Peer Review


Over at the ARN blog, Denyse O’Leary has a four-part article up attacking the peer-review system. Rob Crowther, of the Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints Division, has chimed in with his own post on the topic. There’s a great deal of humor in watching anti-evolutionists try to dismiss peer review as not worth the effort anyway. It bears an amazing resemblance to this really cute old fable about a fox, but I’ll be kind and pretend that there is actually something more to the O’Leary and Crowther rants than good old sour grapes.

Their major complaint about peer review is, of course, that their stuff, for some bizarre and unaccountable reason, has a really hard time surviving the process. In Crowther’s words:

To sum up, science journals that are wedded to Darwinian evolution refuse to publish authors who explicitly advocate intelligent design. Then Darwinists attack intelligent design as unscientific because it isn’t published in peer-reviewed journals.

O’Leary puts it a bit differently, but the basic concept is the same:

There is a modest but growing number of ID-friendly peer-reviewed publications. But - given the woeful state of peer review - papers that support or undermine ID hypotheses would probably be neither better nor worse recommended if they were never peer reviewed, just published, amid cheers and catcalls..

Of course, they try to justify their criticism of peer review on grounds other than their inability to reach the grapes. Peer review, they claim, doesn’t identify fraud. It’s not that good at catching incorrect findings. It squelches new ideas. It places “intellectual pygmies” in judgement of intellectual giants. It favors consensus. It sucks the life out of people, and is entirely responsible for global hunger and bad hair days. OK, I made the last two up, but you should still get a taste for the basic strategy that’s being employed here - it’s an oldie, but a goodie. Throw as much crap as you can at the wall, and hope that some of it sticks.

In this case, some of it does stick. It should. Peer review is not a perfect system. It is absolutely flawed. It is, in fact, not good at catching fraud. It does not catch many flawed studies. It does make it more difficult to publish new ideas, and it is absolutely capable of sucking the will to live from people. (Just because I made that one up doesn’t mean it isn’t right.) To paraphrase Churchill, peer review is the worst system out there, except for all the others that have been tried.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):


It is sometimes difficult to get new ideas published, in large part because reviewers are more likely to scrutinize every detail of a paper that does not match up with what they think they know about the subject. That’s just human nature, and it’s hard to get around. O’Leary and Crowther point out that ideas that eventually resulted in Nobel Prizes were originally rejected for publication, but they miss one important detail - the ideas were, in fact, eventually published. The authors might well have needed to do a lot more work to get them published, and provide a lot more evidence, but they did eventually succeed.

Indeed, I think of the discovery of Helicobacter pylori as the cause of ulcers. Around 1980, Warren and Marshall wrote a paper alledging the link, but it was rejected for publication. So, of course, they started a BBS site called “UncommonHeartburn–the weblog of Barry Marshall, Robin Warren and friends.” Lots of middle-aged engineers, lawyers, video store clerks, converged on the site, and started performing amazing work, theorizing about Cantankerous Stomach Infections, or CSI. Scientists would ask them, “why aren’t you doing experiments? Why aren’t you in a lab?” but they would reply, “The burden of proof is on you. Just look at this stomach. It’s obviously the work of Unknown Bacteria.” After several years of lobbying school boards by this motley crew, a school board approved their insertion into the lesson plans, and the battle was over. They had arrived.

And what exactly is wrong with consensus?

I think we should actually look at what they stated about the topic before we go any further on this subject.

Quite frankly, while I disagree with the ID movement, this article has a good point to it. All its really saying is, don’t put too much emphasis on who’s peer reviewed and who’s not, because just because someone’s peer reviewed, doesn’t make them the demi-god of Science. A person with a Masters degree could have just as much knowledge, if not more so than someone who is a complete dunce and has a PHD in a certain area. In a like manner, a person who has not had peer reviewed material may or may not be more reputable than someone who has published peer reveiwed material. In other words, this is not the objective standard of evaluation to go by. Simply, is the material accurate and true is enough.

