Over on his blog, Why Evolution is True, University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne writes critically of a Nature paper published in May of last year, which he describes as “a misguided attack on kin selection.” Coyne asks,
If the Nowak et al. paper is so bad, why was it published? That’s obvious, and is an object lesson in the sociology of science. If Joe Schmo et al. from Buggerall State University had submitted such a misguided paper to Nature, it would have been rejected within an hour (yes, Nature sometimes does that with online submissions!). The only reason this paper was published is because it has two big-name authors, Nowak and Wilson, hailing from Mother Harvard. That, and the fact that such a contrarian paper, flying in the face of accepted evolutionary theory, was bound to cause controversy.
This brings up an important point. I have often read papers, published in reputable journals, which I have thought should not have passed through peer-review. Consider, for example, this paper, published in PLoS Biology in May of last year. Indeed, the esteemed atheist blogger PZ Myers blogged about this paper in a blog entitled “Junk DNA is still junk” (to which I responded briefly here). The paper erroneously concluded that “Overall, however, we find that most of the genome is not appreciably transcribed [emphasis added].”
There is actually a pretty good response to this article here. The methodology of the PLoS Biology article is fatally flawed, for they use a program called “RepeatMasker“, which actually acts to screen out all the repetitive DNA. But given that about 50% of our genome is comprised of repetitive DNA, the conclusions drawn by the authors seems to be a little disingenuous to say the least! In fact, the official description of RepeatMasker itself states that “On average, almost 50% of a human genomic DNA sequence currently will be masked by the program.”
As if that weren’t bad enough, the researchers then base their results “primarily on analysis of PolyA+ enriched RNA.” But we’ve known since 2005 that, in humans, PolyA- sequences are twice as abundant as PolyA+ transcripts. So the authors not only exclude half the genome from their research, but also completely ignore two thirds of the RNA in what remains!
PZ Myers really didn’t do his credibility many favours by citing that paper. The point being made by Myers is a false one anyway because it is known that even DNA which is not transcribed can play important roles.
Then there was, of course, that recent paper in PNAS telling us that “There’s plenty of time for evolution” (also paraded by Myers). The substance of the argument presented in this paper was terrible. Reading that paper when it first came out, I was frankly astonished that it was able to pass through peer-review.
But I guess so long as your paper purports to prop-up Darwinism and refute ID, anything goes.
There is also a sharp inconsistency on the part of many modern Darwinists. Politically muscular pressure groups will actively seek to stop ID research from seeing the light of day by ensuring that journals pull any papers (even if they have already gone through peer-review) which are sympathetic or favourable towards ID. Indeed, papers are sometimes rejected squarely because they are pro-ID, regardless of the substance of the argument. But when Darwinists publish fallacious arguments in reputable journals, there is no uprising against them.
Why the inconsistency?