Re: [asa] Trees don't lie

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sat Mar 21 2009 - 10:45:02 EDT

It would be interesting to know how fast a revolutionary (& eventually
Nobel-worthy) paper from an unknown source would rise to notice &
recognition as such if it were first published as "Joe Schmoe's blog".
I.e. --had only its content merit and no name recognition or publishing
context to aide it. The "signal-to-noise" ratio on the internet is
lower than ever as George said, and how many professionals capable of
recognizing advanced new (& sound) material are perusing the web sifting
through the millions of Joe's blogs?

Another thought that may help explain conservative filtering choices for
publishers is its effect on their own reputations. Which attracts more
ridicule? Your rejection of an eventually recognized brilliant
breakthrough? Or your acceptance of a not-so-eventually recognized
piece of quackery? The latter may quickly get you featured in a movie
like "Expelled". But the former, on the rare occasions that it is
observed to happen would seem to be the more forgivable sin (at least to
the professional constituency ---but perhaps especially to the public
at large.)

One other note: isn't it a false dichotomy for us to be discussing
brilliance vs. quackery? I imagine that the vast majority of
peer-reviewed material is moderately helpful and meritorious, but would
fall short of either of these two extremes. But as George discusses,
the web already has a preponderance of the lower spread on that
continuum. If some web sites devote themselves exclusively to higher
quality material, then they will necessarily have restrictions in place
that would run afoul the very thing Glenn warns of.

In Glenn's favor, (IMO) ---what about Wikipedia? We are forced to use
it with a grain of salt & cannot cite it in any formal writings due to
its publicly provided content; and yet who among us does not ever go
there? And we find far more (apparently) high quality information than
any other encyclopedia in history has ever been able to provide. This
would seem to be a case where true public interest seems to be (in
general) winning out over vandals and quacks who are themselves
overwhelmed by volunteer vigilantes. I guess what Glenn warns of could
easily happen there too, though, & probably does.


George Murphy wrote:
> The internet has already gone a long way toward legitimizing crackpot
> stuff. People who, 50 years ago, would have been able to harangue only
> their relatives on rainy Sunday afternoons with their ill-informed
> opinions & "theories" today can get them broadcast to the whole world
> with pretty much the same cachet as things published in professional
> journals. "Crackpot papers will quickly not be read" - by whom?
> Perhaps by people knowledgeable in the field in question but the
> general public is far less able to make the necessary distinctions
> between something that's worthy of The Physical Review and something
> in Joe Schmoe's blog.
> & on environmental issues the opinions of the general populace, & the
> people it elects, are as important as those of experts - if not more so.
> Shalom
> George
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Glenn Morton"
> <>
> To: "William Hamilton" <>;
> <>
> Cc: "asa" <>
> Sent: Friday, March 20, 2009 8:18 PM
> Subject: Re: [asa] Trees don't lie
>> Bill asked:
>> "But can you suggest an alternative?"
>> Yes, a free for all. Crackpot papers will quickly not be read. With
>> today's internet, there is no need for peer review. Post the papers
>> on the internet and be done with it. That way, no small minded
>> ideologues can stop good things from being published.

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Received on Sat Mar 21 09:42:09 2009

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