Monday, July 03, 2006

How Reliable Are Peer Reviewed Scientific Journals

I've commented previously on the surprising extent of bias and even fraud in the scientific community. People seem to think that because the word "science" is used that the people involved are not subject to the same human frailities as the rest of us. But yes, it is true. Scientists are biased and in some cases that bias shows in their published work, in particular if that work touches on topics of interest to Christians (for example creation).

Because having correct and accurate medical information is so important, this is an area of science in which the highest level of trust should be possible. My comments here are are based on a recent article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

When I talk with those who believe in evolution, they put great faith in scientific journals that only publish information that "supports" evolution because, they say, the peer review process ensures those articles are accurate and represent good science. Here is what the JRSM had to say about peer review:

"Peer review—i.e. asking peers of the authors of scientific studies to review the studies critically before publication—is the process that is supposed to ensure the scientific quality of journals. It is a sacred process—and the phrase 'peer reviewed journal' is supposed to guarantee quality. But clearly >peer review is deficient. Despite being central to the scientific process it was itself largely unstudied until various pioneers—including Stephen Lock, former editor of the BMJ, and Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of JAMA—urged that it could and should be studied. Studies so far have shown that it is slow, expensive, ineffective, something of a lottery, prone to bias and abuse, and hopeless at spotting errors and fraud."

Peer review is not the holy grail that supporters of evolution make it out to be. It does not ensure that good science is being reported.The article in JRSM is titled "The Trouble With Medical Journals" and it is interesting reading.


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