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’.