Friday, October 21, 2005

Intelligent Design and Rigorous Peer Review

In the Dover intelligent design trial, expert witness for the defense Michael Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, testified that his book received rigorous peer review--more rigorous than a paper in a scientific journal:
At the same time, Behe agreed, when asked by plaintiff's counsel Eric Rothschild if the "peer review for Darwin's Black Box was analogous to peer review in the [scientific] literature." It was, according to Behe, even more rigorous. There were more than twice standard the number of reviewers and "they read [the book] more carefully... because this was a controversial topic."
It turns out that the deciding factor in the book's being published came from the rigorous peer review of Dr. Michael Atchison of the University of Pennsylvania, who has described his involvement:
...I received a phone call from the publisher in New York. We spent approximately 10 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. [...]

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.
The key reviewer, whose comments were the determining factor in the publication of the book, spent ten minutes on the telephone with the publisher, whose wife was a student in one of his classes, and he never saw the book itself until after it was published.

Ed Brayton and John Lynch give more detail and comment.

There were four other reviewers: Robert Shapiro (prof. of chemistry, NYU, author of Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth), K. John Morrow (formerly at Texas Tech University Health Sciences, published critic of Dembski and Behe), a forgotten Washington University biochemist, and another whom Behe has completely forgotten. Perhaps they gave it a more rigorous review than Atchison, who didn't actually review it at all.


Einzige said...

Did any of this crap come to light during testimony?

Jim Lippard said...

Yes--the plaintiff's attorneys submitted Atchison's published article about his role in "reviewing" into evidence to show that Behe's citation of Atchison as a "reviewer" was bogus.