific Literature For Evolution of Any Irreducibly Complex Molecular Machines
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5302950/

    “The response I have received from repeating Behe’s claim about the evolutionary literature, which simply brings out the point being made implicitly by many others, such as Chris Dutton and so on, is that I obviously have not read the right books. There are, I am sure, evolutionists who have described how the transitions in question could have occurred.” And he continues, “When I ask in which books I can find these discussions, however, I either get no answer or else some titles that, upon examination, do not, in fact, contain the promised accounts. That such accounts exist seems to be something that is widely known, but I have yet to encounter anyone who knows where they exist.”
    David Ray Griffin – retired professor of philosophy of religion and theology

    Astonishingly, actual motors, which far surpass man-made motors in ‘engineering parameters’, are now being found inside ‘simple cells’.

    Articles and Videos on Molecular Motors
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....#038;hl=en

    Michael Behe – Life Reeks Of Design – 2010 – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5066181

    further note:

    “The manuals needed for building the entire space shuttle and all its components and all its support systems would be truly enormous! Yet the specified complexity (information) of even the simplest form of life – a bacterium – is arguably as great as that of the space shuttle.”
    J.C. Sanford – Geneticist – Genetic Entropy and the Mystery Of the Genome

    ‘The information content of a simple cell has been estimated as around 10^12 bits, comparable to about a hundred million pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
    Carl Sagan, “Life” in Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia (1974 ed.), pp. 893-894

    of note: The 10^12 bits of information number for a bacterium is derived from entropic considerations, which is, due to the tightly integrated relationship between information and entropy, considered the most accurate measure of the transcendent information present in a ‘simple’ life form. For calculations please see the following site:

    Molecular Biophysics – Information theory. Relation between information and entropy:
    http://www.astroscu.unam.mx/~a.....ecular.htm

    Ben Stein – EXPELLED – The Staggering Complexity Of The Cell – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4227700

    “Although the tiniest living things known to science, bacterial cells, are incredibly small (10^-12 grams), each is a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of elegantly designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world”. Michael Denton, “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis,” 1986, p. 250.

    Nanoelectronic Transistor Combined With Biological Machine Could Lead To Better Electronics: – Aug. 2009
    Excerpt: While modern communication devices rely on electric fields and currents to carry the flow of information, biological systems are much more complex. They use an arsenal of membrane receptors, channels and pumps to control signal transduction that is unmatched by even the most powerful computers.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....091834.htm

    The Cell as a Collection of Protein Machines
    “We have always underestimated cells. Undoubtedly we still do today,,, Indeed, the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each which is composed of a set of large protein machines.”
    Bruce Alberts: Former President, National Academy of Sciences;
    http://www.imbb.forth.gr/peopl.....erts98.pdf

    The Cell – A World Of Complexity Darwin Never Dreamed Of – Donald E. Johnson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4139390
    Entire video:
    http://www.ideaclubtcw.org/video/DEJohnson.html

    Bioinformatics: The Information in Life – Donald Johnson – video
    http://vimeo.com/11314902

    On a slide in the preceding video, entitled ‘Information Systems In Life’, Dr. Johnson points out that:

    * the genetic system is a pre-existing operating system;
    * the specific genetic program (genome) is an application;
    * the native language has codon-based encryption system;
    * the codes are read by enzyme computers with their own operating system;
    * each enzyme’s output is to another operating system in a ribosome;
    * codes are decrypted and output to tRNA computers;
    * each codon-specified amino acid is transported to a protein construction site; and
    * in each cell, there are multiple operating systems, multiple programming languages, encoding/decoding hardware and software, specialized communications systems, error detection/correction systems, specialized input/output for organelle control and feedback, and a variety of specialized “devices” to accomplish the tasks of life.

    Cells Are Like Robust Computational Systems, – June 2009
    Excerpt: Gene regulatory networks in cell nuclei are similar to cloud computing networks, such as Google or Yahoo!, researchers report today in the online journal Molecular Systems Biology. The similarity is that each system keeps working despite the failure of individual components, whether they are master genes or computer processors. ,,,,”We now have reason to think of cells as robust computational devices, employing redundancy in the same way that enables large computing systems, such as Amazon, to keep operating despite the fact that servers routinely fail.”

