Thursday, September 13, 2007
Peer review (censorship) results in the destruction of knowledge undermining the rationale for schools (the creation and dissemination of knowledge), some badly needed, even resulting in many deaths. These papers that are destroyed, with knowledge suppressed, are generally correct and useful. This is not doubted. Their suppression is often purely arbitrary. In academic institutions, like in authoritarian societies, knowledge is not something to be treasured, but is dangerous, something to be carefully controlled, often suppressed. This is the very opposite of what these institutions supposedly exist for. Suppressing knowledge is a highly anti-social act, obviously. Why do presumably decent people do such things, even when they know (as they must) that what they are doing is wrong? There has been work in social psychology (by people like Milgram and Zimbardo) showing that with even a little situational pressure ordinary well-behaved, people will do awful things. The relevance of this to the damage that people are willing to do as referees and editors is quite clear. The society that they are in demands such evil, and they comply, and happily. If schools really cared about knowledge, which obviously they do not, they would be very careful to prevent this. Yet they actually encourage it, rewarding it. The ethics of those engaged in such behavior and their institutions is very obvious. In such institutions ethics is very important --- except when it prohibits what people want to do, what profits them.