While anyone who’s ever tried to get anything published would agree that the peer-review system sucks, it’s still a pretty good system. It’s certainly not designed to catch outright fraud. That check comes later, when other groups try to reproduce the original experiments in order to expand on them. Getting published is only the 1st step toward scientific acceptance. Here’s Irv Weissman’s take on the process, in the context of the South Korean stem cell scandal:

I should point out that before any research finding should be considered solid, several practical barriers must be surmounted. First, the finding should be published in a peer-reviewed journal (the Hwang paper was). Second, several independent laboratories must publish in peer-reviewed journals that the experiments and the findings are reproducible. So far that has not occurred for the Hwang findings. Third, the scientific principle revealed by the findings must be strong enough to be validated, or proven false, by virtually all kinds of experiments. The Hwang research had only passed the first benchmark and was therefore not yet considered proven by the scientific community.


I’m calling BS on “Dr.” Michael.

He never graduated as a Ph.D. from the Yale University cell biology department in 2004. He never wrote or defended a doctoral thesis there, on leukocytosis or anything else.

If you complete a thesis, and it’s accepted, it’s going to be shelved in some library somewhere and it’s going to be searchable on the internet.

Go ahead, “Doc” Martin. Give us the full title and the name of all the scholars on your committee. Heck, just give us the link.

Otherwise, quit yer yappin’!

Bla, Bla, Bla.

It’s 2006, and any 12 year old can get a world-wide audience by putting his video up on YouTube.

Yes, the peer-revue publication system is the gold standard for disseminating scientific information, but let’s be honest here.

If ID had something - anything significant to say, getting the word out in front of a worldwide audience would be a trivial act, and there’d be plenty of honest scientists out there who would pick up the ball dropped at their feet.

Both the Yale University library and an organization (previously(?)) known as University Microfilms ought to have copies of any purported thesis by Dr. M&M.

But in any case, he is the uber-troll of all time, and I call shenanigans. He has completely wrecked one of Nick’s threads.

Peer-review is not con census, at least for the journals I have used and reviewed for. In these, the editor chooses the referees, reads the paper and the reports to make the final decision. If all the reviews are favorable, the editor will, almost always, accept the paper. If the general tenor of the reviews is lukewarm, the editor might or might not accept the paper. If a referee points out actual errors then the paper is rejected, or at best, accepted only after corrections are made.

Publication of a peer-reviewed paper is, as has been pointed out, only the first step. However, in maths and parts of computer science, it may be the last step in that the results of the paper are therein after ignored, even my the author(s).

All its really saying is, don’t put too much emphasis on who’s peer reviewed and who’s not, because just because someone’s peer reviewed, doesn’t make them the demi-god of Science.

It makes them science. Demigods aren’t used in this particular field.

The peer review system, as this article notes, has some problems; it may be inefficient, it may be be too harsh on new ideas, it is not guaranteed to catch academic fraud. But it does serve the crucial purpose of discriminating science from non-science. And since we badly need some rubric for doing this the peer review system is indispensable (though of course we may be able to find ways to refine the exact process in future).

As for the edge cases where research in young fields has trouble reaching the standard required by peer review right off the bat, or where researchers in old fields commit academic fraud, the lesson to take away I think is that the peer review system can’t work by itself– individual scientists must still be able, above and beyond the peer review system, to keep an eye out for neglect of innovative ideas or the possibility of fraud.

But this does not make the peer review system any less useful as a simple basic first bar in the scientific community to keep non-science out.

As an aside, notice how Luskin steps in it (yet again) by claiming that “University of California, San Diego Forces All Freshmen To Attend Anti-ID Lecture” by Robert Pennock:[…]a_san_d.html

If you have any idea of the size of the UCSD student body, you’ll know how ludicrous an idea this is.

And of course, Sal Cordova laps it up and echos it over at UD.

Michael Martin Wrote:

My paper was written in the ancient days before computers were used all over schoolrooms like they are today.

Didn’t you say in the other thread that it was written in 1998?

