The Illusion of Peer Review Science

I wonder if anyone has had the same thoughts as I when reading the phrase ‘peer review’ about any particular observation or theory.

Peer review is supposed to be a kind of quality control for ideas — if the proposers peers agree then it must be good, so publish it. If they don’t agree then it must be suppressed. I suppose this is a good idea — but what happens when the idea is truly new and goes against common wisdom? How do new ideas get out?

Recently there have been some articles about economic theory in which the authors suggested that the popular idea of markets being a universal solution to many kinds of problems was wrong. I think this latest economic collapse has illustrated their points. But the article I was reading said that these economists had a great deal of difficulty getting published at all. Their ideas conflicted with the ideas of their economist peers and were suppressed.

So in the end it might be that the concept of peer review is nothing more than a statement that the idea conforms to current orthodoxy. That is different from saying it is right or wrong — and who knows how many ground breaking ideas (or really nutty ideas) have been lost because they failed ‘peer review’.


Bye bye USA

I suppose it was inevitable, but the headline today about the Mass. victory for the Republicans probably marks the beginning of the end of the US as a great power. After years of running it into the ground with un-budgeted wars, deregulation that really only benefited their sponsors and almost broke the world economy, the have been salivating at the chance to block everything in Congress. And now it looks like they will get it.

The US is the only developed nation that refuses to provide healthcare for all its citizens. And what it does is at breathtaking cost. Huge debts are being wrung up to fight the wars that they instigated. And to bail out the financial system that their greed and unbridled ego inflated to the point of catastrophe.

So now the Republicans, who have no real ideas of their own beyond ‘NO’ will likely make the remaining three years a funeral pyre for the country as they block every attempt to improve conditions for citizens and repair the damage done. Funny, but it seems that the call of the right has become ‘burn, baby, burn’.

And for a group that seems to pride itself on patriotism, somehow working to destroy it just doesnt seem proper.

Refeudalization of America

One thought that troubles me in watching how both the US and Canadian governments are developing is that somehow we appear to be sliding backwards. The gap between rich and poor is growing, social services are being dismantled, the transportation network is being dismantled or made so user-hostile that eventually no one (who does not have a private plane) will want to fly anywhere. Our freedoms are being taken away in so we can be safe and the jobs that kept both countries healthy and strong have been shipped abroad. In the name of ‘cost savings’ local governments are being amalgamated with the result that it is more costly to run local services and the population looses control of their local government. The same things happen with ‘outsourcing’ — the service is passed to an unaccountable 3rd party who adds a profit to the prior costs — so costs go up while our control goes down. I don’t know about anyone else, but to me it looks as though our ‘leaders’ are trying to bring back the middle ages and we are becoming the new serfs. Not a nice future to contemplate — where are the alien invaders from the stars?