jottings from tertius

views of the world from my worldview window

"If there was no God, there would be no atheists." G.K. Chesterton


Tektonics Apologetics Ministry
The Adarwinist reader
Bede's Library: the Alliance of Faith and Reason
A Christian Thinktank
Doxa:Christian theology and apologetics
He Lives
Mike Gene Teleologic
Errant Skeptics Research Institute
Stephen Jones' CreationEvolutionDesign
Touchstone: a journal of mere Christianity: mere comments
The Secularist Critique: Deconstructing secularism I Wasn't Born Again Yesterday
imago veritatis by Alan Myatt
Solid Rock Ministries
The Internet Monk: a webjournal by Michael Spencer
The Sydney Line: the website of Keith Windschuttle
Miranda Devine's writings in the Sydney Morning Herald
David Horowitz frontpage magazine
Thoughts of a 21st century Christian Philosopher
Steven Lovell's philosophical themes from C.S.Lewis
Peter S. Williams Christian philosophy and apologetics
Shandon L. Guthrie
Clayton Cramer's Blog
Andrew Bolt columns
Ann Coulter columns


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Blogroll Me!

"These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own." G.K.Chesterton

"You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion." G.K.Chesterton

"As you perhaps know, I haven't always been a Christian. I didn't go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that."C. S. Lewis

"I blog, therefore I am." Anon

Saturday, February 15, 2003

aPEERances can be deceptive

The whole question of the flaws of peer-review, and related issues of fraud
and suppression of dissent within the "scientific establishment" I consider
to be an important issue. Particularly I am concerned at the elevation of
the process of peer-review into an iconic "holy of holies" in science.
Further to my recent blog on the pitfalls and failings of peer review, I submit the following additional commentary by biologist/geneticist Mae-Wan Ho which adds further weight to the criticisms and concerns that I highlighted in that posting.

Perhaps a response to that previous post would take the well-trodden route of "Yes, but..." admitting that there are failings with peer-review - how could one deny it considering the mass of evidence to that effect available in journals, articles, books, and on the Internet - but falling back on the old chestnut "but, it's the best we've got" as if somehow such an admission of mediocrity rather than the pursuit of both best-practice and truth makes everything alright. I need to highlight again that my blog was not an attack on peer-review per se - which in principle is wholly admirable - but upon the fact that it often falls far short in practice and is wielded as a tool by the ruling orthodoxy to stifle and suppress dissent and originality and to censor politically incorrect ideas.

Though written in a context not directly applying to the issue of Intelligent Design, the points enunciated below by Ho are very relevant in the light of the persistent tactic of seeking to dismiss ID as a serious concept because of its lack of peer review status. Ho, of course, is not an IDer or a creationisthaving clearly repeated another familiar line:"Let me make it clear I am not a creationist " However goes on to state: "...the debate on evolution between the creationists and the neo-Darwinists is not just sterile, it misses the central issue, which is that neo-Darwinism is wrong and dangerous. It is promoting and misguiding a runaway technology that has the potential to destroy all life on earth. It reinforces a worldview that undermines every single moral value that makes us human." Fighting words.

Ho is one of the most interesting writers in the field of biology and
genetics today (and, yes, there are a number of other such good writers!).

Mae-Wan Ho writes:

"Science has seldom lived up to its ideal as an open, disinterested enquiry
into nature, as any scientist who has ever tried to publish genuinely new
ideas or findings in the 'peer-reviewed' scientific journals will know too
well. Nobel Laureate Hans Krebs' discovery of the metabolic cycle that would
eventually bear his name was rejected from the journal Nature. Albert
Szent-Gyorgyi, another Nobel prize-winning biochemist, never got funded for
work on the relevance of quantum physics to living organisms, which is
crucial for understanding living organisms and why cell phones may be
harmful, for example.

In the course of liberating itself from the Church, the scientific
establishment has inherited many of the trappings of fundamentalist
religion. There can be but One True Science, and everything else tends to be
treated as nonsense or heresy. Within the past 50 years, the suppression of
dissent has plumbed new depths, as the scientific establishment is
increasingly getting into bed with big business. At first, it was mostly
physics and chemistry, now it is pre-eminently biology. And as corporations
are growing bigger and more powerful, so the suppression of scientific
dissent is becoming more sophisticated, insidious and extensive. As the
scientific and the political mainstream have both come to identify with
corporate aims, so their established power structures are brought to bear on
squashing scientific dissent and engineering consensus. Witness the seamless
way in which the corporations, the state and the scientific establishment
are co-ordinating their efforts to force feed the world with GM crops, known
to be unsafe and unsustainable, and to offer no proven benefits whatsoever
either to farmers or consumers."