For all we know, it could be sitting in the library on campus wrotting with dirt.

Do you know what “microfilm” is?

Oops! My bad–“Dr.” Marty’s drivel can be hard to unravel, since he refuses to use the quote boxes (or even to use the “ “ keys, for crying out loud!)–apparently he claims to have received his cell biology doctorate from Yale in 1998, whereas he got his master’s in theology from some little arm of, koff koff, Biola University, in 2004.

Over on the Hoving tax conviction thread, he’s trying to argue that Yale didn’t have computers in 1998, that Yale doesn’t keep track of its dissertations from 1998 (heck, little ol’ University of Washington’s library’s database is searchable for doctoral theses approved way before that! I recently searched for a master’s thesis from the ’70s and a doctoral thesis from 1984…).

And I’m sure plenty of Yale cell bio Ph.D.s can think of nothing better to do with that hard-earned, expensive, and marketable degree but head for Biola U. to get a master’s.


Dr. Fubar is even worse than Larry Farfromsane was.

taking up bandwidth with stream of consciousness inannities, invading and polluting multiple thread.

would someone please toss this sorry ass, batshit insane, creobot, please?

“consensus”, not “con census” “thereinafter”, not “therei after” “by”, not “my”

A quick check shows nothing in the Yale Library on-line catalog by “Martin, Michael”. However, checking my own on-line catalog for a thesis by one of my PhD students at a comperable date does not locate his thesis. A check for a student in the 90s does locate his.

Dr. Fubar was incomplete:

I can’t find any dissertations for this matter.

what he really means is:

“I can’t find any information to cut and paste on this matter from AIG or CMI.”

I guess some people just find time to get jealous about the PHDs they don’t have, right?

nooo… some people get pissed off at idiots who proceed to WASTE their educations like you have.

remember back when i told you I had a graduate degree from Berkeley?


of course not.

you have the attention span of a mosquito.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 7, column 58, byte 601 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/mach/5.18/XML/ line 187.

Hey Doc, I have a few questions for you. They should be pretty easy for someone who, uh, has a doctorate from Yale . …

(1) If, as AiG keeps yammering, mutations only produce a LOSS of genetic information, then, uh, how did the number of human alleles INCREASE from a maximum of 8 to over 400? (or, in creationist math, is 400 a LOSS from 8?)

(2) where can I see a natural mutation rate high enough to produce 400 beneficial mutations in the sapce of 4-6,000 years?

(3) what mechanism allows these mutations to appear ONLY in the germ cells, and not in the somatic cells where they would kill the human race with cancers?

(4) what exactly is the genetic barrier between “created kinds”? What genetic mechanism, specifically, allows “microevolution” within a “created kind”, but prevents that “microevolution” from straying outside the “created kind”?

(5) what happened to the cities that humans were living in before the Flood — did the stones and buildings run for the high ground too? Oh, and what about the people who died before the Flood happened — did the fleeing people stop long enough to dig up all the buried corpses of their ancestors and carry them to the high ground, too?

(6) why is the modern leatherback turtle found ONLY in the top layers of the geological column, and NOT in the middle or lower layers —- after all, it (1) lives in the open sea, (2) sinks like a rock when it’s dead, and (3) can’t crawl on land, so by every one of the idiotic “hydraulic sorting” “explanations” I’ve seen from YECs, they should be at the very BOTTOM of the fossil column. Why aren’t they?

(7) And I’d very much like to hear how the willow trees managed to outrun the velociraptors to the top of the geological column .…..?

By the way, Doc, how many peer-reviewed articles have creation “scientists” ever had setting out their, uh, “science” . … . … . ?

Oh, that would ZERO, wouldn’t it.

Its not much different from the former Research Company I used to work for.

er, except now you have abandoned any pretense of actually doing the science they spent years training you to do at Yale.

now all you do is a poor excuse for apologetics.

somehow, I doubt that’s what you learned at Yale.

ergo, you are, in fact, wasting your education.

congrats, Dr. Fubar.

