The Collapse of the Peer Review Process — Post by Michael J. Findley

peerreview

“The real problem for science today is quality control. Peer review has been at the heart of this, but there are too many failures – both in open access and traditional journals – simply to plod ahead with the same system.”

(Quoted from the article, “Open access publishing hoax: what Science magazine got wrong”, by Curt Rice.) http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/oct/04/science-hoax-peer-review-open-access

“‘The sting operation on publishers doesn’t point to the real crisis,’ says Curt Rice – ‘the meltdown of the peer review system.’”

An atheist on a site where I frequently participate cited an article in support of his position. I will cover his position and the citation later in this post.

First, I want to thank him for reminding me of an important issue. He cited an article from an open-access publication. Several investigations into the open-access world of peer-reviewed papers have revealed massive fraud. This is also true of traditional scholarly publications, as Curt Rice’s article makes clear. Here is more from Rice:

“Science magazine has published a blistering critique of the most sacred cow of scientific research, namely the peer review quality system. Unfortunately, Science doesn’t seem to have understood its own findings. It proclaims to have run a sting operation, written by ‘gonzo scientist’ John Bohannon, revealing the weaknesses of the relatively new publishing model we call open access. In fact, the Science article shows exactly the opposite of what it intended, namely that we need an even wider use of open access than the one we currently have.”

“Bad work gets published. This is a crisis for science and it’s the crisis that Science shines a sharp light on this week. But Science misread the cause, which was not about making the results of research freely available via open access, but the meltdown of the peer review system. We need change.”

And Rice supports the peer review system.

Secular Humanists love to make loud, long, and repeated complaints that creationist peer-reviewed or refereed journals are not legitimate peer reviews because the reviewers are also Creationists. A “peer-reviewed” article by Petteri Nieminen and Anne-Mari Mustonen, Finnish writers, published in their home country an article entitled “Argumentation and fallacies in creationist writings against evolutionary theory,” published by Evolution: Education and Outreach. http://www.evolution-outreach.com/content/7/1/11

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12052-014-0011-6 was the source of this article linked to by the atheist in an online discussion. He linked it as a citation of legitimate scholarship. While I understand that just writing about this on our blog might give this straw-man fallacy article more publicity than it deserves (there is no such thing as negative publicity), I feel that it is an excellent example of the collapse of the peer review system.

It is written by evolutionists to promote evolution. It was never intended to be unbiased. This is exactly what secular humanists falsely accuse us of. However, it could still be an honest position, if the facts support their case.

Moving on to the content of the article itself, here is the opening:

“Abstract: Background
“The creationist–evolutionist conflict is perhaps the most significant example of a debate about a well-supported scientific theory not readily accepted by the public.
“Methods
“We analyzed creationist texts according to type (young earth creationism, old earth creationism or intelligent design) and context (with or without discussion of ‘scientific’ data).
“Results:
“The analysis revealed numerous fallacies…”
It then spends a paragraph defining types of fallacies.
“The prevalence of these fallacies was equal in young-earth creationism and intelligent design/old-earth creationism. The direct and indirect ad hominem were also prevalent in pro-evolutionary texts.”
The conclusion in the abstract then says “the recognition of these fallacies and their dismissal as irrelevant…”

Very serious charges, but nothing to support or even show where they apply to actual creationist statements in the abstract. Here is a faster-loading link to the article.
http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/s12052-014-0011-6.pdf

“Methods:
“Creationist authors and publications were chosen for analysis based on their visibility and impact in social media. (Table 1).”

That is both legitimate and well-stated. Table One begins with Answers In Genesis, Creation Ministries International, Creation Research Society, Institute for Creation Research, Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness (IDEA Center, and Intelligent Design Network.) These are the major organizations.

The next section includes tables of supposed examples of fallacies. Table Seven contains fallacies by proponents of evolution. Oddly, the tables do not provide enough information to find a specific quote. In the hundreds of references at the end of the article, Journal of Creation is only cited twice and Answers In Genesis only once. The only author I recognized in the tables is John Morris, with two partial quotes. Dr. Morris is the son of the famous Henry Morris. So in spite of publishing a table of leading creationist organizations, they ignore these organizations when choosing quotes.

But the worst part of this article is the entire categorization of partial quotes as fallacies. If a statement is true, and many of the quotes listed in the tables are true, then it is dishonest to claim that they are a fallacy. For example, under the category of “Dishonesty”, they have this partial quote from Dr. John Morris; “‘…if evolutionists really believe what they say or if they are purposively trying to mislead. I suspect there are some of both.’ Morris, 2013”

The complete quote actually makes sense. Here it is. “It makes you wonder if evolutionists really believe what they say or if they are purposively trying to mislead. I suspect there are some of both. Many evolutionists I have met have something in their own past that has turned them away from ‘religion.’”
http://www.icr.org/article/just-how-well-proven-evolution/

It is almost humorous that such a dishonest partial quote would be used as an attempt to show Dr. Morris to be dishonest. As you can see in the context, not only is the original honest, it is accurate. Not in every case, but it is a true statement, as Dr. Morris says, with “many evolutionists.”

Table 2 does not have actual quotes, only paraphrases, or what the article’s authors say the creationists mean. Occasionally a word or phrase is included in a quote. For example, under “poisoning the well” is the statement, “Claims of the type: ‘Evolutionists refuse to consider supernatural explanations.’” Every evolutionist I have talked to or read absolutely refuses to consider supernatural explanations for origins of the universe, of the earth, or of life. These are hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. Just one example is Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion. How is a simple statement of fact “poisoning the well?”

The name in the reference column is Walton, 2006. The reference section lists Walton as Walton, D. N. (2006). Poisoning the well. Argumentation, 20, 273–307. This is not a creationist quote, even used out of context. Is all of Table 2 actually quotes from noncreationists masquerading as creationists by making up statements they think creationists would say?

These are simply examples of the lack of scholarship, and, in many places, the lack of basic honesty, forming the substance of this entire article. If this is what passes for peer review, then there is no peer-review system any more.

(Image from http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/2012/01/radical-reform-for-peer-review.html)

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