Peer-Review and Relativism 1.1.6

An often touted positive quality of a scientific work is that it has been “peer-reviewed”, i.e. accepted for publication after having been subject to assessment by some number of people who are supposedly experts in the field of study to which the work belongs. But it is difficult to see why peer-review is a recommendation of a work. It is a recommendation only if the reviewer has good judgement, and if for any reason this is not the case, then the peer review process is useless, if not dangerous. And why should we suppose that those society deems to be “experts” really do have good judgement? Whether or not the experts really have good judgement depends on the nature of that society and the extent of its freedom from error.

History shows us that it is common for a group of ignorant but powerful people to club together and agree amongst themselves that world works in the way that they claim it to, and marginalise -if not actively persecute- anyone who strongly disagrees, but the question surely always remains open as to whether the opinions of members of these powerful clubs line up with reality. One could image an appeal to the pragmatic consideration that a scientific idea or method “works”, but a) present scientific theories clearly don’t work in the sense that these theories are full of holes and paradoxes and b) and nor do they work in the sense that human life is a prison of suffering and death from which science offers no escape. This appeal to peer-review as a criterion of scientific merit is akin to the appeal to record sales as a criterion of musical merit, and it is a sign of a general degradation of truth-seeking into relativism (there is no such thing as objective truth, only truth relative to one or another set of criteria), and the consequence of evolutionary epistemology (the most politically dominant idea becomes the truth). But relativism is transparently false -the existence of objective truth is a condition of being able to distinguish knowledge from opinion- and although bad but politically dominant ideas often command the belief of the masses, and thus become in the mind of the relativist subjectively true, this does not make them any less objectively false.