Peer Review in Creation Research

How does "gatekeeping" in peer review for secular journals restrict creation science access?

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Peer review is considered the best standard in scientific publication. If a paper has passed peer-review, it is believed that the results are generally scientific, reliable, and accurate. On this basis, evolutionists love to claim that creation scientists cannot do science because they produce no peer-reviewed papers. This claim comes up repeatedly in any discussion with a moderately informed evolutionist. Peer review, they argue, demonstrates that creation science is not science at all but merely an outmoded faith without evidence to back it up.

Peer review is a concept many people may have heard but may have never seen defined or explained. According to Merriam-Webster, peer review is “a process by which something proposed (as for research or publication) is evaluated by a group of experts in the appropriate field.”1 In science, generally what this means is, once a paper is submitted for publication, it is sent to a number of experts in the field for review, usually three, though this varies. Usually the paper is sent blind, sometimes double-blind. In other words, sometimes the reviewers might or might not know the author’s identity, while the author almost never knows the reviewers’ identities, though this is changing slowly. The idea is to have experts in the field evaluate each paper published to ensure it is accurate, the reported experiment was performed correctly, and the results were interpreted correctly.

It is important to note that there are some biblical principles underlying peer-review concepts.

It is important to note that there are some biblical principles underlying peer-review concepts.2 It provides a balance to man’s sin nature, at least when performed correctly. There is a strong motivation to publish in the secular community, and this could tempt people to cut corners or fudge data. Perhaps ironically, given that much of the secular publishing community is atheistic, there is no absolute moral standard for them to live by, but the need is still recognized. Peer review provides a mechanism to keep people accountable and honest. It also provides to the author the benefit of multiple people reviewing an idea before it is published and opened to ridicule if not presented and researched well. This is the biblical principle elaborated in Proverbs (11:14, 15:22, 24:6) that multiple counselors are a good thing. Having multiple sets of eyes look at an argument or study is always helpful as often the author might miss mistakes others will notice.

Gates in Secular Journals

The problem with peer review is that it assumes objectivity is possible. Because every person has a worldview, no one approaches evidence in an objective fashion. Thus peer review has become something of a gatekeeper for the established way of thinking. If someone challenges the status quo, unless they are well established in their field and have a solid following, they will struggle to publish their ideas.

This gatekeeping process is nowhere more obvious than in the creation-evolution issue. In 2004, intelligent design advocate Dr. Stephen Meyer, who is not a creationist but believes evolution is incorrect as taught, briefly published an article in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. I say briefly because it was retracted a month after it was published by the journal’s publisher. In retracting it, the journal said, “The Council endorses a resolution on ID published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity. Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings.”3 The editor who accepted the paper for publication, Richard Sternberg, was harassed at the Smithsonian where he worked, and viciously slandered with taxpayer dollars, to the point that congressional investigations were required, which vindicated Sternberg and blasted the Smithsonian for creating a hostile work environment.4 This in spite of Sternberg’s acceptance of evolution and not being an ID advocate.5

This gatekeeping process is nowhere more obvious than in the creation-evolution issue.

This retraction is far from the only example of the evolutionist gatekeepers preventing any dissent. In 2016, the peer-reviewed journal PLOS One published a paper by a group of Chinese scientists on the human hand. The paper made multiple references to “the Creator.”6 The evolutionist community exploded. The comments section of the PLOS One article turned into an angry mob. Multiple editors of the journal threatened to resign. Former contributors threatened to withhold future submissions unless the article was retracted. Some commenters called for the editor who approved the article to be fired. One went so far as to demand the editor not just be fired from being the editor of PLOS One, but also be fired from his regular scientific job!

One of the paper’s authors tried to quell the controversy in the comments by pointing out that neither he nor his colleagues were native English speakers and that the word creator has a different connotation in Chinese. He explicitly affirmed evolution in his response and offered to change the phrasing to reflect that, but his reasonable response was ignored.7 The paper was retracted, despite noted anti-theist P.Z. Myers pointing out on his blog that the data in the paper was sound.8 Articles that even remotely hint at design, creation, or a creator are simply not allowed by the Darwinian gatekeepers—even when written by fellow evolutionists.

Access to Secular Journals

The gatekeeping even extends to who is permitted to perform research. When Answers in Genesis’s resident geologist, Dr. Andrew Snelling, attempted to get the necessary permit to collect samples from the Grand Canyon, his application was rejected ultimately on the grounds that he is a creationist. Dr. Snelling was forced to sue in order to receive the same treatment as other scientists applying for permits. When the suit was filed, the Grand Canyon National Park backed down and issued the permits. The gatekeepers could not hold because the Grand Canyon is public property and everyone’s religious beliefs must be respected there under the first amendment to the US Constitution. Peer-reviewed journals suffer under no such limitations.

