Re: Peer review and ID

From: Keith Miller <>
Date: Fri Oct 21 2005 - 00:15:48 EDT

Ted wrote:

> The following fact could be pushed too far, but it could also be
> (wrongly)
> overlooked entirely: Helmholtz could not get his ideas about
> conservation of
> energy published in the usual places. (There are so many other
> examples of
> this, of course, but none I can think of on something so absolutely
> fundamental and wide reaching a theory.) ID isn't the first law of
> thermodynamics, but the question still remains: where/how can
> scientists
> themselves publish controversial new ideas (or resurrect previously
> rejected
> ideas, such as a particle view of light after a century of wave
> theories),
> if the usual places are closed to those ideas? This problem afflicts
> all
> academic disciplines.

I don't have time to participate much in these discussions, but I will
just make one point here.

It seems to me that ID advocates are demanding something from the
scientific community that they must first earn. I fully agree that
there is a long history of unorthodox ideas that are dismissed out of
hand by the current scientific community. And some of these ideas
ultimately are vindicated -- sometimes after a generation has passed.
The scientific community is inherently conservative and resistant to
fundamental change -- and I don't see that as a negative. Such inertia
allows a scientific theory to mature and develop, and become modified
with time.

Secondly, in our current publishing climate, if you really want
something published you can usually find a venue even within the
scientific literature. Furthermore, there is no barrier to getting
ones ideas published in some format somewhere. There is no censorship
of ideas -- if all else fails one can self publish. That has not been
a problem for ID. The ID advocates have a huge volume of publications
-- there is nothing limiting the expression of their ideas. Their
ideas are well disseminated and debated. Again, what they want is
acceptance by the scientific community, and that must be earned, it
cannot be legislated or achieved by political means. If their ideas
prove to be scientifically useful, and they end up demonstrating the
ability to move science forward and provide for a fruitful research
program, then they will have that respect. However, their work and
argument to date does not suggest that that day will come any time soon.

Major new innovations and unorthodox ideas do get accepted in the
scientific community despite great initial animosity and dismissal. I
have personally lived through two such reversals of opinion in my field
-- cladistics and the end Cretaceous asteroid impact theory. But the
change occurred because the proponents persevered and demonstrated over
time the usefulness, explanatory power, or observational support of
their ideas. ID proponents will have to do no less.


Keith B. Miller
Research Assistant Professor
Dept of Geology, Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506-3201
Received on Fri Oct 21 00:21:38 2005

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