Tag Archives: peer review

Peer Review Or Peer Pressure?

Everyone who’s written a paper knows the pressure of a grade. At some point, maybe in High School, maybe after obtaining a doctorate, the student has enough grasp of the subject material to help grade, not just be graded. This type of evaluation, grading papers written by those with similar education, is known as Peer Review. In professional careers which require publishing, Peer Review is required before publication. Some Peer Reviews are mostly editorial functions. Are the sources cited properly? Is everything spelled correctly? Other Peer Reviews, often called refereeing, require as much expertise and skill in the subject as possible. These reviews examine the technical details. Did the research follow proper protocols? Are there obvious errors? Does this paper use the most reliable information available? Are the conclusions warranted by the data?

In the end, peer reviews just advise the publisher. When the peer reviewing process is complete, the publisher can publish the paper, ask for the author to make changes, either major or minor, or reject the paper outright.

The Peer Review System is designed to produce the most accurate, professional results possible. No one expects perfection, but a system relying on honest professionals throughout the world should produce very accurate documents. Professionals throughout the world insist the system, though imperfect, works. Professionals point to overall higher quality, shared knowledge, since no one can know everything, but most important, enforced uniformity.

In this idealized world, everyone is honest, everyone is professional, everyone is competent and the end results continually advance the frontiers of knowledge. The real world is just the opposite.

In the real world, the driving motives are money and prestige, not advancing the frontiers of knowledge with honest professional standards. Honesty is acceptable, as long as the grant money keeps coming and no one important is embarrassed, or thinks that they might be embarrassed. If the money stops, then the right people must be placated. If the right people complain, then apologies and retractions are necessary to keep one’s job.

A famous example might keep anger and outrage to a minimum. On February 15, 1898 the USS Maine exploded and sank in the Havana, Cuba harbor. An 1898 Spanish inquiry concluded that a fire in the coal storage bunker ignited munitions. An 1898 US inquiry concluded that the cause of the explosion was a mine. Based on the US inquiry, this report became the final reason for the US to declare war on Spain. In 1911 a new inquiry built a cofferdam and removed the parts of the USS Maine from Havana harbor. Once again, the US inquiry concluded that the cause of the explosion was a mine. This inquiry destroyed all evidence. In 1974 Admiral Rickover conducted his own private investigation. He concluded that the original Spanish investigation was correct and that the reports of a mine were politically motivated. In 1998 a National Geographic Society investigation concluded that there was no evidence of a Spanish mine, the actual cause was inconclusive. Many investigators believe that there was a mine, but it was attached to the ship in just the right place to ignite the coalbunker. That person would have needed access to confidential US information.

This blog will not resolve the USS Maine explosion. It demonstrates that money and politics control the final results of a professional research paper, in this case several research papers, not an honest desire for the truth.

Up to this point, most people, even professionals will agree. Of course, there’s peer pressure, but they will argue some peer pressure is good. The question is how much and what kind of peer pressure.

We were told several times that we need to have our books and articles peer reviewed by people who disagree with us, not just by people who agree with us. Anyone who makes such a statement proves that he does not understand what a legitimate peer review is. An honest peer review requires a reviewer (referee) who is honest and qualified. If the honest, qualified referee disagrees with you, so be it. The referee needs to be clear and thorough as to why he disagrees. But if the referee agrees with the paper, he needs to state why, with equal clarity and thoroughness. The issue is not agreement or disagreement, but honesty and competence. For example, a paper on the Apollo 11 moon landing does not need to be peer reviewed by someone denies that men have ever been to the moon just for balance.