However, while the peer review gatekeepers are vigilant in keeping any openly creationist work out, or forcing a retraction if it slips through, if a paper does not openly mention creation science or intelligent design, it may still be published. For example, Answers in Genesis’ resident astronomer, Dr. Danny Faulkner, has published numerous astronomical papers in secular literature.9 Dr. Jason Lisle, who previously worked for Answers in Genesis and now has his own ministry, also has published in secular literature, as10 have our resident scientists, Dr. Georgia Purdom, Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson, Dr. David Menton, and Dr. Andrew Snelling11. Answers in Genesis scientists are not the only ones who have published in secular journals. Other creation scientists, like Dr. John Baumgardner, Dr. Larry Vardiman, Dr. John Sanford, Dr. Andy McIntosh, and Dr. Stuart Burgess are just a few of many that have done so. The peer-review gatekeepers cannot keep everyone out, and since we’ve established that many do not read our material, many do not know who creation scientists are.

Creation Journals

Because of the peer-review gatekeeping, creationists have been forced to establish their own peer-reviewed journals, in particular for discussing science and theology with an open biblical view or model. The first was the Creation Research Society Quarterly, first published in 1964.12 Others followed, including our own Answers Research Journal. There are at least six creationist journals actively published today, each by different groups. Most of these journals publish multiple articles a year, and most make at least some of their articles freely available to the public. Much of the research by our staff scientists, for example, is published in Answers Research Journal, which is freely available to the public.

Because of the peer-review gatekeeping, creationists have been forced to establish their own peer-reviewed journals, in particular for discussing science and theology with an open biblical view or model.

Unavoidable

If a paper mentions God, design, creation, or religion in a favorable light, it will be rejected outright for secular publication. However, if the implications of a paper tend to support creation but there is an evolutionary spin, the peer-review gatekeepers may struggle to prevent its publication. Many papers have been published in the secular peer-reviewed journals that, when properly interpreted, actually support a creation worldview. For example, Dr. Mary Schweitzer’s discovery of dinosaur soft tissue in 1997 fits very well within a creationist worldview, though she is not a creationist.13 The evolutionists have been struggling to explain her—and other similar findings—ever since.

While soft tissue is perhaps the most obvious recent example of secular research that supports creation, numerous other pieces of evidence support it as well. Disharmonious fossil assemblages are found worldwide, contradicting the expected evolutionary order. Evolutionary stasis is frequently found in the record, indicating some animals have not changed in millions of years according to the story. Sometimes, fossils even yield DNA that is supposedly millions of years old. Evolutionists know DNA cannot last millions of years, though they are trying to find a mechanism to explain how that apparently has happened rather than questioning the millions of years.

Of special interest is the finding of carbon-14 in diamonds. Other findings of carbon-14 in other materials, including fossils, have been dismissed as contamination. The problem with diamonds is, they are immune from contamination. So when secular researchers found that diamonds contained carbon-14, it could not be written off as contamination.14 Since carbon-14 can only last for thousands, not millions, of years, diamonds must be young, not millions or billions of years old as evolutionary geologists claim.15

These are just a few examples of the peer-reviewed secular research that favor a creationist worldview when correctly interpreted. While peer review originally was intended to make sure high-quality papers were published, man’s sin nature and tendency towards partiality has led to the process being used to suppress unpopular or novel ideas that are at odds with the supposed established orthodoxy, no matter if they have merit or not. When a more open-minded editor allows a paper contrary to his view to be published, he risks harassment, threats of termination, and to no benefit as the paper is almost always quickly retracted. In such circumstances, it is no surprise creationists cannot submit creation science and/or biblical flood models in mainstream journals. Few editors are willing to risk the ire of the neo-Darwinian mafia to publish an article they do not agree with. The few that do tend to lose their positions.

We need to remember, however, that because both creationists and evolutionists have the same evidence, often simply reinterpreting the evidence produced in peer-reviewed journals is all that is required for it to be consistent with the creationist worldview beautifully. There has yet to be a paper where the evidence itself, when properly interpreted, contradicts God’s Word. But Creationist peer-review journals exist to publish creationist material (and periodically evolutionists’ responses16), so the evolutionist’s claims to exclusivity of peer review are nonsense, and when properly considered, peer review is hardly objective and thus cannot be used as an ultimate discriminatory standard in a worldview dispute. It would only be fair to note that biblical creationists must also be on guard to properly do peer review, as our standard should be higher, in particular, because of our biblical beliefs and the fact that we have a basis for our standards, fairness, and honesty.