    Systems biology: Untangling the protein web – July 2009
    Excerpt: Vidal thinks that technological improvements — especially in nanotechnology, to generate more data, and microscopy, to explore interaction inside cells, along with increased computer power — are required to push systems biology forward. “Combine all this and you can start to think that maybe some of the information flow can be captured,” he says. But when it comes to figuring out the best way to explore information flow in cells, Tyers jokes that it is like comparing different degrees of infinity. “The interesting point coming out of all these studies is how complex these systems are — the different feedback loops and how they cross-regulate each other and adapt to perturbations are only just becoming apparent,” he says. “The simple pathway models are a gross oversimplification of what is actually happening.”

  6. grass, for what its worth, when you remove all the hype, and spin, and mistakes, from evolutionary papers, they actually are very good at pointing at the truth. Such as the fact that out of thousands upon thousands of evolutionary peer reviewed papers NOT ONE, NOT A SINGLE ONE, demonstrates the evolution a fundamental bio-molecular machine or system. Thus such consistent lack of fundamental corroborating evidence from the entire vast spectrum of peer reviewed literature for the evolution of EVEN ONE fundamental system or motor counts overwhelmingly in favor of ID. Perhaps you would like to be the first Darwinist on UD to ever present a paper of such rudimentary proof for Darwinian evolution to withstand scrutiny????

    In spite of the fact of finding molecular motors permeating the simplest of bacterial life, there are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of even one such motor or system.

    “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system only a variety of wishful speculations. It is remarkable that Darwinism is accepted as a satisfactory explanation of such a vast subject.”
    James Shapiro – Molecular Biologist

    The following expert doesn’t even hide his very unscientific preconceived philosophical bias against intelligent design,,,

    ‘We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity,,,

    Yet at the same time the same expert readily admits that neo-Darwinism has ZERO evidence for the chance and necessity of material processes producing any cellular system whatsoever,,,

    ,,,we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.’
    Franklin M. Harold,* 2001. The way of the cell: molecules, organisms and the order of life, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 205.
    *Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Colorado State University, USA

    Michael Behe – No Scientific Literature For Evolution of Any Irreducibly Complex Molecular Machines
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5302950/

    “The response I have received from repeating Behe’s claim about the evolutionary literature, which simply brings out the point being made implicitly by many others, such as Chris Dutton and so on, is that I obviously have not read the right books. There are, I am sure, evolutionists who have described how the transitions in question could have occurred.” And he continues, “When I ask in which books I can find these discussions, however, I either get no answer or else some titles that, upon examination, do not, in fact, contain the promised accounts. That such accounts exist seems to be something that is widely known, but I have yet to encounter anyone who knows where they exist.”
    David Ray Griffin – retired professor of philosophy of religion and theology

    Astonishingly, actual motors, which far surpass man-made motors in ‘engineering parameters’, are now being found inside ‘simple cells’.

    Articles and Videos on Molecular Motors
    http://docs.google.com/Doc?doc.....#038;hl=en

    Michael Behe – Life Reeks Of Design – 2010 – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5066181

    further note:

    “The manuals needed for building the entire space shuttle and all its components and all its support systems would be truly enormous! Yet the specified complexity (information) of even the simplest form of life – a bacterium – is arguably as great as that of the space shuttle.”
    J.C. Sanford – Geneticist – Genetic Entropy and the Mystery Of the Genome

    ‘The information content of a simple cell has been estimated as around 10^12 bits, comparable to about a hundred million pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
    Carl Sagan, “Life” in Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia (1974 ed.), pp. 893-894

    of note: The 10^12 bits of information number for a bacterium is derived from entropic considerations, which is, due to the tightly integrated relationship between information and entropy, considered the most accurate measure of the transcendent information present in a ‘simple’ life form. For calculations please see the following site:

    Molecular Biophysics – Information theory. Relation between information and entropy:
    http://www.astroscu.unam.mx/~a.....ecular.htm

    Ben Stein – EXPELLED – The Staggering Complexity Of The Cell – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4227700

    “Although the tiniest living things known to science, bacterial cells, are incredibly small (10^-12 grams), each is a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of elegantly designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world”. Michael Denton, “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis,” 1986, p. 250.

    Nanoelectronic Transistor Combined With Biological Machine Could Lead To Better Electronics: – Aug. 2009
    Excerpt: While modern communication devices rely on electric fields and currents to carry the flow of information, biological systems are much more complex. They use an arsenal of membrane receptors, channels and pumps to control signal transduction that is unmatched by even the most powerful computers.

