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The Downside of Peer Review

Peer review is generally regarded favorably by the academic world. They look upon it as a utilitarian proxy for their own investigation. But my experience over the past thirty-five years with peer review leaves me with a rather contrarian estimation of its value. Let me give you an example from recent experience.

Not too long ago I sent a brief email to a mid-tier creation ministry on the nature and origin of the moon’s craters, explaining that the craters manifest several features that are almost impossible to explain by an impact model but are readily explained by an electrical-excavation model. I pointed them to an electric universe website, featuring the work of bona fide scientists, that explains and defends the latter. And I mentioned several significant crater characteristics that must be explained by any theory of crater formation — strings of craters, central peaks in craters, and 90°-angle formation in 90% of the craters rather than random-angle formation. Impact models don’t satisfactorily explain these phenomena, but the electrical-excavation model actually predicts them.

The response was a cordial stiff-arm. They politely explained that they don’t examine any information or model that hasn’t been peer-reviewed by one of the major organizations of creation science. I find this practice unsettling. For all practical purposes, it is letting other men dictate what you can and cannot believe.

After observing peer review in action for over three decades, I find little that commends it as a truth advancing tool. It regularly degenerates into little more than a defense of entrenched “orthodoxy”—conveniently ignoring every presentation of evidence that challenges the sacred shibboleths of the status quo. Peer review is how evolution and relativity maintain their stranglehold in the secular realm. And it is how error stays firmly entrenched in many camps in the evangelical world.

When men hide behind leaders who hide behind peer review (or hide behind the “experts” which is tantamount to the same thing), they sabotage the right and duty of personal investigation and interpretation. They turn their backs on the biblical exhortation to hear both sides before they pick sides. And they put themselves in a position where they have no mechanism for the correction of any errors that are part of the testimony of their camp.

So, brethren, don’t hide behind other men! Don’t excuse yourself from thinking for yourself! Read for yourself. Study for yourself. Think for yourself. Weigh things. Examine things. Challenge things. Prove things. As the Bible exhorts us, “Test all things. Hold fast to that which is good.” And again, “Search for understanding as for hid treasure.” If we don’t take such exhortations seriously, we will cease gaining ground in our personal pursuit of truth and will plateau at the level of our favored circle. Where they are right, we will be right. Where they are wrong, we will be wrong.

In conclusion, the truth does not need to be propped up with peer review. If a candid man weighs both sides, he will side with the truth, even if it is a minority position. But error cannot survive without it. It needs peer review to discourage men from weighing both sides.

“Eyes wide open, brain engaged, heart on fire.”

Lee W. Brainard

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