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A friend draws our attention to a paper on “unfounded authority” in science

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Steven A. Greenberg, “How citation distortions create unfounded authority: analysis of a citation network” (2009)

The network contained 242 papers and 675 citations addressing the belief, with 220 553 citation paths supporting it. Unfounded authority was established by citation bias against papers that refuted or weakened the belief; amplification, the marked expansion of the belief system by papers presenting no data addressing it; and forms of invention such as the conversion of hypothesis into fact through citation alone. Extension of this network into text within grants funded by the National Institutes of Health and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act showed the same phenomena present and sometimes used to justify requests for funding. Conclusion Citation is both an impartial scholarly method and a powerful form of social communication. Through distortions in its social use that include bias, amplification, and invention, citation can be used to generate information cascades resulting in unfounded authority of claims. Construction and analysis of a claim specific citation network may clarify the nature of a published belief system and expose distorted methods of social citation.

Probably, almost all claims for Darwinian evolution (natural selection acting on random mutation) as a significant source of new information in life forms depend on such citation networks.

Consider the ridiculous claims for the “evolution” of the beaks of Darwin’s finches in the Holy Islands of the Galapagos. Nothing should be more obvious than that an enduring group of species would morph features back and forth, depending on the state of the environment, without enduring change. There would be no benefit to enduring change.

But then, if you think that, you probably don’t make your living teaching courses on Darwinism.

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One Reply to “A friend draws our attention to a paper on “unfounded authority” in science

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    Scientists must think out of the box. Many things should be verified, questioned, double checked, so that all available evidences are considered in their right measures. Any old presupposition should be put to rigorous test. Humility to admit not having sufficient evidences or data should be a common attribute of the acceptable scientific attitude.

    Here’s an example of what could happen when certain facts are ignored or not seriously considered in science. This is a report of misleading speculation in biology, apparently gone undetected for quite a while, until recently someone pointed to it:

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