    The Cell as a Collection of Protein Machines
    “We have always underestimated cells. Undoubtedly we still do today,,, Indeed, the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each which is composed of a set of large protein machines.”
    Bruce Alberts: Former President, National Academy of Sciences;

    The Cell – A World Of Complexity Darwin Never Dreamed Of – Donald E. Johnson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4139390
    Entire video:
    http://www.ideaclubtcw.org/video/DEJohnson.html

    Bioinformatics: The Information in Life – Donald Johnson – video
    http://vimeo.com/11314902

    On a slide in the preceding video, entitled ‘Information Systems In Life’, Dr. Johnson points out that:

    * the genetic system is a pre-existing operating system;
    * the specific genetic program (genome) is an application;
    * the native language has codon-based encryption system;
    * the codes are read by enzyme computers with their own operating system;
    * each enzyme’s output is to another operating system in a ribosome;
    * codes are decrypted and output to tRNA computers;
    * each codon-specified amino acid is transported to a protein construction site; and
    * in each cell, there are multiple operating systems, multiple programming languages, encoding/decoding hardware and software, specialized communications systems, error detection/correction systems, specialized input/output for organelle control and feedback, and a variety of specialized “devices” to accomplish the tasks of life.

    Cells Are Like Robust Computational Systems, – June 2009
    Excerpt: Gene regulatory networks in cell nuclei are similar to cloud computing networks, such as Google or Yahoo!, researchers report today in the online journal Molecular Systems Biology. The similarity is that each system keeps working despite the failure of individual components, whether they are master genes or computer processors. ,,,,”We now have reason to think of cells as robust computational devices, employing redundancy in the same way that enables large computing systems, such as Amazon, to keep operating despite the fact that servers routinely fail.”

    Systems biology: Untangling the protein web – July 2009
    Excerpt: Vidal thinks that technological improvements — especially in nanotechnology, to generate more data, and microscopy, to explore interaction inside cells, along with increased computer power — are required to push systems biology forward. “Combine all this and you can start to think that maybe some of the information flow can be captured,” he says. But when it comes to figuring out the best way to explore information flow in cells, Tyers jokes that it is like comparing different degrees of infinity. “The interesting point coming out of all these studies is how complex these systems are — the different feedback loops and how they cross-regulate each other and adapt to perturbations are only just becoming apparent,” he says. “The simple pathway models are a gross oversimplification of what is actually happening.”

  7. Ok ok, I better reveal that I am in fact an ID proponent, and I agree with most of the things you’ve just posted (the failure of Darwinian mechanisms to explain cellular machinaries, design as a better explaination etc.) It’s very interesting though, the fact that making one or two critical comments immediately makes me a Darwinist, despite the fact that I’ve never said so.

    Anyway, my original question is still unanswered. How can you triumph over the entry of pro-ID papers into peer-reviewed literature, yet say that peer-review doesn’t add any credibility (like this post did) at the same time?

  8. In a corrupt field like Darwinism, peer review has about as much credibility as a snake whining that you stepped on his foot, and now you owe him and he’ll fix you.

    But one can’t get into the room to discuss real problems without dodging the snake.

    That is the key reason ID theorists seek peer review, so far as I can see.

  9. I don’t know about that ESP stuff, but doesn’t the Wakefield case prove just how rigorous the peer review process is? I mean, it’s been years since he published his article and scientists are still scrutinising it. He published bad science done badly (numerous ethical wrongs), and the peer review process found out. He even lost his licence to practice medicine. That’s pretty tough. And a reason, I think, to hail the peer review process. No?

  10. Ahh, the sweetness of a straight forward answer. Taken with much gratitude.

  11. I agree with grass that it is problematic to try and have it both ways re peer-review.

    People miss some important points re Wakefield and ESP. The whole Wakefield/MMR vaccine/autism affair is a red herring and misses the point. The point being that even though there is no evidence that the MMR vaccine caused autism (Wakefield was struck off the role), there is considerable evidence that is can be harmful and dangerous (even if rarely), its effectiveness is also dubious. Fact is thimerosal, a mercury based preservative, was used as a preservative in the MMR vaccine and the fact is for this reason it was banned in several countries in the late 90s. I don’t have the facts on my fingertips, and don’t have time to double-check, but the fact is thimerosal is a MERCURY based preservative, this mercury based compound can then find its way into the bloodstream via innoculation. All forms of mercury sans exception are neurotoxins, there is no such thing as safe or harmless mercury. Serious illnesses including death can result from mercury poisoning aka hydrargyria, even in very minute doses. No not autism, but that’s what I mean by missing the point. This is what is so sinister about the easy focus on Wakefield and the discredited autism claim, it distracts attention from the real problems with vaccine preservatives as a whole and the whole history there. I’m not going to argue about this, I just mention this in passing.