Footnotes

  1. Merriam-Webster.com “Peer Review”. September 2, 2020, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peer%20review.
  2. See also Todd Charles Wood, Joe Francis, Kurt P. Wise, and Roger Sanders, “Toward a Practical Theology of Peer Review,” Answers Research Journal 1 (2008): 65–75.
  3. The Wayback Machine “Statement From the Council of the Biological Society of Washington” September 26, 2007, Accessed September 3, 2020, https://web.archive.org/web/20070926214521/http://www.biolsocwash.org/id_statement.html
  4. “Intolerance and the Politicization of Science at the Smithsonian” Staff Report for Representative Mark Souder December 11, 2006, Accessed September 3, 2020, https://www.discovery.org/m/2008/02/IntoleranceandthePoliticizationofScienceattheSmithsonian.pdf
  5. David Klinghoffer “Unintelligent Design” National Review August 16, 2005, https://www.nationalreview.com/2005/08/unintelligent-design-david-klinghoffer/
  6. Cai-Hua Xiong, Ming-Jin Liu, Le Xiong, and Xioa-Lin Huang. “Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living.” PLOS One January 5, 2016. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0146193
  7. All comments may be readily found by scanning the attached link. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/comment?id=10.1371/annotation/234ef7cc-d89a-4a9e-92d6-9070b175620d
  8. P.Z. Myer “The human hand is good at grasping. Therefore, God.” Pharyngula, March 2, 2016, https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2016/03/02/the-human-hand-is-good-at-grasping-therefore-god/#ixzz41pyh2rYR
  9. See Danny R. Faulkner, R. Kent Honeycutt and Hollis R. Johnson. “On the Violet Flux of N Type Carbon Stars” The Astrophysical Journal Vol 324, 490-500, 1987 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234533733_On_the_violet_flux_of_N_type_carbon_stars
  10. Jason P. Lisle, Mark P. Rast and Juri Toomre. “Persistent North-South Alighment of the Solar Supergranulation.” The Astrophysical Journal 608, pg 1167-1174, 2004 https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1086/420691/pdf
  11. See K.C. Mansky, K. Marfatia, Georgia H. Purdom, A. Luchin, D.A. Hume, M.C. Ostrowski, “The microphthalmia transcription factor (MITF) contains two N-terminal domains required for transactivation of osteoclast target promoters and rescue of mi mutant osteoclasts,” Journal of Leukocyte Biology 71(2002):295-303, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/11542444_The_microphthalmia_transcription_factor_and_the_related_helix-loop-helix_zipper_factors_TFE-3_and_TFE-C_collaborate_to_activate_the_tartrate-resistant_acid_phosphatase_promoter Daniel T. Scadden and Nathaniel T. Jeanson. “Vitamin D receptor deletion leads to increased hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells residing in the spleen.” Blood 116, no. 20 (2010), 4126-4129, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2993619/ David N. Menton and M. Brown. “The effects of commercial wound cleansers on cutaneous wound cleansing in guinea pigs.” Wounds 6, no. 1 (1994), 21-27. And Andrew A. Snelling and Bruce L. Dickson, 1979. Uranium/daughter disequilibrium in the Koongarra uranium deposit, Australia. Mineralium Deposita, 14:109-118.
  12. “History and Aims” Creation Research Society Accessed September 16, 2020, https://www.creationresearch.org/history-and-aims
  13. Mary H. Schweitzer et al “Heme compounds in dinosaur trabecular bone.” PNAS 94, no. 12, 6291-6296. https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/94/12/6291.full.pdf
  14. R.E. Taylor and John Southon. “Use of natural diamonds to monitor 14C AMS instrument backgrounds”. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms 259, no. 1 (2007), Pages 282-287, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0168583X07002443
  15. Carbon-14 decays so fast that it can last a mere 90,000 years at maximum. After that, there should be none left. Yet we still have carbon-14. If every atom on earth was carbon-14, after 1 million years, none would be left.
  16. Creation journals will also publish material from the evolutionary side like the following two examples: https://answersingenesis.org/geology/natural-features/geomorphology-of-uluru-australia-discussion/ and https://answersingenesis.org/human-evolution/creationist-view-mtdna/

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