According Behe (quoted by Crowther), he wasn’t saying that Darwinian evolution couldn’t explain complex systems but instead that one element of evolutionary theory couldn’t explain complex systems. So basically he was stating the bleeding obvious:

Behe Wrote:

The manuscript did not argue for intelligent design, nor did it say that complex systems would never be explained within Darwinian theory. Rather, it just made the simple, obvious, and unarguable point that gene duplication by itself is an incomplete explanation.

Colour me confused. The last time I checked science magazines tend to only accept science that actually adds to scientific knowledge. Saying that the Theory of Evolution might be able to explain it, but one mechanism involved alone cannot, is not really worthy of publishing.

Perhaps I should submit a paper to an ID magazine that concludes that natural selection alone cannot account for complex systems.

just a note to thread ownners:

I doubt there is ANYBODY here who thinks Doc Fubar has anything intelligent to contribute to ANY thread he “participates” in.

If you don’t start tossing his sorry ass, to the BW if nothing else, expect your threads for now and evermore to be continually polluted with his drivel, and the responses to it.

start paying attention to your own threads.

It’s worth pointing out that O’Leary’s piece is not particularly original. In fact, most of the content is lifted from the New Atlantis article. See here:[…]erreview.htm

And what exactly is wrong with consensus?

Amen. We may not know everything, but we know a lot. Those who like to point to the Einsteins of history as support for the idea that the consensus should not be trusted need to accept two things:

1) You are not Einsteinian 2) The vast majority of goofy-assed theories rejected by the consensus remain that way forever, and rightfully so.

Uh, “Doc,” nobody here is fooled by your attempts to change the subject.

We’re still waiting for the exact title of your 1998 Yale cell biology doctoral thesis, remember (the one you claim to have located a paper copy of, but the one nobody can find in the Yale Library system).

And the abstract of that thesis.

And the names of the rest of your dissertation committee members.

And for links or abstracts to the other peer-reviewed journal articles you claim to have written.

You don’t have to be a biology Ph.D. to post here–heck, they even let pinheads like me post.

But once you claim to have some special expertise, you’ve got to be able to back it up when challenged.

So far, you’re looking a whole lot like Hovind and Haggard. Let me spell it out for you: L - I - A - R.

I’m still willing to be proved wrong, though, and I’ll admit it if you do. But, since you claim you’ve got your very own paper copy of your thesis right in your hot little hands, I’m kind of curious what’s taking you so long.

I hope you’re not waiting for one of those internet “paper-writing” services to come through for you. They, uh, don’t really deal in committee-approved doctoral theses.

Frankly, I don’t see any point in reading any more comments on any thread until Dr. Fullgoosebozo’s name drops off the New Comments bar.


Okay.…so its accredited through Biola. Accreditation Talbot, as a school of Biola University, is included within Biola University’s accreditation by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Talbot is also a member of the Association of Theological Schools (member), the internationally recognized accrediting body of seminaries and schools of divinity in the United States and Canada.

What that quote says is:

1. Talbot is a school of Biola University 2. Biola University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges 3. Talbot is also separately accredited by the Association of Theological Schools

You do understand the relationship between a university and the schools that comprise that university, right?

Not being familiar with Talbot, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that its status as a part of Biola University would not come up often when dealing with the school itself– but it does seem quite strange that someone could get a degree there without ever becoming aware of that fact.

[sigh] unDoc Martin, Master of Logic and All That is Pollysyllabic, Ruler of All Yale PhDs, might I remind your grace, that an “ad hominem” attack is the act of claiming someone’s view is wrong by attacking them personally. It is not the mere act of implying they are an idiot, or even calling them an idiot.


“Dr.” MM:

De-lurking to comment:

I received my Ph.D. in 1977 from Yale’s biology dept. I searched on the Yale library web site for my last name and retrieved my thesis title with two entries - one with a book call number and the other with a microfilm number.

Why did they record theses in the 1970’s but not the 1990’s?