    Another thing, talk about missing the mammoth in the room. The peer-reviewed medical journals are terribly corrupt and heavily censor anything that runs counter to mainstream beliefs and BigPharma drugpushing, no matter how strong the evidence is of any counter-mainstream opinions, or how prestigious the authors are. The censorship at the “prestigious” journals like the NEJM, Lancet, the BMJ etc is near-total, and matches the censorship and misrepresentations of ID in the mainstream natural science journals. If anything it is worse in the med journals! Unless you have *seriously* researched contemporary medical science or what passes for it, and/or have insider knowledge here, you have no idea. BigPharma’s influence in the NIH, its intimidation of the FDA and its heavy and evergrowing reach in funding and indirectly its influence on the journals is problematic to put it mildly. There is no discipline of science more corrupt and influenced by bottom line profiteering than medicine, and the journals are neck-deep in the muck. There are scandals in medicine that are heavily censored and the general public is none the wiser. Very few people have the vaguest clue.

    I’m not talking about some nefarious conspiracy here, I’m talking corruption, special interests (BigPharma is a multi-billion dollar industry and medical “researchers” are following the money trail). Another thing, talk about the inability to make connections. Much of medical science, pathology included, is predicated on scientific materialist and reductionist assumptions that are so deep-rooted and pervasive that these assumptions are very little recognised *as such* at all. One has to get into the real history of Western medicine NOT taught in med schools, in order to see this. This gets into obscure sociology of scientific knowledge as well. IDists and Creationists for the most part don’t even begin to recognise this. It would be funny if it wasn’t so depressing.

  12. OK onto ESP. Interestingly enough, any researchers in psychology, anthropology, physics and biology who publish or try to publish ESP-friendly papers in the mainstream journals are met with the same hostile and often irrational resistance as any IDists trying to get a foot in the door into the mainstream journals and the mainstream science they represent. And for the same reason! ESP/Psi runs counter to scientific materialism. It’s why parapsychology has its own peer-reviewed journals.

    As an aside, there is an obvious cross-over and overlap between ID and Psi (the term ESP is no longer really used in parapsychological circles), they are natural allies to one another that remain very much apart in practice. There are a number of complex reasons for this, one being overspecialisation. Another is playing to their respective base support and not wanting to further rock the boat when you are already marginilised as it is. There are various other reasons, including psychological and sociological, that I’m not even going to bother mentioning. It would take a book frankly and would ruffle a lot of feathers.

    However there is something worth mentioning in passing. Parapsychologists and scientists who take Psi/anamolous cognition (ESP if you prefer) seriously but are in thrall to neo-Darwinism and dismiss ID too readily, fail to realise how they contradict themselves in a way that makes Ken Miller, Francis Collins, Francisco Ayala and the Templeton/BioLogos/theistic evolutionist crowd as a whole appear consistent by comparison. That is such parapsychologists are trying to have it both ways: they are highly critical of scientific materialism but swoon over neo-Darwinism! A fair bit needs to be written on this, since it is a topic that appears entirely neglected (it means acknowledging several taboos) and is worth a serious elucidation and explication.

    Lastly such dismissals of any ESP/Psi friendly paper on the grounds that most scientists consider it nonsense and myth, as is the predictable response with the Daryl Bem paper PaV is referring to, well that’s the identical non-reasoning and unscientific knee-jerk response to any ID friendly paper if it ever God forbid, gets a foot in the door and gets publication in a mainstream journal. Think of the hysterical response to the publication of Stephen Meyer’s paper in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, and the subsequent mistreatment of Richard Sternberg in this regard. I hope the editor at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is treated better.

    Remember materialists cannot let open the door a tiny crack. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. This is why materialists cannot give an inch, hence why they cannot acknowledge the validity of a single IC system as defying neo-Darwinian pathways, or even give a polite hat tip acknowledgement or recognition of what Meyer was actually saying in his published paper. Likewise they cannot begin to admit the possibility of the existense of a single psi faculty in human consciousness, and for the identical reasons. At least the materialists are consistent here. They realise what is at stake.

