An April 16th New York Times Science article written by Carl Zimmer (linked below) blows the lid off scientific malpractice in research journals. A radical increase in retractions prompted an investigation begun by Dr. Ferric Fang, who is editor in chief of the journal Infection and Immunity, and Dr. Arturo Casadevall (editor in chief of the journal mBio). This investigation yielded shocking (and angering) results. What they found was “a symptom of a dysfunctional scientific climate…To survive professionally, scientists feel the need to publish as many papers as possible, and to get them into high-profile journals. And sometimes they cut corners or even commit misconduct to get there…they look at the prestige of the journal in which the research is published, and they see how many grant dollars scientists have, and if they don’t have funding, they don’t get promoted,” Dr. Fang said. “It’s not about the quality of the research…You can’t afford to fail, to have your hypothesis disproven,” he continued. “It’s a small minority of scientists who engage in frank misconduct. It’s a much more insidious thing that you feel compelled to put the best face on everything.”
This is exactly why there is such skepticism of things like evolution, global warming, etc. Science is no longer just about inquiry and discovery: it is a business. In the “publish or perish” world of scientific academia, the pressure is on researchers to be daring and to be first. Researchers are encouraged to go too fast, be less thorough, and make dramatic leaps of judgment in order to avoid getting “scooped.” This leads to hyperbole and overstatement of findings in order to garner attention. As the volume keeps getting turned up, important (but less sensational) research gets ignored and underfunded. It’s all about the headlines and news conferences. Remember the media circus surrounding “Ida”?
Consider this frank confession by Donald Johansen (the discoverer of the “Lucy” fossil): “There is no such thing as a total lack of bias. I have it; everybody has it. The fossil hunter in the field has it…. In everybody who is looking for hominids, there is a strong urge to learn more about where the human line started. If you are working back at around three million, as I was, that is very seductive, because you begin to get an idea that that is where Homo did start. You begin straining your eyes to find Homo traits in fossils of that age…. Logical, maybe, but also biased. I was trying to jam evidence of dates into a pattern that would support conclusions about fossils which, on closer inspection, the fossils themselves would not sustain (Johanson and Edey, 1981, pp. 257,258, emp. added). Why? Perhaps in order to get published. This one discovery has made Johansen’s career.
Neo-Darwinists sneer at creationist science and dismiss it by saying, “It isn’t real science because it isn’t in peer-reviewed journals.” It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy when creationist research is not allowed past the door. This article reveals that the precious peer-review process is hardly a guarantor of truth or accuracy. It is just as flawed as any other human convention. The NYTimes article quoted Dr. David Korn of Harvard Medical School who agreed that “there are problems all through the [peer-reviewed journal] system.” Creationists have been shut out and have been forced to establish their own peer-reviewed technical journals such as The Answers Research Journal (
) just to get their research to see the light of day. Consider what happened to Mary Schweitzer (who is NOT a creationist) when she tried to publish findings of soft-tissue found in a T. rex fossil: “One journal reviewer said he didn’t care what the data said, he knew what I was finding wasn’t possible. When I asked him, ‘What data would convince you?’ And he said, ‘None.’”
God bless honest scientists such as Dr. Fang and Dr. Casadevall for their integrity. Apparently, creationist skepticism has been justified. The foxes have been guarding the henhouse.
Johanson, Donald C. and Maitland Edey (1981), Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind (New York: Simon & Schuster); pp. 257-8.