Commentaries posted at Journal of Cosmology

| 21 Comments

The Journal of Cosmology has now posted 21 commentaries on the “Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites” paper by Richard Hoover that I have critiqued in my “Life from Beyond Earth on a Meteorite, or Pareidolia?” post.

The majority are uncritical (some don’t even seem to have read the actual paper), and zoom off on tangents assuming the Hoover’s paper is valid. Two posts are critical (commentary 5 and commentary 9), and bring up the same issue I do (but with more references), that abiotic minerals can imitate the shapes of bacteria, and that without further tests, there is no way to say these filaments are fossils of any sort.

As for the majority, well, largely I think they are sad. The near complete absence of any critical engagement with the paper is very telling, and there is much leaping to unsupported conclusions. I would dearly love for extra-terrestrial life to be found, but I’m not going to grasp at epsonite straws to pretend it’s been found. Hoover’s flawed paper is not evidence of extra-terrestrial life.

Oh, and the journal has added a long rant to before the main article:

Have the Terrorist(sic) Won? Only a few crackpots and charlatans have denounced the Hoover study. NASA’s chief scientist was charged with unprofessional conduct for lying publicly about the Journal of Cosmology and the Hoover paper. The same crackpots, self-promoters, liars, and failures, are quoted repeatedly in the media. However, where is the evidence the Hoover study is not accurate?

Few legitimate scientists have come forward to contest Hoover’s findings. Why is that? Because the evidence is solid. But why have so few scientist come forward to attest to the validity? The answer is: They are afraid. They are terrified. And for good reason.

Apparently I am a crackpot and charlatan (sighs expressively), at least I’m in good company with Phil Plait, PZ Myers and Rosie Redfield (and really, read commentary #9 carefully).

21 Comments

Ian,

If you are indeed a “crackpot and a charlatan”, then you are in good company. Don’t know of a better Intelligent Design critic from your neck of the words than you IMHO. On a more serious note, Professor Brasier is a noted Precambrian microbial paleobiologist, so thanks for emphasizing his sound criticisms (Commentary #9).

Appreciatively yours,

John

Sounds like FL is running the journal: if it’s uncontested it must be true.

Good-bye, J of C, it was nice not knowing you.

Perhaps the brain trust over at UD could calculate the FCSI in the fossils and let us know if they were designed.

“Have the terrorist won?” seems an extremely, um, unusual comment for a journal’s editorial staff. I understand a journal’s desire to defend the quality of the work they publish, however, having other scientists dispute someone’s conclusions is just part and parcel of the scientific peer review process.

AFAIK, Hoover’s critics aren’t claiming his photos and other data are flawed or faked or anything. They are agreeing with him that the structures he found do in fact exist…their critique is that these structures have multiple possible explanations for how they formed.

IMO the journal’s response pushes too far over into advocacy of an author’s findings, and so instead of improving the credibility of the article they actually undermine it by bringing their own objectiveness into question.

eric said: “Have the terrorist won?” seems an extremely, um, unusual comment for a journal’s editorial staff.

I cannot resist commenting to those in the readership who are fond of over-the-top rhetoric: “This is what you sound like.”

The Brasier review (commentary 9) is by far the most insightful commentary among the lot. A competent editorial board would insist that Mr Hoover address each of these excellent points (although my expectations are probably too high for JOC).

Myself, I would never submit a manuscript based solely on SEM and EDS data, no matter how aesthetically pleasing the pictures are. I would think that NASA researchers would have quick access to state-of-the-art facilities such as TEM and Nano-SIMS, so I wonder what Hoover’s excuse is for not performing such studies.

Brasier’s comment on making the material available for scientific loan is also great advice for NASA. A more complete and accurate structural/compositional investigation on this sample would be possible in the hands of scientists with better training in mineralogy and/or materials chemistry.

Are there any astrobiologists reading this? If so, is this “journal” really considered a legitimate publication by those in the field?

And I’m surprised that all the authors of the responses have “Ph.D.” tacked on after their names. Is this the usual practice in physics, or cosmology, or astrobiology? It just looks weird to me.

John Harshman said:

Are there any astrobiologists reading this? If so, is this “journal” really considered a legitimate publication by those in the field?

And I’m surprised that all the authors of the responses have “Ph.D.” tacked on after their names. Is this the usual practice in physics, or cosmology, or astrobiology? It just looks weird to me.

No, on all accounts. The three major astrobiology-focused journals are “Origins of Life and Evolution of Biospheres”, “Astrobiology”, and “International Journal of Astrobiology”. The Journal of Cosmology is a panspermia-focused journal/screed that seems to enjoy taking the minority view in science. The editors have supported the Arsenic life research, the younger dryas impact-caused extinction event, and the Gliese 581 earth-sized extrasolar planets, none of which have been fully accepted by the scientific community.

That, and they call astronomers who research the big bang “creationists”.

M Pasek said: That, and they call astronomers who research the big bang “creationists”.

“Da noive of da bums!” Now dem are fightin’ words!

Yes, where would crackpots be without their hordes of supporters who are simply too terrified of being criticized to support really good science? Let’s have an Expelled movie about the shameful persecutions of those who claim to have found life that thrives on the late warm wet earth on a cold dry (don’t bother me with ice or hydrates–liquid water won’t last for any time on or in those meteorites) very old chondritic meteorite.

Oh, to be fair, it’s not like scientists are never intimidated into silence–where this quackery and ID/creationism whines about persecution utterly fail is that both have been highly publicized, and, if the science was actually good, at least a significant minority of scientists would be willing to support it against the weight of the naysayers. When you have the evidence on your side and at least a small group who accepts it, there’s no reason not to take on the establishment.

