Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Yet another banal attack on science.

"The Telegraph" recently published an article attacking the practice of scientific peer review and suggesting free scientific publishing on the internet as a remedy (hat tip: Vox Day). No, seriously, it did:
As we enter the Wiki-world, peer review will lighten. Scientific publishing is being transformed by the web: people once paid for hard copies of journals, but now free periodicals such as Public Library of Science Biology proliferate online.

They are still peer-reviewed, but soon reputable scientists will start to publish their own electronic papers. The convenience will be irresistible.

Some form of peer review will need to survive, to deter fraudsters, but it will probably resemble the one practised by the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, in which, essentially, distinguished friends simply vouch for each other.

And a good thing, too. Peer review was always an illusion, providing a deceptive imprimatur of objective truth.

Less formal arrangements will remind us that new science is always provisional - and that validation comes only after publication, when others try to reproduce the work.
The argument the article makes is practically self-refuting. Simply put, we are expected to believe that Herr Einstein is simply too biased to prevent his personal jealosies from interfering from his scientific judgement but that the combined judgement of Herr Einstein with that of Fraulein Spears provides flawlessly unbiased, totally neutral scientific judgement. Frankly, the answer is no.

If the article's lazy assumption that an eminent scientist is actually the one person you cannot trust to seriously vet your scientific results makes you suspect a pro-Christian agenda here, you might be on to something. The obsession with "objective truth" is second only to the invocation of the biblical Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 11, verse 1 as a signifier of the Christian anti-scientific modus operandi.

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