Archive for the 'Peer Review' Category
Seth Roberts summarizes a recent example of politics in academia. While the subject has nothing to do with ID, some here might find that this passage comes with an uncanny resonance:
Well, which is it? "Proven wrong" by "almost everyone" (McCloskey) or "unfalsifiable" and without "predictive capabilities" and "untestable" (Conway)? McCloskey and Conway must have talked many times. This discrepancy in how they attacked Blanchard's theory shows how little they cared about its truth "” or that they knew it was true.
Biologist PZ Myers has told us that the decision to grant tenure is "a subjective evaluation of the compatibility of the individual with the other scholars of the department" and we have seen that many people from academia agree. In fact, several critics from academia have noted that Guillermo Gonzalez's ID views probably did, or should have, played a role in preventing him from getting tenure. Now, even more academic critics of ID have echoed these same themes. At this point, this issue has become larger than Guillermo Gonzalez's situation, so it won't matter when the official reasons for denial are eventually supplied. What matters is that the academics have gone on record and given you a peek behind the closed doors and how they would handle someone who took ID seriously.
Biologist PZ Myers wants us to understand why Guillermo Gonzalez was denied tenure.
The tenured faculty at the university then get together in a big meeting and discuss everything in painful detail. Do the outside reviewers think well of the applicant? Is this person an enthusiastic contributor to university governance? Is there promise of interesting work to come? Do we want to spend the rest of our working lives side by side with this person? The final decision is a subjective evaluation of the compatibility of the individual with the other scholars of the department. (empahsis not added)
Thus, according to Myers, the decision to grant tenure is a subjective judgment that is made behind closed doors. That subjective judgment calls play a key role in tenure decisions is something that has been claimed by several critics of ID from academia.
Consider some examples below the fold:
The blogoshere is atwitter over Guillermo Gonzalez, the ID astronomer who was denied tenure at Iowa State University. Gonzalez has an impressive publication record, and his research has been featured on the cover of Scientific American. Nonetheless, his university decided to deny him tenure.
Gonzalez has been open about his sympathies towards intelligent design, and in a press release the Discovery Institute is claiming that the denial of tenure was motivated by anti-ID bias. ID critic Ed Brayton has written a response that's supposed to squash the DI's allegations, but which ends up confirming them.
When I first made this post, I thought that Zimmerman was a peer reviewer himself. I made a mistake. He's just a singer. But he sings songs to peer reviewers. That makes him a BuzzBot just like Nick Matzke. And it's the Buzzbots who give many of the peer reviewers their primary ideas about ID. And, according to people like Agent BuzzBot Nick Matzke, it's ducky all the way down. There's no difference between creation science and ID. So this song is about everyone who embraces ID.
It's a song about Mike Gene and Krauze.
One of the reasons I don't take grandiose statements about how "many scientists reject intelligent design" seriously is because the average scientist has no clue as to what intelligent design is about, having only read some anti-ID editorials in the journals they subscribe to. A perfect example is provided by James L. Powell, professor of geology and the former director and president of the L.A. County Museum of Natural History. In a video urging scientists to tell the public what's what regarding intelligent design, he makes this… ahem, incisive argument against intelligent design (HT: Paul Nelson):
We have to say that if creationism is right and if there is an intelligent designer, then almost everything else we know about science is wrong. Then your flu vaccine wouldn't work, your car wouldn't start, there was no Hiroshima, and on and on and on.
Apparently saying this to the public is enough – you don't have to actually provide any evidence for it.
The video, which I've put below the fold, also contains a clip with David Deamer, recipient of NASA "Origin of Life" grant, complaining that politicians have ignored petitions signed by "large numbers of Nobel Laureates". He might be thinking of this petition, the pretentiousness of which was only surpassed by its cluelessness regarding evolution and intelligent design. By all means, let's get more scientists to speak out like this. That'll improve the image of science for sure!
A young-earth creationist has received a doctoral degree in geoscience, and some scientists are already demanding that his degree should be taken away from him. The owner of the Ph.D. is named Marcus Ross, and his dissertation was about the abundance and spread of mosasaurs, marine reptiles that, as he wrote, vanished at the end of the Cretaceous era about 65 million years ago. Although his thesis advisor describes his work as "impeccable", some have "argued that his religious beliefs should bar him from earning an advanced degree in paleontology", according to the New York Times (subscription required).
A reader notified me of this article about the Sternberg affair in The Scientist:
According to the report, NMNH officials sought to discredit Sternberg and force him out of his unpaid RA position after he allowed an article by Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, to be published in the August 2004 Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, a peer-reviewed journal of which he was managing editor at the time. While legally separate from the NMNH, Proceedings is governed by a council that includes NMNH scientists and receives public funds from the museum. …
Sternberg, who is also a staff taxonomist at NIH's National Center for Biotechnology Information, said he is "thinking hard" about whether to file a discrimination lawsuit. "I do not think any Federal government employee should be discriminated against on the basis of their outside activities or their intellectual views, concerning theories of evolution or any other subject," Sternberg told The Scientist in an email.
