Monday, August 5, 2013

How to deal with potential junk science bloggers?

I received this email from a CoE reader. My reply is below. Does this seem reasonable to you?

> This is the second C of E to feature a post from the Pterosaur Heresies [], a junk science site. Is there any screening going on here? Could we see posts from Uncommon Descent in future editions?

The screening we have is reliant on the host. The host reads all submissions and ultimately decides what is in and what is out. The guideline is simply that it must be about evolution, not that it be factually correct or far from the fringe. Yes, there is nothing inherently wrong with including posts from UD, but none has been submitted.

I was not familiar with this blog before. I see that people disagree strongly about the things discussed there, and you may well be right that David Peters is crazy, but I don't think that should deter us from reading it. It would great if the CoE host could point out that there is a discussion going on, and that most people think David Peters is wrong, for example. I will add something to this effect in the CoE instructions before next month.


P.S. We need hosts. Would you be interested?


  1. I do think that posts that are anti-scientific ought to be filtered; the Carnival is our megaphone, and we are under no obligation to let cranks like UD use it. I would be very disappointed to see a UD post included in the Carnival. But, not having encountered Pterosaur Heresies before, it is not immediately obvious to me that it is anti-scientific in the way that UD is. It looks like it's written by someone with a rather unconventional and controversial hypothesis, but that alone does not suffice to make something "junk science". Am I missing something? Was that "junk science" accusation substantiated with anything that boils down to more than "I strongly disagree with the author's hypothesis"? It's good to keep in mind how many other things that are now widely accepted started out as ridiculed, fringe perspectives.

  2. CoE should be what the contributors want it to be, I think. In other words, a place where sound evolutionary biology is exhibited. How's that?

  3. I dare say that I did filter non-science and nonsense out. There was one clearly creationist submission, one esoteric one and one that was simply wild speculation using the term evolution with no specific meaning (do we evolve to dream of electric sheep or such). The Pterosaur Heresies posts were all last minute submissions that seemed to have been submitted in response to Björn's alarm call concerning the lack of sumbissions. I did not have the time or expertise to check for their content. But agree with Ben Haller that scientific means testable not correct. If all that turns out to be incorrect at some point would be called unscientific, everything would be unscientific.

    Apart from that, I took the chore of hosting a CoE with hardly andy input from the rest of the world as a task to make it both interesting (varied in content) and entertaining (including some funny posts). I also tried to include blogs that do not belong to the usual CoE suspects (but did not purposely exclude the usual suspects either), in order to freshen it up. I hope my tongue in cheek has not been lost on many readers, when stumbling over posts like "The Arshole Gene," "The Bigfoot DNA" or the picture provided by Bug Girl.

    Finally, I did put the whole CoE 62 online early by three days in oder to allow critics to come forth, correct my bias, or whatever. That seems to have been lost on almost everybody, for I revceived no feedback whatsoever on the early online version.

  4. Speaking purely as a layman reader here, and also not trying to criticize the selection as much as wanting to add to the debate of the current ground rules or lack thereof:

    On filtering non-science and even worse, anti-science, the latest CoE contains an Aeon link. If you check, Aeon is Templeton Foundation supported and amply touted as such on the TF site in a rather blatant attempt to insert creationism at large as scientifically reasonable.

    If there is a discussion among contributors of what CoE should be, I hope such attempts at stealing science prestige would be among the items discussed.

  5. Why don't you post that as a comment to CoE#62 (maybe with a link to an informative website concerning this issue).

    I wasn't aware of the Templeton connection. Anne Buchanan has written warmly about this new blog at The Mermaid's Tale (see here, she even has an essay on Aeon herself). As The Mermaid's Tale is a longterm contributor to CoE, I took Aeon as acceptable.

    1. I just discovered I have made a mistake, and I'm terribly sorry. Please disregard my previous comment that somehow confused Aeon with another new magazine, Nautilus.

      (As I remember it I sat at a slow connection and foolishly didn't make time to check. And indeed I had decided I won't read Aeon because there are Templeton Fellows writing there. But that has nothing to do with Aeon as a magazine.)

      I am sure Aeon is a magazine that does not attempt to do what I accused it of.