Home » News, Peer review » To listen to Karl Giberson, Discovery Institute is why many people doubt peer review

To listen to Karl Giberson, Discovery Institute is why many people doubt peer review

Karl Giberson, Ph.D

Doubtless, the Discovery folk wish they could accept the accolade. But honesty forbids.

In “Why Evangelicals Are Fooled Into Accepting Pseudoscience” (Huffington Post, 9/23/11) , Karl Giberson ( formerly of BioLogos and Eastern Nazarene ) writes,

This widespread anti-science attitude was on display in all its glory in a recent polemic from the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based think tank that promotes intelligent design. In a piece titled “Peer Review and the Corruption of Science” the author reports on a column in the Guardian by a respected British scientist titled “Publish-or-perish: Peer review and the corruption of science.” The Guardian piece makes the legitimate point that too much weight is placed on the number of publications produced by research scientists rather than their quality. This legitimate concern should generate some thoughtful discussion in the scientific community.

It already has, actually.

But why would the Discovery Institute feel the need to bring this in-house discussion of the publishing culture of the scientific community to the attention of their largely evangelical readership, a readership that, for the most part, probably couldn’t even give the name of a peer-reviewed journal?

No? How about Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (Smithsonian) – and the Rick Sternberg controversy?

The goal, clearly, is to take the luster off the phrase “peer-reviewed” — to undermine claims like “There are no articles in peer-reviewed journals suggesting that Intelligent Design is a viable alternative to evolution.”

What luster? Oh, you mean like this quick trip through the recent files: “If it were a drug, peer review couldn’t be marketed”, “wheel of life or wheel of fortune?”, “peer review’s ineffectiveness makes waves”, “cut journals out of publishing” and “no convincing evidence of its benefits”, just to start.

We don’t invent these stories; ours is strictly a pass through operation on that topic, and so is Discovery’s Evolution News & Views’.

And if peer review gets any more lustrous, we’ll all be living in a permanent power failure.

The rhetorical strategy employed by the Discovery Institute does a great disservice to American evangelicals who, understandably, are drawn to faith-friendly discussions of science.

No, sorry, Uncle Karl. The Discovery Institute – talented as those folk may be, according to their critics – couldn’t have managed that. They really had nothing to do with this, for example: “Rising numbers doubt honesty among scientists.”

Seriously, does Giberson actually believe – as opposed to saying – that ID theorists are not concerned about the growing scandal of peer review for the same reasons as other researchers? He needs to get out more.

The relentless assaults on the integrity of science by groups like the Discovery Institute have made it impossible for many people to understand the significance of a “scientific consensus.”

No, be assured, we understand all too well what “scientific consensus” means. The Internet does that to people. And there’s no going back. You’ll just have to start being credible.

Peer review is, in the end, a victim of self-inflicted injury. And Karl Giberson is the last man alive, according to his own testimony, who really, truly believes in it. Give the man credit for a lot of faith.

Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista

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2 Responses to To listen to Karl Giberson, Discovery Institute is why many people doubt peer review

  1. The UK Telegraph recently published some startling numbers showing the increase in the number of scientific papers being withdrawn from publication – mostly due to fraud.

    I searched but couldn’t find the article on the Telegraph’s site (I haven’t given up searching yet) but I did find this brief but interesting perspective on peer-review from 2008

    Peer review was always an illusion, providing a deceptive imprimatur of objective truth….new science is always provisional – and that validation comes only after publication, when others try to reproduce the work.

    Peer review: the myth of the noble scientist

  2. Eegads!

    The Discovery Institute hath transgressed Karl Giberson’s modern (yea verily, even post-modern), sterling, and no doubt orthodox sensitivities regarding the propriety of whom should publish ought about what.

    Repent ye sinners!

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