Jan 24 2008

New Creation Research Journal

The man who brought us the creation museum in Kentucky, the leader of the Answers in Genesis propaganda ministry, young-earth creationists Ken Ham has started a new peer-reviewed journal, the Answers Research Journal (ARJ). This development, to any scientifically literate thinking person, is a travesty. But let me explain exactly why and what, if anything, can be done about it.

It is critical for science as an institution to be dedicated first and foremost to the principles and methodologies of science. Science is about discovering the nature of reality – what is, what happened in the past, and how stuff works. Scientific conclusions must be based upon evidence and adhere to the demands of logic. This requires that conclusion flow from evidence, that beliefs and claims are slaves to logic and evidence and can be altered as needed to accommodate new or better evidence.

It is simply not possible for legitimate science to reverse this process – to begin with a conclusion and subvert facts and logic to this belief. Institutions dedicated to a belief are not, by definition, scientific.

It has become increasingly common, in our society, however, for those who have an ideological adherence to specific ideas, or who simply prefer their own idiosyncratic beliefs to the consensus of opinion of the scientific community, to manufacture the trappings of legitimate science for themselves to inhabit. Unable to surmount the necessary hurdles of quality control within the halls of real science, they simply build their own halls and falsely label them as science. They create institutes, start their own journals, make up their own degrees, build museums, create their own funding organs (or, even worse, bamboozle the government into creating one for them, like the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine), and pressure universities into giving them departments.

They justify these end-runs around science by crying persecution. They claim their ideas are not being given a fair shake by biased, bigoted, small-minded, or even paid-off scientists, so they have no choice but to make their own sandbox to play in.

Creationists/ID proponents have chosen this strategy and unfortunately have the funding to accomplish it. The Discovery Institute (which has yet to actually discover anything, as far as I can tell) was created not to do science but to promote a sectarian ideology. The creation museum in Kentucky was create to promote a religious belief and to attack science. And ID proponents have been whining as loud as they can about the constant persecution they must suffer at the hands of atheistic scientists. They even made a movie out of their kvetching, Expelled, staring Ben Stein, due out next month.

Creating an ideologically dedicated peer-reviewed journal is an especially insidious attack on science.  The scientific literature is in many ways a transparent record of the collective scientific progress of our species. It is far from perfect, it has many recognized problems, but it is the official record and serves our species best when quality is kept as high as possible. Anything that poisons the literature causes confusion and retards scientific progress. The purpose of peer-review is to create a quality control valve – allowing into the body of recognized literature only those papers that have met some minimal criteria for quality and legitimacy. It is by no means a guarantee, but it is a recognized seal of approval.

The problem with peer-review, of course, is that it is only as good as the peers doing the reviewing.  So anyone with the resources can create their own journal and have it peer-reviewed by people who have the same ideological agenda as them. This is like the proverbial foxes guarding the hen house. Having young-earth creationists peer-review articles by other young-earth creationists is, of course, worthless. It serves only to give a false imprimatur of scientific legitimacy to a religious anti-scientific ideology.

What should we do about it? Mostly nothing. Ridicule and scorn are appropriate, and I hope I have contributed my fair share. It also helps to educate journalists and the public about why such a thing is anti-scientific and bad. But generally I think we should ignore the journal and hope it withers for lack of sunlight. I predict they won’t get many submissions of actual scientific research. Mainly it will be propaganda opinion pieces or reviews.

One use the journal may serve is to call creationists on their bogus claims that they cannot publish all their high quality research because of bias against them. Well, now you have your own journal, so bring it on. Show us all that high quality research you would be publishing were it not for those evil “Darwinists.” So we should keep one eye on this project, it may serve as a tool for exposing creationists for what they are.

