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Peer-reviewed creationism ? January 25, 2008

Posted by dorigo in humor, internet, news, religion, science.

Nature has the story (by Geoff Brumfiel) about a “scientific” publication on creationism, which will publish peer-reviewed articles on the matter.

The publication, Answers Research Journal (ARJ), is free and online, for maximum damage. Its very name gives away that this is about giving answers, not posing questions: so scientists can jolly well ignore it, since a real research line is dead once answers are all there.

In any case, I find I agree with Keith Miller, a geologist at Kansas State University, who is quoted in the Nature piece: he is reported arguing that “scientists must be careful when responding to the launch of ARJ . Taking too strong a stand against the journal will fuel creationists’ accusations of scientific ‘bias’ against religion[…]. Researchers should instead try to educate non-scientists about the scientific process.”

I wonder when we will finally get a peer-reviewed journal publishing a selection of those encyclicals passing some reasonable review process… Also worth reading would be a peer-reviewed scientific journal about parapsychology.



1. Phil Warnell - January 26, 2008

It’s unfortunate to see that this whole thing has now been escalated further with the beginnings of this journal. It would also be better if those such as Richard Dawkin’s would refrain from exploiting the same issue simply to make money as a self appointed defender and spokesmen for science. None of this serves the world in any productive way. It only serves to fan the flames to encourage and expose the worse aspects of the human species, being prejudice and hatred.

2. Andrea Giammanco - January 26, 2008

> is free and online, for maximum damage

I wonder whether this could be used as an argument in favor of free and online publication of all the “serious” journals.

3. JustChecking - January 26, 2008

I think that the main fault of science is, that it didn’t become religion… If someone wrote “bible of science” and pronounced it to be the only source of truth to believe in, none of this stuff would be happening.

Btw, few years ago I heard, that they found the lost first page of bible… But since it says “To my beloved Nancy. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.”, it was destroyed.

Seriously now though – in my opinion, 3rd World War will be fought among the “you’re free to believe in what we say, cuz we’re right, cuz bible says so” (creationists), and “you’re free to not believe in what we say” (“science people”). And I’m not kidding there…

4. DB - January 26, 2008

Interesting that you use the launch of a Creationist journal as the opportunity for an ad hominem diatribe against Dawkins. To imply that putative actions of Dawkins “encourage and expose the worst aspects of the human species” is a disgraceful slur which you compound by alleging he is motivated “simply to make money”.
You should familiarise yourself with Dawkins’ professional status: he holds the Charles Simonyi Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford, therefore he is not “a self-appointed defender and spokesman for science” as you contend. He is doing the job he is paid to do within the normally accepted bounds of academic freedom.
The issue here is whether scientists should ignore this journal and not give Creationists the publicity and respectability they crave by making a fuss about it. Of course Miller is right. Ignore them. This is a theology journal, pure and simple.
Dawkins has chosen to take on the Creationists in the court of public opinion. As a professional biologist and educator, he appears motivated by a desire to explain the beautifully simple and powerful idea of evolution and also, to try to convince parents not to subject their children to the damaging effects of religious brainwashing.
I admire his courage as for far too long atheists have kept their mouths shut. But I stress the priority of fighting Creationists in the courts of law and public policy. These are the battles whose outcomes have lasting value.

5. Phil Warnell - January 27, 2008

Hi DB,

“Interesting that you use the launch of a Creationist journal as the opportunity for an ad hominem diatribe against Dawkins.”

I’m not using this for anything except to point out that it is (elements) of both camps that are doing such. By the way I do know who Dawkin’s is and he goes well beyond simply demonstrating evolution as being a sound theory. Plain and simply he does bash all religion which I would not deny is his right. However, to use science as your platform in this serves no one. I have always been suspect of those in the name of religion who claim “I have proof of God’s existence” or those in the name of science who claim “I believe or have faith in science”. It should be clear that both statements should be considered as oxymorons. I contend that understanding can accommodate both as being philosophies of reason. Truth of course is something that has never been assured by either.



6. undergrad mind - January 27, 2008

After reading this I had this instant where peer-reviewed was a meaningless term. It was frightening and I suppose I have ARJ to thank for it.

Also, I wonder if such a free online journal will hurt how people view legitimacy of all free online publications. And that’s not a step in a good direction…

7. Porlock Junior - January 27, 2008

“Also worth reading would be a peer-reviewed scientific journal about parapsychology.”

I was rather surprised to see this. After all,

“The European Journal of Parapsychology (EJP) is a peer-reviewed scientific journal for research — particularly theoretical and theory-driven empirical work — relating to the field of parapsychology…”

But I’m sure we Yanks beat them to the punch by many years.
“The Journal of Parapsychology was established in 1937 by J. B. Rhine to share experimental parapsychological research findings with the scientific community.”

I couldn’t immediately find a confirmation that Rhine’s journal is refereed, but
“At the time we met, Chuck had just finished high school, yet already had a refereed publication in the Journal of Parapsychology.”
(That’s Charles Honorton, whose name sounds familiar, by it surely isn’t worth the Googling.)

