February 13, 2021 | David F. Coppedge

Science Dissolving in a Sea of Lies

The line between “mainstream” science and fake science continues to blur.

What would you expect in a world where integrity evolves? Knowledge is power; science is knowledge; and a shortcut to power is through fake science. Nature is worried.

Hundreds of ‘predatory’ journals indexed on leading scholarly database (Nature). “Poor-quality science is infiltrating literature,” this article warns. A major index of scientific papers is becoming polluted with entries from “predatory journals” (which mainstream journals claim are poor-quality publications lacking sufficient peer review).

The widely used academic database Scopus hosts papers from more than 300 potentially ‘predatory’ journals that have questionable publishing practices, an analysis has found. Together, these titles contributed more than 160,000 articles over three years — almost 3% of the studies indexed on Scopus during the period. Their presence on Scopus and other popular research databases raises concerns that poor-quality studies could mislead scientists and pollute the scientific literature.

If sloppy work is getting dressed up as legitimate science, then this is a grave concern indeed. But if science is a human endeavor open to even “citizen scientists,” who is Nature to object? Who sets the rules? Who decides what constitutes “poor-quality” vs “good quality” research? As often shown here at CEH, evolutionary research is often extremely sloppy, but Nature puts it out there anyway. The leading institutions and publishers have all recognized that “peer review” is fraught with philosophical and practical challenges.

Casting the First Stone

Should elite institutions have such power over science? Observers at Aarhus University aren’t so sure. “Twenty-one percent of all citations go to the elite,” they wrote; this uneven distribution “can have negative consequences for research.” Citations are often a mark of power and influence in science. In just 15 years, the elites have increased their citation counts from 14% to 21%.

“We had expected an increase, but we are surprised to find such a large one, meaning that more than every fifth citation now goes to such a small elite. This development might cause worry because we risk that a small powerful elite acquires immense influence on research ideas; on what is even considered as research topics,” says Jens Peter Andersen.

Why is this happening? Anderson sees a “self-reinforcing circle in which numerous citations lead to more grants and a broader network as a researcher, triggering an even larger number of citations.” Why is this bad? Those with more citations often get more funding and grants. The elite influence is like a monopoly on the marketplace of ideas. There is plenty to complain about, therefore, on both sides of the “predatory journal” debate; let the one without sin cast the first stone.

Power Can Be a Perverse Incentive

National leaders want to get on the science bandwagon. This creates another perverse incentive to increase their political image as leaders in science, promoting their researchers like heroes:

The inclusion of predatory journals in databases is problematic because it means that they can inflate author metrics, say physiologists Andrea Manca and Franca Deriu at the University of Sassari in Italy, who worked on the study identifying predatory journals in PubMed. This can make a difference in countries where career advancement strictly depends on these metrics.

Some countries most definitely are using science as a political weapon. How much can one trust in research coming from totalitarian countries, like China, which steal other nations’ research secrets, then publish findings in their own government-sponsored journals, approved by their countries’ own peer reviewers? Some research obviously has to work, like spacecraft being built and flown by countries like China, Arabia, and India. But when it comes to philosophically based publications about human values, sociology, gender, sustainability, evolution and race, “political” science can lead to serious ramifications on how human beings should be treated.

The hoary reputation of science is being undermined in real time, warn observers of the situation. “Predatory journals are continuously changing names and publishers, and keep growing in number as we speak.” With nobody knowing what titles to trust, science could dissolve in a sea of lies.

When it comes to Darwinism, it already has.

What’s the solution? Integrity. There must be integrity, or there is no science. Integrity is not a product of evolution. It is not a cultural convention. It must adhere to eternal principles, such as “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and “Thou shalt not covet” (e.g., don’t plagiarize another’s work or reputation). The early scientists were committed to integrity. They lived at a time when the Biblical worldview was taken for granted, including the Ten Commandments. They knew that lying and falsehood deserved to be exposed, shamed and punished.

Welcome to the 21st century, when Jews and Christians have been relegated to a “religious subculture” and are considered political interest groups. Materialist science reigns supreme. But materialist science has a problem; it cannot generate its own integrity. It must borrow it from Bible believers. But it doesn’t want to, and doesn’t know how. The editors of Nature and other “reputable” journals are wallowing in the universal acid their worldview has spilled: acid that now threatens to dissolve themselves.

The antidote is Judeo-Christian integrity, which must be taught from kindergarten through college. But that would threaten the teaching of evolution! Sorry, Nature. Welcome to the world your Darwianian worldview has brought. It’s not about integrity. It’s about power. It’s about survival of the fittest. Best of luck as you struggle to stay on top of the publishing hill as long as you can until all the predators gang up on you and take your place. What a world that will be.

Moses breaking the tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt (public domain). From Exodus 32.

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