It’s when you don’t have the evidence that–despite having a high public profile–proponents of bogosity (imaginary and real) remain silent. If they had the evidence they’d speak up at precisely this most propitious moment.

Glen Davidson

What has struck me about this whole thing are a number of points:

1. The claim that bodies in the universe started out small…the “planets first, stars later” scenario, coupled with the claim that the small bodies were kept warm by radioactive decay. Since Fred Hoyle did work on early nucleosynthesis…where are the radionucleides supposed to have come from without stars pre-existing the supposed planets?

2. For the same issue…they’re effectively claiming to start life with only Hydrogen and Helium to work with… Say, what?

3. Their cosmology appears to be an attempt to salve a sort of weak steady state universe. They’re claiming that the universe is closed, which ignores recent work showing accelerating expansion as well as not being able to find enough mass to close the universe even without expansive forces in action. This proposal suggests a cyclical universe (steady state in the grand average even if not one at any given instant). While I personally find a cyclical universe an attractive idea, the available evidence is sufficiently against it to make such a conjecture untenable.

So…even to an engineer that’s spent 40+ years programming, the paper fails on important points.

–W. H. Heydt

Old Used Programmer

What a profoundly unprofessional rant! If you want your journal to be taken seriously, THAT is not the way to go.

Anent fighting against the academic persecution of unorthodox ideas, Texas is leading the way. From today’s Texas Freedom Network bulletin:

Bad Science and Persecution Complexes http://www.tfn.org/site/R?i=6Q_WKsT[…]oZq7nXPhWCPA

Disingenuous efforts by creationists to portray themselves as persecuted in mainstream academia for their anti-evolution beliefs are getting a boost from a Texas lawmaker.

That “official statement the journal of cosmology” from which you quote is horrifying! It is one thing to publish a bad paper, but that rant is straight out of woo woo land. If a journal I published in ever released a statement like that, I would be appalled. And at least proofread the thing if it is going to be your “official statement”!

M Pasek, thanks for the background info…confusion eliminated.

I found this tidbit from Science News - Cosmology - Science News (fourth article down titled The Biological Big Bang on JOC’s Homepage) interesting.

THE DEATH OF DARWINISM The evidence detailed in this text, The Biological Big Bang, overturns Darwin’s theory of evolution. Evolution is effected by genes carried within the genomes of viruses and microbes which fell to Earth from other planets and which were acquired through horizontal gene exchange. “Horizontal gene exchange is a major factor in evolution and the role of gene transfer has been confirmed by other scientists” concludes Dr. Wickramasinghe. However, microbes and viruses from space continue to fall to Earth effecting evolution on this planet. “What we have developed and proposed in this text is a cosmic theory of evolution which completely overturns Darwinism.”

Perhaps this alternative to Darwinism need’s to be presented in science class as well. [snark]

The last sentence gets me “Few legitimate scientists have come forward to contest Hoover’s findings. Why is that? Because the evidence is solid. But why have so few scientist come forward to attest to the validity? The answer is: They are afraid. They are terrified. And for good reason.”

What scientist wouldn’t be over the moon about finding non-earth life?

Wow, what’s the bet that the editor is an anti-vaxers and an aids denialist as well

J. Biggs said:

I found this tidbit from Science News - Cosmology - Science News (fourth article down titled The Biological Big Bang on JOC’s Homepage) interesting.

THE DEATH OF DARWINISM The evidence detailed in this text, The Biological Big Bang, overturns Darwin’s theory of evolution. Evolution is effected by genes carried within the genomes of viruses and microbes which fell to Earth from other planets and which were acquired through horizontal gene exchange. “Horizontal gene exchange is a major factor in evolution and the role of gene transfer has been confirmed by other scientists” concludes Dr. Wickramasinghe. However, microbes and viruses from space continue to fall to Earth effecting evolution on this planet. “What we have developed and proposed in this text is a cosmic theory of evolution which completely overturns Darwinism.”

Perhaps this alternative to Darwinism need’s to be presented in science class as well. [snark]

Why would it overturn Evolution?

Few legitimate scientists have come forward to contest Hoover’s findings. Why is that?

Possibility (1): Because they know the evidence is irrefutable.

Possibility (2): Because they don’t know whether the evidence is irrefutable or not and want more information before committing themselves one way or the other.

Why automatically choose (1) with the risk of looking like a fool later?

John_S said:

Few legitimate scientists have come forward to contest Hoover’s findings. Why is that?

Possibility (1): Because they know the evidence is irrefutable.

Possibility (2): Because they don’t know whether the evidence is irrefutable or not and want more information before committing themselves one way or the other.

Why automatically choose (1) with the risk of looking like a fool later?

Actually, it’s more likely that most scientists who have seen it thought it was of so little consequence–a rehash of previously failed claims in a low quality “journal”–that they haven’t bothered even to refute it or to complain about it. The thing is implausible on the face of it (no amino acids or anything else differing from life adapted to earth living), the controls against contamination are laughably inadequate, and many (at least) photos aren’t obviously of life-forms at all.

Do many scientists contest van Daniken’s “findings”? Of course not, they don’t even reach the level of credible speculation.

Glen Davidson

The attitude that “it’s up to you to refute my ridiculous claims” is the traditional burden-of-proof shifter for cranks.

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This page contains a single entry by Ian Musgrave published on March 9, 2011 5:29 AM.

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