Monday, December 28, 2015

Is it Peer-Reviewed?

One of my usual haunts is the Discovery Institute's (DI) Evolution 'News' and Views (E'N'V) site.  On it I read about all the cutting edge marketing the DI spews forth, offering much more Views than anything resembling News.  Caught this one "Peer-Reviewed Article on Transposable Elements Cites "Irreducible Complexity" and Other "Teleologic" Factors" and it drives a question, at least from my point of view, is this article really peer-reviewed?

The article little casey luskin is referencing is one posted in 'eLS', which is a online cite-able source published by Wiley as part of their Wiley Online Library.  One point to make, there is nothing in the Wiley Online Library that requires submissions for publication to be peer-reviewed, absolutely nothing.  So the fact it is available to be cited through Wiley doesn't mean that it is actually peer-reviewed, it also doesn't mean anyone has cited it as a reference.  So by what standard does little casey support this being a 'peer-reviewed' paper?  Absolutely none.  Little casey calls it peer-reviewed, but that doesn't mean it's actually peer-reviewed by the same standard actual science papers are peer-reviewed.

Over recent years the DI has been self-identifying a small number of papers as peer-reviewed, but the reality is their peer-review process is considerably different than the scientific community's peer-review process.  We've noted it time and time again, and frequently used this quote from Dr. Chancey, Chair of the Religious Studies Department at SMU said:

"Many religious groups-Christian and other-do not regard evolutionary theory as a threat. For many people of faith, science and religion go hand in hand. When scholars criticize ID, they are not attacking religion. They are only asking ID proponents to be transparent in their agenda, accurate about their representations of scholarship, and willing to play by the same rules of peer review and quality control that legitimate scholars and scientists around the world follow every day."
I added the underline to make my point.  ID 'theorists' would be welcome to submit their work for peer review if they are willing to play by the same rules. So again, by what standard does little casey support his claim of peer-review?  He doesn't.  Which leads me to believe that there is no standard!

Here is another example of using a term, like 'peer-review' and then sneaking in behind it and changing the definition.  I've noted in the past that they have been doing this for years by re-defining terms like 'Theory', 'Academic Freedom', and 'Free Speech'.  Now we can certainly add 'Peer-Review' to the list.

How the scientific community defines peer-review is surprisingly simple:
"Peer review is the evaluation of work by one or more people of similar competence to the producers of the work (peers). It constitutes a form of self-regulation by qualified members of a profession within the relevant field. Peer review methods are employed to maintain standards of quality, improve performance, and provide credibility." (Wikipedia: Peer-Review)

In other words, your work gets reviewed by others with similar qualifications in the same field, your peers.  Is this what happens when the Intelligent Design community peer-reviews?  Case in point the Sternberg Peer Review Controversy.  While the DI likes to cite the Meyer's paper as 'peer-reviewed', the journal in question rescinded the paper saying that the actual peer-review process was circumvented by Richard Sternberg.  In addition, Sternberg did the review in spite of the fact he is unqualified to review any paper on that subject, in other words he's not a qualified peer -- by science's standards.  So that tends one to think that the DI's definition of peer-review is more like:
'Getting a few people who already agree with you to say or write some positive comments about it.  Then  claim peer-review status because the people who already agree with you are your peers within the ID Movement.'
Certainly not the same thing as the scientific community.  Here is another take on Peer-Review, this one from the DI itself.  They have a link to "Peer-Reviewed Articles Supporting Intelligent Design" where they discuss and list what they claim are peer-reviewed papers that support ID.  Here is a couple of paragraphs that I found interesting:
"Other scientists around the world are also publishing peer-reviewed  scientific papers supportive of intelligent design. These include biologist Ralph Seelke at the University of Wisconsin Superior, Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig who recently retired from the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Germany, and Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe.

These and other labs and researchers have published their work in a variety of appropriate technical venues, including peer-reviewed scientific journals, peer-reviewed scientific books (some published by mainstream university presses), trade-press books, peer-edited scientific anthologies, peer-edited scientific conference proceedings and peer-reviewed philosophy of science journals and books. These papers have appeared in scientific journals such as Protein Science, Journal of Molecular Biology, Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, Journal of Advanced Computational Intelligence and Intelligent Informatics, Quarterly Review of Biology, Cell Biology International, Rivista di Biologia / Biology Forum, Physics of Life Reviews, Quarterly Review of Biology, Annual Review of Genetics, and many others. At the same time, pro-ID scientists have presented their research at conferences worldwide in fields such as genetics, biochemistry, engineering, and computer science."
What I noticed was that they claim that other scientists have published peer-reviewed scientific papers in support of ID in the first paragraph . . . and then they justify that these, and other, scientists' have had work published in a number of very influential scientific journals and give a pretty impressive list.  Do you see a small disconnect?  It stood out to me.  While these two paragraphs imply one thing, do they actual say that any of these 'peer-reviewed scientific papers supportive of ID' were actually published in any of those prestigious journals?  No they do not!  There is a difference with what they are implying and what they are actually saying!

To be sure, if they ever managed to get something honestly peer-reviewed, and by that I am using the scientific communities standards of peer-review, they will be doing more than just using the term as a label, the way little casey does.  They will be crowing from every damn platform they can find.  But since that hasn't happened, I will continue to question their use of the term 'peer-review'.  It reminds me of "That's it? An admission of failure?" when we looked at who was addressing the critiques from "Darwin's Doubt", all Meyer's friends from the Discovery Institute.  Why didn't they call that one 'peer-reviewed' as well?  Maybe that was too obvious, even for the DI.

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