Posted by guest blogger, Leslie.
Post-modernity has long since been in a hurry to smite religion as an antiquated obstacle to the enlightenment the current efforts Science has to offer. Let us ne'er forget Galileo and the ordeal he went through when he rattled the foundations of the old boy's holy club by trying to reveal his unsettling findings on the revolutions of Mother Earth and Sun.
Frank Furedi, a self-proclaimed humanist, examines the scientific peer-review process in light of the recent IPCC climate gate scandals:
The usual problems associated with peer review, as outlined above, have been exacerbated through the transformation of peer review into a form of authorisation. Increasingly, peer review is cited as kind of unquestioned and unquestionable authority for settling what are in fact political disputes. Consequently, the findings of peer review are looked upon, not simply as statements about the quality of research or of a scientific finding, but as the foundation for far-reaching policies that affect everything from the global economy to our individual lifestyles.
Increasingly, peer review has been turned into a quasi-holy institution, which apparently signifies that a certain claim is legitimate or sacred. And from this perspective, voices which lack the authority of peer review are, by definition, illegitimate. Peer review provides a warrant to be heard – those who speak without this warrant deserve only our scorn.
You can almost visualise peer-review dogmatists waving their warrant and demanding that their opponents be silenced. For someone like George Monbiot, the British climate-change alarmist, peer review is the equivalent of a holy scripture. Boasting of his encounter with an opponent, who challenged him to a debate on speed cameras, Monbiot wrote: ‘I accepted and floored him with a simple question.’ Predictably, the question was: ‘Has he published his analysis in a peer-reviewed journal?’
In a world where opponents can be ‘floored’ simply because they lack the authority provided by the ritual of peer review, it is not surprising that there is considerable incentive to manipulate the system of peer review, to bend it to one’s own will and needs. Andrew Dessler, a climate-change researcher, also sought to floor an opponent, who apparently wrote a ‘denier op-ed’ in the Wall Street Journal, by dismissing its value on the grounds that that newspaper is not peer reviewed. Dessler argued that, since ‘the only place’ where this ‘denier’ can present his views is in ‘non-peer-reviewed venues like conferences and press releases’, he is worthy only of censorious contempt. (spiked online)
A group of peers reviewed Galileo and branded him heretic.If Stephen Hawking stands by this quote then he is righter than he knew, "Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science."