  13. trash:

    On one hand it’s counted as triumph when pro-ID papers make it into the peer-reviewed literature; on the other hand peer-review doesn’t add any credibility at all.

    We don’t like trash talking at UD. I mean, we don’t like trash-talking at UD.

    Maybe it’s not we, here at UD, who want it both ways; maybe it’s the Darwinists. They say that articles and books not subject to peer-review fall outside of the mainstream consensus and don’t represent, therefore, “true” science. And, yet, “frauds” take place within this “peer-reviewed” ambient quite frequently, and in rather egregious manner.

    My point in visiting this issue is to illustrate the vacuity of the Darwinist position. If we, here at UD, take some pride when an article finds its way into the peer-reviewed literature, I believe it is for two reasons: (1) because it eats away at the darwinian canard (which has been repeated ad nauseam), and (2) because it’s a sign that censorship of views is perhaps in decline.

    Personally, I feel as though peer-review doesn’t work (remember, this is a rather modern development). It seems to me that most reviewers aren’t familiar enough with new developments to really be in a position to properly judge submissions. And, possibly worse, it lends itself to elitism and chauvinism, both unhealthful to science (in my view).

    I hope this stated position helps you understand the purpose of this post.

  14. As a follow-up to my views on peer-review, let me just add that I, as a non-expert, seem to oftentimes find errors in methods and in conclusions reached. I then ask myself the question: why don’t experts catch these things. It’s a good question.

  15. PaV and O’Leary have answered to the false notion that ID wants it both ways. It’s the exact opposite of the truth.

    I’d just like to add succinctly: The ID community, it seems to me, would have been completely content to bypass peer review. “We” apparently, however, made the glaring mistake of thinking that most people would be interested in the truth enough to not fight it tooth and nail.

  16. Here’s a clip from an article from the Atlantic Monthly by a Dr. Freedman:

    Though scientists and science journalists are constantly talking up the value of the peer-review process, researchers admit among themselves that biased, erroneous, and even blatantly fraudulent studies easily slip through it. Nature, the grande dame of science journals, stated in a 2006 editorial, “Scientists understand that peer review per se provides only a minimal assurance of quality, and that the public conception of peer review as a stamp of authentication is far from the truth.” What’s more, the peer-review process often pressures researchers to shy away from striking out in genuinely new directions, and instead to build on the findings of their colleagues (that is, their potential reviewers) in ways that only seem like breakthroughs—as with the exciting-sounding gene linkages (autism genes identified!) and nutritional findings (olive oil lowers blood pressure!) that are really just dubious and conflicting variations on a theme.

  17. I’m falling down laughing, just having read Mulch at #4 (or whatever). To understand just how bad this scandal is, you have to realize that the Lancet is the premiere medical joural in the UK–their equivalent of our NEJM. It is to medicine what Nature is to science. The idea that reviewers for toney medical journals are paragons of objectivity who look at mothing but materials and methods is a charming fantasy. They have their biases too, as this scandal clearly shows. Materials and methods can be glossed over when there’s a Higher Calling in play and some pet cause to support.

    Oy vey–the stories I could tell!

  18. molch:

    Peer review is not designed to detect fraud.

    Then what good is it?

    You’re basic response comes down to this: junk in; junk out.

    Have we already forgotten about that parasite in Mono Lake that supposedly has As in place of P in its DNA? Where was peer review there? It was quickly attacked by researchers very familiar with the field on inquiry.

    I say do away with the peer-review concept. You have journals. You have competent editors and boards. Let them select papers they think are worthy of publication, and let it go at that. You’ll notice at the bottom of the quote in [16], it speaks of the negative side-effects of putative peer-review.

  19. Every now and then I get into an argument about the following observation of mine:

    The scientific process primarily relies on eyewitness accounts of observed phenomena and the validation of these accounts.

    The procedure is usually following: a group of scientists collect and analyise data (e.g. perform an experiment, compare fossils etc) and tell us the results. How do we know that they are telling the truth?