Mikey Mike Wrote:

Look, I’m sorry if I’m getting a bit flustered, but answering the same questions over and over again is really wearing me down here guys.

Except you’re not really answering them. Just providing the same excuses over and over again.

I can see how that would be tiring, when you’d just ratherthe bad ol’ questions would go away.

But they won’t.

So answer them.

What’s the title of your dissertation? What was the abstract? Who was the head of your lab? What journals did you publish in? Will you ever answer Lenny’s questions?

In my experience of peer-review (both as reviewer and reviewed) a referee will never reject a paper just because they disagree with it or because it goes against the mainstream. They will reject it if the conclusions are not supported by or are inconsistent with the data it contains or if the experimental work is seriously flawed.

The same applies to PhD examinations (again speaking as both examined and examiner under the UK system).

I have never seen it stifle the publication of new ideas - we have patent lawyers for that.

There are no widely accepted standards for peer review. Theoretically, a Journal of Criticism of Darwinism could be established for the express purpose of publishing peer-reviewed criticisms of Darwinism.

The terms “peer review,“ “peer reviewed,“ and “peer-reviewed“ appear a total of 21 times in Judge Jones‘ final Kitzmiller v. Dover opinion. It is noteworthy that neither that opinion nor any other decision in the case was peer-reviewed prior to release. An appeal might be considered to be a form of peer review, but there was no appeal in Kitzmiller. The final opinion is at –[…]ller_342.pdf

At present, it appears likely that this person is not “Dr. Michael Martin,” and that he or she has absolutely no affiliation with either NIH or AiG.

(shocked gasp) You mean … creationists LIE ABOUT THEIR CREDENTIALS??????

I am utterly flabbergasted by that.


How unexpected.

DI’s whining about “peer review” brings to mind the comedy that ran during the Dover trial, when Behe tried to claim that his BOOK was “peer-reviewed” (IIRC, it was somebody who only heard Behe read part of the manuscript to him over the phone or something… )

As I pointed out at the time, my dinky little book about keeping tarantulas as pets underwent a far more rigorous “peer review” than Behe’s, uh, magnum opus did – I had three different experts on tarantulas (two with PhD’s in arachnology and books of their own) read the entire manuscript, cover to cover, twice, before I even sent it to the publisher.

The biggest shame of this whole Yale is that the ID crowd still doesn’t get it.

Rank doesn’t matter nearly as much as they think it does. Maybe in their world just because the Reverend says it, you must believe it. After all, he must be smarter than you since he more letters after his name.

But that’s not the way it is in science. Yes, those with advanced degrees get the initial benefit of the doubt, but that doesn’t last much longer than it takes for them to open their mouths and say something really stupid (think of Behe).

Some of the greatest minds in science and technology never had much formal training at all (Einstein, for example, had a couple of years of college and was working in a field completely unrelated to physics).

No, in science all it takes is that you’re right, and can show it. It may take a while, but at the end of the day, there’s just no way to argue with a simple-to-demonstrate fact.

If Doc M&M had some of that that, there would be no need for the bluster. But I guess he doesn’t, hence the need to, oh, how shall I put this… bear false witness.

At least peer review worked in the case of Meyer’s abysmal Cambrian paper.

What is the minimum sentence for impersonating a Federal official?

Oh wait, that would be persecuting a minority scientific viewpoint. Never mind.

Damn, another Liar For Jesus goes down. Only a few hundred more to go, I guess.

Only a few hundred more to go, I guess.

In my dreams!

try 30 million:

I thought that Doc got his lying ass kicked out of here . … ?

