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The itching ears of peer review

Three scholars show the process is more political than academic

From left: James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian YouTube/PSU College Republicans

The itching ears of peer review

Three scholars spent the past year submitting absurd, bogus papers to well-known academic journals to show how easily studies can pass the supposedly rigorous peer review process if they spout trendy, liberal dogma. The scholars submitted 20 hoax papers to journals that focused on race, gender, sexuality, and other politically charged issues. Much to the scientific community’s shame, seven of the papers passed peer review and were published.

The trio, mathematician James Lindsay, philosopher Peter Boghossian, and English literature and history scholar Helen Pluckrose, managed to get a paper asserting that dog parks produce a canine “rape culture” published in the feminist journal Gender, Place & Culture.

The gender studies journal Affilia published another of the academics’ phony submissions, in which they simply rewrote a chapter of Adolph Hilter’s autobiography Mein Kampf in feminist terms. In yet another published article, they wrote that “privileged students” (in other words, white) should not be allowed to speak in class and should be required to make reparations by sitting on the floor in chains.

Several fellow academics responded with opinion pieces in Quillette magazine. “The editors and peer reviewers who handled [the] papers have revealed their true, vicious attitudes,” wrote Nathan Konfas, a doctoral student in philosophy at the University of Oxford.

A University of California, San Diego, faculty fellow voiced concern that these fake studies show how falsified ideas become thrust upon impressionable young minds when students enter universities staffed with political activists. “Many faculty in these departments seem alarmingly eager to hijack, for their own ends, the emotional circuitry of teenagers who arrive on campus in search of a tribe to join and a dragon to slay,” Jonathan Anomaly wrote.

More than anything, this hoax shows how “ripe the moment is for Christians to offer the education world an alternative,” John Stonestreet, president of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview, said on the organization’s podcast, Breakpoint. (Stonestreet also discussed the topic briefy with WORLD Radio’s Nick Eicher during a recent “Culture Friday” segment on The World and Everything in It.) Christians with a desire to point students to God founded most universities, but just because schools have lost that vision does not mean that the task of educating young people and publishing solid research is over, he said, adding, “With mainstream academic journals going to the dogs, now’s not the time for Christians to lose our educational souls to fashionable nonsense. Now’s the time to recommit to truth.”


Wearable artificial kidneys on the horizon

When it comes to kidney transplants, demand far exceeds supply.

About 100,000 people are on the kidney transplant waiting list, and many stay on it for five to 10 years. The only other choice for people suffering from kidney failure is dialysis, but it generally requires three visits a week to a healthcare center and several hours hooked up to a machine. Even then, treatment outcomes are less than optimal.

Dialysis is not as efficient as the body’s natural filtration system because kidneys filter blood around the clock. In a new study published in ACS Nano, scientists said they discovered a nanomaterial that could enable the development of a lightweight, wearable, artificial kidney that would filter blood constantly, potentially making dialysis more convenient, comfortable, and effective.

To keep a healthy nitrogen balance in the body, dialysis must remove urea, a nitrogen-containing substance in the blood produced by the metabolism of protein. The study showed that, at room temperature, the nanomaterial was able to capture more than one-third of the urea a dialysis machine can remove. When the researchers tested it at body temperature, the amount of urea it captured doubled. Also, the material did not kill cells, suggesting it is safe for human use. J.B.


Copying nature’s hovercrafts

Once again, mechanical engineers find themselves investigating God’s designs to construct the best models. Stanford University researchers recently trekked to Costa Rica to study how hummingbirds and bats hover in place. Engineers have already built hovering robots and drones, but the researchers hope to make them more efficient.

In their study, published in the journal Science Advances, the engineers analyzed 100 hummingbirds and bats, the only two vertebrates that can hover in place.

The researchers knew that flying animals support themselves by flapping downward, but to avoid excess bobbing, hovering animals must stay steadily aloft when they lift their wings back up. The study showed that hummingbirds and bats hover in very different ways but expend about the same amount of energy relative to their weight. Both species must invert their wings to hover, but hummingbirds do this more easily than fruit bats, giving them more lift than drag. Bats struggle more to turn their wings over but don’t exert any more energy than hummingbirds because their wings are bigger and their strokes larger. Nectar bats, which sidle up to flowers like hummingbirds, twist their wings more easily than fruit bats, allowing them to get close enough to drink the flower’s nectar. J.B.


Skeletons from Pompeii shift date of volcanic eruption

Recent excavations of ancient Pompeii shed new light on the date Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city in hot rocks and ashes.

Historians know the famous volcano blew in A.D. 79, killing nearly 2,000 people. Archaeologists have unearthed skeletons of donkeys, mules, horses, a pig, and a dog, in addition to many humans. But new excavations have exhumed the skeletons of two women and three children who took refuge from the disaster in a small room of a house. The house harbors a charcoal inscription that dates the eruption to October, two months later than historians previously thought. The archaeologists believe the roof of the house caved in, either crushing or burning the five victims. —J.B.

Julie Borg

Julie is a WORLD contributor who covers science and intelligent design. A clinical psychologist and a World Journalism Institute graduate, Julie resides in Dayton, Ohio.

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