    The recommended way would be to repeat what they had done, i.e. independently reproduce the experiment and its resulst etc. This way others also can become first hand witnesses. However, this is rarely done in reality. In most cases, only a few groups of scientsists have the necessary equipment, funding and time to repeat everything. The more expensive and time consuming the experiment is the less likely it is that someone would want to spend time to do something others had done before him. One example could be a discovery made in the Large Hadron Collider at its peak energy. Until another collider is built the chances of independent confirmation are slim. Or who would start Lenski’s breeding programme from scratch?

    Sometimes the observation cannot be repeated. It can be e.g. a unique supernova explosion, anything that is not subject to repetition.

    Now what other ways do we have, then, to validate a result? We might be able to test the consequences of the discovery. This way we can become secondary witnesses, provided that the tests we perform are only successful is the original result is true. This is often done in the form of applied science or engineering.

    If none of the above is possible, then the only thing we can do is to validate the reliability of the sources. This usually means the following tests:

    1. The ability and the integrity of the eye witnesses. That is, who is reporting the results, do they have the necessary qualifications, did they publish anything previously etc. Are there more and independent eye witnesses also (i.e. others who replicated the experiment)? More independent witnesses are stronger indications for the reliability of the results.

    2. The integrity of the disclosed data. If the data looks like one would expect from such results and stand up indepedent scrutiny then it is unlikely that it was fabricated.

    3. Finally, does the finding fit into expectations based on our current knowledge? If it does, then it is more likely that the results are reliable. If it does not, then the report deserves more than usual scrutiny because the chances of error are higher since it contradicts something thought of as true in the past.

    The peer-review should perform these three steps, informing the readers of the article that other experts have already found it a reliable witness account. Nevertheless, the final decision should be done by the reader, if he can believe it or not.

    I used the word ‘believe’ on purpose, as it is about something the reader has not seen.

  20. allanius:

    “The idea that reviewers for toney medical journals are paragons of objectivity who look at mothing but materials and methods is a charming fantasy”

    and where in my #4 did you get the idea that that is what I think?
    I described what the purpose of peer review is, (and most importantly, what the purpose IS NOT). A stated purpose is one thing. Humans asked to fulfill it is a different one.

  21. PaV:

    -molch: Peer review is not designed to detect fraud.

    -PaV: Then what good is it?

    I think I covered that in the second paragraph of my comment. Personally, I think it’s a bad idea to turn peer reviewers into criminal investigators.

    -PaV: I say do away with the peer-review concept. You have journals. You have competent editors and boards. Let them select papers they think are worthy of publication, and let it go at that.

    And what exactly in that process do you expect to make editors and boards (that are ALREADY involved in the current peer review process) better at detecting fraud?

    -PaV: You’ll notice at the bottom of the quote in [16], it speaks of the negative side-effects of putative peer-review.

    Sure, people are flawed. How exactly is that going to improve with an editor and board review (made up of flawed people)?

  22. molch:

    You keep asking how does my proposal make things better.

    I didn’t say it made things better. I think what I propose is just as good. But it eliminates some of the negative effects that peer-review brings about, the worst being “group-think”, which is a science non-starter, as is evidenced by Darwinian dogma, global-warming dogma, and even HIV dogma. It is utterly unhealthy. Why keep it?

  23. molch: They closed the Tallis thread but I assure you I did read your posts very carefully:) You summed everything up when you said

    “That means, perceiving reciprocity as good, and using it as a rule, confers fitness advantages in social species”

    Everything indeed revolves around fitness.

    My intent is not to derail this thread and to that end I will not comment any further on the above.

    Vivid

  24. I agree with PaV in a general sense regarding the peer review process. However, in the interests of fairness, I would suggest caution and further study on the subject before dismissing Dr Andrew Wakefield’s study as a “complete fraud”.

    I’ve recently taken an interest in the subject myself and, from what I’ve seen so far, peer review was not the problem in this case. On the contrary, this has all the hallmarks of scientific evidence contradicting establishment attitudes and vested interests and the inevitable censorship, smearing and intimidation that that brings for people like Dr Wakefield who are solely interested in determining the truth.

  25. Hi Vivid,

    yes, I was disappointed myself to see the Tallis thread closed – hopefully we can pick the discussion back up in another appropriate thread at some point!

    molch

  26. PaV:

    Well, “making something better” seems to me equivalent to “eliminating negative aspects of something”.

    Anyway:
    How do you suggest would review by a journal editor and board eliminate the negative effects of peer-review? When you answer this please keep in mind that a journal’s board and editor are already a principal component of the current peer review process.

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