Definition of Peer-Reviewed Journals: A Rebuttal to the Lunatic Fringe

A common accusation levelled at academics is that “The Establishment” (false terminology) band together with the express aim to quash evidence and articles which dispute their “religion” (as creationists call evolution) or “dogma/Church of Science” (as termed by the alternative lunatic fringe). It is clear from such uninformed statements that such people have no respect for the scientific method, and a vast majority never bother to examine the contents of and the debates within peer-reviewed journals.

Here is a brief list of the main journals utilised by the archaeological and paleoanthropological profession:

1. Radiocarbon
2. Journal of Archaeological Science
3. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology
4. Journal of Near Eastern Studies
5. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology
6. Journal of Field Archaeology
7. Journal of Human Evolution
8. Antiquity
9. Science
10. Nature
11. Scientific American
12. American Journal of Physical Anthropology
13. Annual Review of Anthropology
14. South African Journal of Science
15. South African Archaeological Bulletin

One rule of archaeology not followed by the lunatic fringe: you only announce any report of any archaeological date when the date in question has been verified. If the date was derived by radiocarbon dating methods, then only the front data will be published in a technical report on that site and the actual radiocarbon technical report is published separately, in the journal Radiocarbon. Test results need to be calibrated and verified therefore, before being released. For example, what if you write a news report saying an artifact or artifacts are 10 000 years old but the final test results yield a date of 8 000 years ago? The result is that you have egg on your face and have been shown up as incompetent. I can hear objections coming from the readers along the lines of “We have a right to know the progress” or “It is just a news update so what does it matter?” The fact of the matter is that it matters a great deal and those people should ask themselves the following question: do they want to hear a hodge-podge of guesswork or would they like to read the final reports and have, in one go, dates they can trust and which can be investigated thoroughly? One method is the realm of alternative speculators playing “detective”, the other is rigorous scientific testing and examination, i.e. the scientific method.

The journals that scientists publish their findings in are peer-reviewed journals. This is the standard norm where their theories get evaluated by their peers. The debates can get quite heated, as even the most lax glance at the Out-of-Africa vs Multiregionalism theories reveals. The format of a peer-reviewed journal is pretty simple. There is a board of editors for each journal. It certainly makes for interesting perusal of the names to see academics with opposing viewpoints on the same board – a factor which in itself negates any “conspiracy” charge. Each journal has a further panel of reviewers, who remain anonymous (even to themselves) and who also come from different backgrounds within their respective disciplines. When an article gets submitted for publication, a copy of it gets passed to the reviewers. The purpose of this is for them to offer constructive comments on the content of the article and to make sure the standard of writing is of the appropriate level. That, and that alone, is the purpose of the position.

On the other hand there are magazines out on the market which are tailored to the general public, for example, Discovering Archaeology, Popular Archaeology and Discussions in Egyptology. These magazines do not have the exhaustive screening process of the academic journals. Neither do they carry the same status as the journals nor are they the appropriate forums, due to their popular nature, for the publication of full technical details. Ask yourself this: if you heard of a new paleoanthropological discovery by Mary Leakey, where would you look for such a report – Discovering Archaeology or an academic journal? The same goes for Egyptology, would you look in an Egyptological journal or a popular magazine ? The answer is clear.

Robert Bauval has voiced his reasons why he choses Discussions in Egyptology ahead of a peer-reviewed journal: faster turn-around and a looser more friendly format of writing. With all due respect to Discussions in Egyptology, which serves a useful purpose and is a magazine for which I have enormous respect, Bauval’s reasons ring hollow. Academic journals demand a tight structure and writing style for a reason, and the slowish turn-around (due to the sheer volume of submissions received) which some of them suffer from is an indication of the esteem in which they are held by the academic community. New findings need to be reviewed in the proper forum and by scientific peers; this requires that the reports be published in a peer-reviewed journal. It is very noticeable that other fringe authors like Graham Hancock and Michael Cremo have made no effort to get their ideas published in the appropriate forum where they can be evaluated on a level playing field. Their excuses of by-passing the academic community and appealing directly to the general public who, with all due respect, sometimes do not possess the required skill and knowledge to separate fact from cleverly presented fiction, hold no water.

(This article was mirrored from Mikey’s website.)