RE: [asa] Sternberg quote

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Mar 28 2007 - 13:17:35 EDT

My comments are inserted below.


@ Refereed Journals: Do They Insure Quality or Enforce Orthodoxy?
by <>Frank J. Tipler

Abstract- The notion that a scientific idea cannot be considered
intellectually respectable until it has first appeared in a "peer"
reviewed journal did not become widespread until after World War II.

[Ted: Well, I suppose we could quibble about "widespread," but the fact is
that *nearly all* original scientific work (as vs popular expositions of
scientific ideas that have already been discussed in scientific literature)
has been published in scientific journals, not in books, since ca. 1875.
Darwin's generation was the last one to employ books for this purpose--and
Darwin himself did so often, including many years after "Origin of Species"
was printed in 1859. The first scientific journals, few and far between,
appeared in the 17th century, when scientific books were still the norm; it
gradually shifted over about two centuries. A rare 20th century exception:
Alfred Wegener's book on plate techtonics. What Tipler says here is

Copernicus's heliocentric system, Galileo's mechanics, Newton's grand
synthesis -- these ideas never appeared first in journal articles.
They appeared first in books, reviewed prior to publication only by
their authors, or by their authors' friends. Even Darwin never
submitted his idea of evolution driven by natural selection to a
journal to be judged by "impartial" referees. Darwinism indeed first
appeared in a journal, but one under the control of Darwin's friends.

[A short essay by Darwin, about the ideas in his unpublished book MS, was
read (by someone else) to a meeting of the Linnean Society in London, along
with an essay on evolution by natural selection that Alfred Russel Wallace
had sent Darwin in 1858. Both were published in their journal in advance of
the full book version the following year. That was however something of an
historical accident: it was brought about by Wallace's independent discovery
of evolution by NS, and D (understandably) wanted to ensure his own standing
as a discoverer of identical ideas. WIthout Wallace's letter and article, D
would probably have continued to sit on the book MS for several more

And Darwin's article was completely ignored. Instead, Darwin made his
ideas known to his peers and to the world at large through a popular
book: On the Origin of Species. I shall argue that prior to the
Second World War the refereeing process, even where it existed, had
very little effect on the publication of novel ideas, at least in the
field of physics.

[This may well be true. Peruse the journals in pre-war years, and you get
a sense that a fairly small club of "elite" scientists had instant access to
the big journals. Of course there were far fewer scientists, and fewer
elite ones, then. And the elite were known literally by the stars next to
their names in "American Men of Science." That's another story....]

But in the last several decades, many outstanding
physicists have complained that their best ideas -- the very ideas
that brought them fame -- were rejected by the refereed journals.
Thus, prior to the Second World War, the refereeing process worked
primarily to eliminate crackpot papers. Today, the refereeing process
works primarily to enforce orthodoxy. I shall offer evidence that
"peer" review is NOT peer review: the referee is quite often not as
intellectually able as the author whose work he judges. We have
pygmies standing in judgment on giants.

[Well, I can't speak for the situation in science journals, since it is
beyond my experience and I don't talk to those editors very often. In my
own field of HPS, however, it is more often "giants" who comment on the work
of "pygmies," in terms of status and name recognition of authors and
reviewers. Obviously, not always, but quite often. As for "crackpot"
papers, I've seen a few of them--but mostly these have been sent to PSCF,
not to mainstream journals in my field. But admittedly, it's probably
easier for unorthodox ideas to be published by prestigious journals in the
humanities than in the sciences--and who would doubt that?]

 I shall offer suggestions on
ways to correct this problem, which, if continued, may seriously
impede, if not stop, the advance of science.

To read the entire paper,
here. To discuss the paper,
<>click here.

~ Janice ..... who has a bridge to sell to any who actually believe
that the above mentalities are engaged in unbiased "peer review" and
think they can trust it.

[Janice, if you are going to engage in systematic doubt, all of the time
and everywhere, then I trust that you apply this in practice yourself, by
not trusting physicians, dentists, and accountants to do their work in
accordance with paradigms in their fields. This is not to say that
occasional doubts aren't good to entertain; it's the overall attitude that
I'm concerned about. Phil Johnson, e.g., doubts not only the scientific
consensus on common descent, he also doubts the consensus about HIV causing
AIDS and probably also (as you do) doubts a significant human component to
global warming. The pattern here, perhaps inspired by the polarization of
political media personalities in a post-modern age, is as follows: when you
don't like the larger implications (political, religious, cultural) that
some people are drawing from specific scientific conclusions, you go out and
generate your own "science" instead of questioning the links that people are
making with the generally accepted science. Go find your own "truth," as it

I add comments from the final paragraph of a superb essay many years ago,
George Stein, "Biological Science and the Roots of Nazism," American
Scientist 76 (Jan-Feb 1988): 50-58. "Science, however, always seems to
involve scientists. And the interrelationships among science, scientists,
and public policy remain as problematic today as in the 1930s. Have those
scientists who have been discussing the 'nuclear winter' effects of nuclear
war as an effort to encourage arms control ceased to be scientists? Is it
not precisely because they are scientists who base their policy
prescriptions on science that we are to take their views seriously? If it
is true that there can be no scientific basis for racist policies [context:
see the title of his article], must it not be true that there can be no
scientific basis for advocating nuclear disarmament? Or must we not admit
that the scientific findings of the natural science of sociobiology or the
social science of biopolitics are as likely to be appropriated by interested
parties, even scientists, to serve political ends as were the scientific
findings of the German social Darwinists, racial anthropologists, and
eugenicists? The history of scientific racism, ethnocentrism, and
nationalist xenophoia suggests that this is no mere academic question."

This whole essay, incidentally, is a superb and effective antitode to the
claim that evolution and racism are not linked historically--they were
deeply embedded in one another, and not just in Germany, the focus of this
article. With the politics of ID and creationism today, it's real tough for
many in the scientific community to admit this creationist & ID claim, but
it is true. Just as it's tough for the creationists to admit that
creationism has also been tied to racism, esp in South Africa and the
American South, but not exclusively. Truth is truth, but the politicization
of truth is usually not.]


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Received on Wed Mar 28 13:18:20 2007

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