Peer-review: A New Signature of Quack Science

The same Elsevier started a journal in 2013 called Explore, devoted to “science and healing.” The very subtitle of the journal exposes its ludicrousness. How can a journal publish healing and science — not medical science, health science, or hygiene science, but science, period — at the same time? As a cursory look at the articles available online demonstrates, speculations about consciousness and cosmology, spiritual phenomena and quantum non-locality, “scientific” investigation of reincarnation, etc., are legitimate candidates for publication.

The editorial board of Explore says it all! Larry Dossey, the Executive Editor, is the author of such books as The Power of Premonitions: How Knowing the Future Can Shape our Lives and Prayer is Good Medicine. Benjamin Kligler is one of the Coeditors-in-Chief. He boasts his certification in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy and acupuncture. Dean Radin is the other Coeditor-in-Chief. He is Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, whose mission is to support individual and collective transformation through consciousness research by exploring phenomena that “do not necessarily fit conventional scientific models.” He regularly presents papers in the annual meetings of Parapsychological Association (PA) and the Society for Scientific Exploration (SSE). PA, according to its website, is “a professional organization … engaged in the study of psi (or ‘psychic’) experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition.” SSE boasts peer-reviewed (what else?) research on consciousness, physics, alternative energy, healing, and more. SSE has provided a critical forum for sharing original research into … unconventional topics that often cross mainstream boundaries!

When the executive editor himself publishes books on “knowing the future” and the “healing power of prayer;” and when coeditors-in-chief engage in the exploration of phenomena that do not necessarily fit conventional scientific models and do research on  telepathy and psychic healing, what is the purpose of “peer-review?”

If there is no criterion for rejecting the very notion of “knowing the future,” “healing power of prayer,” or “psychic healing,” how can any other nonsense be rejected in the “peer review” process?

There are many other venues for publishing “peer-reviewed” pseudoscience (see this for a comprehensive list). For example, NeuroQuantology, a venue in which Deepak Chopra has disseminated some of his ideas, is “an interdisciplinary journal of neuroscience and quantum physics.” The affiliation of Sultan Tarlaci, its founder and Editor-in-Chief, reads “Dept of Neurology, Assoc. Prof. Editor-In-Chief NeuroQuantology, Turkey.” The institution to which the “Dept of Neurology” belongs is not mentioned! A search brings up his affiliation in ResearchGate, in which his institution is listed as Sifa University in Izmir, Turkey. While he seems to have an MD, his training is claimed to be as diverse as physiology, phycology (the study of algae), and neuroscience. He also publishes about quantum physics! Going through the only list of the faculty at Sifa University, I couldn’t locate his name in any of the listed departments!

4 thoughts on “Peer-review: A New Signature of Quack Science”

  1. Not everyone with a PhD and a research history is capable of adequately dealing with new findings when they clash with received wisdom. For example, I work to find mathematically simple patterns present in the sequencing of orbital partials in shells of atomic nuclei. For spheres, the math turns out to come directly from Pascal Triangle combinatorics (though values are all doubled due to spin-pairing of nucleons). The math is exact- no crazy equations with strange terms, and always gives known results. Yet reactions to these findings often resemble political or religious attacks. All quantum physics is based on simple mathematics, but it seems that modern workers have given up on this notion, which might explain their fondness for esoteric forms, such as perturbational formulations.

  2. Excellent article, although one must consider when science is falsely labeled as pseudoscience and that true peer review of the scientific method takes place when experiment and theory is put to the test by attempts at replication. If one is blocked at the journal/publishing level this scientific process is stymied.

    Today’s scientists no longer face the hurdle of a publisher’s peer review to get work printed. If you have fallen into an unknown realm who is your peer? Obviously only those who you find there with you. The Internet allowed the peers of cold fusion research to publish, which is the first step in involving the larger community in your scientific endeavor. Only after publishing can true scientific review begin, attempts at replication.

    LENR the Debutante at the Ball
    http://coldfusionnow.org/lenr-the-debutante-at-the-ball/

    The Skepticism required by the Scientific Method is meant to apply to all models, those proposed and those both offered and accepted in the past; and, especially, of our very own. This last ensures better offered models.

    There are about 35 models contributing to comprehending nuclear behaviour. That they are all variously successful indicates that threshing for commonalities is paramount. It also allows that we just don’t know it all.

    LENR Conversation between a Researcher, Chemist, Astronomer, Quantum Theorist, Student, and a Layman
    http://gbgoble.kinja.com/lenr-conversation-between-a-researcher-chemist-astron-1681637829

    1. Deepak Chopra believes that his “science” is falsely labeled as pseudoscience. In fact, all pseudoscientists believe that their “science” is falsely labeled as pseudoscience, just as Hitler believed that his regime was falsely labeled as dictatorship.

      If the mainstream scientists persistently — I’m not talking about their initial resistance to ideas that have not yet been verified experimentally — do not accept an idea, it is not science. Read the article at
      http://www.csicop.org/si/show/post-materialist_science_a_smokescreen_for_woo
      to see what is science and what is not.

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