Thursday, January 26, 2017

David MacMillan Responds to Todd Wood

David MacMillan, writing at Panda's Thumb, responds to Todd Wood regarding the issue of peer-review of creationist literature.  He writes:
Wood also stated that both the articles I referenced in my original post were, in fact, letters to the editor rather than full refereed journal articles, and thus it isn’t irregular to publish them simultaneously. Here’s where it gets a bit dicey, not because I doubt his explanation, but because ARJ’s editor, Andrew Snelling, apparently made no effort whatsoever to distinguish between letters to the editor and actual articles. That’s a problem.
The whole point of peer review is that it identifies scholarship which has been evaluated by peers. Scientists and researchers learn to trust peer review because they know it has been read and examined with a critical eye, both for careless errors and for systematic errors. Peer review is the dam which holds back the flood of pseudoscientific nonsense (although this doesn’t prevent creationists from trying their damnedest to slip things in). Creationist publications like the Answers Research Journal are creationism’s way of claiming legitimacy.
That’s not to say that individual creationists who submit to publications like ARJ are insincere. Nor are their submissions useless; in many cases, as in the debate over H. naledi, the breadth of discussion illustrates very well the earnest attempt to make their models work. Creationist organizations now make a practice of referring to their “professional, peer-reviewed technical journal(s)” and claiming that “evolutionists are unaware of our scientific literature”. It is because the models do not, in fact, work that we have an opportunity to use their own work against them, highlighting clearly where the different models proposed by different authors are plainly incompatible. Creationists are trying to fit a 4-billion-year-old peg into a 6-thousand-year-old hole, and it shows.
Perhaps the best example of this that I have read in recent memory is the work of Phil Senter, in using flood geologists to invalidate their own models.Young earth creationists want to have their research taken seriously, but since none of their models hold up under scrutiny, and they seem to spend the vast majority of their time trying to poke holes in established science, this has not been forthcoming from the science establishment.  I also question Todd Wood's assertion that scientists are not aware of creationist research.  There are people that do nothing but read what comes out of AiG, CMI and the ICR with an eye for critical science.  Even the work that comes out of the Discovery Institute is put under a microscope.

Snelling should have been absolutely up front about the fact that the responses were letters to the editor.  MacMillan makes the point that the failure to distinguish this smacks of being arbitrary.  More to the point, it allows unvetted opinions and statements to creep in without proper backstopping.  As noted in my previous post, however, my experience is that this has never stopped many young-earth creationists before.