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10 responses so far

10 Responses to “New Creation Research Journal”

  1. TheBlackCaton 24 Jan 2008 at 1:07 pm

    You forgot to mention the goal of the paper (from their website):

    “ARJ will disseminate research conducted by creationist experts in theology, history, archaeology, anthropology, biology, geology, astronomy, and other disciplines of science by providing scientists, students, and supporters the results of cutting-edge research that demonstrates the validity of the young-earth model, the global Flood, the non-evolutionary origin of “created kinds,” and other evidences that are consistent with the biblical account of origins.”

    (emphasis added)

    It is not a legitimate science journal if they state up front they will only accept papers that support a specific conclusion.

  2. Methodissedon 24 Jan 2008 at 3:03 pm

    I’ll bet they can generate some great research to prove that a watch cannot self-assemble. You just sit and observe – for how long?!?! While they are waiting they can probably dream up a purpose for male nipples.

  3. daijiyobuon 24 Jan 2008 at 3:33 pm

    SN wrote: “it is simply not possible for legitimate science to reverse this process, to begin with a conclusion and subvert facts and logic to this belief …”

    This reminds me of something published in 1890 [yes, about 118 years ago!],

    written in Popular Science Monthly’s editorial section

    (vol. XXXVI, p.122; archived here in full since it is out of copyright, http://books.google.com/books/pdf/The_Popular_Science_Monthly.pdf?id=lt4KAAAAYAAJ&output=pdf&sig=gq3DJocr3dJ9eTh7az4rnDSh07E )

    in response to the complaint from a member of the clergy who asserted that the secularity / ‘agnosticism’ / nonreligiosity of Herbert Spencer’s ‘Data of Ethics’ was a position as sectic / religious as any creed / system of belief (huh?!?) [similar to Creationists claiming that evolution and the scientific outlook are just another religion {always fails in court}]:

    “he says that to introduce such a book is to give a sectarian character to the school [a public school...] we [this journal's editors] must enter a protest. Science is never sectarian; philosophy is never sectarian. Sectarian teaching begins when you ask a man or a child to assume what cannot be proved, for the sake of keeping within the dogmatic lines that fence some particular creed.”

    -r.c.

  4. ellazimmon 25 Jan 2008 at 2:26 am

    It will be amusing to see how the internal differences in Biblical interpretation work themselves out; I predict a schism or two. Aside from that how will it be different from the Answers in Genesis website? How much different can it be?

  5. eiskrystalon 25 Jan 2008 at 6:57 am

    Great, more reheated propaganda that we will be forced to read and respond to. The good news, it will be exactly the same stuff as before so it shouldn’t take too long.

  6. Larry Coonon 25 Jan 2008 at 11:45 am

    Skepticism is losing two of its more effective quick retorts:

    “Why not take the challenge, prove you can do it, and win a million bucks?”

    and

    “Where is the peer-reviewed research?”

    As someone said (was it Eugenie Scott?), “[A crank] can do more damage in a minute than I can fix in an hour.” The quick retort is important because it conveys a point in a way that’s quickly and easily digestible to a layperson.

    Losing the quick retorts doesn’t make either side’s message more or less legitimate, but it does make the message more difficult to communicate. And since the skeptic’s message is by nature more subtle and complex, we need all the quick retorts we can get.

  7. Methodissedon 25 Jan 2008 at 12:57 pm

    >>”Where is the peer-reviewed research?”

    Great observation. This question is still valid with just a minor modification. “In what ‘scientific’ peer-reviewed journal was the research published?” The Creation Research Journal is sure to be pseudoscientific and therefore does not qualify.

    Naturally we would also want to know how well it weathered public scrutiny and if the results have been independently reproduced. Unfortunately the general public is sufficiently informed to ask these basic questions.

  8. Methodissedon 25 Jan 2008 at 12:58 pm

    The last sentence of my last posting should read “insufficiently,” not “sufficiently.” :o

  9. DavidCTon 25 Jan 2008 at 4:00 pm

    How would you like to fly in an airplane designed by creation science.

  10. Steve Pageon 25 Jan 2008 at 7:35 pm

    That was a great piece, Steve, but for some reason, the only words that stuck in my mind were “young earth creationists” and “retards”.

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