There are many intriguing and disturbing matters raised here but let us

Ho further states:

'The Royal Society: Guidance on how to suppress unpalatable truths...
[...The Royal Society Guidelines effectively stifle dissent within the
scientific community and promulgate the views of the establishment...]

..."Journalists", the Guidelines states, "must make every effort to
establish the credibility of scientists and their work". The Royal Society
will publish a directory that provides a list of scientists. Before
interviewing any scientist, the journalist will be expected to have
consulted the officially nominated expert in the field, who will be able to
say whether the scientist in question holds correct views.

"Newspapers may suppose that they have produced 'balanced' reports by
quoting opposing views". Not so, according to the Royal Society, if "the
opposing view is held by only a quixotic minority." Journalists are told to
identify, wherever possible, a majority view, and that is the one they
should present. The majority view may turn out to be wrong, but such
instances, we are told, are the exceptions rather than the rule.

But the mainstream majority has all too often been mistaken! It has been
mistaken over nuclear power, climate change, and the link between BSE and
new variant CJD, to name but a few glaring examples. And it is thanks to
journalists reporting minority views that pressure is brought to bear on the
mainstream majority to change their stance. By then, unfortunately, much
damage has already been done. It would have been far worse if the minority
views had never got a hearing at all.

The Royal Society acknowledges that it is important for scientists to
communicate via the media, but is concerned that some scientists may be
seeking publicity to further their careers or to make exaggerated claims.
This is blatantly absurd and insulting to scientists [...] who lost their
research grants and jobs for expounding unpopular views and unpalatable
findings. To counter this, the Royal Society wants the media to contact
"scientific advisers" (again, presumably supplied by the Royal Society) who
could establish the authenticity of any story.

On the matter of "uncertainty", "journalists should be wary of regarding
uncertainty about a scientific issue as an indication that all views, no
matter how unorthodox, have the same legitimacy." The Royal Society insists,
once again, that it is peer review that confers legitimacy on scientific

The Royal Society has broken new ground in attempting to exercise control
over the press. It has been established practice for decades, if not
centuries for new scientific results to be presented at conferences before
they have been subjected to peer review and published. Peer review is not
and never has been a precondition for research being brought to the
attention of the public.

More to the point, where there is the possibility of danger to health or to
the environment, it can be totally counter to public interest to wait for
peer review. It took Pusztai nearly two years to get part of the work
published. And in the final hours, a fellow of the Royal Society, Peter
Lachmann tried to prevent the paper appearing in print. Holding back on a
scientific claim until everything is settled is one thing; not alerting the
public soon enough to a possible danger is another.

Tom Wakeford, who has a regular column in the journal Science and Public
Affairs, wanted to round up the year's events in 1999 as "an annus
horribilis" for "the Royal Society, and a host of previously respected UK
Scientific institutions". "After decades of almost sleepy acquiescence with
science, journalists are seeking out the instances of cronyism, censorship
and spin-doctoring from which they had previously seen scientists as being
somehow aloof." Tom was given the veto by the editor of the journal, Alun
Roberts, who withdrew his column, on grounds that Fellows of the Royal
Society "wouldn't like it". The journal is officially independent, as it is
published by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, and
some of its funding comes from the Royal Society."

The New Thought Police - Suppressing Dissent in Science Mae-Wan Ho and Jonathan Mathews, 16 February 2001

See also "Trust me, I'm an expert" and "How to engineer society to accept science as usual", Mae-Wan Ho, ISIS News#4, March, 2000

One criticism I can level at Ho is that she undermines her own very
persuasive case against suppression of ideas in science by making the
following glaringly prejudicial statement: "We would not like to see
so-called creation science treated seriously in the press, for example."
This comes in another paper addressing moves to institute the censoring of
"unacceptable" ideas in the press by the orthodox scientific establishment
in the UK. It demonstrates how easily all of us as humans can fall into the
trap of censoring, suppressing and harassing those whose ideas do not match
our own.
[ISIS, No 4 March 2000, Institute of Science in Society and Department of
Biological Sciences, Open University, Walton Hall Milton Keynes, U.K.]

I apologise if this quote - and some of my blogs - is rather long but I do
seek to gather relevant material to support any thesis that I
have put forward. Sometimes there is no snappy one-liner available to
demolish opposing arguments... or there is, but I think some more solid data
is preferable.

12:41:00 pm