Peer Review

Only one instance of this term appears in this blog:
” I found that people whose knowledge and wisdom I had reason to respect presented this to me, i.e. the editors of book reviews who functioned as a kind of peer review system for articles placed in their publications.” That’s in What a Difference an Education Makes”, posted 11/11/18.

For me, the concept of peer review and ignorance of it is emblematic of what is wrong with:


uneducated people





true believers


the far left

the far right


conspiracy buffs



social media denizens

…………… in short, people who swallow some piece of information whole without regard to critical thinking.

(If I left you out, maybe you think critically)

On some topics it is OK to think uncritically and just enjoy. Religion is one of those, carnival rides, scary movies, marriage…….. any number of things where the suspension of criticality makes sense. Constant awareness of the sex act when you are in it may not heighten the experience. Critiquing your form when you are in the middle of a fight or swinging from a tree may freeze you up. I wonder if high divers think FORM in the middle of a dive or just review it afterwards.

Sometimes writers just let it flow and then reread while other writers reconsider as they go. Between word processing and spell check, my writing has improved since sixth grade (that’s 69 years for anyone counting).

En serio, the difficulty the above named deplorables have understanding how liberals function, wondering why we take a stand and yet stay open to other pov’s is they do not understand what came out of the Enlightenment and what emerged from it: a new way of thinking. Spain and Russia missed the Enlightenment and it has shown over the centuries as both the Peninsula, having got rid of its Jews and Muslims, and the Steppes, having thrown off the Tartar Yoke after absorbing its lessons, pursued policies at odds with the thinking of the rest of the West.

To take the sting out of this lack in thought development of the Peninsula and the Eastern Slavs, we must say that huge swaths of individuals in the West missed enlightenment, too. And this gets us back to peer review; who thinks peer review matters? People who do not rely on authority. Personally, I have encountered people who have trouble with criticism of an authority, be it academic or political. Their thinking appears to run like this: he is an authority because he has authority granted to him. Whence the authority? Impertinent. Who am I to question The Authority. In Spanish we have terms like “licenciado” or Don and Dona, and other signals of high respect and honor with little regard to the actual behavior of the person so addressed. I read an article once long ago that observed that books written by someone with a Latin background, by which they meant Southern Europe and Latin-America, have little in the way of guides like indexes or full tables of contents. You are meant to bathe in the authority of the author, reading the book from cover to cover. One of the delightful thing about so many books from Europe is that the pages are (were?) left a whole piece so that as you turn each page, the page has to be cut in order to open it. So many books have only the first few pages cut.

So we are left to wonder if this is just a different culture, to be appreciated on its own, or is there deeper significance to this observance of hierarchy and authority? How to gauge this? Do the Western Europeans and North Americans have all the answers? Climate change and devotion to growth may throw a monkey wrench into persistent progress and make us look to alternatives. OTOH, the multitude of cultures outside the Western orbit have incubated civilizations and supported lots of people without crashing. When I study Urdu with my Indian friend, I see in action what Tony Buzan describes as the Eastern way of teaching/learning: first you copy, asking only for clarification; then you consolidate and integrate the information and here is where you ask appropriate questions; and only then do you innovovate and develop your own style.

I decided to publish this today because headlines tell us that bogus material was inserted into the CDC website without “peer review.” It turns out it was put in there against the objections of CDC scientists. Perhaps we need every government official to take an oath to protect and preserve the Constitution rather than the President. Oh, wait……….!

I was talking to my granddaughter on the phone and she expressed her disgust with the old geezers in Congress questioning tech and social media types half their age. The Congressmen had no idea what they were asking and could not have understood the answers to good questions. What boiled her over was one asking a techie to explain cookies. Good God!! Shades of the tubular internet.

So I got to thinking about what can be done to curb the excesses of these platforms or whatever you call them. Peer review came to mind. She suggested mass evaluations, a kind of peer review without expertise, and I thought in terms of requiring evidence and citations. There is way too much of it for fact-checking and I do not want to restrict the free expression of repugnant ideas like sex slavery, genocide, racism, etc. All of these appear on the web but they must be pushed out by flooding them with good sites.

Another major problem is channeling participants via algorithms. I benefit from an algorithm that sees I bought a book on ergativity and directs me to sites dealing with ergativity. But say I am interested in therapeutic techniques in psychotherapy; I go to a behavioral techniques site and perhaps never realize that I am being subtly directed to sites that favor behaviorism.

I hope great minds are working on this. Oh, they are, except the minds belong to people seeking to exploit us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *