The anti-social mini-brains of Neanderthals

The anti-social mini-brains of Neanderthals

Neanderthals colonised Europe and Middle East long before modern humans and went extinct less than 30,000 years ago, when our species has spread there. Their story inspired the fantasies of generation of scientists, some of whom still cannot accept the idea that Neanderthals were just another kind of humans very similar or maybe simply just like us. Again and again the Neanderthals are portrayed as grunting hairy cave beasts utterly incapable of anything which makes us human: speech, art, tool-making and any meaningful social interaction except of copulation and mutual delousing. Gracelessly lumbering about, too slow to even hunt some food, not even grunting, but squeaking. The recent knowledge that modern humans and Neanderthal had actual children with each other, evidenced by genetic traces all modern humans of non-African origin carry, has for those academics a whiff of a bestiality fantasy. 

The following post by my regular contributor Smut Clyde presents you some fresh new age phrenology papers which try to explain why Neanderthal died out. Their brains were inferior, you see. Defective. This is why they are no longer amongst us: too stupid and anti-social. The history of Homo sapiens however suggests that we tend to see any out-group humans this way and then try our best in exterminating them and take their resources. Had certain more recent human endeavours succeeded, there would probably be peer -reviewed academic studies on why Australian and American first people, or Tutsi, or Armenians, or Jews were biologically bound to become extinct. Was it their poorly developed brains which made them sub-competitive against Europeans and other evolutionary more advanced races? Continue reading “The anti-social mini-brains of Neanderthals”

Cardiff: no misconduct by TCM professor Wen Jiang, report secret

Cardiff: no misconduct by TCM professor Wen Jiang, report secret

Cardiff University is very proud of its collaboration with manufacturer of Traditional Chinese Medicine Yiling Pharmaceuticals, while the money it brings in is largely a private issue between the two business partners. Unfortunately Cardiff’s surgery and tumour biology professor Wen Jiang, Fellow of Royal Society of Medicine, is at the centre of an affair about data manipulation in his papers, and about criticisms of peddling Yiling’s TCM concoction of ginseng, dried fungus, chicken gizzard and crushed cockroach as a Cardiff University-certified cancer cure, all involuntarily sponsored by the Welsh public and charity Cancer Research Wales. This is why the university threw their own damning internal investigative report out of the window, and had three poorly qualified experts declare Jiang innocent of any data manipulation in his cell biology papers. Cardiff University issued then a press release accusing me personally of having slandered Jiang with false allegations of misconduct.

After having mulled another one of my Freedom of Information (FOI) inquiries for a month, this time a request for the investigative report, Cardiff University declared that their whitewashing opus is secret, because:

“the formal investigation has not upheld the allegations of misconduct and to further distribute this report would be an unnecessary invasion of the privacy of the individual involved”.

Continue reading “Cardiff: no misconduct by TCM professor Wen Jiang, report secret”

Michael Persinger’s crank magnetism

Michael Persinger’s crank magnetism

“What about you? Do you find it risible when I say the name…”

Michael Persinger?

Either you are laughing already, or you wonder what this is all about. Both audiences will sure be entertained by the following guest post of my regular contributor, Smut Clyde. For this is about Professor Michael Persinger, born 1945, psychologist and “natural philosopher” at Laurentian University in Canada, smart dresser and undervalued science fiction writer. Undervalued, because the scientific community seems to take his Kilgore-Trout-esque output at face value, his academic peers really seem to think that was Persinger publishes on neuroscience, cancer, particle physics and virtually any topic which springs to his mind, is actual research. Scientific journals like PLOS One publish his science fiction short stories as peer reviewed works of science, while the revered PNAS and possibly also the less revered Scientific Reports invite him as guest editor to host fan fiction of his admirers. When Professor Persinger does get in trouble, it is never for impersonating a scientist, but for things like using rude words in the classroom.

No spoilers now, just read Smut Clyde’s guest post.

Continue reading “Michael Persinger’s crank magnetism”

Frontiers: vanquishers of Beall, publishers of bunk

Frontiers: vanquishers of Beall, publishers of bunk

It is now quasi official: do not mess with Frontiers. My earlier reporting made it a credible possibility that this Swiss publisher was behind the January 2017 shut-down and removal of Jeffrey Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers”, and it was now indeed verified by an article in Chronicle of Higher Education. The librarian Beall used to be constantly under attack from Open Access (OA) publishers who were unhappy about his personal opinions and his private decisions to place them on his blog list. With those, his University of Colorado in Denver supported Beall. But the trouble started when he placed in October 2015 the Swiss publisher Frontiers onto his list, thus effectively declaring this Holtzbrinck-owned outlet a predatory publisher, after hearing of scientists’ complaints and reading my reports. To be fair, Frontiers are still defended by a much bigger number of scientists who see the advantage of having a reliable business partner who will publish certain manuscripts which hardly any respectable journal might consider.  Especially certain kinds of psychologists figured out that with the life-science-oriented Frontiers they can easily get merited as proper neuroscientists, or even biomedical polymaths (e.g., here). Regardless of the bunk they place there for $2500 a pop.

