Because “Annals Of Improbable Research” was already taken

By | Posted January 28, 2008
Posted in: Life Science Blog

Say what you will about proponents of Creationism and Intelligent Design, at least they seem to understand how science works. Rather than simply pointing to the Bible whenever asked to substantiate their beliefs, the movement largely propelled by Answers in Genesis noticed that people associate scientists, museums, and the like with facts. Thus, to generate their own veneer of facts, supporter of Creationism and ID set up a new counter-infrastructure that mimics science but produces Intelligent Design friendly results.

This infrastructure has “scientists” (Behe, I’m looking at you), a museum (which claims to be within a days drive for two-thirds of the US population), and now, it’s own honest to god, if you will, peer reviewed scientific journal.

That’s right, you read this correctly. Issue 7177 of the journal Nature notes that the Answers in Genesis group has started its own journal to compete with, amongst other things, the journal Nature. Aside from the rarity of a magazine writing a piece about a competitor, this article was also jarring because it set in contrast the two peer review systems.

On the surface, the two editorial boards follow the exact same rules. The peer review in Nature and the peer review in Answers Research Journal are conducted the exact same way, the difference being what the peer reviewers deem to be legitimate fact. But wait, don’t both sets of peer reviewers get their authority from people just like them? Uh-oh.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not claiming that articles published in ARJ are as valid as those published in Science or Nature, but you have to give credit to Answers in Genesis for hitting science where it hurts. Every scientist has complained at one point or another about the often fickle and random nature of the peer review system upon which scientific fact is based. With the ARJ, the supporters of Creationism have once again brilliantly exploited the chinks in science’s armor to generate legitimacy for a viewpoint with no real factual basis.

This is a perfect moment for scientists to sit back and think about how they can use the infrastructure of religion to better educate the public about science. If science is going to reach the people that keep institutions like Answers in Genesis afloat, scientists need to go beyond putting Darwin fish on their car and using Pastafarianism as an excuse to take extra holidays off from work and really learn how the other side works.

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  1. “But wait, don’t both sets of peer reviewers get their authority from people just like them?”

    I’m not a scientist, so perhaps I’m wrong, but aren’t the peer reviews (the ones prior to publishing) intended to validate the methods and conclusions used in experiments designed to test a hypothesis? Not so much to give thumbs up or down to the specific data, but to comment on the validity of the experimental design and conclusions drawn? If compared in that context, I don’t see how the two Journals can be compared…even if they are both ‘peer reviewed’.

    Caleb, January 28, 2008 at 1:41 pm
  2. ID Creationism will never sustain an appearance of scientific validity, even with the new journal. Behe hasn’t done it, the museum hasn’t and a silly journal won’t. Scientists, on the other hand, will never gain acceptance for their views if they’re baited into a science vs. religion debate. Science needs to firmly, consistently state that there is no conflict between religion and science, that you cannot translate from one to the other, combine or confuse them.

    Lynn, January 29, 2008 at 9:03 am
  3. “If science is going to reach the people that keep institutions like Answers in Genesis afloat, scientists need to go beyond putting Darwin fish on their car and using Pastafarianism as an excuse to take extra holidays off from work and really learn how the other side works.”

    Proponents of science need to be politically involved and they need to reach out to the public. Writing letters to school boards and legislators does a lot more than decorating your car with a Darwin fish.

    Lynn, January 29, 2008 at 9:14 am
  4. We’ve had a museum and similar “journals” here in Southern California at the “Institute for Creation Research” (http://www.icr.org/) for years, with publications mostly by Henry M. Morris. Most of these publications would be rejected by any other organization, of course.

    It is unfortunately true that peer review is much like the authority-based approach typically used by theologians and the basis for most of the “truth” promulgated. “It is true because the authorities say so.” Peer review has a bad reputation for putting the brakes on publication of new ideas, and won’t let certain ideas be discussed. The original discoverer of the Solar Wind mentioned the difficulty he had in publishing his findings and finally had to go it alone.