They really should pass a law against those parody news sites. Not so long ago it was a pro-life blogger who fell for an Onion story about a girl who was looking forward to have "the best non-anesthetized invasive uterine surgery ever". And now it seems "God is for Suckers!" fell for a story about "Aleta Smith", who donated a kidney and now want it back because the recipient is no longer a Christian. The story is from LarkNews.com, which, in a disclaimer at the bottom of the page, writes: "LarkNewsÂ® is a satirical newspaper published by Joel Kilpatrick."
From the fake news article:
"I feel helpless," [Aletha Smith] says. "Part of my body, my DNA, is stuck inside a person who's going to hell."
Smith suffers nightmares of her former organ filtering "strange Asian teas, pig blood and witch doctor brews in Africa," she says. She wonders if the Lord really wanted her to donate the kidney, or if she acted on a "triple-espresso high" she had that morning. She is also concerned that when her body is resurrected, it might be incomplete.
One might think that a statement about someone deciding to donate organs on a "triple-espresso high" would have aroused the blogger's suspicion, but alas, that opportunity was wasted.
In the discussion about intelligent design and tenure, it has been pointed out that when an academic comitee acts behind closed doors, it's really asking the public to have faith in the impartiality of its members. I was reminded of this when reading this news story in Nature (HT: evolgen). Theresa Markow, president of the Society for the Study of Evolution, has resigned in protest to the discrimination of women applicants for editorship:
A rare resignation has focused attention on scientific societies' treatment of women. Theresa Markow, president of the Society for the Study of Evolution (SSE), has stepped down in protest that women were not adequately considered for the editorship of its journal, Evolution.
Many think the incident is symptomatic of a wider issue. "I see this as truly problematic," says Patricia Gowaty, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Georgia in Athens. "And it is not unique to the SSE."
The society's rules state that it should create a nominating committee to choose a chief editor. But instead, the society appointed a man after informal queries. It then rejected Markow's request to redo the process. Markow, a geneticist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, resigned the SSE presidency on 18 March, about ten weeks into her term.
Apparently, it's a problem that's far from unique to the SSE:
In the SSE's nearly 60 years, Evolution has had only one female editor "” Markow, from 1995 to 1999. Other journals are similar. Daphne Fairbairn, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Riverside, says she had a "discouraging" experience when she proposed female candidates for an editing position at the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, published by the European Society for Evolutionary Biology. "No one else came up with a single woman candidate," says Fairbairn. "When I raised the issue, they looked at me dumbly."
She says society leaders criticized her suggestions unfairly. "They would say 'she is nasty', or 'she didn't do a good job'. No one was going through the men's list and saying those things." When Fairbairn's term as North American editor ends, the journal will have no female editors.
Juha MerilÃ¤, a biologist at the University of Helsinki in Finland and the journal's editor-in-chief, acknowledges there are difficulties appointing women. There are few women at high levels of science in Europe, he says, so the pool of candidates is small. "I am, of course, a little disappointed," he says. "I went through quite a few names; all declined because of other responsibilities."
The journal of the American Ornithologists' Union, The Auk, has not had a woman editor in its 123-year history. But Kimberley Sullivan, an ornithologist at Utah State University in Logan, has a grant from the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to address such issues, and seems to be making progress. The society's existing fellows pick new fellows at the union's annual meeting, from a slate of nominees. At her first fellows' meeting, Sullivan says women nominees were "trashed". "They started blackballing nominees, with someone saying: 'I was with her on a field trip and she misidentified a bird'," she says. "It was terrible." The younger men on the slate came in for the same treatment, she says.
"Thought Pimp" is a scientist from Texas. Here's his first post:
Let's bring intelligent design into biology, and take the vague theory and refine it into mutually exclusive families of clearer hypotheses. Each of which we analyze for explanatory power, corroborating and disconfirming evidence, and so on.
And in the process, we will show that the Christian concept of God is scientifically false—we can say with a fair degree of scientific confidence that there is no god much like the God they want.
But of course, that will never happen. They'd accuse us of violating their boundary between "science" and "religion," and taking a "religious" stance. (Well, anti-religious, and in a sense they'd be right on that.) If we said the truth, which is that scientists know orthodox Christianity to be scientifically false, we'd be lynched.
First, it's pretty obvious that "Thought Pimp" is yet another scientist who hears "God" whenever someone says "design".
Second, from his comments about disproving the existence of God, I'm guessing that when he's talking about "refining intelligent design", he really means "tell us who the designer is".
To complete the set of stereotypic misunderstandings, how many are going to be surprised if Thought Pimp titles his next post, "Why Intelligent Design is a Threat to Science and Democracy"
(HT: Evolving Thoughts)