8. Andrea Giammanco - January 27, 2008

I don’t know what to think about this post. The impression is that you are attacking the right of these guys to put online whatever they want. I’m in favor of free expression. Internet and the birth of the “online way of thinking” have increased probably much more the noise than the signal, but still, I think that the good is much greater than the evil.
Now everybody can have access to creationist “research” and judge by himself.
Of course if they will have an over-representation on the web this is a problem, but the solution is not to ask that they have less, the solution is to have more (real) peer-reviewed science online and free.

9. dorigo - January 28, 2008

Dear Phil,
I do not know whether Dawkins makes money with it or not, but for sure ignoring the publication would be better IMO.

Hi Andrea, well, online publishing is a sure way to increase the number of people you reach, so it is definitely the way to go to disseminate science.

JustChecking, you remind me of an episode of South Park (yes, yes, I am obsessed with that cartoon!) when in a distant future atheists of two different creeds are at war against each other… Dawkins is their prophet, by the way.

DB, thanks for taking the stand of Dawkins here 🙂

Porlock, thanks for all the links – “research” in parapsychology is something I would love to fiddle with if I had more time. Indeed what I wrote was an oversight, but I wonder what is the scope of the peer review process of those publications: finding out whether the claims of today’s Uri Gellers are truthful ?

Andrea, no, I am not attacking them, only using sarcasm to some extent. And I agree with you, more information is always better.

Cheers all,

10. chris - January 28, 2008

peer-reviewed encyclicas?

i didn’t know the pope had any peers 🙂

11. Phil Warnell - January 28, 2008

I can see that you and many recognize no parallel here, with creationists taking to the laboratory and the scientists to the pulpit. This is ironically unfortunate. The only logical position that one should take is to ignore them both.



12. Amara - January 28, 2008

“research” in parapsychology is something I would love to fiddle with if I had more time
Some Ideas for your research (or at least for thinking).

13. DB - January 29, 2008

“‘research’ in parapsychology is something I would love to fiddle with if I had more time. Indeed what I wrote was an oversight”

Tomasso, it was no oversight, you are spot on. James Randi has been offerring one million dollars for many years now to anybody who can provide any evidence of the paranormal which will stand up to independent scientific scrutiny:


Of course, he hasn’t paid out a cent yet. And never will, I expect.

The history of parapsychology shows how easy it is to fool people, especially when you adopt all the paraphenalia associated with science: the journals, the terminology, peer-review. This is precisely the lesson the Creationists are trying to put into practice in their new journal, and why Nature is rightly scornful.

14. dorigo - January 30, 2008

Hmmm Chris, good point…

Phil, I understand your dislike of scientists preaching their science as if it was a religion. I share it, but on the other hand it is hard to defend from the attacks of fundamentalists… At some point one has to fight.

Ciao Amara, thank you 🙂

Hi DB, yes – I know of James Randi, in Italy we had quite a few documentaries about his work. In Italy we have an association called CICAP which deals with claims of parapsychology. A small organization, but it works well… Unfortunately it is hard work in a country with so many people willing to believe in little statues of the virgin crying tears of blood (and, when demonstrated that the blood has the DNA of the person owning the statue, they shrug shoulders and say it remains a miracle).


15. goffredo - January 30, 2008

A story I’ve told before:

One evening, many years ago, when I still lived with my parents, we had guests, a married couple, over for dinner. The husband was an electronics engineer, the wife a high school teacher with a degree in literature (o well, but she was “educated”).

That very day I read on the newspaper about a local priest that had old lady in his parish that could see the Virgin Mary. The priest armed hismelf with cameras and waited until the old lady got connected. He filmed, took photos,… the works. But when he developed the film, there was no trace of any signal. He claimed it to be a miracle!

I was annoyed and vented my sarcasm to our guests. They were surprised of my reaction. They agreed with the priest! Cameras and film are physical, ordinary stuff. So the fact the Virgin did not impress the film was proof of the supernatural properties of the event.

I never forgot this and have told it many times. There are several lessons. But I’ll let you all think of them by yourselves.

16. dorigo - January 30, 2008

Very instructive, Jeff… I do not remember having heard this story from you before, so thanks for reporting it here.


17. Phil Warnell - January 31, 2008

Hi T,
“Phil, I understand your dislike of scientists preaching their science as if it was a religion. I share it, but on the other hand it is hard to defend from the attacks of fundamentalists… At some point one has to fight.”

I fully concur that science must stand against fundamentalist to prevent them from passing off religion as science. What my initial complaint was that those of Dawkin’s stripe extend this to holding up science to have just reason to insist on the banishment of all religion. This is not the task or mandate of science and any of the profession that shares in Dawkin’s view not only betrays and cheapens their profession yet worse acts to undermine it. This I say out of my respect and trust for science and my desire it remain to be so by others..



18. Shubee - July 20, 2009

Wasn’t there a peer-reviewed scientific journal about parapsychology at Princeton University? http://www.princeton.edu/~pear/publications.html

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