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John Pepple

Hi Peg,
It all comes down to peer-review, which liberals and leftists trust, for no obvious reason that I can discern. Here are some leftist reasons for not trusting it:

1. Leftists say that they want to listen to those at the bottom. But with respect to the reliability of peer-review, they only listen to those on the top, who naturally have wonderful things to say about it because it treated them so well. I'm at the bottom. Peer-review didn't treat me well at all, and I ended up unemployed. By leftist reasoning, my view of peer-review is just as valid, if not more so, than the view of those at the top.

2. Peer-review is dominated by those who went to elite schools, and those who went to elite schools generally come from wealthy backgrounds. People from more modest backgrounds end up going to lesser schools, and they find it very hard to deal with those from the elite schools when it comes to peer-review. Since leftists say they champion the poor, they ought to be suspicious of peer-review because peer-review hurts the poor.

3. I believe it's true that feminist scholars had a tough time getting their stuff through the peer-review process, so they were forced to start their own journals.

4. An article often touches on more than one topic, but the editors of journals will typically farm it out to the people in the topic that is dominant. This could mean dominant in terms of numbers, or with global warming, dominant in terms of politics. The powerful get to be gatekeepers over the weak, with the result that they keep their power.

Here's an example of the former from my own experience. My work touched on both Plato and his nephew Speusippus. Plato scholars didn't like what I said, but Speusippus scholars did. However, there are very few Speusippus scholars, so it was very unlikely that they would be the ones refereeing my articles.

5. Leftists who trust peer-review on global warming wouldn't trust peer-review in other contexts. If scientists at oil companies did peer-review on each other, their results wouldn't be trusted by the left.

6. Moreover, if a scientist at a drug company had come up with a new drug, and if his or her peers at the company had vouched for it, no leftist would accept the results. They would want something more, the more stringent tests of the FDA. And that is what we skeptics want: something more. We want a higher standard of proof than mere peer-review.

7. Leftists who trust peer-review are much more cautious about the criminal-justice system. Let's compare them. The criminal-justice system is mostly open to the public and it has many checks and balances. Peer-review is completely hidden from the public, and it has no checks and balances. If it is rational to be cautious of the criminal-justice system, then it is even more rational to be cautious about peer-review.

If there are any reasons leftists should be trustful of peer-review, I'd be glad to hear them.

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