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When Papers Shouldn’t Have Gotten Through Peer-Review

Over on his blog, Why Evolution is True, University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne writes critically of a Nature paper published in May of last year, which he describes as “a misguided attack on kin selection.” Coyne asks,

If the Nowak et al. paper is so bad, why was it published? That’s obvious, and is an object lesson in the sociology of science.  If Joe Schmo et al. from Buggerall State University had submitted such a misguided paper to Nature, it would have been rejected within an hour (yes, Nature sometimes does that with online submissions!).  The only reason this paper was published is because it has two big-name authors, Nowak and Wilson, hailing from Mother Harvard.  That, and the fact that such a contrarian paper, flying in the face of accepted evolutionary theory, was bound to cause controversy.

This brings up an important point. I have often read papers, published in reputable journals, which I have thought should not have passed through peer-review. Consider, for example, this paper, published in PLoS Biology in May of last year. Indeed, the esteemed atheist blogger PZ Myers blogged about this paper in a blog entitled “Junk DNA is still junk” (to which I responded briefly here). The paper erroneously concluded that “Overall, however, we find that most of the genome is not appreciably transcribed [emphasis added].”

There is actually a pretty good response to this article here. The methodology of the PLoS Biology article is fatally flawed, for they use a program called “RepeatMasker“, which actually acts to screen out all the repetitive DNA. But given that about 50% of our genome is comprised of repetitive DNA, the conclusions drawn by the authors seems to be a little disingenuous to say the least! In fact, the official description of RepeatMasker itself states that “On average, almost 50% of a human genomic DNA sequence currently will be masked by the program.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, the researchers then base their results “primarily on analysis of PolyA+ enriched RNA.” But we’ve known since 2005 that, in humans, PolyA- sequences are twice as abundant as PolyA+ transcripts. So the authors not only exclude half the genome from their research, but also completely ignore two thirds of the RNA in what remains!

PZ Myers really didn’t do his credibility many favours by citing that paper. The point being made by Myers is a false one anyway because it is known that even DNA which is not transcribed can play important roles.

Then there was, of course, that recent paper in PNAS telling us that “There’s plenty of time for evolution” (also paraded by Myers). The substance of the argument presented in this paper was terrible. Reading that paper when it first came out, I was frankly astonished that it was able to pass through peer-review.

But I guess so long as your paper purports to prop-up Darwinism and refute ID, anything goes.

There is also a sharp inconsistency on the part of many modern Darwinists. Politically muscular pressure groups will actively seek to stop ID research from seeing the light of day by ensuring that journals pull any papers (even if they have already gone through peer-review) which are sympathetic or favourable towards ID. Indeed, papers are sometimes rejected squarely because they are pro-ID, regardless of the substance of the argument. But when Darwinists publish fallacious arguments in reputable journals, there is no uprising against them.

Why the inconsistency?

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6 Responses to When Papers Shouldn’t Have Gotten Through Peer-Review

  1. Why the inconsistency??? Jonathan when you really think about the implications of the materialistic/atheistic worldview, it is a wonder that a naturalist/materialist is capable of any consistency in his thoughts and behaviors at all!

    Can atheists trust their own minds? – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byN38dyZb-k

    ‘But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?’ – Charles Darwin

    THE HISTORIC ALLIANCE OF CHRISTIANITY AND SCIENCE
    Excerpt: Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga gives his opinion: “Modern science was conceived, and born, and flourished in the matrix of Christian theism. Only liberal doses of self-deception and double-think, I believe, will permit it to flourish in the context of Darwinian naturalism.”
    http://www.reasons.org/histori.....nd-science

    notes:

    This following site is a easy to use, and understand, interactive website that takes the user through what is termed ‘Presuppositional apologetics’. The website clearly shows that our use of the laws of logic, mathematics, science and morality cannot be accounted for unless we believe in a God who guarantees our perceptions and reasoning are trustworthy in the first place.

    Proof That God Exists – easy to use interactive website
    http://www.proofthatgodexists.org/index.php

    Nuclear Strength Apologetics – Presuppositional Apologetics – video
    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....pologetics

    Materialism simply dissolves into absurdity when pushed to extremes and certainly offers no guarantee to us for believing our perceptions and reasoning within science are trustworthy in the first place:

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism in General – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

    THE GOD OF THE MATHEMATICIANS – DAVID P. GOLDMAN – August 2010
    Excerpt: we cannot construct an ontology that makes God dispensable. Secularists can dismiss this as a mere exercise within predefined rules of the game of mathematical logic, but that is sour grapes, for it was the secular side that hoped to substitute logic for God in the first place. Gödel’s critique of the continuum hypothesis has the same implication as his incompleteness theorems: Mathematics never will create the sort of closed system that sorts reality into neat boxes.
    http://www.faqs.org/periodical.....27241.html

  2. But I guess so long as your paper purports to prop-up Darwinism and refute ID, anything goes.

    Absolutely! Was there ever any doubt?

    Why the inconsistency?

    1. Money
    2. Power

  3. Jonathan,

    in the OP you mention an evolution critical paper, Behe just published another evolution critical paper, Douglas Axe and William Dembski have done so in the past. So maybe you can get published evolution critical papers if there is at least some substance to the argument.

  4. myname, ignoring your casual dismissal of the obvious hostility towards ID being accepted in peer-review, it is interesting to note what Philip Skell said of the peer-reviewed literature of Darwinism:

    Why Do We Invoke Darwin?
    Excerpt: In the peer-reviewed literature, the word “evolution” often occurs as a sort of coda to academic papers in experimental biology. Is the term integral or superfluous to the substance of these papers? To find out, I substituted for “evolution” some other word – “Buddhism,” “Aztec cosmology,” or even “creationism.” I found that the substitution never touched the paper’s core. This did not surprise me. From my conversations with leading researchers it had became clear that modern experimental biology gains its strength from the availability of new instruments and methodologies, not from an immersion in historical biology.
    http://www.discovery.org/a/2816

    and this:

    I found that Darwin’s theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.

    In this video at the 6:54 minute mark, Michael Behe demonstrated this and removed the word ‘evolution’ from a Darwinian peer-reviewed paper to demonstrate the fact that removing it had absolutely no effect on the paper’s core:

    Michael Behe – Life Reeks Of Design = video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hdh-YcNYThY

  5. Some people were awarded PhD’s for their work on Piltdown Man.

  6. Steno:

    Do you have a citation to back up that claim?

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