Gosh, there’s sure a lot of similarity between this list:

1998 - 1999 G. Evelyn Hutchinson Prize Graduate Student Abstracts Index Homayoun Bagheri Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Luis Cadavid Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Martin Hanczyc Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Maxim Shpak Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Michael Slotman Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Eva Cuadrado Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Timothy Farnham Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Carlos Gonzalez Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Xinxhang Hu Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies B. Brooke A. Parry Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Montira J. Pongsiri Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Jessica Maisano Department of Geology & Geophysics Cynthia Marshall Department of Geology & Geophysics Steven Petsch Department of Geology & Geophysics Jeffrey Chen Department of Environmental Engineering Eric Vrijenhoek Department of Environmental Engineering

and Mikey-Troll’s latest pitiful attempt at trying to rehabilitate his credentials, as posted in Comment 145266:

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology Andrew Miranker Homayoun Bagheri Luis Cadavid Martin Hanczyc Maxim Shpak Michael Slotman

Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Eva Cuadrado Timothy Farnham Carlos Gonzales Xinzhang Hu B. Brooke A. Parry Montira J. Pongsiri

Department of Geology and Geophysics Jessica Maisano Cynthia Marshall Steven Petsch

Department of Environmental Engineering Jeffrey Chen Eric Vrijenhoek

Gosh, itself for Mikey’s first “advisor,” who only got to Yale the year that Mikey claims to have received his doctorate, Mikey’s latest list is identical with the Hutchinson Prize graduate students list. Quite a coincidence! Wow, that Mikey really knows how to pick ‘em…

In addition to the ridiculous coincidence, of course, there’s the fact that all these other people were graduate students at the time Mikey claims they were on his committee.

Mikey, take a tip, you little lying pipsqueak–don’t ever actually try to make your way through graduate school. You’re not good enough at lying and plagiarizing to last a week.

To quote the illustrious Lenny:


Give it up, junior. You’re stinking up the joint.

I apologize for the repeat posts by liar-boy. (20-member dissertation committee, including Vrba, with an advisor who had been there for one year, that was cute.) I personally don’t have the ability to ban, and it is the weekend. I can’t sit in front of the computer indefinitely, but I will continute to unpublish those posts as the opportunity comes up.

I have already emailed a complaint to [Enable javascript to see this email address.] and [Enable javascript to see this email address.], and I’m still waiting for an admin here to block him. In the meantime, I would again request that people refrain from feeding him either here or in other threads.

Um, Michael Martin, you might want to actually find out what you’re talking about before lying for Jesus about what you know. This is true for most of what you’ve been saying, but in the case about your claims about your “education”… Many PhDs and MS/MAs read this blog, and we all know how many people are on the typical committee. My PhD committee had 5 members and my MS had 4 members.

How many on “yours”? Nineteen? Come on, you can do better than that. If we contacted them (easy to do) what’s the chance of any of them knowing who you are?

Grow up.

Sorry ‘bout that. Won’t happen again.

Thanks, Mike Dunford.

While it’s been fun–and an interesting-in-itself live demonstration of the dishonesty of Creationism tactics–to fisk this little rascal’s claims, I’ll try to suppress any further urge to pile on, and thus to respect your request not to feed the troll.

Thanks for actively maintaining your thread, to the extent practical.

In an ideal case, it would’ve been fun to have “preserved” all the evidence of Mikey’s untenable claims in some appropriate place, perhaps over at “The Bathroom Wall,” on After the Bar Closes.

Well, just in case there is someone, ANYone, out there who isn’t convinced that “Doc” Martin is an unabashed shameless liar, I offer the positive proof …

When Doc first made his claim that he was a staff member of AIG, I was suspicious since his name doesn’t appear anywhere on AiG’s website. So, I did the logical thing and wrote to AiG (under an alternate email – they know my name and won’t answer questions from me)and ASKED them:

I’m curious — do you have a staff member named Dr Michael Martin, with a PhD in genetics from Yale?

I just got AiG’s response today:

Thank you for contacting Answers in Genesis.

No, we do not have a Michael Martin on staff at Answers in Genesis-USA, nor is he someone with whom we are familiar.

Gary Vaterlaus Director of Curriculum & Correspondence Answers in Genesis PO Box 510 * Hebron, KY 41048 (859) 727-2222

So there you have it … Doc Martin is a liar.

I’m sure everyone is, um, shocked and surprised to hear that …

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