Last week, I mentioned that Billy Dembski is all worked up over a paper which he claimed was a peer-reviewed rejection of the climate change. The publisher, the American Physical Science, attached a disclaimer to the piece, noting that it was in fact not peer reviewed. Dembski now defends his own claims by touting a letter from the author of the APS article, in which the author claims to have engaged in peer review:
The editors ? invited me to submit a paper ? explaining why I considered that the warming that might be expected from anthropogenic enrichment of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide might be significantly less than the IPCC imagines.
I very much appreciated this courteous offer, and submitted a paper. The commissioning editor referred it to his colleague, who subjected it to a thorough and competent scientific review. I was delighted to accede to all of the reviewer?s requests for revision (see the attached reconciliation sheet). Most revisions were intended to clarify for physicists who were not climatologists?
I had been invited to submit the paper; I had submitted it; an eminent Professor of Physics had then scientifically reviewed it in meticulous detail; I had revised it at all points requested, and in the manner requested
This is not peer review. Peer review involves multiple anonymous reviewers, and goes to technical details, not just clarity of the text. Indeed, clarity is rarely the goal of such review. This process reminds me of nothing so much as Michael Behe’s embarrassing misunderstanding of the review his first book went through:
Q. Okay. Now you stated on Monday that Darwin’s Black Box was also peer reviewed, right?
A. That’s correct.
Q. You would agree that peer review for a book published in the Trade Press is not as rigorous as the peer review process for the leading scientific journals, would you?
A. No, I would not agree with that. The review process that the book went through is analogous to peer review in the literature, because the manuscript was sent out to scientists for their careful reading.
Furthermore, the book was sent out to more scientists than typically review a manuscript. In the typical case, a manuscript that’s going to — that is submitted for a publication in a scientific journal is reviewed just by two reviewers. My book was sent out to five reviewers.
Furthermore, they read it more carefully than most scientists read typical manuscripts that they get to review because they realized that this was a controversial topic. So I think, in fact, my book received much more scrutiny and much more review before publication than the great majority of scientific journal articles.
Q. And one of the peer reviewers you mentioned yesterday was a gentleman named Michael Atchison?
A. Yes, I think that’s correct.
Q. Professor Behe, I’ve shown you an exhibit marked P-754, and that’s an article titled — or a writing titled Mustard Seeds by Dr. Michael Atchison?
Q. Professor Behe, I’d like you to look at the first — I’m sorry, the last paragraph on the first page, and I’m going to read this for the record. This is what Professor Atchison wrote. ?
Q. “While I was identifying myself as a Christian in Philadelphia, a biochemist named Michael Behe at Lehigh University was writing a book on evolution. As a biochemist, Behe found the evidence far Darwinian evolution to be very thin. ? Behe sent his completed manuscript to the Free Press publishers for consideration.” That is your publisher of Darwin’s Black Box, correct?
A. That’s right.
Q. “The editor was not certain that this manuscript was a good risk for publication. There were clearly theological issues at hand, and he was under the impression that these issues would be poorly received by the scientific community. If the tenets of Darwinian evolution were completely accepted by science, who would be interested in buying the book?” The next paragraph says, “The editor shared his concerns with his wife. His wife was a student in my class.” Again, this is consistent with your understanding of Mr. Atchison’s — Dr. Atchison’s involvement?
A. Yes. As I said, I think the editor, his wife was in vet school and knew that she was taking biochemistry and so asked the professor in that class.
Q. “She advised her husband to give me a call. So unaware of all this, I received a phone call from the publisher in New York. We spent approximately ten minutes on the phone. After hearing a description of the work, I suggested that the editor should seriously consider publishing the manuscript.
I told him that the origin of life issue was still up in the air. It sounded like this Behe fellow might have some good ideas, although I could not be certain since I had never seen the manuscript. We hung up, and I never thought about it again, at least until two years later.”
And then in the next session titled A Blessing Years Later, Dr. Atchison writes, “After some time, Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box, the Free Press, 1996, was published. It became an instant best seller and was widely acclaimed in the news media.
It is currently in its 15th printing and over 40,000 copies have been sold. I heard about it, but could not remember if this was the same book that I received the call about from the publisher. Could it be?
In November 1998, I finally met Michael Behe when he visited Penn for a faculty outreach talk. He told me that, yes, indeed, it was his book that the publisher called me about. In fact, he said my comments were the deciding factor in convincing the publisher to go ahead with the book. Interesting, I thought.”
You did meet Dr. Atchison, correct?
A. Yes, later, I did, yes.
Q. And is this your understanding of the kind of peer review Dr. Atchison did of your book?
A. No, it wasn’t. I thought he had received a copy of the manuscript and went through it. So — but — so, yes, I was under a different impression.
Q. You have no basis by which to dispute this account in this document, correct, Professor Behe?
A. My understanding is different from what is given in this account.
Q. And you did see some comments from some of your other reviewers, is that right?
A. That’s correct.
Q. And they confirmed that you hadn’t made any errors in the biochemistry, correct?
Q. But they were reluctant or disagreed about intelligent design, correct?
A. Several were, yes, uh-huh.
In short, Behe believed Atchison reviewed the book in detail, when he actually just looked at it for 10 minutes. Other reviewers felt that the book’s conclusions didn’t follow from the data presented (grounds to call for a paper’s rejection or heavy revision in scientific publishing). For IDolators, that’s peer review. In science, it just isn’t. If the deniers want to believe that’s what counts as peer review, they’re just as wrong.