War on Science: Denier claims peer review is bad… For Science!

  • Published on August 7th, 2020

Last Thursday, Trump’s EPA administrator and former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler spent nearly an hour with the fossil-fuel-funded Heritage Foundation for a virtual event on “recent successes.”

Stirring scene from a riveting and visually entertaining discussion...
Stirring scene from a riveting and visually entertaining discussion…

By Climate Denier Roundup

This video will probably not be counted among those successes, because as of Tuesday afternoon it had only 242 views. (For those keeping score at home, there are 293 people on the Heritage foundation’s staff and experts page.) The lack of interest is likely due to the sycophantic nature of the premise, but was certainly compounded by the fact that despite having months now to figure out virtual events, Heritage set up the livestream to be the visual equivalent of Ambien.

Because they had it set up in presentation mode, Wheeler spoke from a video feed roughly the same size on screen as Heritage’s bell logo, while the majority of the screen was dominated by a static slide featuring either Wheeler’s title when he spoke alone, or the headline of the event when he was joined for the discussion portion.

It’s as though Heritage was worried its audience would forget where they were and what they were doing if “HERITAGE EVENTS LIVE” wasn’t burning itself into their monitor screen in 72 pt font for 50 straight minutes.

Anyway, botched visual aides aside, was there something of substance in there that’s worth calling out? Probably, but we couldn’t pay attention long enough to find any. Instead, we got distracted by what might be one of the most jaw-dropping Takes ever to grace the internet.

Denier blogger David Wojick writes on CFACT that, because peer reviewing requires a lot of researchers to do a lot of work reading and reviewing, it’s actually a bad thing for scientific progress.

Using some back-of-the-envelope calculations, Wojick figures “an incredible 300 to 600 million hours a year [are] devoted to reviewing, rather that [sic] to research.”

“Thus on balance,” Wojick concludes, “peer review is bad for science.”

Now, while this is a profoundly anti-scientific sentiment, it’s not necessarily as stupid as it sounds. So long as you’re a denier.

Because obviously deniers are resentful of the peer reviewed literature for effectively keeping their sloppy and error-ridden political diatribes from receiving the imprimatur of prestigious publishers and formal publication as a symbol of having survived the factually and intellectually rigorous review by actual experts.

But what Wojick is laying the groundwork for is an argument that the internet has made scientific journals obsolete, unnecessary now that “given modern search technologies,” the traditional process of finding the right journal for the right article “no longer seems very important.”

And to an extent, he has a point. One that real efforts are legitimately addressinglike in the peer-reviewed literature.

What deniers want to do though, and already have been trying to do, is flatten the intellectual playing field by making it seem like a report published by one group of fossil-fuel-funded “researchers” and then reviewed by their peers in another fossil-fuel-funded organization is just as reliable (and therefore just as valid for political and media purposes) as a real peer-reviewed study.

But if five months into a work-from-home pandemic, they’re not even capable of working their own Zoom calls, do you really trust these sorts of people to check, and review for scientific accuracy, questions of life and death for people, animals, plants and the planet?

(Crossposted with DailyKos.)

About the Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.