Frontiers first tried it nicely with Beall, when the Chief Executive Officer Frederick Fenter and journal manager Mirjam Curno (who is also trustee at Committee for Publication Ethics, COPE, read here) visited the librarian before Christmas 2016 in Denver (see my report here). Since Beall still did not remove Frontiers from his list, Fenter rallied its loyal journal editors and started together with them in August 2016 a campaign against Beall, demanding that his university punishes the librarian or at least forces him to remove Frontiers from his private list (read here). That information on my site served as (utterly uncredited) template for the aforementioned Chronicle of Higher Education article (as its author Paul Basken admitted to me, but his editor Brock Read denied). Basken then contacted Beall, who then also revealed to him that in January 2016 the University of Colorado Denver caved in to Frontiers demands and opened a misconduct case against its librarian. At this point, Beall decided to delete his list and save his job. An academic disagreement was resolved in a honed and cherished academic tradition: with a call to the employer and a threat of sacking.

Continue reading “Frontiers: vanquishers of Beall, publishers of bunk”

Frontiers reviewer told: don’t be strict, endorse paper, reports Giulia Liberati

Journal peer review is a mysterious black box all scientists fear. The task of the reviewers is to help authors to improve their manuscripts scientifically and to help journal editors to weed out scientifically substandard and inappropriate works. That’s the theory anyway, in practice there are good reasons why the peer review process is traditionally something to be hidden by all means from the readers of published papers. Probably to avoid occasional shock, disgust  and repulsion, similar to how the supermarket customers should by no means be made aware of the true origins of industrially raised meat. In a kind of a vicious circle, this peer review secrecy is a direct invitation to rig it even more. Editors tend to assign friendly reviewers according to authors’ eminence, while peer reviewer conflicts of interests are routinely disregarded, since no one will ever find out anyway. In the same vein, scientists who made themselves some powerful enemies will see their manuscripts destroyed by unreasonable and aggressive peer review. They often naively hope the editor was decent enough not to invite those same adversaries whom the authors specifically asked to be excluded. Continue reading “Frontiers reviewer told: don’t be strict, endorse paper, reports Giulia Liberati”

Frontiers’ Bread Madness

The journal Frontiers in Human Neurosciences now published a paper titled: “Bread and Other Edible Agents of Mental Disease“. It is authored by two psychologists, Paola Bressan and Peter Kramer from the Department of General Psychology at University of Padova in Italy, and claims “in non-technical, plain English” that mental diseases such as schizophrenia and autism are caused by bread (yes, you read right, bread). In their “review article” Bressan and Kramer claim to provide evidence that bread gluten makes “holes in our gut”, thus activating an immune response, and is degraded into opioid substances (“some of them resemble morphine extremely much”). The casein in milk has allegedly exactly the same effect, and cure for “schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and autism” is possible by adhering to a strict bread- and milk-free diet. In fact, other staple foods might make you mad as well, as authors conclude:

“Bread is the very symbol of food, and learning that it can threaten our mental wellbeing may come as a shock to many. Yet bread is not alone; like it, other foodstuffs, such as milk, rice, and corn, release exorphins during digestion”.

Though the paper appeared on March 29th, it was meant seriously and not as an April 1st joke. Continue reading “Frontiers’ Bread Madness”

Nonsense paper at Frontiers retracted

Frontiers now retracts the paper by the retired surgeon Ivo P. Janecka “Sensing risk, fearing uncertainty: systems science approach to change“, following complaints by Klaas van Dijk and Guillaume Rousselet.

sensing risk

 The retraction note reads:

“Frontiers retracts the paper: “Sensing risk, fearing uncertainty: systems science approach to change” (doi: 10.3389/fncom.2014.00030). Following a formal complaint concerning the publication cited above, the Specialty Chief Editors of Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience conducted an assessment of the article, according to the Frontiers complaints protocol. The Specialty Chief Editors concluded that the publication should not have been accepted in its published form, as it does not meet the standards of editorial and scientific soundness for Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience. This assessment was conducted in consultation with the Handling Editor, Dr Tobias A Mattei, who agreed to this conclusion. The author agrees to the retraction, commenting that the article was inappropriate for the Journal and its audience”.

Below excerpts from my earlier posts where this article has been discussed.

Continue reading “Nonsense paper at Frontiers retracted”