The problem is that today’s “professional standards” include religious bigotry. Certain religious myths are now required for publication in any periodical with any academic standing. Secular Humanism is required. Richard Dawkins, David Attenborough and many others insist that the teaching of creationism, or even God, must be banned from schools. Only their religion can be taught. The ban must be “statutory and enforceable.” Anyone who examines the facts and concludes that the earth is not millions of years old will never be published. Anyone who examines the facts and concludes that the universe is designed will never be published. Anyone who examines the facts and concludes that the there is a something called “spiritual” will never be published. Anyone who examines the facts and concludes that there is more to the universe than the material part will never be published. Science is no longer an examination of the facts but bowing to authoritative pronouncements. Because censorship keeps them from getting published they are condemned as “unprofessional” and “not capable of being published.” This peer pressure keeps them from being published, getting tenure, or even being hired.

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The Religion of Physics IV: What is “Scientific Evidence?”

All quotes, unless otherwise noted, are by Stephen Hawking from his book A Brief History of Time.

“A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future observations.”

“Any physical theory is always provisional, in the sense that it is only a hypothesis; you can never prove it. No matter how many times the results of experiments agree with some theory, you can never be sure that the next time the result will not contradict the theory. On the other hand, you can disprove a theory by finding even a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory.”

“There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win, because it works.”

“If they will not believe you (Moses) or heed the witness of the first sign, they may believe the witness of the last sign. But if they will not believe even these two signs or heed what you say, then you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground; and the water which you take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.” Exodus 3: 8,9 NASB

In the Bible the word belief means intellectually examining the evidence, and accepting the evidence. The Bible uses the word belief the same way we think of a juror examining the evidence. The juror votes according to what he believes about the evidence. Actively following up on that evidence is faith and passively following up on the evidence is trust.

Anyone can examine evidence, come to certain conclusions about that evidence and believe that their conclusions are correct. Orville and Wilber Wright believed that a heavier than air machine could fly. Their faith in that belief built an airplane. After building the airplane, they trusted in what they built and flew it. Our beliefs can be incorrect. We can place our faith in things which are not true. We can trust in things which are not true and people who will let us down.

The difference between the religion of Stephen Hawking and the Bible is absolute truth. The Bible claims to be absolute truth. Though few people today believe that it is absolute truth, all honest people know that it claims to be absolute truth. The religion of Secular Humanism demands that there is no absolute truth.

A very tiny number of people ever gain access to the multimillion-dollar equipment necessary for modern physics experiments. Only a tiny number of that tiny number are privileged enough to set up and run their own experiments. Of these who run their own experiments, very few ever see the experiments of others. These physicists are trusting in the records of others. They believe that the total sum of the experiments performed worldwide will reduce or eliminate error. They have faith in the peer review process.

They also believe, with a dogmatic faith, that the records of the Bible are untrue, or at least unscientific. Yet the historic record of Moses meets every test for science. It has multiple, credible witnesses. It was repeated. It can be falsified. It accurately predicted the future. It is based on observation and reason, Men reject Moses, not because of science, but because their religion is opposed to Moses.

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands concerning the Word of Life.” 1 John 1:1. NASB This is both scientific and legal testimony. John is either telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth or he is lying.

The scientific information of the Bible records that the processes which govern the universe today are different from the processes which brought the universe and life on this planet into existence. These records are as scientific as the photographic plate which record the collision of antimatter with matter. As anyone can mistrust or disbelieve the photographic plate, or the interpretation of the information on that plate, so we can mistrust or disbelieve the scientific information recorded in the Bible.

Secular Humanists believe that the miracles of Moses were not scientific because they cannot duplicate them today. Yet these same men believe in peer-reviewed studies which they cannot duplicate, such as a supernova. The only difference is that they believe in the results of these studies, while they reject the historic accounts of Moses.

The scientific records of Moses have no less authority than the peer-reviewed studies produced today. The basic difference is the information. Modern peer-reviewed studied usually have false conclusions for the primary content. The actual scientific data is usually contained in footnotes, appendices and attachments. In the published articles the conclusions usually lead. I believe the reason for this common layout is the difficulty very educated men have understanding how the available data supports their conclusions.

By contrast, the scientific data in the Bible is clearly laid out. From the beginning of the Bible we must simply choose to believe or reject the clearly laid out evidence of the witnesses. The data in the Bible is scientific.

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