    Similarly, natural history museums need to include the evolutionary history of the world, and include the details of DNA and the pattern of life, such as described in the novel “Coils of the Serpent” (See http://www.CoilsOfTheSerpent.com)
    The mass media does little to educate the public except for the OJ Simpson trial.

    Getting involved in governmental meetings where decisions are made is essential to putting a stop to underhanded promulgation.

    Rosalind Jenner, January 29, 2008 at 2:41 pm
  5. “there is no conflict between religion and science”

    That’s true, unless your definition of science REQUIRES accepting millions of years and evolution, which requires a Bible-believing Christian to be very inconsistent with their beliefs about the foundational doctrines from that very text.

    (Agnostic evolutionist and ‘Darwin’s bulldog’) Thomas H. Huxley, Science And Hebrew Tradition Essays, p. 236, 1897.
    If Adam may be held to be no more real a personage
    than Prometheus, and if the story of the Fall is merely an instructive ‘type,’ comparable to the profound Promethean myths, what value has Paul’s dialectic?

    Thomas H. Huxley, Science And Hebrew Tradition
    Essays, pp. 207, 208, 1897.
    And what about the authority of the writers of the
    books of the New Testament, who, on this theory,
    have not merely accepted flimsy fictions for solid
    truths, but have built the very foundations of Christian dogma upon legendary quicksands?

    Evolution absolutely requires death … millions of years of it, struggle for existence, survival of the fittest millions of years before man comes on the scene. In this scenario, death is not the enemy but the very means by which God created everything. But the Bible is very clear about this: the wages of sin is death. Death came into the world through Adam’s sin. Therefore there was no death prior to the fall of man and therefore there could be no evolution whatsoever before that time.

    If death and evolution are what God used to create (or even if He simply permitted it to reign for billions of years before sin, as ‘progressive creationists’ teach) then death is not the ‘last enemy’ (1 Corinthians 15:26), nor is it the wages of sin. And if this is the case, then what becomes of Jesus Christ, whose very purpose in coming was to break the power of death and pay the penalty for our sins?

    Mark, February 1, 2008 at 1:06 pm
  6. Science and religion can coexist as long as science can admit the difference between experimental science and theoretical historical science. After all it wasn’t the church that said the world was flat it was the “scientists”.

    Phillip, February 1, 2008 at 7:30 pm
  7. Rosalind Jenner said, “[N]atural history museums need to include the evolutionary history of the world…”

    Don’t most, if not all, NH museums already do this? I think a better suggestion might be for them to address the Creationists’ model. Both AiG & ICR’s Creation museums address the Evolutionists’ model.

    For the average Joe visiting a museum, this seems fair; whereas the deliberate snubbing of alternative views by NH museums may seem arrogant &/or closed-minded. The only time I’ve ever seen an NH museum address Creationism is with outdated sneers such as “There’s not enough water on Earth for a global flood.” This sort of simple-minded approach is no longer valid now that geologists are struggling to figure out what caused all the erosion on Mars.

    It’s not sufficient to merely present evidence to support your view; to be thorough, you need to present reasons/evidence why no alternative is possible, rather than simply ignore/exclude or belittle it.

    G.M. Grena, February 2, 2008 at 12:34 am
  8. This is really interesting. I agree that scientists, in general, need to better attempt to understand their opponents’ (attackers’?) arguments and strategies, at the least, in order to better counter them.

    I’d be very interested in learning more about “the often fickle and random nature of the peer review system upon which scientific fact is based” – “the chinks in science’s armor.” How DOES it work…and is it really indeed quite problematic?

    I myself am particularly interested in the climate “debate,” and I feel this lesson can also shed light on why climate skeptic scientists continue to get a significant amount of credibility (though it is less than before, my impression is that it remains significant).

    AJ, February 9, 2008 at 5:09 am
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