Journal Apologizes and Pays $10,000 After Censoring Article - Evolution News & Views

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Journal Apologizes and Pays $10,000 After Censoring Article

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In one of their favorite soundbytes, members of the Darwin lobby like to assert that intelligent design scientists do not publish peer-reviewed research. That claim is manifestly false. But the fact that intelligent design scholars do publish peer-reviewed articles is no thanks to Darwinists, many of whom do their best to ensure that peer-reviewed articles by intelligent design scientists never see the light of day.

Witness the brazen censorship earlier this year of an article by University of Texas, El Paso mathematics professor Granville Sewell, author of the book In the Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design. Sewell's article critical of Neo-Darwinism ("A Second Look at the Second Law") was both peer-reviewed and accepted for publication by the journal Applied Mathematics Letters. That is, the article was accepted for publication until a Darwinist blogger who describes himself as an "opinionated computer science geek" wrote the journal editor to denounce the article, and the editor decided to pull Sewell's article in violation of his journal's own professional standards.

The publisher of Applied Mathematics Letters (Elsevier, the international science publisher) has now agreed to issue a public statement apologizing to Dr. Sewell as well as to pay $10,000 in attorney's fees.

"It's hard to imagine a more blatant assault on intellectual freedom and the free exchange of ideas," says attorney Pete Lepiscopo with the California firm of Lepiscopo and Morrow, which represented Sewell.

Lepiscopo points out that in retracting Sewell's article, Applied Mathematics Letters "effectively accepted the unsubstantiated word and unsupported opinion of an inconsequential blogger, with little or unknown academic background beyond a self-professed public acknowledgment that he was a 'computer science grad' and whose only known writings are self-posted blogs about movies, comics, and fantasy computer games." This blogger's unsupported opinion "trumped the views of an author who is a well respected mathematician with a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Purdue University; a fully-tenured Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas--El Paso; an author of three books on numerical analysis and 40 articles published in respected journals; and a highly sought-after and frequent lecturer world-wide on mathematics and science."

After Dr. Sewell's article was pulled, Darwinian zealots crowed about their achievement
and maliciously speculated that the article was withdrawn because it wasn't really peer-reviewed or because it was somehow substandard. The journal, meanwhile, left Dr. Sewell to twist in the wind, seemingly endorsing the Darwinists' smears. The journal editor Dr. Rodin wrote a groveling letter to the Darwinist blogger who complained to him in which he agreed that publishing Sewell's article would involve "impropriety." Rodin further apologized "for our erroneous judgement in even considering this paper for publication."

Dr. Rodin and his journal now have to issue a public statement providing "their sincere and heartfelt apologies to Dr. Sewell... and welcom[ing] Dr. Sewell's submission of future articles for possible publication." More important than the apology, the journal has to set the record straight by reiterating that "Dr. Sewell's article was peer-reviewed and accepted for publication" and by making clear that his article was not withdrawn because of "any errors or technical problems found by the reviewers or editors."

By issuing this statement, Applied Mathematics Letters is essentially admitting that it trashed its own professional standards by what it did. According to the journal's editorial policies, acceptance of an article cannot be rescinded once an author has been notified of its acceptance, and accepted articles are supposed to be withdrawn only "under exceptional circumstances" such as fraud, errors, ethics violations, and the like.

"None of these circumstances even remotely occurred with respect to the withdrawal of Dr. Sewell's paper," said Mr. Lepiscopo.

Moreover, whenever a complaint is lodged against an author, "the general rule" is supposed to be "that the journal editor should contact the author about whom a complaint has been made, and the author given the opportunity to respond/comment." But Sewell was provided no opportunity to respond before his article was pulled.

"The journal's actions were shameful," says Lepiscopo. "An author with the superior academic credentials of Dr. Sewell deserved far better when faced with such spurious claims."

Unfortunately, Applied Mathematics Letters did not agree to reinstate Sewell's article, although it did grant Dr. Sewell the right to continue to post online the digital pre-print version prepared by the journal. The explanation for not reinstating Sewell's article is hard to credit. The journal insists that the editor "concluded that the content was more philosophical than mathematical and, as such, not appropriate for a technical mathematics journal." That's right, weeks after Sewell's article had been peer-reviewed, accepted for publication, and published online, the journal editor suddenly had an epiphany that the article he had accepted was outside the subject area of his journal.

In reality, it's more likely his epiphany was due to fear for his professional life when the Darwinian zealots came knocking at his door.

One can sympathize with the editor's situation. Perhaps he heard about what happened to evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg at the Smithsonian after he allowed a peer-reviewed article favorable to intelligent design to be published in the biology journal he edited.

If there is a "war on science" today, it's not being waged by the critics of Darwinism or supporters of intelligent design. It's being waged by Darwinian fundamentalists who are attempting to prevent any voices except their own from being heard in the scientific community. They seem willing to do virtually anything to silence their critics--from denying them tenure, to preventing them from being hired, to engaging in cyber attacks, to censoring peer-reviewed articles by scholars with whom they disagree. Italan geneticist Guiseppe Sermonti has remarked that "Darwinism... is the 'politically correct' of science." How right he is.


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