The Seattle-based creationist advocacy think-tank, The Discovery Institute tries to respond to the criticism that proponents of creationism and its cousin ‘intelligent design’, which has been called ‘creationism in a fancy suit’, do not publish in peer-reviewed scientific journal by publishing a page of short descriptions of ‘Peer-Reviewed and Peer-Edited’ publications. Things aren’t quite as they seem.
Let’s test the honesty of the Discovery Institute’s list by delving into their claim that a suitable example of a peer-reviewed paper is one entitled Genetic Analysis of Coordinate Flagellar and Type III Regulatory Circuits in which Scott Minnich and Stephen C. Meyer ‘argue explicitly that intelligent design is a better (sic) than the Neo-Darwinian mechanism for explaining the origin of the bacterial flagellum’.
Meyer is a theologian and a founder of the Discovery Institute who has a history of finding scientific support for his peculiar views where none in fact exists. He once presented an annotated bibliography of 44 peer-reviewed scientific articles to the Ohio State Board of Education that were said to significantly challenge ‘Darwinian evolution’. The authors of the papers were contacted, and twenty-six, representing thirty-four of the papers responded, all stating that they disagreed with Meyer’s representation of their work.
Scott Minnich is a Fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Unfortunately for Scott and for the Discovery Institute’s claims for this particular paper, he provided testimony in the Dover Trial (Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District), the Federal court case that ruled on teaching intelligent design in high schools.
Q. And the paper that you published was only minimally peer reviewed, isn’t that true?
A (Scott Minnich). For any conference proceeding, yeah. You don’t go through the same rigor. I mentioned that yesterday. But it was reviewed by people in the Wessex Institute, and I don’t know who they were.
and then, slightly later in discussing a different paper:
Q. Unlike your paper, that is a peer reviewed scientific paper, correct?
A. In that — in that sense, yeah. Again, mine is a conference paper, so –
Q. This is a true peer reviewed paper, correct?
This supposedly ‘peer-reviewed’ paper, then, was ‘conference reviewed’ and Scott Minnich doesn’t know who the Wessex Institute are.
By coincidence I came across the Wessex Institute a few weeks ago while reminding myself of that great hoax on the pretensions of the Social Sciences, the Sokal Affair.
The Wessex Institute of Technology (WIT) is associated with the University of Wales and organised the conference, ‘Design & Nature 2004′ in Rhodes, at which Minnich and Meyer’s paper was presented. As Minnich says, it was the WIT that provided the conference peer review. So what are the WIT’s peer review standards an proceudres?
Here’s an example:
A prior event which may also be compared to the Sokal affair involved the VIDEA 1995 conference, organized by the Wessex Institute of Technology. Professor Werner Purgathofer (Vienna University of Technology), a member of the VIDEA 1995 program committee, became suspicious of the conference’s peer review standards after not receiving any abstracts or papers for review. To confirm his suspicions, he wrote four absurd and/or nonsensical “abstracts” and submitted them to the conference. All were “reviewed and conditionally accepted.” He subsequently resigned from the program committee.
You can read more of Professor Purgathofer’s trenchant views on the Wessex Institute here.
The upshot of this one brief investigation, is that the paper, presented to an Engineering conference, was not, as the Discovery Institute wrongly claims, properly peer-reviewed. Anyone care to take a look at the rest of their claims on that page?